Tiramisu

It was 120 degrees in my part of Arizona here the other day. I actually don’t mind when it’s this hot (I’m one of the very few) because it heats our pool up to a nice soaking bed of liquid nirvana. One of my favorite things is to swim late at night when the moon is shining and the palm trees are swaying. I close my eyes and just float mindlessly, shutting out the world. We have three palm trees that line the back edge of our pool, and with the right amount of wind they lend a soft gentle breeze. I love this time of year. The only downside is that when it’s this hot the last thing you want is to turn on the oven. Enter one of the classic no bake desserts-Tiramisu. It’s super easy and comes together quickly. There is only one caution and that is you have to be careful and not over whip the mascarpone once you add it to the custard portion. I’ve actually made this twice; the first time with flatter softer lady fingers and it turned out too soggy for my liking. The second time I used hard, crunchy type savoiardi biscuits and I much prefer this version. This tiramisu is not 100 percent classic as I used whole eggs versus only egg yolks, and I also did a sifting of cocoa powder over the custard to help combat sogginess. There are two layers of biscuits, but it’s hard to see in the picture above as when I scooped out the piece for the picture I ended up leaving the bottom layer behind a bit, but rest assured there are two. If you don’t like the mouth feel of cocoa powder on the top you can use grated chocolate shavings, or chocolate curls instead.

                          I used cookie cutters to decorate the top of the cocoa powder

Tiramisu

Soaking Syrup

2/3 Cup strong (hot) coffee or espresso

1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp. Kahlua

1/4 Cup Crème de Cacao liqueur

1  1/2 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/4 Cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (I like Valrhona) + more for assembly

Savoiardi biscuits (cookies) for assembly (Look for them in the cookie aisle)

Filling

5 whole eggs

1/2 Cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt or a pinch of salt if regular salt

24 oz. mascarpone cream cheese

 

Prepare filling:

Assemble a double boiler using the bowl of a stand mixer to fit over a 3 quart saucepan. Place eggs, sugar and salt in bowl and continually whisk over simmering water until mixture measures 160° F on a candy thermometer. Place mixer bowl on stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whisk egg mixture on medium high speed until you reach ribbon stage. Ribbon stage  means when you stop the mixer and lift the whisk up out of the whipped eggs it should fall into ribbons that fall back and disappear into the foam.  The entire mixture will resemble loose shaving cream and will have quadrupled in size. Place the entire mixer bowl in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

Remove the mixer bowl from the fridge and use the same whisk (no need to wash) and turn mixer on medium speed. Take the mascarpone out of the fridge and add a serving spoon size (about 1/4 Cup) at a time while the mixer is running, stopping frequently to scrape the bottom of the bowl. DO NOT TURN THE MIXER TO HIGH. If you over whip the mascarpone with the egg mixture it can separate and your mixture will “break” and resemble cottage cheese. THIS CAN HAPPEN VERY EASILY. Continue to keep adding in the cheese and mix on medium speed until smooth. Note: I prefer to mix the filling until it appears almost smooth and then finish by inserting an immersion blender in and out several times until mixture is smooth-this prevents the filling from being over whipped, and the filling comes out super smooth.

Prepare soaking syrup:

Whisk ingredients together (except the biscuits) in a small bowl that is wide enough to allow dunking of biscuits.

Assembly:

Use a baking pan for assembling the dessert. I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan but a 9 x 9 pan has the same volume, so either one will work. With the 7 x 11 inch pan I ended up using 12 biscuits for each layer which ended up being one whole package of biscuits.  Dunk (submerge) each biscuit into the soaking syrup for a couple seconds and place in an even layer to cover the bottom of the baking dish. Measure out 2 cups of the custard and smooth out into an even layer over the biscuits. Sift a layer of cocoa powder over the custard using a fine mesh strainer. Repeat with a second (final) layer of dunked biscuits and the final layer of custard, followed by a sifting of cocoa powder. I used a varied size of cookie cutters to dip and lift into the cocoa powder for a designed effect. Chill the dessert (uncovered) in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up. Serve chilled.

 

 

 


Coffee & Cream Panna Cotta with Warm Chocolate Sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with choc sauce

coffee and cream panna cotta with chocolate sauce and chocolate covered coffee beans

Who doesn’t like coffee. Yes, there are those who don’t. What is wrong with you people? Seriously. Please. Maybe I’m joking. Maybe not…To each his own. Coffee with cream, first thing in the morning- that first sip is like nirvana to me. I stumble over anything in my way, to make it to the coffee pot. I live for coffee. Right now in Arizona we are experiencing monsoon season and it’s a bit more humid than normal. You can’t really use that phrase- “It’s a DRY heat” right now, but that just means I have to find other ways to come up with treats without using the oven. Enter stage left- panna cotta. It’s the perfect summer dessert because it requires only turning on the burner for a few minutes. It’s cool, it’s creamy, and hits the spot.

Panna Cotta

yield: 6-8 servings depending on size of ramekins

1 package (1/4 oz.) unflavored gelatin (such as Knox)

2 Tbsp. cool water

2 Cups heavy cream

1 Cup whole milk

3/4 Cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (1 tsp. vanilla may be substituted also)

2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder

For Serving: chocolate sauce (recipe below) and purchased chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)

1. In a small custard cup or microwave safe bowl place 2 Tbsp. cool water and sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let sit about 5 minutes to bloom. Place 4.5 oz. – 6 oz. clean ramekins on a sheet pan or in a shallow pan that will fit in your fridge level.

Tip: If you don’t have or don’t want to purchase ramekins- save your (small) shallow yogurt containers and wash out and use in place of ramekins.

2. In a small saucepan place the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and espresso powder and whisk to combine. Heat GENTLY over medium heat until very hot but not boiling, whisking frequently. While mixture is heating microwave the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds until liquid. Once cream mixture is hot (but not boiling) stir in the liquid gelatin mixture and whisk to combine. Pour mixture into each ramekin and place in fridge for several hours or overnight to firm up. Serve cold or cool panna cotta with warm chocolate sauce and chocolate espresso beans.

To turn out panna cotta’s: Fill a shallow pan or bowl with 1 inch of boiling water. Run a sharp thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta to loosen, then set each ramekin in the bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip over to unmold. Spoon a bit of warm chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with 2-3 chocolate covered espresso beans.

Chocolate Sauce

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (about scant 3/4 Cup)

1/4 Cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. light corn syrup

In a heat proof bowl (such as pyrex) place the chocolate. In a glass measuring cup place the cream, butter, and corn syrup and heat on high in microwave for about 1 minute until mixture is very hot- stopping half way to stir. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute then stir until smooth. If necessary you can return the bowl to the microwave and heat in 10 second intervals until mixture is smooth, stirring as you go along.


White Chocolate Raspberry Creme Brulee

Do you like to entertain but you don’t want to be cutting or scooping out any dessert at the last minute? Yep, me too. You can make these ahead of time a few hours before your event or party and if you want to have the fun and include your guests you can even wait to brulée the tops of the custards with your friends if you like. Summer is the perfect time to find ripe raspberries on sale.

raspberry white chocolate creme brulee

White Chocolate Crème Brulée with Raspberries

recipe: adapted from Ghirardelli

yield: 6-7 ramekins (depending on the size of your ramekins)

4 large egg yolks

1/3 Cup sugar + (4-6 tsp. more for brulee)

4 oz. white chocolate chopped fine

2 Cups heavy whipping cream

3/4 tsp. vanilla bean paste

fresh raspberries washed and dried

1. Preheat oven to 300° F.

2. Whisk egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth in a medium size mixing bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the chopped white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Temper the egg sugar mixture with the hot cream mixture by add in a little bit at a time while whisking until all the hot cream is added. Whisk in the vanilla bean paste. Place 4-5 raspberries in each individual ramekins and then pour the custard into each ramekin; filling almost all the way to the top. Place the ramekins in a baking pan with 2 inch sides. Pour enough hot tap water into the bottom of the baking pan so that the ramekins are sitting in enough water to cover at least 1/2 of the ramekin. Bake at 300° F for 50-60 minutes or until custard is set. Remove the pan from the oven and move the ramekins to a rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

3. Sprinkle each ramekin with enough sugar (about 1 1/4 tsp) and brulée each with a bakers’ torch or under the broiler until sugar is caramelized. Chill the custards until ready to serve. Serve ideally within a few hours of making as raspberries tend to give off a bit of liquid.


Strawberry Tarts with White Chocolate Creme Patisserie

Summer means lighter desserts since the last thing you want on a hot day is something heavy. Imagine a nice warm summer evening sitting on the deck sipping chilled moscato wine, listening to jazz and tucking into one of these tarts. The beauty is you can make these ahead of time; like the day before and enjoy a nice relaxing evening dining al fresco.

Adapt this recipe to make it your own with different fresh fruit toppings if you like. I’ve made this tart with raspberries before and it’s amazing. If you like- you can make one large tart as well. If you really want to save time, you can make both your tart shells and the pastry cream a day or two ahead and assemble them on the day of your party. Make sure to buy your berries no longer than a day before assembly to ensure a very fresh taste.

strawberry tarts

white chocolate strawberry tarts

strawberry summer tarts

Strawberry Tarts

 

Shortbread tart Crust: (10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 1 9-10 inch tart)

1  1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1/3 C  confectioners sugar

1  1/2 C all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

(soft butter for brushing tart pan)

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed; cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste and combine briefly until smooth. In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt to combine. Add the flour mixture on medium low speed until the mixture is almost combined; there will be some bits at the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer and with your hands lightly  mix the dough together to incorporate any little bits until it is combined.

Prepare the tart pan by brushing with soft butter and flouring the pan; tap out any loose flour. This step is key if you want to actually remove the tart crust from the bottom part of the pan; such as if you are giving it for a gift or putting it in a box to take to a party. The flour will ensure you can slip a thin spatula in between the crust and the bottom portion of the removable tart pan. Hey, if you are having your own party and you don’t plan to transport that sucker,  then skip this step. There is enough butter in the tart crust that you will still be able to remove the ring without buttering or flouring the pan.

Press the dough into the tart pan until it looks fairly even. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes before you bake it. I chill mine an hour so it helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked. Once the crust has chilled, dock the bottom of the crust very well all over with the tines of a fork; being careful not to go all the way through. This will prevent the crust from puffing as much as possible when baked, or you can blind bake your shells. Set the tart shells on a cookie sheet and Bake at 350 º F for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust looks no longer wet. You are not really looking for color. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the bottom of the tart shells lightly with a beaten egg white. Note: if your crust(s) have puffed up I like to take a the back of a rounded measuring teaspoon to quickly smooth out the crusts flat (for mini tarts) or an offset spatula for one large tart; then I brush with the egg white. The egg white will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the tart crust cool completely on a wire rack.

 

White Chocolate Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)

yield: enough filling or 10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 9-10 inch tart

1  1/4 C whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

3 egg yolks

1/4 C sugar

2 Tbsp.  flour

2  1/2 Tbsp. corn starch

1 Tbsp. soft butter

4 oz. melted & cooled white chocolate

In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and whisk in the sugar until smooth. In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir to combine. Add this to your egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat.  Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat,  whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute until it looks like pudding.  Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter.  If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Whisk in the white chocolate. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

Note: If after chilling you find your pastry cream is not thick enough- you did not let it boil long enough. You can always rescue it by returning it to the pan and make a small slurry of cold water and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch and bring to boil while whisking mixture.

To assemble: Place cold pastry cream into each tart shell, smooth the filling. Top with your berries/fruit. Brush with warm glaze (recipe below) and keep tarts chilled until ready to serve.

Fruit Glaze:

1/4 Cup seedless strawberry, seedless raspberry or apricot Jam

2-3 tsp. water

Heat the jam and water over low heat until mixture is thin. If using apricot jam; strain the chunks of fruit out.

 


Happy Valentines Day: White Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding Parfaits

White chocolate and raspberry are a classic combination. The slightly tart but still sweet raspberry plays well off of the sweet mellow white chocolate. I love this combination for a pudding. I layered the flavors in dessert shooter glasses for a sweet looking parfait.  If you don’t have access to fresh raspberries you can use frozen for the raspberry layer; just thaw and drain the berries first.

H♥ppy V♥lentines D♥y!

White Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Parfaits

 Valentines White Chocolate Rasp Pudding Parfaits

White Chocolate Raspberry Pudding

yield: 4-6 servings

Raspberry Layer:

12 oz. fresh raspberries, rinsed and let dry (if using frozen; let berries thaw and drain first)

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. corn starch

1 tsp. water

1. In a small saucepan (2 Qt.) combine the raspberries and sugar over low heat and heat until sugar starts to dissolve. Increase the heat to medium and stir until berries until they break up and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and with a rubber spatula press the berries through a fine mesh sieve placed over a small bowl. Scrape the bottom of the sieve to make sure you get the thickened puree into the bowl. Return the puree to the saucepan and begin to heat again over low heat. Meanwhile; stir together the corn starch and water in a small cup to form a slurry. Add the slurry to the pan and increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil until it becomes thick. Pour the mixture into a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface and refrigerate until ready for assembly.

White Chocolate Pudding:

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch

pinch of salt

1 Cup heavy cream

1 Cup milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

3/4 tsp. vanilla

3 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add cream and milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cook and stir with a wire whisk 2-3 minutes more or until thickened.

2. Remove from the heat. Stir about 3/4 Cup of the hot mixture into egg yolks; return to saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over surface of the pudding and chill in the refrigerator until ready ready for assembly.

For Assembly:

Alternate pudding and raspberry filling layer in decorative glasses. Serve chilled.


Banana Pudding and Homemade “Nilla” Wafers

I’ve never been a big fan of banana pudding. Not that I don’t like it, it’s just not something I ever had a big taste for. That all changed a few years ago when I set foot in a BBQ place called Baby Blues in San Francisco. The first time we went there was on our wedding anniversary. I know, I know, not exactly romantic-but we went for the great food. We let it slip to the waitress that it was our anniversary and the next thing you know she was coming out with this banana pudding with a candle in it. I was pretty full from the amazing ribs we had shared, but I figured okay-it’s our anniversary and the pudding is FREE, so we have to eat it, right?

I figured one ceremonious bite and I would call it good.  One spoonful of that luscious, sweet, intensely banana flavored pudding and I was hooked.

The Husband took a bite.

He looked at me and just stared for a second and didn’t say a word, and then he dove back into the bowl with the spoon.

We went back and forth like this until that entire bowl was bare.  Without a word.  You know when something is supremely good because it gets REALLY quiet.

I swear, had I been home alone with that pudding I would have licked the bowl. It was THAT good. Ever since that day I vowed to come up with a banana pudding to do it justice. This is it. Note: you can certainly use store bought Nilla wafers in place of homemade. Enjoy.

Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding 2

Nilla wafers

Banana Pudding

2  1/2 Cups whole milk

2 very ripe bananas

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

For Assembling:

Homemade vanilla wafers *(recipe below)

3 ripe (but not overripe) bananas

1/2 lemon

1 Cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

garnishes* (optional): salted chopped peanuts, chocolate shavings, vanilla wafers

Pudding:

1. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the two “very ripe” bananas and let stand to steep for 1.5 hours.

2. In a blender place the steeped milk, yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt and blend to combine about 30 seconds until smooth.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, pour the contents of the blender and whisk continuously until pudding becomes thick. Once pudding starts to thicken- whisk vigorously and continue to cook for about another 30 seconds. Total cook time will be about 5-7 minutes. Pull off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and the butter until all of butter is melted. Pour into a heat proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly onto the pudding. Chill pudding in fridge until cold.

Homemade “Nilla” Vanilla Wafers

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 Cup granulated sugar

1  1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. milk

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or seeds of one vanilla bean)

1  1/3 Cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars. Add the milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl and stir until combined. Scoop out measured 1 tsp. of dough. Roll the dough into balls. Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Flatten the balls of dough into 3/16 inch (1/4 cm) thickness. Bake for about 7-8 minutes until the cookies appear golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack. The cookies will be about the size of a quarter.

Assembling Puddings:

1. Whip 1 Cup heavy cream and the 2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar until medium stiff peaks form (be cautious not to overwhip the cream). Set aside and keep cold for assembly.

2. Cut bananas into slices and toss with 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice in a small bowl; just enough to coat the bananas so they don’t turn dark.

3. Use small dessert glasses, crumble 2-3 cookies in bottom of each glass. Top with a layer of banana pudding, then sliced bananas, then whipped cream. Repeat layering until desired (depending on size of glasses). Top with a swirl of whip cream and top with salted peanuts, salted caramel drizzle or shaved chocolate if desired. Serve cold. Note: you can layer this as one big dessert in a bowl if you like instead of individual parfaits.


Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding, Vanilla Pudding

Today-I’m channeling my inner child. With pudding. Pudding was a big thing in my house growing up. We always had a box of pudding mix in the cupboard. Now that I’m older, my love of a good pudding has not changed; although now I make it from scratch. It really is not hard to crank out a quick pudding from scratch. You should not let it scare you; most ingredients you need you probably already have on hand. I’m having child hood flashbacks and I might have to make pudding more often. Another child hood flashback is the beloved creamsickle. Oh as a child, how many creamsickles I would consume during summer. Icy, tart orange with creamy vanilla; a classic flavor combo. I found this recipe for tangelo-tangerine pudding in Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, and I thought it would be fun to make a creamsickle inspired pudding parfait by making a vanilla pudding as well. Channel your inner child. Enjoy.

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding

yield: 4 servings

(recipe adapated from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison)

2 tsp. tangelo or tangerine zest

2  1/2  Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Cups fresh tangelo or tangerine juice (~10-12 tangelo’s)

tiny pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. orange flower water or 1/2 tsp. orange extract

1. Smash the tangerine zest with the sugar to moisten the sugar and release the aromatic oils. Transfer to a saucepan along with the cornstarch, juice and salt. Stir to dissolve the cornstarch.

2. Over medium high heat; bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring until the juice has thickened; this will take about 4 minutes. Let the mixture boil about 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter and orange-flower water or orange extract. If you are making a layered parfait, pour into a container and chill or divide into juice or champayne glasses and chill. It will take about 2 hours to chill until set.

Vanilla Pudding

yield: 4 servings

2  1/2 Cups whole milk, divided

1/2 Cup sugar

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a small to medium bowl whisk the cornstarch along with 1/2 Cup of the milk. Add the yolks and whisk to combine; set aside.

2. Place the remaining 2 cups milk in a saucepan along with the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil; then slowly pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the bowl with the cornstarch mixture to temper the mixture. Pour that back into the saucepan and bring the pudding to a boil over medium high heat while stirring with a rubber spatula. Let the mixture boil for about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Pour the pudding into a container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. Let the pudding chill. If you are not making a parfait; you can pour the pudding into 4 containers.

Parfait assembly:

Layer the puddings in a glass or decorative cups; alternating the two puddings. Top with whipped cream if desired or creme fraiche. Serve chilled.