This is a dessert I did in the midst of Summer. In the heart of winter I am clearly reminiscing of warmer weather. I remember spotting these strawberries teeming in their blue cardboard boxes at the farmer’s market, beckoning and glistening in the sun like rubies. I just had to have them. When produce is this ripe & delicious, always keep it simple (my motto!). These berries are cut and lightly sprinkled with sugar & a tiny drop of rosewater and left to sit for a few minutes. They are incased in a sugar cookie crumb, held lightly together with some melted butter, like a cheesecake base. I wanted them to be crumbly when a dessert spoon dived right in. I did a quick pickle with some nasturtium leaves in champagne vinegar. Enough for a slight tang to offset the punchy flavor, but not overly sour. The ice cream (really, sherbet) is a really good buttermilk. It’s sweet, peppery, tangy, & just refreshing enough to cool you down in the heat.
It's been a sunny season of eating fresh fruit and a lot of simple cooking. Earlier this summer I really wanted to create a different lemon tart, but still very familiar. I love a delicate & tangy lemon curd with an extra buttery tart base, a classic for a reason. It's common to top it off with a cloud of torched meringue, but I didn't want that. More decidedly, I didn't need that. Just some whipped cream with a touch of elderflower cordial and strawberries, the first of the season (can you tell how late this summer post is?). I find that in the summer whenever I am holding a piece of fruit or contemplating what to eat for dinner, less is more.
Because procrastination really doesn't pay off, I'm still posting desserts from this past Spring. This was our tasting menu dessert, comprised of a baked chocolate ganache, paired with chocolate rocks, chocolate mint, chocolate twigs, and passion fruit sorbet. The baked chocolate ganache is egg based, and we bake it in a water bath on low heat for one hour. It comes out with a beautiful crackly top, very similar to a brownie. We then freeze it to unmold, and when served room temp, it is the most luxurious flourless chocolate cake. This small disk is paired with a tart and refreshing passion fruit sorbet to cut through the richness, and the chocolate mint adds a fresh floral element as well. For texture, caramelized cacao nibs, chocolate rocks, and chocolate twigs add extra dimension. I love caramelized cacao nibs, as the sugar cuts through the bitterness of the nibs. When pairing nibs (dried, roasted, and fermented chocolate in its purest form) with a dark chocolate cake (an altered state of the beginning), both lift each other up.
Now that summer is winding down, I am taking stock of all the desserts that I didn't post from the year. Last fall, this was the star. A classic philadelphia cream cheese cake paired with a graham cracker crumble, concord grape sorbet (my favorite flavor!), concord grape meringue, and market grapes. It was a simple dessert, pairing two of my favorite childhood flavors, concord grape jelly and cheesecake. You have to use Philadelphia cream cheese to get that creamy unctuous goodness. And fresh concord beats out any jam from the supermarket. So I wonder, how can I improve this dessert for the coming Fall?
I know Summer has arrived when there is the sound of ice cream trucks wafting through the humid air, there is a quiet stillness in the air, and all I want is something refreshing and cold, especially dessert. One of my favorite things to eat when it is sweltering out is ice cream, hence this dessert that is currently on the menu. This sweet dish is reminiscent of a Creamsicle, with its orange curd, and vanilla-flecked quark cheesecake. I was inspired when using quark, a fresh cheese, and citrus together, just how much it reminded me of a classic orange Creamsicle. This dessert is an homage to the hot summer afternoons of my childhood chasing down the ice cream truck for a cold treat. A quark cheesecake entremet is molded, with an orange curd center and vanilla cake on the bottom. The quark cheesecake is flecked with vanilla beans, lemon and orange zest. There is orange sauce on the bottom to boost the orange flavor. All this is paired with a tarragon sherbet and orange sorbet that has been swirled together, adding another element of Creamsicle flavor. For texture, we add a white chocolate meringue, using Valrhona Opalys, the white chocolate adding depth to the dairy elements in the dish. To finish this off, anise flowers, for a fennel-esque kick to aid the hint of tarragon flavor. All this equals a very light and refreshing dessert, an adult homage to a childhood classic.