My Fall cheesecake (concord grape, graham cracker, and a classic Philadelphia cream cheese cheesecake) was a big hit, so changing it up for Winter made me a little nervous. You never want to disappoint with cheesecake and you definitely do not want to change it to something worse. This is a ricotta cheesecake (light and creamy, thought not as heavy as a cream cheese based batter), paired with saffron poached seckel pears, hazelnut crumble, cinnamon ice cream and vanilla caramel. The pears are lightly poached in white wine, saffron, vanilla, orange & lemon zest, cinnamon, and star anise. The hazelnut crumble has almond flour for extra nuttyness and hazelnuts that have been toasted and caramelized. I have been told the cinnamon ice cream is reminiscent of cinnamon toast crunch (goal!). The warm caramel sauce drizzled over ice cream and the cheesecake makes this cheesecake comforting delicious and irresistible.
Continuing my series of winter desserts in the Spring (whoops!), here is one that is no longer on the menu. We participated in Restaurant Week this January-February and I came up with a riff off of our current cheesecake (on the next post!). It features ricotta cheesecake, pistachio cremeux, Sicilian pistachios, blood orange segments, and blood orange sorbet. We were receiving the most heavenly blood oranges during this time, and something this simple was perfect to showcase the fruit. On a dreary and cold winter day, it's nice to have a bright, citrusy, and refreshing plate in front of you.
I call this a deconstructed cannoli in the loosest possible way. I remember a dessert that I learned in one the first restaurant I worked in, that was an interpretation of a cannoli. It was one of my favorite desserts, and whenever I plated it, I would inevitably eat some of the mise en place involved. Instead of the traditional shell, we fried up pasta strips that would be topped with confectioners sugar. It was delicious and funnily enough, tasted like funnel cake. I sought to recreate this aspect for the dessert, but changed everything else. This is comprised of deep fried pasta strips, whipped ricotta with honey and vanilla, and super ripe figs and strawberries. It's pretty simplistic, and I sought to add more to the dish. I played around with pistachio honey, caramelized nuts, ice cream, but in the end, I left it as is. When the fruit is ripe, the ricotta is fluffy and smooth, and deep fried pasta warm from the fryer and topped with sugar, that's all you need.
The best part of November is pear season. My favorite is Seckel pears as they are small and especially cute. I like to let them ripen before slowly poaching them. As I am peeling the skin, the pear should be dripping with juice and soft, not mushy. That's when I know they'll be delicious with a lot of natural sugars, with no need to add a lot of sugar in the poaching liquid. I like to poach them slowly with fall spices to control how cooked they become. I hate mushy fruit; I usually aim for a firm but soft poach. Nothing crunchy, and nothing resembling fruit sauce. I guess it's like Goldilocks, the perfect in-between. This dessert holds the fruit as the star. It is a simple ricotta cake with lemon, hazelnut crumble, bourbon sauce, lemongrass ginger ice cream and garnished with wild strawberries and caramelized hazelnut.
This caramel pecan tart is sold at the cafe, but for fun I decided to doctor it up as a plated dessert. This tart is paired with ricotta cake chunks, ricotta orange "skin" , and raspberry vanilla ice cream. The skin is the top layer of the ricotta cake, and baked again to achieve a crunchy and delicate citrus bite, reminiscent of a wafer. The actual tart is deliciously salty, nutty, chewy and sweet. Complex on its own, but even better with other contrasting flavors and textures. Good raspberries can still be found at the market, but as they are organic, they spoil quickly. What I like to do is freeze them in a plastic pint container. When they are completely frozen, I shake the container quickly, breaking up what was once delicate raspberries into perfect individual "kernels." It's the best way to preserve a little bit summer.