Wednesday, July 9, 2008

just desserts

Going on vacation--especially going home--is always an excuse to eat extra dessert. When Dan and I aren't sucking down toothachingly sweet iced coffees at our favorite Cuban bakery in West Palm Beach, we're probably filling up on Key lime pie or ice cream. Last weekend, we had a silky panna cotta with saba and cherry sauce at Forte, the newish restaurant opened by ex-Top Chef-er (and South Florida native) Stephen Aspirino. I would go on about the insanely pointy alligator shoes he was wearing but this blog is not about restaurants or footwear choices, it's about cooking at home. So I bring you three recipes we made and ate together (well, Tilly begged for her share, as you can see) this past weekend.

Mango-peach sorbet
In the summer, mangoes grow everywhere in South Florida. In the summer, people burdened by overproductive trees try to hand off bags of ripe, sap-dripping fruit to whoever will take them. I've had a complete stranger give me an armful in a parking lot. In New York, when I pay $5 a mango, I think about all those Florida backyards filled with piles of pink and yellow fruit ripening in the sun. If you don't have a mango tree or want to pay $5 a mango, you can substitute extra peaches or any other type of fruit in this recipe.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)

3 medium-sized peaches, sliced
1 large mango, sliced
1/2 lime
1/2 cup sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until dissolved, and cooled)

In a food processor, puree the peaches then pour into a bowl. Then puree the mango with the juice of 1/2 of a lime. Combine with the peach puree, then add the sugar syrup. Chill in the freezer in a Tupperware container, stirring twice, every 15 minutes until the texture is slushy, but not rock hard.

Judy has a friendly baking competition going with a co-worker. Almost every week they each bring in a batch of cookies for the rest of their office and see which ones get eaten the fastest. Judy, being somewhat (ahem) of a competitive type, described the contest as a "cookie slapdown" when she first told Dan about it. I think she meant "throwdown," but whatever. Cookie slapdown (or smackdown, as we sometimes call it) has a nice ring to it. She's made dozens and dozens of co-worker-approved cookies since the slapdown started, but these are her two latest favorites, both from Martha Stewart's new cookie cookbook. I prefer the chocolate crackles (top), which are misleadingly-named. They have a dense brownie-like texture and flavor, not at all crackly. The cappuccino sandwich cookies (bottom) are filled with a fudge-like chocolate ganache and are really delicious too.

Chocolate crackle cookies
The recipe can also be found on Martha Stewart's site.
(Makes about 4 dozen)

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups light-brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Chop bittersweet chocolate into small bits, and melt over medium heat in a heat-proof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and light-brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add melted chocolate. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until just combined.

Divide the dough into quarters, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours. On a clean countertop, roll each portion of dough into a log approximately 16 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, using confectioners’ sugar to prevent sticking. Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and transfer to a baking sheet. Chill for 30 minutes.

Cut each log into 1-inch pieces, and toss in confectioners’ sugar, a few at a time. Using your hands, roll the pieces into a ball shape. If any of the cocoa-colored dough is visible, roll dough in confectioners’ sugar again to coat completely.

Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies have flattened and the sugar splits, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer from oven to a wire rack to let cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Cappuccino-chocolate bites
The recipe can also be found here.
(Makes 30 bite-size cookies)

2/3 c flour
1 Tbsp finely ground espresso beans
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c heavy cream
2 1/2 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Whisk flour, espresso, and salt in a bowl, set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix on med-high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to med-low. Add flour mixture; mix utnil dough comes together. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Let dough stand at room temp. 10 minutes. Roll between 2 sheets of parchment to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out rounds with 1 1/8 in cutter; space 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Reroll scraps, cut out. Freeze 10 minutes.

Bake until set but not browned, about 9 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, cool completely.

Bring cream to simmer in a saucepan. Pour over chocolate in a bowl; stir until smooth. Press plastic wrap onto surface; refrigerate at least 4 hours, up to overnight. Whisk to soft peaks before using.

Transfer filling to a pastry bag, fitted with a 1/4 inch plain round tip. Pipe about 1 tsp filling onto bottoms of half the cookies; sandwich with remaining cookies. Dust with cocoa and sugar.


Vanessa said...

OH man, those mangoes grow as big as your head!

It seems like there are lots of Top Chefs capitalizing off their 15 minutes in their hometowns. There are 2 from Santa Rosa that I know of them went to high school with Trevor and got expelled for poisoning the cheerleading squad with laxative brownies!

Daniel said...

Ha! I bet that came in handy for the laxative Quickfire sponsored by Ex-lax (and the Glad family of products).

Can you say seared foie gras with a chocolate Ex-lax foam?


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