Saturday, March 14, 2009

Desserts to Die For

As I sit here in my apartment, fresh from the bath, spending a cozy Saturday evening hiding indoors from the rainy weather outside, I find myself longing for a sweet treat. But since I haven't anything sweet stashed in my cupboards, why not instead reminisce of desserts past?

I must admit that I don't have a huge sweet tooth - and truthfully, if given the choice, I'd nearly always prefer a savoury treat over a sweet one - however, there are a few sugary treats that I'd happily include on my list of “desserts to die for.” Namely, chocolate mousse, home-baked pumpkin pie, and absolutely anything containing lemon curd.

Amaretto-Spiked Dairyless Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate mousse is something I've been largely living without for years (along with things like ice cream and creme brulee and cheesecake) due to my allergy to dairy. So, when Meg showed me this recipe from Super Natural Cooking, I was ecstatic. For all you readers who are not dairy impaired, please don't be put off. This mousse is just as good, if not better, than its cream-based counterpart. And the best part: it's so simple! Do be careful though, as it's incredibly rich and therefore best consumed in small quantities.

1/2 cup organic chocolate soy milk
9 or 10 ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
12 ounces silken tofu
1/4 cup Amaretto or almond-flavored liquor
1/4 teaspoon natural pure almond extract

Pour the chocolate milk into a small pot and bring to a simmer. Remove the milk from heat and let cool a bit while you melt down the chocolate chips. Place the chocolate chips in a double boiler (I use a large bowl on top of a small pot of simmering water) and gently warm the chips while you stir occasionally until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add the soy milk and silken tofu to the melted chocolate chips. Process with a hand or regular blender until completely smooth. Stir in the Amaretto and almond extract.

Chill in individual bowls for at least 1 1/2 hours (the longer the better). The pudding will set up nicely as it cools.

Makes 6 decadent servings

Vodka-Crust Pumpkin Pie

I was given this recipe from Claire for a true baking emergency, when I foolishly announced that I'd take on the task of making Thanksgiving Day Pumpkin Pies for two separate dinner parties. And this was foolish because I'd never actually baked a pie from scratch before. Ever. Thankfully, Claire came to my rescue with her tried-and-true Cook's Illustrated recipe, which featured the secret ingredient of Vodka (who would have guessed?) in the crust. And the pies were a huge hit!

Unfortunately, in my last-minute haste, I had to scribble down the ingredients and method onto some small post-it notes, which of course ended up lost in the baking aftermath. But I promise to post the actual recipe once I retrieve it again from Claire.

Meringue Nests with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries

Now, this is truly a summertime dessert, but you can keep it in your arsenal until the sun comes out again.

For a couple of years, meringues were one of the top items on my list of "gotta try making this soon, because I just know it will be so tasty!" and I finally got around to doing so last summer, when my mom was in town for a visit. Unfortunately, the picture doesn't show the amazing lemon curd nestled inside that central well in the meringue, but I assure you that the curd was so perfect in this dessert.

The recipe was taken from my Good Housekeeping cookbook, which I use for almost everything. It's sort of like my go-to-cookbook, when I want to try something new and need a foolproof recipe to get me started. And it never seems to let me down.

Lemon Filling (see below)
Meringue Shells (see below)
1 cup raspberries or strawberries
mint leaves

1. Prepare lemon filling. While lemon filling is chilling, prepare meringues.
2. Spoon lemon filling into meringue shells and top with berries and mint leaves.

Lemon Filling
3 large lemons
1 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks

From lemons, grate 1 tbsp peel and squeeze 1/2 cup juice. In saucepan, whisk cornstarch and lemon peel and juice until blended. Add butter and sugar. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute.

In small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks. Into yolks, beat 1/4 cup hot lemon mixture, then pour egg mixture back into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan, beating rapidly to prevent curdling. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour into medium bowl and press plastic wrap onto surface. Refrigerate about 3 hours.

Meringue Shells
3 large egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200F. Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. In small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until sugar has dissolved. Add vanilla and keep beating until egg whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks.

Spoon rounded teaspoons of meringue into small mounds on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Make well in center of each round to form nest.

Bake until meringues are firm and just begin to colour, about 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave meringues inside for 1 hour or cool completely on wire rack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, thought I would let you know something about your chocolate mousse recipe. Some of us cannot eat soya, so try almond milk instead. Be sure to get the unsweetened. Meg has used it as a substitute in making ice cream. Most people like it better than soya and it can be substituted just the same for dairy.