New Winter Desserts

 Thursday, January 10, 2013

I know this is very cliche to say, but I feel like the past year has been passing by so fast. I got caught up in the holidays, and before long, I realized pumpkin cheesecake had a spot on our menu way past it's "seasonal expiration date." Coming up with a new dessert idea and testing recipes during the Christmas-New Year's push proved to be challenging. I knew I wanted to do a mascarpone cheesecake and had to test so many variations of it in order to get the recipe perfect. Because mascarpone has less structure than the typical cream cheese found in cheesecake, it was tricky to figure out a balance so that it would not  collapse, but also still taste like the mascarpone. Once that was done, I played around with a few uses of tangerine before settling on a tangerine gelee made with marmalade and a tangerine sorbet. I was originally thinking of a mulled wine sorbet, which tasted great on its own but really, really did not work with the dish (my sous chef Kristen declared it tasted "like someone spilled their glass of wine on their dessert plate"). I reduced that sorbet into a sauce, and the full dessert finally came together.

Chef Marc was also interested in using meyer lemons in a dessert. Meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and mandarins and are sweeter and more fragrant that common lemons. I love using citrus like blood oranges and meyer lemons in winter because they really brighten up a dessert menu. I didn't want to do something as straight-forward as a classic lemon meringue because the idea wasn't interesting to me. I opted instead to make a sesame sucree (sucree is a sweet tart dough) and line the tarts with those and paired it with honey tahini ice cream. Everyone's first reaction to the sesame/tahini was that it sounded weird, but I think I won most people over when they tasted it. The tart filling is lemon curd, one of my absolute favorite things to eat. The word "curd" is weird and scares a lot of people off from how delicious it really is. Curd is basically just a fruit pudding made with a lot of butter. Ok, that description probably doesn't sound much better, but it really is amazing. The tart is topped with a little dehydrated lemon zest and served with a huckleberry sauce. For a bit of "wow" factor, I made a sesame "glass" which is just sugar that's cooked to a high temperature, poured out onto black and white sesame seeds, and pulled super thin while it's still hot. Both desserts start on the menu tomorrow, just in time for the weekend.


Holiday Recap

 Monday, January 7, 2013

Me & My Siblings, Christmas Eve Eve
I'm a little late on this one, but it was an extraordinarily busy holiday season. For a restaurant, the holidays are always on the hectic side, but this one felt even more so. This was my first holiday season in charge of a pastry department, and I wanted everything to run smoothly. Like I said in my Thanksgiving post, working on the holidays isn't the best part of this job, but it's one I've gotten kind of used to over the years. This year I was fortunate to have off on Christmas Eve, my favorite holiday. As bonus excitement this year, my brother Eric got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Meghann, and we were able to celebrate with her family the day before Christmas Eve at Chef Marc's Tribeca restaurant, Marc Forgione. The meal was amazing, and we were all so overjoyed with Eric & Meghann's big news.

Eggnog Parfait
Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
Holiday Cookie Tins
For Christmas Eve & Christmas Day at American Cut, we featured a dessert menu with some special holiday desserts including a peppermint ice cream cake and an eggnog mousse parfait. For Christmas Eve at my house, I threw together a couple of desserts for my family, including a mascarpone cheesecake with a mixed berry compote and a candy bar cake. Not as impressive as the year I made 8 different desserts for the two days, but at least I came up with something.

NYE Desserts
As soon as Christmas was over, we switched into a heavy prep mode for New Year's Eve. NYE at a restaurant is one of the busiest days, and this year was no exception. A lot of people spend their NYE in Atlantic City, and the restaurant was packed for the night. That night, we ran three desserts to accommodate the pre fixe menu and other diners. Chef Marc wanted a "large chocolate cake," so I took that idea and made giant black and white ice cream cakes with chocolate cake and white espresso ice cream. We finished those off with edible silver balls and glitter. We also ran our Crackerjack Sundae, but added a significant amount of gold leaf to it for a "bling" factor. Gold leaf is a very thin sheet of real gold that you can eat. Our new vanilla bean mascarpone cheesecake also debuted that night, with a honey tangerine sorbet and mulled wine reduction. Dessert service wrapped up shortly after midnight, but we made it up to the front of the bar to watch the ball drop and toast with a glass of champagne.

Kristen & I, pre-ball drop

Now that the holidays are over, I've been able to concentrate more on developing new desserts and working on some interesting projects. Winter is a challenging time for any pastry chef, as the fruit supply dwindles to basically just citrus. Despite this, I have some new desserts coming up that I'm very excited about.