Desserts: 32 posts

Tested recipes for desserts, fragrant baking and sweet treats

Saffron Biscotti with Pistachios and Chocolate

Saffron’s fragrance is complex. A leather accent shimmers darkly against the brightness of green and herbal notes. A languid floral undercurrent meets a spicy warmth. You would think that such an intricate fragrance would be difficult to pair, but as Persian cooking demonstrates, saffron marries well with a wide range of scents and flavors. And so I thought, why not pair it with dark chocolate?

Chocolate is another versatile ingredient despite its richness, and it serves as a perfect sidekick for saffron. The two ingredients complement each other in the most delightful way–the first impression of fresh spice is followed by the floral richness. I sometimes taste gardenia and sometimes a hint of a rose. And to enjoy saffron’s sumptuous color, I selected my favorite recipe for biscotti.

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Laurent Gerbaud: The Chocolate Treasure of Brussels

Brussels is a city renowned for its chocolate, but even so, the creations of Laurent Gerbaud stand out. Their flavors are exquisite, their quality is impeccable and the presentation is beautiful. The boutique on Rue Ravenstein, located close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts–another one of the city’s treasures–is a place I return often to taste chocolates or linger over a glass of wine.

In my recent FT Magazine article, Laurent Gerbaud, I talk about this enigmatic confectioner and his craft. The range of flavors is seasonal–fig and apricot in the summer and yuzu in the winter. One of my favorite discoveries has been milk chocolate with salt and green cumin, a combination that seems unexpected and tastes addictive.

The boutique itself is a destination–charming and serene.

When I’m finally ready to step back into the real world, I leave with a couple of chocolate bars or perhaps a Mondrian set, a box divided into squares and rectangles reminiscent of the Dutch painter’s compositions. Gerbaud’s is edible art at its best. The flavors range from delicate to intense, but the experience is invariably of pure delight. To continue reading, please click here.

 

Ukrainian Apricot Cheesecake (Syrnyk)

If I had to choose a favorite dessert, it would be cheesecake. If I had to choose a favorite fruit, it would be apricot. So, why not put the two together? The creamy cheese filling contrasted with the luscious fruit and crumbly pastry makes for a perfect summer treat.


Syrnyk, from the Ukrainian word for cheese, syr, is a local favorite. There are hundreds of variations, from the sumptuous Lviv-style syrnyk covered with chocolate glaze to the crustless cheesecake usually baked for breakfast. (Yes, Ukraine is the place where cheesecake can be had first thing in the morning.) But when I found a recipe in my great-grandmother’s cookbook for an apricot syrnyk, I was tempted enough to brave the heat wave and fire up the oven. The result was worth it.

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How to Candy Violets

Last spring I found myself short of sugar sprinkles to decorate a cake but I did have a big bouquet of violets from the garden. My grandmother, never at loss for ideas, flipped through her notebooks and found a simple recipe for making candied violets at home. “Brush each petal with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and leave on a rack to dry,” was the only instruction. So I followed it and ended up with pretty candied flowers. They not only lasted for a few months in a tightly covered tin, but also retained their bright color and delicate flavor.

Unlike commercial candied violets, homemade flowers don’t have an aggressive purple color nor the strong scent of synthetic ionone. If your violets are scented, you can taste the real violet flavor, which is a combination of raspberry and rose. It’s more subtle, but also more nuanced and complex.

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Chocolate Cake with Pistachios and Apricots

The romance that appeals to me has a dark side, such as the poetry of Paul Verlaine, novels by Mary Shelley, gowns by Elsa Schiaparelli and Alexander McQueen, and music by Modest Mussorgsky. In perfume, dark romance is expressed in fragrances like Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, Caron Nuit de Noël, Arquiste Nanban, and Guerlain Vol de Nuit. If I extrapolate this idea even further into flavors, then it would be my dark chocolate pound cake with pistachios and apricots. It’s darkly romantic and decadent.

Bitter chocolate is complex enough to be paired with a variety of other flavors, but the combination with pistachios and apricots is one that I love for its harmony. Apricots give a tart floral note, while pistachios hold their own. Their sweetness becomes more pronounced against the dark chocolate foil.

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