Jell-O always seemed a bit like magic to me. Add water to the brightly colored, sugary powder and in no time it’s solid and giggles like a good belly laugh. The problem is, the stuff in the box tastes like congealed, watered-down kool-aid. There is no actual fruit involved, just artificial color and flavor. Luckily gelatin desserts have earned more respect in the past decade with the popularization of panna cotta and other sophisticated, intense flavors, like wine and espresso. The best part of using gelatin is being able to create sexy shapes out of a liquid. Panna cotta just wouldn’t be the same if it was a puddle of custard on a plate. Knowing how to work with unflavored gelatin properly means you can set a liquid, without having it bounce like a rubber ball. You want to use just enough to keep its shape, but still have a smooth, luscious feel. This dessert is nothing but pure, ripe, sweet strawberries pureed and set with a bit of gelatin in a fun mold. A bowl of perfect strawberries and cream is nice, but when you present this regal dessert to your mom, it will take her breath away and she deserves that. [click to continue…]
This is a very tossed-together Black Forest Cake, or, as I like to say, when I am too lazy to bring out the piping bag and tips, it’s RUSTIC. All of the components of the classic German torte without the fuss. Layers of dark chocolate cake, fresh whipped cream and sweet cherries spiked with Kirschwasser (“cherry water,” or clear sour cherry brandy). These flavors are among the most celebrated combinations in the history of pastry making and yet this cake is often cloyingly sweet, overly fussy and conjures images from my 1070s childhood. Honestly, the version I remember was probably made with Cool Whip, Maraschino cherries and a cake from a box. Don’t get me wrong, that was just fine with me when I was 13. But, now my taste buds always cringe a bit at the thought of those Day-Glo-red cherries, a frozen whipped topping, that tastes like anything but cream, and the cake from a box just can’t compete with my Devil’s food recipe. The swoon worthy homemade version is super fast and easy to put together. [click to continue…]
This is a Quesito (Ke-see-toe) and it is delicious. Seriously, it is so perfect in its simplicity; flaky puff pastry wrapped around sweetened cream cheese and buttery pineapple. And it’s beautiful, in a shabby chic kind of way, nothing fussy, just rustic goodness with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. The best thing is that you can whip this together in about 5 minutes and instantly satisfy your craving for something sweet. I’ve made them three times for breakfast since I returned from Puerto Rico. You see, I am desperately grasping to my memories of being there. I just returned, less than a week ago, and already I miss it. It was paradise, which is enough to make one long for its sandy shores, perfect weather, gorgeous waters, friendly people, and the discovery of Puerto Rican pastries like Mallorca and the quesitos. But, returning to Minnesota and having to shovel my car out from the snow, in APRIL, was frankly, more than I was mentally prepared to handle. So, I make quesitos, shut my eyes, hold a shell to my ear and pretend I am still lying on the beach.
You can too! [click to continue…]