This Blood Orange Creamsicle Semifreddo was inspired by one of my first pastry mentors, Claudia Flemming. Her book, The Last Course, was a collection of desserts she created for the venerable restaurant, Gramercy Tavern, in New York. It is an understatement to say her book was a steady guide to me when I was a pastry chef, fresh out of culinary school and trying to find my voice as a chef. She was combining flavors in ways that no one else was doing at the time. She used herbs in desserts and she had an exquisite balance of sweetness, sour, bitter, and salty. Her palate was informed by the savory side of the kitchen and it made all of her desserts profoundly more interesting and exciting to me. My copy of her book was written in, dog eared and splattered with cake batter, the truest sign of respect to a cookbook and its author. That seminal book went out of print for a while, but there was a cult following that just never let it be forgotten. So, when her publisher decided to celebrate it with another printing, I was thrilled. Other than the cover there are no changes to the book and it didn’t need any, that’s how good it was and is. The desserts still hold up nearly a decade later and I was just as excited by the Frozen Orange-Blossom Honey Mousse today as I was the first time I made it in 2001. I topped it with Blood Orange Sorbet to create my idea of the perfect creamsicle and then topped it with a Rosemary and Orange Meringue. I think Claudia would approve of the combination.
This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!
After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.
The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact.
Banana Cream Pie is a classic and one I don’t visit nearly enough. I had a craving for it and decided to bring it, along with a couple of galettes to a summer party. I figured I would be left alone in the corner with my pie and the rest of the guests would enjoy the colorful and fruity galettes. The Banana Cream Pie emerged from the kitchen and I think one of the guests actually started clapping and exclaimed something to the effect of “this party was great, but it just went to the next level!” and he threw his hands in the air. It turns out I’d recreated his favorite and he wasn’t alone. It’s funny how these rather retro American desserts, like the Banana Cream Pie and Baked Alaska bring back memories of grandmothers and childhoods. I am happy to report that this version did not disappoint and I sent the last piece home with the man who cheered for Banana Cream Pie, which is why I have no pictures of the slice. 😉 You’ll just have to make one to see how beautifully it cuts and how fantastic it tastes.
I wait all winter long for the rhubarb to pop up, signaling spring has arrived. Then, way too fast, the precious plants are bolting and done for the season. In a panic I pick all the rhubarb from my dad’s garden to bake it and freeze the stalks for a treat later in the year. My dad delivered rhubarb this weekend, on the same day I received Sarah Copeland’s dreamy new book, Every Day is Saturday. Her recipes are simple enough for Tuesday dinner, but festive enough to serve at a weekend party. I went immediately for the Rhubarb Berry Crumble, because it is one of my most treasured desserts. In fact, if I had to pick ONE favorite dessert, I would say anything rhubarb and baked into a crumble is always a winner. Sarah’s version is just the right amount of sweet, to take the edge off the puckery pink vegetable, but still tart enough to be true to rhubarb’s best quality. Her crumble is buttery and rich, which is a perfectly balanced partnership with the filling. My only issue with the recipe is that it wasn’t large enough to have leftovers for breakfast. Luckily, she gives instructions for making a bigger batch, so you can have it for dessert or breakfast or both!
The inspiration of a Cherry Semifreddo goes like this…I recently spent time in New York City and had the great fortune of meeting some of the wonderful people I otherwise only knew on social media. It still seems incredible to me that I can befriend people online, while working alone in my midwestern kitchen. These folks have been my inspiration, my support and my friends. However, it is even better to spend time with friends in person and that’s just what I did. One of the events I attended in NY gathered several of these folks and I had the opportunity to meet so many more, including Hetty Mckinnon, who writes about family, gatherings and delicious food. It just so happened that her newest book, FAMILY, was about to launch and she invited me to an intimate gathering at her Brooklyn photo studio to celebrate. Her food was EXACTLY how I choose to eat! Although I am not vegetarian, I go for clean, bright, bold flavors, in simple, but exciting preparation that don’t take me all day to make. Since I am baking all day and don’t often have time to cook. At her party she made an olive oil cake that blew my mind, which is in the book and I’d buy a copy just for that recipe.
I made this cherry semifreddo based on her recipe, because I LOVE a semifreddo and it is one of those under appreciated desserts and because we met at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, so it just felt fitting to celebrate that with a special treat. A semifreddo is a cross between ice cream and mousse, but doesn’t require any special equipment to prepare. The texture is smooth and luxurious when allowed to sit at room temperature until it just on the verge of melting, but still partially cold, hence the name.
This apple butter rose tart was inspired by Rory MacDonald’s new cookbook, bake. His book is full sweets, from flaky morning pastries to intricate plated desserts. It’s a book about a pastry chef taking you through the process of a restaurant kitchen, but he made the recipes accessible for the home cook. It is a beautiful book and his apple tart recipe intrigued me the second I turned to the page. His apple design is a super sleek spiral, where as mine went a bit more girly and romantic. I used a vegetable turner, as he suggested, to slice the apples as thin as possible and rolled them tight into rosettes. The ruffles that formed as the apples passed through the turner reminded me of fabric and I loved the effect so much that I just gathered the apple as it fell and piled it into the center of the tart. This tart has so few ingredients and yet the finished dessert is quite striking and intricate looking, perfect for a special occasion. You can watch me put together the apple butter rose tart in my instagram video and recipe is below.