desserts

Earl Grey Infused Chocolate Mousse by Julie Schumacher

I've been wanting to bake with tea for ages. Once I started using more herbs in my baking it was only a matter of time before I started eyeing the chamomile.

But it was good old stodgy Earl Grey that won with this silly quick blender chocolate mousse. I had dabbled with individual souffles featuring a similar flavor combination but then I found this recipe from Food52 and realized sometimes easier is way better.

When I say this takes ten minutes, I'm not kidding one little bit. In the time it takes to steep the tea and orange rind, you can chop the chocolate and separate the egg whites. We have a Vitamix which made it even easier. How easy? I whipped up one batch while the kid was looking for her shoes.

Super creamy, with a hint of the tea and a nod to the orange but mostly just majorly chocolate. The recipe is naturally gluten free, doubles in a snap for simple scaling and stores easily in mini masons or whatever you have on hand. In the several times I've now made it I've yet to screw it up, and that's saying something.

Lavender Honey Almond Cake by Julie Schumacher

Finding a dessert that doesn't need modification for food sensitivities or allergies can be a challenge when I have my heart set on some dairy-dense, gluten-full creation. Scratch that. There are tons of modifications and alternative recipes out there. It can be a thing, though, to have stores of a wide variety of flours and specialty ingredients. I have them now, usually, and it's totally worth it, of course, but it's great when a single dish tics all the boxes at the start.

This almond cake? Made with lavender honey? And served with creme fraiche, even more honey and oodles of plump blackberries? Check. Check. Checkity check. It's also free of refined sugar (thanks, honey).

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Mini Raspberry Pistachio No-Bake Cheesecakes by Julie Schumacher

We eat with our eyes, ya know?

When I spotted a raspberry pistachio no-bake cheesecake as a link to a post by Eva Kosmas for One King's Lane, it was the picture that made me gasp. Pistachios are not something that usually makes me gasp, to be honest. I don't know if I'd ever willingly eaten a pistachio before. But the picture of a pink and green cheesecake grabbed my attention, for sure. Her photography of this cheery dessert was so dark and intense.

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Apple & Pear Desserts: Awesome in Autumn by Julie Schumacher

My love for apples and pears is kind of unhinged. They are just so damn versatile. Throw 'em in pancakes. In salads. Partner them with cheese. And desserts? Heavenly. And, since they are at peak awesome in autumn I wanted to showcase them without baking them into something (not that there is anything wrong with that!) for our Fall salon

First up, how 'bout them apples?

Dipping apples in caramel sauce was what I was thinking about. So fall and fun. I floated the idea and Kelly mentioned giving the apples a little assist to stay tasty and photogenic. The browning of a sliced apple can be prevented with lemon juice but we wanted them to be photogenic and tasty. Cue cinnamon sugar apples from Bon Appétit. This has now become a regular in rotation for a quick treat.

Tart apple wise, I used this resource to pick and settled on Jonagold, which are sweet tart. See, I can improvise.

Salted caramel sauce recipes abound, thank you very much Internet. I settled on this one from Two Peas & Their Pod as I've used their recipes before to great success. A note: It came out so, so dark and I thought I had botched it (the theme of the salon pre for me, for sure). The next day I took the jars out of the fridge and was elated that they were that heavenly perfect caramel color. Caramelization is a process and has stages so if you prefer a deeper color/richer taste, keep on cooking it and don't fret as much as I do.

Before we served it, I sprinkled some of my best friend Maldon on top.

And now, for a way more complicated seeming dish: cornmeal pound cake with rosemary syrup, poached pears & candied rosemary

For as much as is going on with this dish (whole vanilla beans, cracked black pepper, simple syrups, candied herbs!) it was remarkably easy to make. Even better, our house smelled so good. Like lick the walls good.

None of the elements was particularly challenging. I also like that each and every component could stand on its own or play nicely with other friends. The pound cake needs a flavorful buddy to add some moisture to it, though it certainly could be things beyond this recipe as its a great balance of sweet and not super sweet.  The candied rosemary would make a gorgeous holiday garnish. Up your gin fizz game with the rosemary simple syrup.

The poached pears are something you could easily serve with ice cream or, heck, alone as a dessert. So pretty. So yummy. This was my pear primer in selecting one that would work well poached. How amazing is food that some pears break apart and some don't when  you cook them? Chemistry! I love stuff like that. Oh, and I used Bosc pears here.

Enjoy Fall's bounty, friends. A long winter approaches.

Two Raw, Vegan, Gluten & Refined Sugar Free Desserts This Dessert Lover Loved by Julie Schumacher

20140924_forth-29I'm not going to lie, you guys. I don't get all giddy thinking about raw foods. I like my cheese melted and my bread toasted. And I really like cheese. And bread. And butter, flour, sugar–those paragons of baking.

But when I was mapping out the Fall menu I kept coming back to two raw, vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free dishes. In part because we like to have options for all the tummies we'll be serving but also because they were too damn good to pass up.

The first, this salted honey and fig cheese cake from House in the Hills. Which, I'll be honest, I was so excited about all the parts and all the pretty that I didn't even realize it was vegan and raw till well after I ooohed and ahhhed over it. Figs. They're just SO PRETTY. This dish was just so pretty.

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Raw honey and a Vitamixed-to-the-nines cashew cream. A pecan and walnut crust. So I was digging it all. Vitamixing is super fun.

I realized, though, that there was a freeze/chill/serve order here that would prove challenging with the drive to Workshop, photography, time before dessert was served. I was anxious it would set then be a warm mess before anyone tried it. I shot Sarah Yates, the woman behind House in the Hills, an email the night before and got a helpful, fast reply. Sometimes the internet is amazing.

Sarah also recommended not salting or honeying the dish in advance, which just aided our On the Side cause and let us use one of Kelly from NimbleWell's lovely salt cellars.

My tip is to be super mindful about the Whens. Figs are good for a day MAYBE two after you purchase them so buying in advance might not work out...and after talking to the folks at Whole Foods I learned figs go fast. So wait and it might not work out. You need to be fig'in careful about acquiring them.

And, since we're on salt, one more tip on procuring tiny salt tins. I started messing around with the power of different salts in baking and the fun of citrus salts two years ago. I've loved learning more about salts (which will come up later in the divine salted caramel sauce recipe) and often turn to Maldon salt for it's beautiful flaky crystals. Having it as a side in two dishes meant the chance to give these lovely little Maldon salt tins as takeaways. They are about the size of two thumbs snuggling side by side.

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Dish Two. Not only do I not love raw, but I'm not a pumpkin head. I have a pumpkin head (it is round, round, round) but the heralding of PSL-days is more about spiced apple cider for me.

I know and respect that the rest of the world goes gaga for this gourd. I found this delightful chai-spiced recipe from The Kitchn that had me convinced even I'd be down with the 'kin. 20140924_forth-31 The chai spice is what did it for me, as was the chance to offer pumpkin seeds as a pinch-able and colorful side versus all the pourable things I had been working with. This was fast, easy and handled an afternoon of travel and staging well. Of course it did. What does The Kitchn do that isn't stupendous? These are great in part because they chill overnight so you can cross it off your list before your anxiety dreams even start.

If you love the flavors of chai, I also recommend this spice blend to make and keep on hand for toast, coffee or tea, or to edge a cocktail glss.

The beauty about baking but not baking? It's harder to royally screw up. With the maple mess I was making all day it was good to have these two beauts prepped and chilling out while I destroyed the rest of the kitchen.

Am I a total convert to all-that-is-raw? No. Would I do these again? Why, yes. Yes I would. Gladly.

Next week: Desserts featuring Fall's harvest like cinnamon apples and poached pears.