Category Archives: Dessert FourPlay Project

Fromage Blanc Panna Cotta ~ Rhubarb Two Ways ~ Crispy Almond Phyllo

This post is an installment from the ongoing Dessert FourPlay project, in which I prepare and write about all of the desserts in Dessert FourPlay: Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef by Johnny Iuzzini. For more on this project, click here.

I just have to reiterate, it’s so good to be back. Back to blogging (although still working through the issues that have caused all the pictures from the past six months to go missing), and also, back to Brooklyn, where I’m picking up shifts at my beloved Brooklyn restaurant while I look for my next internship opportunity. I’m delighted to report that for the first time, I’m getting paid for the work that I’m doing. Officially, one year after leaving my desk job and almost one year after starting at the French Culinary Institute, I’m cooking “professionally”.

It’s reassuring that there are some constants shared by my two restaurants so far, as the chefs at both the ritzy, Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant and the humble Brooklyn kitchen grabbed onto the big summer season opener, rhubarb, with gusto. (At the former, a certain very famous executive chef burst into the pastry kitchen one morning and demanded “zee sexy rhubarb!” for a spring photoshoot – these are the moments to which we unpaid students cling) And while I’ve waited until it was almost too late in the waning rhubarb season, I couldn’t resist the urge to pay homage to the vegetable I’ve come to love as one of the greatest pastry ingredients of all time.

There are several rhubarb recipes in the book, but I selected this one because of the unique ways it showcases the rhubarb, first as a vehicle for acidity and sweetness in the form of a pickle, and also a mellow version, full of earthy wine-poached flavors. The best thing for me about both kinds was the pleasant opportunity to eat rhubarb nearly raw and still crispy.

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Where I’ve Been

Back at the beginning of March I made two beautiful masterpieces for a dinner party from Dessert FourPlay and then disappeared without a trace for the next month and a half. Now, at long last, I return, bearing no photos or recipes. I’m back, but for the moment I’m completely empty-handed.

So, what do I have to say for myself?

My devoted readers may recall, three months ago, I began working as an intern in the pastry kitchen of a big, fancy, highly-acclaimed Manhattan restaurant. For a while I sucessfully balanced my internship with class at the French Culinary Institute, some freelance projects, planning my wedding, and even some (paid!!!) shifts back at my beloved Brooklyn restaurant. Then, all of a sudden, I just couldn’t get it all done. The fun ingredient scavenger hunts became a drain, heck, standing on my two feet for one minute longer than necessary became a drain, and soon, I stopped cooking at home all together. Making fancy desserts at home was probably the last thing I wanted to be doing, given that I was spending most of my waking hours working in other peoples’ kitchens doing just that.

Now I’m back, baby!

I just finished my internship at the fancy Manhattan restaurant and I’m taking a week, or maybe two, to reflect on where I want to go next. I’m using my free time to get back into my own kitchen to work on some exciting projects, one of which is the resurrection of the Dessert FourPlay project.

We may have missed blogging through the best days of the citrus season, but I saw rhubarb at the Union Square Greenmarket last Saturday, a sign of good things soon to come. Making its debut in the spring, rhubarb is the gateway drug of our local produce, an amazing dessert component in and of itself, and a sign that soon enough we’ll be enjoying berries and stone fruits from farms upstate. Chef Johnny Iuzzini has it all covered, and I hope that you won’t miss a moment of the bounty.

Next up: Key Lime Parfait ~ Graham Cracker Sable

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Cheese Doughnuts ~ Meyer Lemon Confit

 

This post is an installment from the ongoing Dessert FourPlay project, in which I prepare and write about all of the desserts in Dessert FourPlay: Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef by Johnny Iuzzini. For more on this project, click here.

Oh. My. God. I just loved making this so much. First off, there is the doughnut component. As in, the dessert item that brings my two favorite culinary worlds together – bread and pastry, and throws in my favorite guilty pleasure – fried dough rolled in some sort of sweet granulated substance, just for good measure. Then there’s the subtle, mellow, slightly sweet and oh, so creamy cheese filling. And, the bright flavor from confit of meyer lemon. Yes, this is sunshine and light and guilt and cheese (!) all on one plate.

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Flambeed Bananas ~ Rum and Coke Ice Cream ~ Peanut Phyllo Crisps

 

We’re in the home stretch of winter, but it sure doesn’t feel like that here in New York, with another foot of snow getting dumped down just before the weekend. And while I can debate forever with the snow lovers, weighing the virtues and the pitfalls of having such a large amount of snow around, setting aside the tiny window of city beautification, no one can argue that it sucks when the sewers get clogged, causing mass confusion for each street crossing on every corner. Bah! humbug! to that. Even folks rocking those country-chic Hunters I’m seeing everywhere can’t escape from the lakes of slush unsplashed.

Why do I rant on about this? Well, in spite of the slushy walking conditions, I had promises to keep and dinner to make for two semi-celebrity guests: Paul, the incredibly gifted designer who is responsible for giving this site its face, and his lovely wife Jen. When selecting the menu, this recipe spoke to my favorite fun fact about the couple – they met, unbelievably, on spring break in Cancun, and ten years later, they’re one of the happiest couples you’re ever likely to meet. Rum and coke ice cream? Tropical caramelized bananas? Perfect, no? But back to the slush – this recipe had some doozies on the shopping list, so there I was, running around from store to store, covered in slush.

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Chocolate Soup ~ Devon Foam ~ Chocolate-Covered Cocoa Puffs

Since I love the whole concept of soup for dessert, I was looking forward to trying out this concoction. The creamy, dark chocolate soup (not to be confused with the much-coveted cartons of sweet chocolate-y bliss that we remember from grade school)  topped with a foam made from Devonshire (Devon) cream, and whimsical cocoa puffs enrobed in milk chocolate did not disappoint. So let’s get down to it, shall we?

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Jean -Georges’s Warm Chocolate Cake ~ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ~ Chocolate Crumble

 

So yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Was it just me, or did it seem like people made more of a fuss about it than usual this year? My feelings on this Hallmark holiday can best be described as love/hate. One the one hand, all that pink and red crap, the blatant consumerism masquerading as love, and the starry-eyed, cooing couples who seem to think that grotesque displays of PDA are suddenly acceptable… all of that is completely off-putting. On the other hand, I have some great memories of nights inspired by Valentine’s Day backlash; wine-fueled all-girls dinner parties, slasher movie marathons, defiant nights out in the Village with every unattached friend I’d ever had. This year, the fact that Brian and I cooked a decadent dinner of caviar potatoes and cracked a bottle of amarone had nothing to do with the fact that it happened to be Valentine’s Day, and everything to do with us seizing the opportunity to spend a nice night at home together – something our schedules haven’t permitted us to do since New Year’s Day.

When I selected two chocolate desserts (this, and also, the Chocolate Soup – post coming soon) for the Dessert FourPlay project this week, it much less a coincidence: I did it, unabashedly, as a tribute to the holiday that I so love to hate. When I set out to blog the whole book, I knew that I would eventually have to make this, the most “conventional” dessert, at some point. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was how much I would enjoy doing it. But enough of my blathering.

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Citrus Salad ~ Calamansi Noodles

 

I am so excited to be posting installment #1 of the Dessert FourPlay project! It took me a while to decide which recipe would make the best opener, but after narrowing it down by season and deciding that I wanted to save chocolate for next week’s valentine’s day post, I decided to focus on the light and bright flavors of the citrus salad. It seemed like an appropriate starter.

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

 

So I scored that internship at the fancy Manhattan restaurant (thank you to readers for your kind words via comments and email), and tomorrow I’ll be working my last shift in the Brooklyn kitchen where I’ve come to feel at home. The next three months will be filled with some very serious schooling that I hope will help me take my cooking to another level and expose me to techniques that I’ll never learn in school. As excited as I am about all of this, lately I’ve been feeling a bit glum about leaving Brooklyn behind, for two reasons: I’m going to miss the company of the chefs and cooks who gently mentored me and made work fun, and, most of all, I’ll miss the satisfaction that comes from creating something from start to finish. You see, for a pastry cook (or intern), the biggest difference between working at a high-quality, rustic style restaurant and working in high pressure, fine dining is that at the former you are involved in the entire plate – the cake, the ganache, the swoop of sauce, and the candied garnish that goes on top. In fine dining, where one plate may have 20 components, multiplied by the number of items on the menu, I may have my hands in a few tiny pieces of the finished product, but I’ll never be able to look at something and say “yeah, I made that.”

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