March 31, 2010 in Features

Fresh fruits can bring out the best in Easter desserts

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photo

Europa pastry chef Christie Sutton’s classic French dessert called pithiviers features a light, flaky crust.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Whether you’re serving an elegant evening meal for the Easter holiday or a more casual brunch, the arrival of spring begs for desserts with a seasonal flair.

“I love that Easter and spring arrive together because it means that I can start baking with fresh fruit,” says Gina Garcia, of Cake.

Garcia’s new bakery, an expansion to Chaps in the Latah Creek Shopping Center on South Cheney Spokane Road, is scheduled to open soon.

She shared a trifle recipe that comes together quickly with layers of lemon pound cake and lemon custard with fresh berries.

“My family is Italian and we typically celebrate Easter with a fruit trifle made with zabaglione, a frothy custard flavored with marsala,” Garcia says. “I have adapted this dessert for folks who may not like the sharp flavor of Marsala.

“In the recipe, I have made a lemon custard which is just tart enough to contrast nicely with the sweet berries.”

For those who are up for more of a challenge, Europa pastry chef Christie Sutton shared a recipe for a classic French dessert called pithiviers (pronounced pee-tee-vyay).

“I was just trying to come up with something a little different,” she says. “The light and flaky pastry just makes me think of Easter.”

The layers of puff pastry surround a rich almond filling and raspberry preserves. Sutton tops the dessert with fresh fruit and powdered sugar and serves it slightly warm or at room temperature.

Davenport Hotel executive chef Bryan Franz shared a recipe for individual mascarpone cheesecakes topped with huckleberry compote. (Substitute blueberries if your freezer stash of the wild berries is gone.)

He tops the cheesecakes with the compote and mint leaves for garnish, along with a pistachio tuile – a crunchy French cookie.

Decorated sugar cookies are a popular item for Easter at Carolyn’s Cake, Candy and Cookie Supplies, says new owner Michele Clemons.

Clemons purchased the store, 1705 N. Hamilton St., from original owner Carolyn Largent last April. She shared the recipe instructors give to students in classes.

She recommends decorating the cookies with candy melts rather than royal icing. The candy comes in an array of colors that can be melted and poured into squeeze bottles for easy decorating.

The store offers decorating classes for cookie bouquets, as well as cake decorating instruction. A new series of classes will be announced soon.

I couldn’t resist throwing in a few more recipes for good measure. White chocolate dipped strawberries with citrus sugar are finished quickly and have a nice seasonal flavor.

Coconut cupcakes drew raves all around when a friend made them recently. (They’re the grown-up version of the coconut-topped bunny cake my grandmother sometimes made for the holiday.)

And I’m using up the end of last year’s rhubarb in the Rhubarb Custard Bars from Cooking Light’s newest cookbook, to make room in the freezer for this year’s crop.

Lemon Curd Trifle with Fresh Berries

From pastry chef Gina Garcia of Cake. Cake is the new bakery at Chaps, in the Latah Creek Shopping Center on South Cheney-Spokane Road. The expansion and bakery are expected to open sometime this spring.

6 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

4 lemons, zested and juiced

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

1 prepared lemon pound cake

1/4 cup Limoncello or Grand Marnier (optional)

1 pint strawberries

1 pint blueberries

1 pint raspberries

Fresh mint for garnish

To make lemon curd: Bring a pot of water to a simmer. In a glass, heatproof bowl combine yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Whisk until smooth.

Set the glass bowl over the simmering water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk continuously and vigorously until the curd has doubled in volume and becomes thick and yellow. This should take about 10 minutes. Do not boil.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted and fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap sets right on top of the curd and refrigerate until cold and firm.

To assemble the trifle: Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold into the cooled curd until it lightens up into a mousse-like texture. Slice the pound cake into thin slices.

Put one layer of cake into the bottom of the trifle dish. If using, drizzle some Limoncello over cake. Spoon some of the lemon mousse over cake. Layer berries over mousse.

Repeat this process until all of the ingredients are gone. Garnish the top with fresh mint and a few berries. Chill.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Raspberry Pithiviers

From Europa pastry chef Christie Sutton. Pithiviers (pronounced pee-tee-vyay) is a classic French dessert with a rich almond filling encased in flaky puff pastry. It has a heavenly scent when it comes out of the oven. Sutton recommends serving it slightly warm or at room temperature with fresh fruit. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

7 ounces almond paste

1/2 stick butter (softened)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 sheets prepared puff pastry, thawed

1/3 cup raspberry preserves

Cream the almond paste, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extract for 3 minutes. Slowly beat in eggs. Use a spatula to scrape the bottom and edges of the bowl to ensure an even mixture. Add flour and blend for 30 seconds. Chill while the pastry is prepared.

Cut a 9-inch circle out of one of the pastry sheets, and a 10-inch circle out of the other. Spread the raspberry preserves and the chilled almond batter on the 9-inch circle, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edge.

Moisten the margin with water or egg wash. Place the second circle of dough on top and gently press the edges together to seal. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Brush the top with egg wash (egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, milk or cream). With the tip of a knife, score the top of the pastry in a pinwheel pattern of arcs radiating from the center. (See note.)

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until browned and crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Note: Use 9- and 10-inch cardboard rounds and a pastry wheel to cut the circles from the pastry dough. To ensure the pinwheel and arcs are evenly spaced, score the edge of the top pastry at even intervals then use the edge of the cardboard to trace an arc from the center of the pastry to the marks along the edge.

Individual Mascarpone Cheesecakes with Huckleberry Compote

From executive chef Bryan Franz of the Davenport Hotel. Serve these small cheesecakes topped with huckleberry compote, pistachio tuiles and a sprig of fresh mint. You’ll need a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for the pistachio tuiles or substitute a crunchy purchased cookie.

For the individual cheesecakes:

8 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 ounce sour cream

1.5 ounces granulated sugar (about 3 generous tablespoons)

1 whole egg

1 egg white

2 ounces heavy cream, (40 percent, if possible)

¼ of the zest of a medium-size lemon

For the pistachio tuiles:

.3 ounces ground pistachio dust

.6 ounces granulated sugar

.2 ounces pastry flour

.3 ounces melted unsalted butter

.2 ounces orange juice

For the huckleberry compote:

1 cup frozen huckleberries or blueberries

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 ounces port wine

¼ of the zest from one orange

Fresh mint leaves, to garnish

To make the cheesecakes: Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth, with no lumps. Spray four 4-ounce ramekins or aluminum tins generously with nonstick baking spray and coat with granulated sugar. Pour mix evenly into each ramekin or tin.

Place in a pan filled with warm water and bake at 325 degrees until slightly set and yellow on top, about 18 to 24 minutes; remove ramekins from water bath and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve dip each in hot water, flip onto plate and rub in circular motion to release.

To make the pistachio tuiles: Mix all ingredients together and chill overnight. Cut desired template from heavy cardboard; place on greased sheet pan, silpat or parchment paper. Spread 1 ounce tuile batter in each template; repeat for remaining batter. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, about 5 minutes (watch carefully; these will easily over bake).

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 to 15 seconds, remove from baking sheets with spatula and drape over a wood rod while still warm. These will set up quickly.

To make the huckleberry compote: Place all ingredients in a saucepot over medium heat and cook until set, stirring often. It will take about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from heat and chill.

Yield: 4 individual cheesecakes

Buttery Sugar Cookies

From Carolyn’s Cake, Candy and Cookie Supplies. Owner Michele Clemons substitutes butter-flavored extract for the almond in this cookie, but just about any extract will work. She also recommends lemon or coconut for springtime cookies.

1 cup butter

3 ounces cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon salt

Mix butter, cream cheese, sugar, egg and extracts thoroughly. Sift together flour and salt, and stir into butter mixture. Cover dough and chill overnight for best results.

Roll out dough 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick (for best results, roll out on a silpat, parchment paper or foil; this keeps the cookies from getting misshapen when transferring them to a baking sheet). Cut into desired shapes and remove excess dough.

Transfer to baking sheet. Bake cookies in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes.

Decorate cooled cookies with candy melts. Carolyn’s Cake, Candy and Cookie Supplies carries an array of colored candy discs that can be melted and placed in a squeeze bottle with a narrow tip for easy decorating.

Yield: About 4 dozen 3-inch cookies.

White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries with Citrus Sugar

From Bon Appetit, April 2010

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

6 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped

16 large ripe strawberries

Line baking sheet with foil. Using fingertips, mix sugar and citrus peels in small bowl until sugar is moist.

Stir chocolate in small bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

Holding 1 strawberry by stem end, dip 2/3 of berry into chocolate; shake excess back into bowl. Turn berry dipped-end up and sprinkle with citrus sugar. Place on prepared sheet.

Repeat with remaining berries, chocolate and sugar. Chill until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 16 dipped strawberries

Coconut Italian Crème Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter

1¾ cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

¾ cup buttermilk

2 cups coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

½ cup butter

4 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 ½ cups coconut

Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.

Combine flour, baking powder and soda. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, vanilla and extracts, beating until combined. Add flour mixture and buttermilk, alternately, beating on low just until combined. Fold in coconut and chopped pecans.

Pour batter into prepared tins. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly.

To make the frosting, beat together butter and 2 cups powdered sugar. Slowly beat in milk, vanilla and coconut extract. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar until combined and easy to spread.

Put coconut into shallow bowl. Frost cupcakes and dip upside-down into bowl to coat top with coconut.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Rhubarb Custard Bars

From Cooking Light’s new book, “Cooking Through the Seasons.” Editors write: “Rhubarb, which looks like crimson celery, has a short season so stock up while you can. It freezes beautifully; just store the stalks in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. You can use fresh or frozen rhubarb for this recipe. We actually preferred unthawed frozen rhubarb.”

Crust:

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

9 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Cooking spray

Filling:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

11/2 cups sugar

11/2 cups 1 percent low-fat milk

3 large eggs

5 cups (1/2-inch) sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (thawed)

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese

1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style 1/3-less-fat cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

Mint sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare crust, lightly spoon 11/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Press mixture into a 13- by 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

To prepare filling, lightly spoon 1/3 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and 11/2 cups sugar in a large bowl; add milk and eggs, stirring with a whisk until well blended.

Stir in rhubarb. Pour rhubarb mixture over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set. Cool to room temperature.

To prepare topping, place 1/2 cup sugar, cream cheeses and vanilla in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping; spread evenly over baked custard. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 36 servings (serving size: 1 bar)

Approximate nutrition per serving: 131 calories, 4.2 grams fat (29 percent fat calories), 2.5 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrate, 29 milligrams cholesterol, .5 grams dietary fiber, 78 milligrams sodium.


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