Archive for September, 2009


Rosh Hashanah Apple Tart

I originally made this tart for my mom, who asked me to contribute a dessert for a Rosh Hashanah party. The women who tried the tart enjoyed it so much that they have been begging me for the recipe. I had to confess that I made it up as I was going along, so these proportions are my best estimations.

    Ingredients

  • 1 tart shell, approx. 8 inches, pre-baked
  • 4 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 to 1½ cups white rum
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cardamom
  • ¼ cup good quality honey
  1. Soak the raisins in the rum.
  2. In a large frying pan, melt the butter on medium heat.
  3. Add the apples, and cook for 5-10 minutes until reduced; be careful not to burn.
  4. Add the sugar, cardamom, chopped walnuts, and soaked raisins (these should be plump by now)
  5. Cook the mixture until the sugar turns to syrup and the flavors are fully incorporated; you may also add a pinch of salt at this time to bring out the sweetness of your filling.
  6. Add the filling to the tart shell.
  7. Cook the filled tart for 15 minutes at 350° F.
  8. Drizzle the top with honey and serve.

Elements of a Plated Dessert

Pumpkin Filo Tower with Caramel Spiral

While attending cooking school, I took an entire course on plated desserts, those served in a formal setting either at a restaurant or, as is often my case, at a formal dinner party. Plated desserts are like delicious works of art- a beautiful presentation that combines different elements of taste and texture to please the palette. Here’s a brief summary of what I have learned so the next time you plan on ordering dessert at a restaurant, you’ll know what to look for.

Each dish has a main element, whether it be a cake, custard, tart, etc. This main attraction should be complemented by two important factors: a crunch and a sauce.

Caramelized Apple Compote with Toasted Walnuts

The crunch can be a cookie, a piece of chocolate, caramel decoration, or anything that (you guessed it!) produces crunch when its bitten into. Usually the crunch is added to the plate when the main element is a custard or the like. So, for example, a chocolate bavarois might have a chocolate tuille cookie on the side, or toffee bark on top, or perhaps a tempered chocolate cigarette. There are a myriad of crunch possibilities, but most importantly it should add some texture to what you’re eating and complement the flavor.

The sauce serves a dual purpose, acting as a counterpoint to the flavor, and as an artistic design accented with a hint of some beneficial essence. Most famous of the sauces in the pastry and baking world is Crème Anglaise, which is a light custard sauce.

Whenever I think of Crème Anglaise, my saliva glands work up a memory of the warm five nut brownie at Houston’s. If you’ve never had it, locate your nearest Houston’s and make sure to leave room! The brownie is the main attraction, the nuts both inside and on top serve as the crunch, and the sauce, a champagne Crème Anglaise, is drizzled in a pool surrounding the brownie, offering a sweet vanilla touch to every bite. The serving is enormous, enough to feed at least two people, but I promise you’ll finish the whole thing, with or without help, and not even realize where it went.

Plated Dessert For A Holiday Party - Individual Apple Tarte Tatins And Mexican Chocolate Trio

Putting brownies aside, other prime examples of sauces are caramel sauce, fruit coulis, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. Inevitably a sauce will be somewhere on the plate and will add an enjoyable dimension to whatever you’re eating. Make sure that you spoon in a little with each bite to let the flavors sing in harmony, and take full advantage of the chef’s intention to seduce your taste buds.

Now that I have given you a crash course on one facet of fine dining, allow me to provide some examples from Julia’s Kitchen to test your knowledge of crunch and sauce. See if you can pick out the elements in each of the following plated desserts:

  • Chocolate raspberry pots de crème, chocolate raspberry ice cream sandwiches, and raspberry coulis
  • Triple chocolate bavarois, chocolate dipped tuille cookies, white chocolate syrup
  • Lemon meringue tart, candied lemon peel wrapped in sugar shell, lemon Crème Anglaise
  • Dark chocolate and toasted hazelnut tart, trio of gelato (praline, vanilla, chocolate), toasted hazelnut toffee
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