Test Kitchen, Thoughts

Brainstorming the Fall 2016 Dessert Menu

August 8, 2016

I can’t say it enough: I LOVE FALL.

Stephen Colbert recently said it perfectly:

So while it might seem a little soon to be talking about Autumn desserts, in all practicality, it’s actually smart. Starting in August, I have time to test and perfect desserts. I can figure out what might work better as a special, I can take the time to figure out the best process for producing everything at a high quality rate without overworking myself (since I am the sole member of the pastry team).

I figured that rather than just sit back and surprise you with recipes one day, maybe I’d let you in on my thought process.

For the menu, I only need to come up with three main desserts. One other option will be various biscotti flavors and the other option will be sorbet. Those I don’t worry about as much. For the main desserts, one needs to contain chocolate because people really do go cuckoo for cocoa. But that’s really the only stipulation. But a couple other challenges are allergies. Is it dairy free, can it be dairy free? Gluten? Nuts? It’s kind of a pain in the ass.

For starters, you don’t want to have every dessert have gluten in it. Or if it does, it can at least be removed. Same goes for nuts. Dairy, nobody seems to care about the oldest “allergy” around. And I’m lactose intolerant. But I also know, that butter baked into something doesn’t have quite the same effect on me as ice cream does. But that’s just me. It’s different for everyone.

Anyways, with those things in mind, I poured myself a (large) glass of red wine, lit an Autumn scented Yankee Candle, threw on some Diana Krall, Mariah Carey & Caro Emerald (choice selections from my fall music collection) and got to brainstorming in my chilly air conditioned room.


DESSERT #1: Fritelle di Mele (Apple Fritters)
I’ve had this one in mind for a while. Since I’ve started, all the desserts have been cold. Which is fine during warm months, but during colder months, something hot is nice. And once I learned a free fryer would be available, all bets were off.

So for this dessert the plan is to make a spiced apple fritter. I’ll be able to make the batter and portion it out and into the freezer. At night, they can fry them right from the freezer for hot, fresh fritters. On top of this will go a scoop of Brown Butter Ice Cream. I just recently tested this and it came out perfectly. This will melt down and create a sauce. Yum! So, because I just have to take it one step further, it’s going to come with a bit of Bacon Jam. Because, well, this is me, this is Fall and it’s going to be delicious! And if you’re a vegetarian, I’ll give the option of Ginger Quince Compote from…

DESSERT #2: Pera Crostata (Pear Tart)
I love making tarts. It all stems from my first baking job. At the bottom of the bakery barrel, you had to make doughs. All the doughs for cookies and pies and tarts. You would cut out the cookies and bake them and package them. You would also shape all the tart shells. And when you picture shaping them, don’t imagine 10. Think more along the lines of 100. Minimum. It was daily. This was something I wished I learned more of in school. But alas, that was not the case. Soon enough, though, I picked up speed and could shape perfect tart shells. I was truly proud. Oh, I also had to poach pears. Constantly. And as much as I despised it some days, I’ve grown to love it. The silky, luxurious texture of poached pears. So for my first fall menu, of course they were going to be thrown in.

As of now, the crust for this will be a regular pie crust. No fancy ingredients. No gimmicks. But who knows how long that will stick. Inside that will go some frangipane, a type of almond cream. On top will be some rosemary & orange poached pears. Once that’s baked, a slice will go on a plate and garnished with Ginger Quince compote and, I’m hoping, a local honey that will get drizzled on top.

Side note: I love honey. But once it cooks, I lose all interest in it. Whenever I use it in a recipe, I try to add it after the cooking is done. Or, if it has to get cooked, not enough to be truly noticeable.

Back to the recipe, I think I might need a crunch. The obvious choice would be some sort of candied almond since almonds are already in the dessert. But maybe it’s a tuile cookie or some hard crack caramel designs. Time will tell.

So that just leaves…

DESSERT #3: Torta di Ricotta al Cioccolato (Chocolate Ricotta Cake)
Since the other two desserts have unremovable gluten, I really want to try and make this work without gluten. Chocolate is usually good about that. I need to do some testing on this cake for sure. For a burst of real flavor, I’m going to serve this cake with some poached cranberries (basically cranberries that are JUST cooked so that they haven’t burst but are tender) and some sort of Ginger Rum Cardamom Caramel. Again, this needs a crunch. But I’d like to avoid gluten and nuts since it doesn’t currently have either in it.

For some reason, I always find chocolate the hardest to come up with. Not exactly sure why, I love chocolate. But it can be quite rich. I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Honestly, I think the red wine is catching up to me.

So I will be happily be doing some testing and special making for these desserts. More than likely the will evolve. But now I have some goals in mind.

For biscotti, I’ve got some fun flavors in mind: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Ginger Molasses, Orange Rosemary & Date, Snickerdoodle, Carrot Cake, Banana Bread. The less traditional biscotti flavor, the more attracted I get to it.

As for specials, I’m just thinking of ideas that I want to try, but maybe wouldn’t work on a long term basis because of the work involved. However, if it proved to be popular, I could find ways to make it work. Like Apple Pie Sundaes (Vanilla Ice Cream, with Cinnamon Sugar Pie crust pieces and a spiced Apple compote) or an Apple Cider Float (Hard Cider, Vanilla Ice Cream, Spiced Whipped Cream and a Dried Apple Slice).

All this will lead into Christmas time meaning Eggnog Panna Cotta or Gingerbread Cake or…mmmmm…I’m getting excited just thinking about it.


Autumn is delicious

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