Posts Tagged ‘Pastry’

Chocolate Caramel Tart, Cheesecake and Lemon Meringue Pie – Oh My!

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Chocolate Caramel Tart, Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie - good enough to eat!

Chocolate Caramel Tart, Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue Pie - good enough to eat!

Every year, our parish school at Christ the King ( has an auction and festival to raise funds to offset the cost of school tuition. The auction is a major event, with dinner, dancing and silent and live bidding. One of the bid items is dessert for your table that night; a donator makes a dessert, writes a description and provides a photo to be displayed on the bid table – then, at dessert time, the winning bid takes the cake (or pie, or tart . . . ) for their table.

This year I donated a dessert for auction – actually three kinds of dessert, but all for one table. I applied my menu planning skills learned at pastry school and on the job, and covered all my bases. Knowing that some of us are “chocolate people”, some are “lemon/fruit people” and some are “custard” people, I did a little something for everyone. I figured if you can entice everyone at the table with something for each of them, then the WHOLE table REALLY wants your dessert and will bid accordingly. Plus, if you have a little bit of all of those “types” in you (like me), you’re especially happy because you get a little of everything! I made a lemon meringue pie, cheesecake with graham cracker crust (what other kind is there for cheesecake?) and a chocolate caramel tart.

For the lemon meringue pie, I used the Flaky Vegetable Shortening Pie Crust (the half butter, half shortening variation) from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Pie and Pastry Bible; the lemon pie filling from the Kingsford’s Cornstarch box – the one my mother and probably grandmother used, and I see no reason to change – the texture is great and it’s lemony perfect; and an Italian meringue recipe, also from The Pie and Pastry Bible, but I use 5 egg whites instead of 4 because the Kingsford’s lemon filling calls for 5 yolks!

There are 3 styles of meringue – Swiss meringue, Italian meringue and French meringue. I use Italian meringue because it’s very stable – sugar syrup is cooked to 236F degrees and then slowly poured onto whipping egg whites. This also heats the egg whites enough to pasteurize them, so I don’t worry about serving or eating raw eggs.

The filling for the chocolate caramel tart is a recipe from Good Housekeeping, with the modification of almonds instead of walnuts – plus, I’m careful to not make the caramel too dark. The crust for this recipe is another from – you guessed it – The Pie and Pastry Bible! This time, the Sweet Cookie Tart Crust, because I like my tart crusts to have a little sweetness to them.

And finally – the cheesecake. Both the crust and filling are from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, which I’ve written about before. Okay, so I admit to a few little modifications on the cheesecake recipe: I use 1 teaspoon each of lemon juice and vanilla extract, and no zest – I don’t like the texture that the lemon zest adds to the otherwise super smooth cheesecake filling.

When I’m planning a party and dreaming about the dessert menu, I go through the same process of considering different desserts in the lemon/fruit, custard and chocolate categories. If I pick from each category, I’m sure to have a little something that every guest will enjoy.

So . . . back to the dessert auction . . . this is the way I described the selection:

Gourmet Dessert Trio – something for everyone, all made from scratch using the best of everything . . .
- Lemon Meringue Pie: flaky, buttery pie crust filled with perfectly tart lemon curd and topped with toasted sweet meringue
- Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart: sweet tart crust filled with a chocolate caramel ganache and roasted almonds
- Classic New York Style Cheesecake: graham cracker crust filled with creamy cheesecake made with a little sour cream

There were competing bids with some last minute back and forth, and the winners walked away happy. The losers? Well, let’s just say they walked away. There’s always next year!

What dessert “type” are you??

Sweet dreams,

Paris Spice Market

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
Spice Market at Galleries Lafayette

Spice Market at Galleries Lafayette in Paris

I recently discovered an enjoyable food blog called Cannelle et Vanille, written by Aran who is a food stylist and pastry chef – her pictures are extra special. One of her posts about French style macarons and pink peppercorns caught my eye, because I had just returned from France where I had enjoyed French macarons and bought some pink peppercorns! This is the comment I made on Aran’s post:

Hi Aran,

Your blog on pink peppercorns and French macarons really struck me. I just returned from a trip to France and loved the macarons in every flavor at the very special store Fauchon; plus, I bought some pink peppercorns! I knew I could get them in the U.S., but I wanted to buy them in Paris as a reminder of the beautiful spice market we saw on the second floor of the Galleries Lafayette department store in the Opera district. Since I’m a “foodie” by profession and passion, we tend to visit food spots when we travel.

At Galleries Lafayette, we headed past the perfume counters and clothes and made a beeline to the food emporium on the second floor. Beautiful produce, cheese, ice cream, chocolates, pastries, meats, etc., etc. That was very delightful, and there was also a spice market with fragrant spices piled high on trays so you could order whatever quantity you wanted – they weighed it and packaged it up for you. They had all kinds of peppercorns, but I got some of the pink ones. They’re in a clear pepper grinder on my kitchen counter, and when I see them they take me back to Galleries Lafayette in Paris! I also got a few chunks of crystallized ginger that also just make me feel good when I see them in my cupboard!!

As so many others have noted, your pictures are beautiful – they are noticably special and unique.

Cheers, Cathy
Posted on Cannelle et Vanille, July 10, 2009

I thought my own readers might be interested in the spice market at Galleries Lafayette . . . and below are the crystallized ginger and pink peppercorns on my counter at home in California.

My Pink Peppercorns

My Pink Peppercorns

Sweet Hot Crystallized Ginger from Galleries Lafayette

My Sweet Hot Crystallized Ginger