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Dessert for Dinner (April 11, 2014)

Chocolate and Mascarpone Cheesecake
Orange Liqueur Soufflé
Pears with Raspberry-Orange Sauce
Tartlets au Pamplemousse et Poivre Meringeées
Caramel Matzah Crunch

A few years ago in France we spent three days in Cordes at Yves Thuriès Hostellerie de Vieux Cordes; it was a fabulous stay for many reasons. The highly decorated Thuriès is the top pastry chef in a country crawling with great pastry chefs. While his kitchen also turns out three-star regional and traditional dishes to perfection, we were most taken with his seven-course dessert menu. The first two items featured foie gras, but the remaining were more traditional sweet concoctions, and hey, under the hands of a master, it all worked beautifully. Check him out!

A menu of only dessert... even everyday living these days can be a strain, and dessert is always the answer. We've got some good ones here, so get started on your list, and keep chanting, "Life is uncertain – eat dessert first!"

Fine French Desserts: Essential Recipes and Techniques is a culinary master class for serious cooks who want to learn essential techniques and recipes in this patisserie bible. It includes 600 step-by-step photographs plus techniques, skills and building-block recipes for pastry and dessert-making from dough and batters to creams and fillings, from icings and decorations to confectionery and working with chocolate. The more than 100 recipes for French desserts are graded for complexity and they include the famous classics plus bonus innovative recipes from seven master pastry chefs! Whew. Are you ready for this? Many are, and will want this extraordinary atlas, which includes excellent practical information: illustrated lists of indispensable kitchen equipment and ingredients, guides to cooking with sugar and ice cream-making, useful information and general advice plus of course a comprehensive index of recipes, techniques and main ingredients. You won't be lost, as there are extensive cross-references throughout to help link recipes and related techniques.

Jonny Haughton's Cooking Without Fuss is such a marvelous, convenient cookbook; we turn to it for "just the right" recipe, and find one every time. Haughton is head chef and co-owner of The Havelock Tavern in London, and has worked everywhere important in the field. He believes that cooking doesn't have to be stressful as long as you are organized. He gives terrific advice throughout the book on how to stock and equip the kitchen, traditional cooking principles, and how to put balanced menus together. This is an A-List cookbook, you'll agree when you try the "without fuss" dessert that follows!

If it's from the American Heart Association you know it's going to be good, and good-for-you food! They've given us the Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook with 200 low-fuss, healthy and delicious recipes all done in the best helper in the kitchen, the slow cooker! Put in the ingredients, set your timer and walk away, the work is done for you! Want Country Cassoulet or Cioppino with White Wine? How about Curry-Rubbed Chicken and a whole lot more, all with the nutritional information you want?

We love Bonnie Stern! She's one of Canada's most popular and beloved food personalities; has authored twelve bestselling cookbooks, won an International Association of Culinary Professionals award, hosted two national TV shows and writes food columns. It's a wonder she has had time over the last 30 years to operate the Bonnie Stern School of Cooking! Her latest cookbook Friday Night Dinners, Menus to Welcome the Weekend with Ease, Warmth and Flair, says it all; it contains 170 recipes to help you start the weekend with family and friends over for dinner. We completely agree with the Montreal Gazette, who stated, “If the cookbook gods forced me to part with all my cookbooks but one, it would be a cookbook by Bonnie Stern.”

On today's menu:

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Chocolate and Mascarpone Cheesecake

Chocolate and Marscarpone Cheesecake

Oh, this is beyond wonderful, and guess what... no baking needed! You do need a day's lead time to let it set in the fridge, but oh, is it worth it! From Jonny Haughton's Cooking Without Fuss, where Chef Houghton says, "brush some melted chocolate on the biscuit base which gives it an interesting crunch. Serve with a little chocolate sauce." Oh, Chef, we certainly will!

Serves 8–10

  • 280 g plain dark chocolate, chopped, plus extra to decorate, if desired
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 90 g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 310 g mascarpone or cream cheese
  • 90 mL double cream, lightly beaten until floppy but not thick
    For the base:
  • 200 g digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 75 g hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Line the bottom and sides of a 23 cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.

To make the base, mix the biscuits with the butter and hazelnuts, then lightly press over the bottom of the cake tin. Smooth the surface to the crumbs are concave rather than level and thicker on the outside. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water with a pinch of salt. When the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool slightly.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in another mixing bowl and place this over the pan of simmering water. Now using an electric hand whisk, beat the mixture for about 10 minutes until it becomes thick and creamy. It should at least double in volume. Put aside to cool.

Beat the mascarpone or cream cheese and add it to the chocolate. Gently fold the egg mixture into the chocolate, but do not mix it in completely. Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage and carefully fold them into the chocolate mix. Finally fold in the whipped cream.

Now pour the chocolate mixture into the cake tin and smooth the surface. Cover and chill for at least 5 hours. Decorate with grated-chocolate if you wish. (Yes, we wish!)

Tony's wine recommendation:
10-year-old Tawny Port; LBV port



Orange Liqueur Soufflé

Orange Liqueur Soufflé

We lived in New York City years ago, and one of the affordable joys then was going to Étoile restaurant after the theater for their Grand Marnier soufflé. It always arrived at the table in perfect shape and, with an espresso, was a perfect ending to a great New York evening! You can create your own perfect ending... the recipe has many steps; it's foolproof and will guarantee your perfect soufflé every time. You can't get any better than that!

Serves 6

Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

    Pastry Cream:
  • 1/4 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 2–3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 2½ Tbsp (25 g) cornstarch
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Scant 1/2 cup (89 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) flour
  • 1½ Tbsp (15 g) cornstarch
  • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
    Soaking Syrup:
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2½ Tbsp (30 g) sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) Cointreau/Grand Marnier
    Soufflé Mixture:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3–4 egg whites (120 g)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (25 g) butter, melted
  • And 1½ Tbsp sugar for the molds
  • Six 3-inch (7cm) molds

Prepare the Pastry Cream:

  1. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk.
  2. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and begin heating.
  3. In a mixing bowl briskly whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until pale and thick.
  4. When the milk is simmering, pour half of it over the egg yolk mixture beating continuously.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan with the remaining milk and bring to a boil, stirring continuously
  6. Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, still stirring.Stir in the Cointreau.
  7. Remove the vanilla bean.
  8. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap flush with the surface and immediately place in the refrigerator to chill.

Prepare the Ladyfingers:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Whisk the egg whites with the sugar until firm and shiny.
  3. Lightly beat the egg yolks and, with a flexible spatula, fold them carefully into the meringue, taking care not to deflate it.
  4. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and fold in carefully.
  5. Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a pain tip and pipe out ladyfingers approximately 2½ inches (7–8 cm) long.
  6. Sprinkle lightly with confectioners' sugar, wait 5 minutes and sprinkle again.
  7. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, but do not let them color.
  8. Let cool on a cooling rack.

Make the soaking syrup.

  1. Heat the water and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Let cool and add the Cointreau.

Prepare the Soufflé Mixture:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and set a baking sheet in the middle of the oven to heat.
  2. Brush the soufflé molds with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Lightly beat the egg yolks and stir them into the pastry cream.
  4. Whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks and stir in the sugar.
  5. Fold into the pastry cream, taking care not to deflate the mixture.

Assemble the soufflé:

  1. Moisten the ladyfingers with the syrup.
  2. Half fill the molds with the soufflé mixture.
  3. Place a layer of ladyfingers over this and then fill to the top with the mixture.
  4. Smooth with a spatula.
  5. With your thumb, wipe away a fraction of an inch (0.5 cm) of the mixture from around the rim. This helps the soufflé rise vertically.
  6. Place the molds on the heated baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until nicely risen and slightly browned on the top.
  7. Immediately dust with confectioners' sugar and bring to the table.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Orange Muscat, Triple Sec



Pears with Raspberry-Orange Sauce

Pears with Raspberry-Orange Sauce

From the American Heart Association Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook

We love our slow cooker. It produces terrific meals with practically no effort. There are a lot of good slow cooker cookbooks out there, and this one is tops, especially the desserts! So serve this no-fuss work of art at your next dinner party; each person gets a whole cooked pear resting on ruby-red sauce. For a truly dramatic effect serve in clear glass goblets and smile at the shower of compliments...

And don't tell anyone it's good for you!

Serves 4
1 pear and 1½ Tbsp sauce per serving

Slow cooker size: 3 to 4 1/2-quart round
Slow cooker time: 5 to 6 hours on low, or 2 ½ to 3 hours on high

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 medium, firm pears, peeled, stems left on
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2½ Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • Fresh mint leaves

Lightly spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. Put the pears with the stem end up in the slow cooker. Pour the wine over the pears. Sprinkle with the sugar. Cook, covered on low for 5 to 6 hours, or on high for 2½ to 3 hours, or until just tender when pierced with a fork.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the pears with the stem end up to a large plate, leaving the liquid in the crock. Set the pears aside.

Gently stir the raspberries, vanilla, and orange zest into the cooking liquid. Let stand, unversed, for 1 hours, or until the sauce is slightly thickened. Spoon he sauce into bowls. Place the pars on the sauce. Garnish with the mint.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Icewine, Beaumes-de-Venise



Tartlets au Pamplemousse et Poivre Meringeées

Tartlets au Pamplemousse et Poivre Meringées

From Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen.

Oh how gorgeous and how French! Unlike most tartlets, this uses a traditional Breton biscuit for the base; it's a great alternative to classic pastry, as there's no need to chill or roll out the dough. Rachel Khoo says she likes to add some freshly ground black pepper to the meringue, as the spicy kick works really well with the acidity of the grapefruit curd. While this recipe is not for the beginning cook, the steps are clear, and results heavenly! Give it a try!

Makes 6

    For the grapefruit curd:
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 heaped Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp soft butter, cubed
    For the biscuit base:
  • 5½ Tbsp butter, very soft but not melted
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
    For the Italian meringue:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2½ Tbsp water
  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

To make the grapefruit curd:

  1. Finely grate the zest of the grapefruit and squeeze the juice.
  2. Measure 6 Tbsp juice into a pan and whisk together with the zest, sugar, salt and eggs over a gentle heat.
  3. Sift in the cornstarch and continue to whisk. Don't stop whisking at any point, otherwise the eggs will curdle.
  4. Once the curd is a thick as puréed tomatoes and has released bubble or two, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter a cube at a time.
  5. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap in direct contact with the curd.
  6. Refrigerate for at least on hour (best overnight).

To make the biscuit base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter six 3¼-by-2-inch metal dessert rings.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with the salt and lemon zest until fluffy and pale in color.
  3. Add the egg yolks and continue to beat.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder together, add to the creamed mixture and continue beating until the dough comes together as a smooth paste.
  5. Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch nozzle.
  6. Pipe the dough into the rings to come about 1/8 inch high, then use a spoon dipped in hot water to level out the pastry.
  7. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden (but not too dark).
  8. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before running a small sharp knife around the inside of each ring to release the biscuit.
  9. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack (be careful as they're fragile) and leave to cool.

Note: Instead of six tartlets you can make one large tart in a 10-inch tart pan. The baking time will be 30–40 minutes.

To make the Italian meringue:

  1. Put the sugar into a pan with the water and place on a high heat.
  2. Bring to the soft-ball stage (245°F on a sugar thermometer), which will take about 10 minutes. To test without a thermometer, drop a tiny bit of sugar syrup into a bowl of very cold water. If it forms a soft sticky ball right away, it is ready.
  3. While waiting or the sugar syrup, start whisking the egg whites with the salt and pepper in a glass or metal bowl. Do not whisk to soft peaks, just a light froth.
  4. Once the sugar syrup has reached the soft-ball stage, beat the egg whites on high speed at the same time as pouring the syrup onto them in a thin stream. (Don't pour the syrup over the whisk, but down the side of the bowl.)
  5. Continue to whisk for 10 minutes or until the egg whites are glossy and stiff.
  1. Spread the grapefruit curd on top of the biscuits followed by the meringue.
  2. Either place under a very hot broiler for a couple of minutes or use a blowtorch to brown. Serve immediately.

Note: A good description of the different types of meringues is at

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Auslese or Spdecial Select Late Harvest Riesling



Caramel Matzah Crunch

Caramel Matzah Crunch

Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners has tons of great recipes; you'll want to try them all. We went for this incredibly simple, instant gratification sweet snack that's almost silly, it's so good! Bonnie says, "My Passover would not be complete without this, but you don't have to wait for Passover, or even be Jewish to love it!" Keep this on hand if you can...

Serves: There's never enough...

  • 6 pieces regular matzo (about 7×6 inches/18×15 cm)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter or margarine
  • 2 cups (500 mL) chopped semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  1. Line a large (18×12 inch/45×30 cm) baking sheet with foil. Arrange matzo in a single layer on foil; don't worry if pieces overlap.
  2. Combine sugar and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Do not stir. Cook for a few minutes, or until mixture comes together and does not look oily. Pour mixture over matzo as evenly as possible.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until mixture is bubbling.
  4. As soon as matzo comes out of oven, sprinkle with chocolate. Let chocolate melt for about 5 minutes. With a knife, spread chocolate as evenly as possible.
  5. Chill until chocolate and caramel are set. Break into uneven chunks.
  6. Hide carefully...

Tony's wine recommendation:
Samos Muscat, LBV Port



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo. Text and illustrations © Rachel Khoo. Photographs © David Loftus.

Raincoast Publishers, Vancouver, and Pavilion Books, UK, for Cooking Without Fuss by Jonny Haughton. Text © Jonny Haughton, 2005. Photography © 2005 Myles Nelson. Design and layout © 2005 Pavilion Books.

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. New York and Random House Canada for The American Heart Association Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook. © 2012 the American Heart Association. Photographs © 2012 Ben Fink.

Random House of Canada Limited for Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern. © 2008 Bonnie Stern cooking Schools Ltd. Photography: Mark Rupert.


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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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