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Forever Summer: Desserts

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July 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the section on Desserts here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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  1. I couldn't resist and started early on this book with 2 desserts.

    Banana and Butterscotch Upside Down Tart: Delicious and very very easy. She's right that it won't hold - as is it is already awfully wet, but still, completely yummy. I went ahead and did the prepping/cooking of the sauce in the dish and layered the bananas, and then when I went to clean up after dinner turned on the oven, covered the bananas with the puff pastry sheet and popped it in the oven.

    Rhubarb Fool: Completely decadent, and so delicious. I'm not sure that you couldn't just cook the rhubarb in a pot on the stove, but I went ahead and did it her way in the oven. Very easy to do, and even the whole sieving and pureeing thing is really quick. I will say that I ended up with no where near the amount of juice I thought I'd get, but the truth is that I think adding juice on top of this already fairly strongly tart/sweet fool would be a mistake. We did try her recommendation of adding a bit of the juice to some white wine (alas, no champagne just sitting around), and it was a lovely summer drink. Husband and 14 month old daughter already clammoring for repeats on this one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LulusMom

      Made the Ricotta Hotcakes on pg 172 for breakfast yesterday. I think that compared to my regular (i.e. non-ricotta) pancakes, these did not strike me as significantly better. I actually take some issue with her description of these hotcakes. I did not find them "ridiculously light" or that they resembled a "souflled griddle cake". And I did measure all ingredients and followed the recipe. I question her instruction to drop them into the pan by heaping dessertspoon. These make hotcakes the size which is only acceptable for children under 3. I tried that for the first batch, then switched to dropping them by 1/4 cup. I found that the batter does not spread well, so I had to spread it a little with the back of the spoon once they hit the pan.
      I liked her suggestion to serve them with chopped strawberries instead of syrup. It was a nice change from the usual butter/maple syrup combo.
      However - I think that the one exceptional aspect of this recipe is their ability to reheat. I had a few left over from yesterday, so I popped them in the microwave to heat them up. I have to say that these hotcakes reheat beautifully! It was like I just made them! They stayed the same texture and did not get rubbery at all.
      If I were having a crowd over for brunch and wanted to prepare food the day before, I would definately consider making these. Otherwise, I would only make them if I had extra ricotta cheese in the fridge and looking for a way to use it up.

    2. Red Roast Quinces

      If you are thinking about making this recipe, DON'T! It ranks right up there with my greatest cooking disasters of all time -- does no one test this woman's recipes? I've been stung by some of Nigella's recipes before, so I approached this one with caution. I do love quinces, though, so decided to give it a try.

      The instructions direct you to cook some chopped quince with some sugar and water ..."let boil away until you have a thick viscous syrup; this could take up to an hour." It took fifteen minutes -- an hour would have yielded severely scorched caramel. (I am unable to figure out why the chopped quinces were in there: They never did break down into the sauce.) Then the quinces go into the sauce and into a 400 degree oven for an hour. After an hour, the oven temp is reduced to 325 and the hapless cook is directed to continue roasting the quinces "for another 2 to 3 hours." After an hour and twenty minutes my nose told me that I had a problem: The unmistakable stench of burning sugar permeated the house. I can't imagine anyone wanting to eat what emerged from the oven, although it looked surprisingly, like the photo in the book, with the added grace notes of the incinerated chopped up quince in the sauce. (They are missing from the book pic. For more on the photos in this book, see the review I'm about to write of her Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad.)

      Needless to say, I had a burnt-on caramel mess to clean up, and lots of hot, icky sticky caramel to dispose of. I don't know if my garbage disposal will ever recover. After the clean-up, I eyed the one quince half that I'd saved on a plate. I decided to try a bite, a very small bite. The quince was under-cooked and hard, the caramel very bitter and brittle, but sticky at the same time -- almost super-glued my teeth together. The plate was fun to clean, too.

      There is absolutely no excuse for such a wretchedly awful recipe to ever appear in print!
      Blech! The purple prose she uses to describe this train wreck is laughable.

      6 Replies
      1. re: pikawicca

        Where did you get quinces this time of the year?

        1. re: Candy

          Marsh had some. They're from Chile. Not as good as the U.S. ones we got last fall, but still pretty decent (if you don't horribly mistreat them, as I did).

          1. re: pikawicca

            Summer Crumble, p.219. What a great way to use the various stone fruit ripening in the bowl. Apricots, plums, nectarines. I even tossed in a few blueberries. The aroma in the house brought everyone into the kitchen to see what I was up to. I doubled the recipe, but mistakenly doubled the topping, which created a bit too much crumble to wade through. I served it with vanilla ice cream and we licked our plates clean. Pictures to follow.

        2. re: pikawicca

          She has that same recipe in "Feast" too (with 5 cups of superfine sugar to 4 cups of water), and says to roast for 2 hours after turning down to 325 instead of 2-3. I noticed that on this blog, the quinces were roasted for only another 45 minutes to an hour after turning the heat down (pics about halfway down):

          http://www.thebigmama.blogspot.com/

          The recipe mentions regular basting and and turning, adding more syrup as necessary. Maybe that and a shorter roasting time might save this recipe for anyone who might try it?

          1. re: Rubee

            I did the basting and turning thing. I think you would have to first poach the quinces in water for about an hour to get this recipe anywhere near workable. I believe that's what Candy does to prep her quinces for an upside-down cake.

            1. re: pikawicca

              When making a quince tarte tatin I always cook the filling before filling the shell. I use a Dufour puff pastery shell and it will be done far long beafofe the the quince filling.those thigns are hard amd dry.Once the quinces are tender and are aromtic then fill th crust and finish baking. Heaven!

        3. Red-hot chilli syrup (p. 248): There were no red chilis at the grocery store, so mine was actually green-hot chili syrup. This one will, of course, vary a lot depending on the spiciness of each chili. We're fans of spiciness, and my husband has a particular love of spice and chocolate, so we had it over chocolate ice cream. Liked it a lot, but this is definitely one of those things that you're going to have a good idea going in whether or not it will work for you.

          1. Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

            WOW, this was good. I've been really frustrated with most of my homemade ice cream confections this season, but this was a hands-down winner. The vanilla portion was fantastic, just the right level of richness and sweetness for me (I ended up using 2c half and half and 1/2 cup whole milk because of what was available in the fridge). I think that somebody who didn't like eggy custard might find the vanilla too eggy. To me, it was perfection.

            For the ripple portion, I probably used closer 8oz of raspberries, because I wanted there to be a lot of ripple. I worried about how sweet it would be in the ice cream, because licking the spoon it was very sweet. But it was a perfect contrast to the creaminess of the ice cream. I don't know how small the seeds are in raspberries in England, or what the various sizes are of food mills there, but my food mill did not remove the seeds from the raspberries, so I still had to drain through a fine sieve (small frustration).

            Clearly, one could have vanilla ice cream and ladle the 'ripple' on top. But, I love the rippling effect and the mixing in of it. I chose to do four layers of ice cream and three layers of ripple, as opposed to her recommended way. Just my preference.

            If I had one complaint, it would only be that it didn't make enough. I wholeheartedly recommend this.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Smokey

              Great!! I have have the custard portion of Raspberry Ripple in my frig and am churning it up tonight. Now I'm REALLY looking forward to it!

              Oops - I am making the Raspberry Swirl recipe from The Perfect Scoop. My bad.

              1. re: Smokey

                I made this last night -- Nigella's recipe is very close to the recipe in The Perfect Scoop, so I sort of took bits from each recipe, and wow, it was amazing. The Perfect Scoop's recipe doesn't have you strain the seeds, and I'm glad that Nigella's did, and I also liked her instructions to freeze the ripple ahead of time so that it's thickened (and the only real difference in the ripple recipe is that Nigella has you use balsamic vinegar, while he has you use vodka, I used the vodka). Their custards are just about identical too, but I used 1 cup of cream and 1 1/2 cups of milk because that's what I had on hand, and it turned out well. I think that I should have increased the amount of ripple too, because it was really tasty, but that's the only change that I would make. I'd really recommend this recipe.

              2. I haven't made it in ages, but for a while there I was really into her "Slut-red raspberries with Chardonnay jelly" (I'm paraphrasing the title - like I said, it's been a while). I made it pretty much according to the recipe, as I remember, and it was quite lovely... the jelly is delicious, and complements the raspberries quite well, and the presentation is killer. Good date dessert. :)

                1. page 177; Gingered and Minty Fruit Salad
                  this was the last dish prepared for the Fourth of July... I was heavily multi-tasking to get everything on the table...hence, the shortcut:
                  subsituted the ginger and mint in syrup with chopped candied ginger and chiffonade of mint leaves. Wonderfully refreshing salad and very pretty.
                  Big Surprise: I found fresh pomegranate seeds at Trader Joe's!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cynsa

                    I made a variation of the Gingered Minty Fruit Salad tonight. Couldn't find ANY fresh mint and so it was just Gingered, without Minty. I made the sugar syrup and steeped lots of grated ginger in it for a couple of hours. The salad was Charlyn melon, nectarines, pluots, peaches and a Manila mango. This was truly delicious. I loved the sweetness and then the heat of the ginger. This is going to be a regular!

                  2. I have made the honey semifreddo with great success. In fact a friend and I ate the whole thing one night last year while gabbing about our lives. The pine nuts sprinkled over the finished semifreddo add a great taste and crunch.

                    Highly reco-ed!

                    1. Mint Julep Peaches (pg. 212)

                      White peaches and bourbon, of course I was going to try this dessert. And, since it contains no chocolate and it has fruit, it's a healthy, summer dessert. Overall, I found this dish to be refreshing and tasty. It also looks impressive and can be made ahead of time so it would be a great "company" dessert. I also think it would taste better slightly chilled.

                      I made half the recipe (4 peaches).

                      It's pretty simple - combine sugar, water and most of the bourbon. Boil for about 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Place the half peaches cut side down into the liquid and simmer lightly for a few minutes. Flip the peaches over and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the peaches from the liquid to rest on a plate. Remove the peach skins.

                      Some juices will accumulate on the plate. Pour this back into the pot. There will be a pretty pink color from the peaches in the boiling liquid. Pour a bit of this liquid into a small pot and add the remaining bourbon. Boil until it's reduced by half.

                      Sprinkle some mint leaves on top of the peaches and pour the reduced liquid on it.

                      What really makes this dish is the sweetness of the peaches combined with the mint.

                      http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

                      http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

                      1. I made the Blonde Mocha Cake (p. 218). It was alright. I thought the cake was a little dry - I don't think I overcooked it, but it is certainly possible. Initially I thought the frosting was waaay too sweet, but it was not bad when it was actually on the cake. My husband liked the frosting (big white chocolate fan), so I might try it on something else some time.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mirage

                          Count me in as a fan of the frosting too - I loved it too; just sweet enough to balance the flavors of coffee in your delicious cake. Nice addition to the Nigella feast, and it was great meeting you!

                        2. Ricotta Hot Cakes p. 172

                          We really like these pancakes, and sometimes, like tonight, even make them for dinner. These are easy to put together, could be fun to make with kids or for a brunch. Recipe calls for 9 ounces ricotta, which is about a third of one of the big tubs. I discovered tonight that half-and-half can be used in place of the milk in the recipe, as we were out of milk but always have decadent 1/2-and1/2 around for coffee:) Actually, we always have extra ricotta around too and I do like the flavor of ricotta cakes more than buttermilk pancakes. These remind me of the pancakes my mom made growing up, so maybe that's why I'm such a fan. I like these served with lots of butter and just a little powdered sugar.