I am trying to decide what to make for dessert on NYE. There will be four of us going out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and then coming back to the house for midnight champagne and dessert. In the group of four there are two chocolate lovers, one cheesecake fan, and one creme brulee fanatic, but noone is a picky eater. I am thinking that I want something that feels festive, isn't too difficult to make, can be made ahead, and will go well with champagne. Any suggestions?
I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to make also...I think I may have settled on cream puffs. Which I always serve with a chocolate sauce, so that's 3 out of 4 of your eaters (the cream inside is almost like creme brulee). You can definitely make them ahead and I'm guessing they'll go great with Champagne :)
I usually use Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible, but they're all pretty much the same...
1 c. water
8 T. unsalted butter
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
3 large eggs + 3 large egg whites
Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour and stir until mix forms a ball and comes away from sides of pan. Return pan to low heat and cook, stirring, for 3 min to cook flour.
Then you mix in the eggs, either in the food processor, pouring them in all at once and processing for about 30 seconds. Or by hand, adding eggs one a time and beating after and then the whites. You have to beat pretty hard by hand until each is incorporated. Excellent workout.
Preheat oven to 425 - middle rack.
Then shape the puffs however you like. I prefer small puffs to eclairs, but you can do either. For puffs, use a pastry bag or a ziploc with corner cut off and pipe into 1 1/2 inch diameter, 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch high and 1 inch apart from each other. I use a silpat, but you can also use foil that is greased and floured she says.
Bake for 10 minutes, lower temp to 350 and bake for 15-20 minutes longer (until golden brown). Then remove from oven and put onto racks (but don't turn off), and make a little 1/4-inch slit in each little puff in the bottom to release steam. Return to oven on racks, turn off oven and crack open the oven a little with a spoon. Allow to dry to 10 minutes. Then close the door and leave them in the oven for an hour and a half to dry out completely. *I don't have racks that can go in the oven, so I make a slit in the side and leave them on the pans. Works fine.*
There are lots of options for the cream filling. I prefer a regular pastry cream, but you can also fill them with ice cream or whipped pastry cream or flavored pastry cream or whipped ganache.
Pastry Cream, also from P+P Bible:
2 large eggs
3 T. cornstarch
2 c. half and half
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. butter
Whisk eggs and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add 1/4 c. of half and half, whisking until smooth.
Place sugar and vanilla bean (split open) in a medium saucepan and rubs seeds into sugar. Stir in rest of half and half and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Whisk a couple of tablespoons into eggs, and then pass them through a strainer. Remove vanilla pod, then add all egg mixture whisking rapidly for about 30 seconds until very thick. Remove from heat and whisk in butter (if you don't have a bean, you can whisk in 1 tsp. extract here too). Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, cool to room temp and then put in fridge until cold.
Pipe into puffs when ready. The puffs can go in the fridge at this point for a few hours at least. I think it's preferred to store them unfilled, so they don't get soggy, but I've never had a problem filling them in advance.
You can dip the puffs into a chocolate sauce or serve it on the side and let people dip themselves, which is messier, but much funner and the chocolate can be served warm them which is just lovely with the cold cream.
Another thing you could put into the puffs would be a combination of lemon curd and marscapone cheese whipped together (equal parts of these.) Saw this in a recipe for a filling for ableskivers in the latest williams sonoma catalog. Maybe that would be better with a strawberry sauce though.
Just a thought.
Flan is a variation on Creme Brulee and would be a natural accompaniment to Mex food. They are simple to make and can be flavored with spices, jams or fruits.