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May/June 2008 Dessert COTM: PURE DESSERT - All Recipes

Here's the place to discuss recipes, etc. regarding Alice Medrich's book Pure Dessert.

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  1. Not too long ago I made the Sesame Seed Cake p. 82. I made it with black sesame seeds and it was very attractive. The women I served it to liked it alot, but my husband spat it out and wouldn't try another bite! Funny, actually. It does have a pronounced sesame oil flavor (well, duh - 2 1/2 tsp of toasted sesame oil will do that) that seems a bit too much on first blush, but definitely grows on you. Since I wasn't making this for my husband anyway, I dubbed this cake a success and would make it again.

    The Pecan Penuche Shortbread p. 184 was also good, but not that different tasting than other pecan shortbread cookies. We did like them, though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mirage

      I also made the sesame cake recently. Unlike mirage, I used regular white sesame seeds and it still tasted great. The first bite of the cake though, was quite disconcerting. The sesame oil flavor is really strong and a shock to the system. I also think the cake tastes better as it ages. As the days went on, I liked the cake more and more. The sesame seeds themselves gave the cake a pleasant texture. Because the sesame oil was strong, the cake smelled delicious. It's nice having a savory alternative.

      1. re: beetlebug

        This is my favorite cake in the book (sesame). The slight shock (pleasant) of the toasted sesame oil makes it special. It's really great served with lemon frozen yoghurt with lots of pith. I used Meyer lemons. Actually, I can't say it's my favorite...I have several. Another is the almond cake.

      2. re: mirage

        I made the sesame cake this weekend, converted to gluten-free of course using a mixture of tapioca, sweet rice, superfine white rice, millet and cornstarch. I LOVE this cake, much more than I thought I would, and my guests liked it too. I didn't think it took any time to grow on me. i served with Greek yogurt sweetened with wildflower honey and oranges. I would probably choose a brighter honey next time. I did overbake it so it was dry, but the flavor was wonderful and something I will make again. I did toast my own black sesames and didn't find that difficult.

      3. Olive oil and sherry pound cake--superb. The recipe calls for two loafs. I always make two and freeze one. It freezes really well.
        The recipe is also forgiving I have made with lemons instead of oranges and even that orange oil when I didn't have either orange or lemons. Also subbed sweet white wine for sherry. Everytime, came out delicious.

        4 Replies
        1. re: abud

          This is a lovely cake. I made it as one bundt cake v. two smaller cakes. The texture was just lovely and light. Sifting the flour three times was definitely worth it.

          I'm glad to read that it freezes well. Next time, I'll try making it as two loaves.

          1. re: abud

            I made two batches of the Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake for holiday gifts (one recipe made four mini loaf pans; I used the brown-and-gold paper ones and gave them in the pans). I concur with abud and beetlebug: this is a wonderful cake, with a tight, dense crumb that is still somewhat light in texture and a really nice flavor. I used a fruity Italian extra virgin olive oil and the oloroso (medium) sherry Medrich calls for, and sherry flavor comes through, but subtly and in a very pleasant way. I couldn't really taste the orange zest in the cake, though I am sure it is an enhancer. I did reduce the sugar to 1 1/2 cups from 2, and liked the subtly sweet effect, which allows the olive oil and sherry flavors to shine. I look forward to taking my remaining mini loaf from the freezer in a few weeks - after the holiday sweets madness has ebbed.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Must try this. I love this book, one of the best by far of the past few years (and that includes some Malgiieris and even the Greenspan book, all of which I love too). Reminds me...I have some chestnut flour and some marrons glacés that had dried out but revived in dark rum...chestnut poundcake up soon on the baking roster!

              1. re: buttertart

                Everything I've tried so far has been a winner that I will repeat. Can't wait to try more.

          2. First a disclaimer. I will be modifying most recipes because I have Celiac disease and so I need to make them gluten free. That being said, it has turned out well for the most part, but I will always note...

            Seseme coins - gluten free

            These cookies use tahini, and I used a mixture of Joyva (darker) and the very white tahini from the middle eastern store. So they had a roasty flavor. Like the reports of the sesame cake - the initial taste was "hmmm" but they grew on me, big time. I LOVED them. I couldn't keep my hands off them, so I tried freezing them. But they were great right out of the freezer. The recipe made a lot, and I made them into little triangles for a mingardes for Easter. The have a roasty, slightly bitter, salty sweet taste to them. I used a brown rice, sorghum, cornstarch and tapioca starch mixture to sub for those that care.

            Bittersweet Chocolate Tart - gluten free

            I made this citrus scented tart for a party of 40 or so folks and it went over very well. The dough is very quick to put together, using a cookie like base. The first one shrunk and bit - the second one, I added more flour and it worked better. It is difficult to tell whether the need for more flour is because of the substitution of gluten free flours, but I suspect that is the case. Regardless, both were beautiful in a round tart pan. I used 74% chocolate, and added more sugar as noted to the first one, and less to the second. I usually like dark dark chocolate, but I think with less sugar the dark chocolate overpowers the citrus undertones too much. Served with regular unsweetened whipped cream. Very good reception by all and translated very well to gluten free (the guests had no idea they were eating gluten free, although my husband who always complains said the crust was still a bit sandy). Used a mix of sorghum, almond meal, tapioca, brown rice flour and potato starch. Would use some sweet rice flour next time as well.

            Lemon bars - gluten-free

            I love lemon bars and haven't had one for 3 years (the joys of having to bake them yourself). These were great and easy to put together. I used the almond meal, sorghum flour base and it worked very well. Crispy, buttery bottom, tart lemony top. I don't know that they are the best lemon bars out there, but they were good. I used Meyer lemons and decreased the sugar accordingly.

            Lemon tart - gluten free

            Also love lemon tarts and lemon curd. NOTE: MY COPY HAS AN ERROR. I had to make 4 times the filling to fill the tart. Luckily I had a ton of Meyer lemons, so I could easily make more. I also put a layer of dark chocolate on the crust for fun. I did do the second baking, which is optional, and it set up wonderfully. Again - very lemony and not too sweet, but sweet enough. The crust is easy to put together, and barely fills up the pan. Mine shrank a lot - probably because of the gluten free conversion or bad oven temperature control. So we only had crust half way up the side. Still tasted great and was only minimally visually impaired.

            Buckwheat shortcakes with strawberries - gluten free

            I had intended to make these for my Mother's Day dessert and bought some anson mills buckwheat flour to do so. But I had a hankering for dessert and thought - these seem fairly healthy, so I made them a couple of nights ago. Used a sorghum, brown rice, tapioca mix wtih some Bob's Red Mill all-purpose mix I needed to use up. I also used whole milk instead of cream which lightened up the recipe quite a bit. With all the subbing I had to add a lot more flour, but tried to keep the ratio between buckwheat and regular flour the same. Still made 9 more drop biscuits than cut shortbread. Yummmy...I was worried, but they were good. The Anson Mills buckwheat flour is really great stuff. Strong buckwheat flavor that my kids won't eat, but wholesome enough for me to eat for breakfast. I had had them with rhubarb strawberry compote I had kicking around in the freezer - great combo, just strawberries and 0% greek yogurt, and bananas added. Also good with peach jam. And working it out - they are fairly good for you for a dessert when made with the whole milk, but I am sure would be great with cream.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jsaimd

              How did you know about the error in your copy for the lemon tart? When I made it (modified the crust significantly to make it Passover appropriate) the filling ended up being like a glaze. I made a second recipe of the filling, and it was still very minimal. People liked it, but it seemed more like it was iced with lemon filling than a true tart. I wonder if I have the same error...

              1. re: milklady

                I surmised it was an error because it should fill the tart pan. I made one recipe and it wasn't enough, so I just quickly tripled the curd part and filled it.

              2. re: jsaimd

                Oranges in caramel sauce with orange flower water

                One I forgot, Made this one for a middle eastern themed party. Not a lot of people tried it, but I really liked it. It is a variation listed below the main recipe. I am not sure if the caramel was worth the effort or not, but I liked the end result. Very refreshing.

              3. I mentioned this in an earlier thread, but I'll post here as well. My results with this cookbook have not been good. The Walnut Sponge Cake was a disaster. First off, she has you grind untoasted walnuts in a food processor by themselves. Most recipes have you grind nuts with flour or sugar so that the nuts don't turn into a paste. Well, what do you know, mine did. I shouldn't have followed the recipe to the letter here. The walnuts weren't exactly a paste, but they were damp and heavy. This might have been the reason why the cake completely flattened in the middle upon baking and cooling. Besides that, though, the taste just wasn't very compelling, so I wouldn't try this one again unless someone raves about it.

                I also made the Buckwheat Nibby Cookies. For the record, I LOVE Medrich's pecan nibby cookies -- sometimes I make them with hickory nuts and they turn out even more wonderful. This recipe, in contrast, was a disappointment. The cookies were tough, looked awful and had an odd flavor (yeah, I know, buckwheat -- but I do like the flavor of buckwheat in other things). I might have shot myself in the foot when I halved the recipe, though. Sometimes I find butter cookies have a tendency to turn out tough when you're mixing a smaller amount of butter & flour together.

                3 Replies
                1. re: emily

                  The buckwheat shortcakes are much less strong cold, but the sweet buckwheat flavor of them warm will throw people off. That is one issue I am having with this book. There are so many recipes I want to try but don't have enough adventurous friends and family to appreciate them...

                  1. re: emily

                    emily: I had the collapsing problem with the chocolate and nut sponge cake as well. It was, however, completely delicious and moist. It looked very sad indeed, looked sort of like a deflated donut (the kind you sit on). Served with whipped cream, however, it was really good. Maybe you should try this recipe as it's similar to the Walnut Sponge but has a great flavor. I brought it to my son's house for a dinner party dessert (along with several other cakes from this book) and it was pretty much ignored until my daughter-in-law took a taste and raved. Then everybody gave it a try.

                    If I'd made it for a fancier dinner party, I'd have had to hide it away and make something else.

                    1. re: emily

                      I just made the buckwheat nibby cookies a few days ago and I doubt I would make them again. They didn't turn out tough at all, very tender actually, but I agree that they don't look very appetizing and the flavor combo just didn't end up working for me. (I like buckwheat in other things as well, so I was hoping for the best...)

                    2. Lemon Bars

                      I made the Meyer Lemon version and decreased the sugar accordingly. I think I cooked them a minute too long, as there was very little give in the topping. But, they were delicious. They sliced neatly. The crust was buttery. The family I gave them to adored them.

                      Torta Ciccolata / Chocolate Almond Torte

                      I made this for Passover. It was really delicious. It sunk a bit in the middle, but that didn't matter. I loved the method -- pretty much making a sweet meringue, and folding in chopped almonds and chopped unsweetened chocolate into it. There is no butter or flour in the recipe, which is great for Passover or if you're gluten free or dairy free. I ended up glazing it with thinned melted chocolate, just so it would look a little fancier. This was a big hit among adults. My children were a bit overwhelmed by the unsweetened chocolate, though it's suspended in the sweet batter. I will definitely make this again.

                      I already wrote a bit about the Lemon Tart, which turned out okay, when I doubled the topping. Maybe I needed to quadruple it. I'm sure it would be better with the shortbread type crust she wrote (I used a matzo meal based crust).

                      1. I made New Bittersweet Brownies yesterday. They were simple to make. They came out soft, with a crackly top. Everyone enjoyed them. I think they could use more salt, or something along those lines.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: milklady

                          Were they cake-like or fudge-like brownies? Thanks!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I made these yesterday using the recipe in the link. It calls for vanilla in the instructions, but no quantity, so I used a teaspoon. Mine took a good 35 minutes or so to bake. Quite delicious, not too too sweet, and more like fudge brownies than cake brownies, IMO. I also used 1/2 tsp kosher salt, rather than the 1/4 tsp salt called for.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                I forgot to mention - I used her method of melting the butter and chocolate in a heat proof bowl in a skillet of hot water and I'm not going to do that again. It was a little annoying as the bowl moves around in the skillet etc. - I'll go back to putting the bowl on top of a sauce pan of simmering water.

                          1. re: milklady

                            FYI--Medrich's Cookies and Brownies book has a very nice low fat brownie recipe. Only a few T of butter and the only chocolate is cocoa powder. Very little flour, low sugar. It has a quick cooking time. They came out very well. Moist and chewy but also light and delicious.

                            1. re: abud

                              This may be the same recipe that's in her Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts, the companion dessert COTM. Sounds v. similar, from your description.

                          2. Has anyone tried the honey ice cream recipe? Is it good?

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: abud

                              And what about the sour cream ice cream?

                              Yesterday I meant to post about the wonderful coffee walnut cookies. They are rich and very crumbly with a slight crunch of coffee grounds.

                              The weird thing about these cookies is that I made them for a dinner party a couple of months ago and hardly anybody ate them. I served them with frozen yoghurt topped with bitter orange marmalade which I made up when I discovered that the homemade frozen yoghurt I'd made wasn't set up enough.

                              Said guests wolfed down the froyo with marmalade but left most of the cookies just sitting there. A mystery and a big loss for them, since the cookies were really good with the froyo/marm.

                              Anybody else try them yet?

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                Oh, yeah, and I also made the sponge cake with walnuts and chocolate Nutty Chocolate Spongecake). As she says in the recipe, it'll fall a bit, but will still be wonderful. Mine fell more than a "bit", but it was wonderful. Served with whipped or ice cream or frozen yoghurt, it's deliciously moist and still spongy.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  I made the sour cream ice cream -- it is FABULOUS. I've tried dozens and dozens of ice cream recipes and this is a standout.

                                  1. re: tipsybaker

                                    What did you like about it? Did the sour cream taste stand out?

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      We tried the sour cream ice cream yesterday and I agree that it is fabulous. Smooth and dense and sweet and pleasantly sour at the same time--somehow, it's a surprise to have the hint of sour with something so creamy. Yes, the sour cream taste did stand out, similar to the way the sourness of a lemon might stand out, except, not that tart. The nice thing is, since it's not overly tart, you don't have to have a ton of sugar to compensate. We only made two changes to the recipe and that is that we used nonfat milk instead of whole milk (because that's what we had on hand.) Also, she wants you to chill the sour cream mixture before putting it into your ice cream maker. We always get the best results with our ice cream maker when we put the mixture in warm, so that's what we did.


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Hmmmm...I thought I attached a photo (not that it was THAT exciting), so I will try again.

                                        One more thought, as you can imagine, sour cream doesn't exactly fit my WW core plan diet in any quantity other than just a taste. So, we're going to try this again but with fat free sour cream and maybe a little Splenda in place of some of the sugar. I know that means the dessert isn't going to be "pure" but we're going to try it anyway and see how it goes.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          It looks good. Nice and creamy. Thanks for the photo.

                                  2. re: oakjoan

                                    I made the coffee walnut cookies. Interestingly, one of the few cookies I preferred eaten warm from the oven, rather than left to develop flavours for a couple of days. Fresh from the oven, the coffee isn't strong, just gives a lovely savoury quality. Boyfriend preferred his cold, a couple days later. Good for coffee buffs, I think.

                                    1. re: Gooseberry

                                      Gooseberry: I really like both the taste and texture of these coffee walnut cookies. The weird thing is that I made them about a year ago for a dinner party and nobody touched them. And they were all drinking coffee with dessert.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        strange. They don't look weird at all. Like... a cookie. Maybe you fed them to well during the rest of the meal??

                                        I liked the little bit of brandy in these. You couldn't taste brandy, per se, but it gave it a nice depth of flavour. Don't know why there isn't more alcohol in cookie recipes!

                                2. Twice Baked Shortbread

                                  My attempt to make these gluten free failed - they fell apart - I think I need to use an egg yolk. But the taste was very good. Toasty, which I really like. I noticed that in Demolition Desserts there is a comment that most people undercook shortbread, and I think this twice baked recipe highlights how yummy the more toasted shortbread can be. Dont know that this was revelatory, but it was good.

                                  Berry and Chocolate Muffins

                                  I did like these. Gluten-free of course, and it worked just fine. Nice crumb. The recipe made 13 muffins (one in a ramekin for a chef treat). I added some lemon zest, which I really liked, and I am not sure I liked the nutmeg in there. It distracted from the berries IMO. I would not add that next time.

                                  Quark souffle - yummm. This was my mothers day dessert. I served it with a berry-lavender sauce nad I used lemon quark from the farmers market. My kids loved it too, and for those looking for a more low-calorie dessert - this qualifies.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: jsaimd

                                    How would you characterize the quark souffle? Is it kind of acidic? I haven't tried quark yet but that's how I imagine it.

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      No it wasn't acidic at all. Granted I used a lemon quark - so it had a lemon flavor to it. Quark is a bit like cream cheese, but less creamy.

                                      1. re: jsaimd

                                        I also made the quark souffles but, and I hate to admit this, I goofed in reading the directions. I added 3 whole eggs to the quark mixture and then realized I was only supposed to add the yolks and beat the whites for the souffle effect. I saw my mistake and decided not to throw the whole thing out but to beat the egg whites and add them to the whole egg quark mixture. It came out tasting pretty good, but the texture was a bit rubbery. This was probably due to my use of 6 instead of 3 whites. Served it with strawberry sauce made by just simmery strawbs until they broke down. Very tasty and not at all acidic.

                                        Quark is sort of a cross between ricotta and yoghurt and cream cheese. I'll make it again when our heatwave is finished next week.

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          I've made the fruit and nut cake (don't have the book with me right at the moment, so not sure what it's called exactly. It's not the Pan Forte).

                                          This is amazingly simple, it's just lots of dried fruit (I used pears, 3 kinds of dried apricots, figs, dates, prunes, raisins and currants. For nuts I used mostly walnuts, but also pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and a few pecans. You use a smallish amount of flour and some beaten eggs and some vanilla. Then you mush the whole thing together with your hands and bake in loaf pans at low oven heat.

                                          This stuff looks like something one would take along on a long trek in the wilderness. It is, however, quite delicious with coffee or tea. The folks at my husband's office really love it.

                                  2. I made the coconut palm cream cake yesterday. I didn't expect to have problems finding the coconut sugar here, but I did. We have a huge asian market here that is also a regional wholesaler and they had it on their web site. Show up at their huge store and there is none to be found. I expect I would have found it elsewhere if I had the time to look. They had two kinds of "palm sugar." One kind was a hard disk that would have had to be grated. And one kind was softer in a jar. It was possible to scrape that with a spoon. So I figured that was most like the type of coconut sugar she wanted you to use.

                                    My cake might have gotten a little dry. (My oven is erratic and hard to regulate so it might have been a little too hot.) But I thought it had just wonderful flavors. One source described the palm sugar as having a bit of a smoky taste. Very subtle. I thought it gave the cake a caramally complexity. And the rum, lime and coconut meshed perfectly with it. The cream filling is not too sweet. And I used to think I didn't like coconut, but this unsweetened stuff (both toasted and untoasted in this recipe) works well.

                                    I'm going to come up with some other uses for the palm sugar. I think it's good stuff and a nice discovery.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: karykat

                                      It's funny, karykat, but this thread about Medrich's various sugars seems to go on and on. Back in March I wrote about having trouble finding coconut sugar (I was also unsuccessful. You also wrote about it in March). I did find date sugar and have used it several times since March with good results. I love her use of various sugars. I now also have turbinado sugar, and muscovado sugar. I'm still searching for coconut sugar, but figure I'll have to order it on line.

                                      I also found the coconut cake a bit dry, but I served it with raspberries which went a long way to moisten it. The whipped cream filling also helps. Wish I had the propane torch, but am too much of a skinflint to put out money for something I'd use twice a year, if that.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        I was frustrated at not finding the coconut sugar where I expected to find it easily. But I am pretty sure that the palm sugar I used was at least the correct form of the sugar (compared to the hard disks). And some web site I looked at said the flavor of the palm sugar was more complex and smoky than the coconut sugar, so I was happy to use it instead.

                                        Now I want to come up with some more uses for it, because I have a ton left. Any good ideas?

                                        1. re: karykat

                                          I made two of Medrich's desserts for my cousin's son's college graduation party and they were a huge success.

                                          The first was one of my favorite cakes in the book. I think I must have posted about the Almond Cake before, or about the unclear directions about the crunchy topping. I now have it down and it's an amazing cake. I use almond meal (from our heavenly Berkeley Bowl Market) and then butter the cake pan and scatter the slivered almonds all over and then sprinkle sugar over that. Then batter goes in and it bakes. Amazing all by itself, without frosting or whipped cream or berries....although the last 2 would be great with it.

                                          I also made that chocolate tart with the jasmine tea flavored whipped cream...only I didn't use that. I love her crust. It's almost like a shortbread but it's more crispy. And sooooooooooooooo easy.

                                          Before this thread ends, I'm going to make a bunch more of her cookies...even the tuiles. I'm afraid of them as they need to be shaped and I anticipate dropping them onto the floor and having them double over the tube on which you're laying them down.

                                          Will report back.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            The jasmine tea whipped cream sounds heavenly. How was the chocolate filling? How would you describe it?

                                            1. re: karykat


                                              The filling is cut-able, but set firmly.

                                              You soak jasmine tea in the whipping cream overnight, then strain and whip as usual. The first time my jasmine tea was very old and, as it turned out, had very little flavor. The second time, with tea that was less than 10 years old, it was heavenly. The smell and taste are subtle, but really nice. The chocolate tart is also great with reg. whipped cream as well as all alone. It's a real keeper.

                                              The chocolate filling is melted bittersweet chocolate, butter, orange and grapefruit zest and sugar. Boiling water is whisked into an egg yolk, which is then whisked in a bowl over simmering water over low heat until it registers 160 degrees. This is stirred gently into the chocolate mixture. This is poured into the baked shell and refrigerated until set.

                                              Interesting aside: I made 3 cakes from this cookbook last weekend while also playing in an all-day Scrabble tournament the next day. I was quite frazzled and trying to get everything all done to be ready to take to the party the next night....soooo I forgot the egg part of the recipe and just poured the chocolate mixture into the shell. It was really good and nobody noticed the missing ingreds.

                                              Whew, sorry for the long-windedness.

                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                This filling sounds so easy and so good. And the jasmine flavored cream. Yum. Will be giving that a try.

                                            2. re: oakjoan

                                              the corn tuiles, like many of the recipes discussed here, grow on you. In the beginning I wasn't so keen, but I developed an addictive taste for them over the week, and we finished off the big batch quickly. I love savoury-sweet.

                                            3. re: karykat

                                              RE: using up your palm sugar: lots of Thai recipes call for palm sugar, karykat. (And, I wonder if other Southeast Asian or Indian cuisines might, too, if you google on palm sugar and Vietnamese recipes--you get a lot of hits). Also, my Thai cookbook says palm sugar comes in 2 different forms, one that is hard and comes in lumps (that is harvested from the palm tree) and the other that is soft and paste-like (that is harvested from the trunk of the coconut tree). I wonder if this latter sugar might also be called "coconut sugar." If so, it sounds to me like you made the right choice. (On the other hand, my other Thai cookbook discusses coconut palm sugar in the ingredient section and says that it comes from the sap of young coconut trees. It's boiled down into a semisoft paste or to a firmer consistency and sold in jars or cans. It doesn't mention palm sugar from palm trees at all!)

                                              Anyway, just flipping through my cookbook, the following recipes call for palm sugar (to give you an idea) : green curry w/ chicken, fish cakes, chiang mai curry with chicken, panaeng curry pork, papaya salad, yellow curry with chicken, fried chicken with cashew nuts, bananas in coconut milk, baked mung bean cake (which I think i need to try in case it's as good as Ngon Bistro's mung bean cheesecake--I can't tell if this recipes supposed to be dessert-y or not, though, as it calls for shallots!)

                                              But, my favorite is lemongrass iced tea, which ought to come in handy now that we are finally, FINALLY approaching summer! http://www.recipezaar.com/271093 Funnily enough, when I was searching for a lemongrass tea recipe to link for you, I found this page call "196 recipes which include palm sugar as ingredients" http://www.recipezaar.com/recipes.php...

                                              I hope this helps!


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                Cool. I will take a look at these options.

                                                When I went to the market, I found hard palm sugar (which was described as "candy" which you have to grate) and the softer stuff in a jar. I used the softer stuff for the recipe. It sounds like from what I've been able to find that sometimes coconut sugar is called palm sugar but they are also distinct and come from the different plants. Anyway, I think it has a great distinct flavor that really shined (shone?) in the coconut cake recipe. And may be good just grated or sprinkled on berries or whipped cream.

                                                I will check these recipes out. THanks!

                                                1. re: karykat

                                                  It's also used extensively in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking in both sweet and savory dishes. You might take a look at "Cradle of Flavor," for instance. I know that book has at least a few recipes that call for palm sugar. It also, by the way, has very detailed information on various kinds of palm sugar and how they differ one from another.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Thanks much for this tip. I will check the book out.

                                                    Another sugar that Pure Desserts uses is a Mexican one --piloncillo. I would like to try that one too. There is a great world of these special sugars out there. Until I get to a market with the piloncillo, I imagine the hard palm sugar would be a good substitute.

                                                    1. re: karykat

                                                      Oseland actually says you can substitute piloncillo for the palm sugar in Asian recipes, so I'm sure the reverse is true as well. He says the piloncillo is less processed and somewhat milder, but I'd bet you'd have to do a side-by-side taste test to notice the difference in a recipe.

                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                        That makes a lot of sense. I have the idea too that the palm sugar can vary a lot in strength from batch to batch. So it's probably hard to compare without knowing exactly what you have.

                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Years ago I watched a demonstration of how palm sugar is made at a tourist place called Nong Nuch Village just south of Pattaya, Thailand. It's exactly the same process as for making maple syrup. The trunks of a specfic kind of palm are tapped and the sap collected in buckets. Old dry palm fronds feed a fire under a huge kettle where the sap is boiled down to the consistency they want. Sometimes they stop when it is still fairly liquid and sometimes they continue on to get the maximum amount of water out and this is poured into forms like bars of soap and allowed to dry hard.

                                          2. Lemon Tuiles

                                            These were very tastey - I used a scale and converted them to GF with an all-purpose flour mix. The batter was a bit thin, and with my uneven oven, it ran all over the pan which made for fun tuile shards, but not pretty circles. Next time I would chill the batter a bit, per many tuile recipes. The texture and flavor of the finished cookies was great.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: jsaimd

                                              jsaimd: Did you use a silicone mat or tinfoil? Her directions seem to say that with the foil one doesn't have to spread the baking cookies around...sounds as if they'll spread on their own on the foil.

                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                I used parchment and silpat. They definitely spread on both, but less on the silpat. IT wasn't so much that it spread, but that it flowed, and my oven isn't all that level, so it ended up pooling in some areas. Again, when I have made tuiles before the recipe suggests chilling the batter, and then spreading thin using a template. That I think would work well in this recipe.

                                            2. I was very taken with the picture of the chocolate pudding on page 140.
                                              So I made that to cap a grilled meal, even though it seems a bit wintery.

                                              I used good chocolate as she directs: ghirardelli natural cocoa and sharfen berger bittersweet chocolate.

                                              The directions seemed straightforward. But my result seemed thin. I poured it into serving dishes thinking it would set up in the fridge, but it didn't. So I poured it all back into a pan and added more cornstarch and commanded it to thicken. Which it did.

                                              I think I may have been interrupted in the course of adding the cornstarch initially, and may not have added enough. The final spin in the food processor smoothed out the texture and made it very smooth.

                                              I put it back into the serving dishes and chilled. Before serving a plopped a strawberry in each dish in a bow to summer.

                                              All in all, I would say it was good. Everyone enjoyed it But it was not something superlative or showstopping.

                                              The next thing I will be making is the flans with raw sugar sauce.

                                              1. I'm having a lot of fun with this book, but am wondering did we pick a dessert book for another two-month stint? If not, there are lots of great contenders and I think we should start a thread for that purpose. I am loving this separate dessert thread.

                                                1. Tropical Lace Cookies:

                                                  I used pecans and pilconcillo. The sugar needed to be mashed with a hammer, and then in the melted butter I had to use a potato masher to get it all to dissolve. But it did work - afterwards I could add the flour (used rice, corn starch), egg, etc. I was gunshy after my tuile experience, so I tried to chill the batter. It got thick, and worked better after sitting awhile. I had a horrible time with sticking to the silpat, but our silpat is old. Last batch I buttered before I put the batter on and that worked better. Also, they worked best when they were brown all over like she instructs. The first batch I took out when they were tan, and they never crisped up. You have to work with these faster than tuiles IMO if you plan to shape them. Taste was carmely and very good.

                                                  Served this with a adulterated version of the sour cream ice cream. Used 1/2 sour cream 1/2 whole milk ricotta (blended until smooth) because that is what I had, then added some sweet cherries cooked in the amount of sugar called for in the recipe. I ended up adding almond extract in the end. Overall - loved that the ice cream was all about the dairy. It didn't store well though - became rock hard and icey.

                                                  Served all this with sour cherry chocolate coconut sauce to good reviews.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jsaimd

                                                    It is fun to experiment with these different sugars. I have two recipes in mind to try soon that use the palm sugar.

                                                  2. Whole Wheat Nibby Sables (pg. 88-89)

                                                    These really grew on me. When I first took a bite, I thought, bland, bland, bland. But, after a day or so, the nutty, wheaty flavor really came out. I couldn't really taste the nibs, but I liked the way they looked in the cookie.

                                                    As a plus, these were also a snap to make. Essentially, cream butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together. Add whole wheat and white flours. Roll into a log, chill and bake.

                                                    I liked these so much, that I made two batches for the holidays.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                      I just got this book from the library and am interested in trying these. Question: I bought cacao nibs, but could only find "raw" ones. She refers to them being roasted or toasted but doesn't mention doing this before adding to recipes. How do you roast or toast nibs? As you would do nuts?

                                                    2. Salted Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies (pg. 79)

                                                      These were a PIA and I'm not sure they were worth it. I loved the idea of a peanutty, salty cookie. But, I don't quite agree with her directions on how to form and finish the cookies.

                                                      Putting the dough together itself wasn't a problem. The dough is then refrigerated as a ball. When you're ready to bake, you're supposed to form the cookies into balls, and then roll them into chopped toffee peanuts. This was a problem. The damn chopped peanuts wouldn't stick the the balled dough. There was no coating heavily per directions. There was no sticking. I was pressing the damn peanuts into the balls.

                                                      After two dozen of these, I had enough. I rolled the dough into a log and placed it back in the fridge. I also chopped up more toffee peanuts because I had a lot of dough left.

                                                      The cookies came out as little balls. Ok looking but kind of dry. The nuts did stay on through the baking process.

                                                      Now, the log cookies came out much better. The peanuts stuck on much easier and I cooked these for less time. These cookies I liked much better, probably because they weren't so high maintenance.

                                                      But, these weren't what I expected. These were drier then I thought they would be. But, I did like how peanutty they were. I would probably add more fleur de sel then called for as well. And, probably some chocolate chips. I think that's why I was missing. Just a hint of chocolate to go with the salt and peanut butter.

                                                      I'm not sure I would make these again, but if I do, I would make the changes and additions mentioned above.

                                                      1. Italian Chocolate Almond Torte

                                                        Very easy to make but, as she says, a sophisticated, adult cake. No dairy or flour, so good for Passover or wheat-restricted diets. Really just four ingredients (almonds, unsweetened chocolate, egg whites, sugar - plus pinches of salt and cream of tartar). Almonds and chocolate are ground finely with some sugar; I ended up with a few pebble-sized pieces here and there, but since I could see similar in the photo in the book, I figured that was okay. Egg whites are beaten with salt, cream of tartar, and more sugar, and the almonds and chocolate are folded in (Just Whites egg white powder is so handy for this, as I didn't want to be stuck with 8 egg yolks). It's baked in a springform pan. She suggests serving with whipped cream, but I served with farmers' market strawberries and peaches sprinkled with amaretto.

                                                        This recipe is all over the internet, incidentally.

                                                        Blackberry Buttermilk Sherbet

                                                        Another simple recipe that's a winner, and naturally low in fat, too boot. Three cups of blackberries (fresh or IQF, thawed, with their juices) are mashed in a bowl with 1 cup sugar (I used an old-fashioned potato masher; a fork or the back of a spoon would also work), and 3 cups buttermilk is stirred in. I had only 2 cups blackberries, so I adjusted proportionally. The mixture is chilled, then frozen in an ice cream maker. When I tasted the mixture as it went into the freezer, the buttermilk flavor was very assertive, and since I'm not a fan of it on its own, I was concerned. Once it was frozen, though, the berry flavor and the tang of the buttermilk were nicely balanced. Medrich says she prefers this straight from the ice cream maker, but mine never got past a slushy texture, so it was into the freezer until the next day. At the point, it was very hard and had to sit out for a while to be scoopable. Lemon zest would be a nice addition.

                                                        Plum and Almond Tart

                                                        This is just wonderful, and another simple-to-make recipe. A crust is made in the food processor by grinding almonds, sugar, almond extract, and salt finely, then pulsing in flour and a bit of baking powder, and finally, butter and an egg. This is pressed into the bottom only of a removable-bottom tart pan, and topped with halved or quartered plums. Medrich notes that only sweet-tart varieties work here; I used Santa Rosas. The tart is baked until the crust has puffed up around the plums and turned deep golden. Plum and almond flavors get along like gangbusters, and the unadorned sweet-tart plums both contrast with and complement the rich, nutty crust. This reminded me a bit of the Galleygirl pear cake, but less cakey and with the wonderful almond addition. I buttered the tart pan well, as instructed, but still had to pry the crust from the pan bottom with a sharp knife (the side released fine), so I would use baking spray next time. I'd also reduce the sugar a bit.

                                                        I'm three for three with this cookbook, and will make all these recipes again.

                                                        I had planned to make the sour cream ice cream to accompany the tart, but that didn't happen. I still have the sour cream, so I'll try it sometime soon and have it with fruit.

                                                        6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                            Wow, the Chocolate Almond Torte and Blackberry Buttermilk sherbet sound lovely, and reasonably diet-friendly, except for the sugar, (depending, of course, on what your particular dietary restrictions are). But you can't have dessert without sugar, so, I'm willing to splurge!


                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              I know! Even the plum tart, which tastes plenty rich, has 1/2 cup almonds plus 3 T. butter and 1 egg, which is much less fat (especially butterfat) than a normal tart crust, and I used white whole wheat flour. The sherbet could be made with an alternative sweetener if desired, plus it really could be sweetened to taste, depending on the berries, etc.

                                                              I plan to use low-fat milk and sour cream when I try that ice cream, too.

                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                Caitlin: Is that the white whole wheat flour from Trader Joe's? I used some of that to refresh my sourdough starter, but haven't used it in cooking yet.

                                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                                  That's the one. This is the first time I've used it. I often use whole wheat pastry flour for general baking (best price bulk from the Bowl).

                                                            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              I wholeheartedly second botht he plum and almond tart and the Italian almond torte. The plum and almond tart is always a big hit and is so easy to make.

                                                            3. I love chestnuts, so was immediately drawn to the chestnut recipes (had never used chestnut flour before). The poundcake is wonderful, although I use marrons glacés (or the Turkish chestnuts in syrup) instead of plain chestnuts in it. The chestnut macaroons are very good and made cookies plus 3 nice japonais layers for a birthday cake for my husband I mashed up from several recipes (2 Cake Bible chestnut layers, a bit of Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets chocolate glaze to glue the thing together, and a 2:1 cream to chocolate whipped ganache frosting).

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                I have chestnut flour, but I was worried the macaroons would be too sweet (not a huge meringue fan). How did you find them?

                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                  They are quite sweet. I liked them better as layers in the cake than as cookies. Try the poundcake if you are fond of chestnuts, it's excellent (and not too sweet).

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    Hmmm... Thinking of her chestnut ice cream cookie combined with this...

                                                                    I do a flourless chocolate brownie layer with whipped egg whites in it for ice cream sandwiches. perhaps I could do a chestnut version fiddling with her macaroon recipe. If I could get it to work, the big question would be - what flavour ice cream?? My oh my...

                                                              2. Honey Ice Cream.

                                                                I added a bit if vanilla and some lavender to this, but didn't love it. i have liked almost everything i have made from this book, but this one was too creamy (as in coated the mouth) and too sweet. Others liked it though.

                                                                Sesame brittle ice cream. I modified using only whole milk and i may have added stabilizer of some sort like xanthan gum. Anyway. I really liked it. i love sesame flavored things, and it was very nice with stone fruit we had around for the Fourth of July. Made me want to make the sesame cake again.

                                                                1. The labne tart is one of the best desserts I've made in a long time. The overall impression is of a super-delicate, super-elegant tart, in spite of yogurt's sometimes in-your-face quality. And the crust is special. I could see that if one were to overcook this tart it wouldn't be so splendid.

                                                                  The kamut poundcake was also great. I added dried sour cherries and used kirsch as a flavoring. It got gobbled down, including a few slices toasted with butter.

                                                                  The buckwheat cocoa-nib cookies were strange on the day they were cooked, but tremendous the next day. Turned me into a cocoa nib abuser!

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: NeNePie

                                                                    did you use labne, or thick yoghurt for the labne tart, NeNe?

                                                                    1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                      I used Labne. Oh, just thinking about it makes me happy! We live in an area with lots of armenian markets, so we buy labne and use it like cream cheese.

                                                                    2. re: NeNePie

                                                                      Is the labne dessert really tart? How would you describe the taste? It looks interesting.

                                                                      1. re: karykat

                                                                        no, it wasn't tart at all. it was delicate, creamy, like a nice panna cotta. and the crust is magic.

                                                                        1. re: NeNePie

                                                                          Thanks NeNe. I took a look at that recipe and the filling doesn't have too much sugar in it. So I imagine the taste of the cheese is really shining through.

                                                                          I love seeing these old COTM threads resurrected. Since this one was COTM, lots of us have tried other recipes from the book. So it's good to catch up on them.

                                                                    3. I'm late to the party, but I have made the Dried Fruit & Nut Cake. This is very addictive! I enjoyed eating it with yogurt in the morning. (There is a lot of fiber in this cake, so be warned.) I also served it with afternoon tea & a cheese plate. My whole family loves it. I am definitely keeping it in my permanent repertoire.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Little Cupcake

                                                                        I love that Dried Fruit and Nut Cake. It's a bit messy to put together, but very simple.

                                                                        We've now taken it on driving trips with great success. It travels well and is a great breakfast on the road with a cup of Peets if we're brewing ourselves or Starbucks if we're lazy.

                                                                      2. Bea's Apple Crisp (pg. 110)

                                                                        Mixed feelings about this recipe. I made it twice to make sure it wasn't user error. I suspect there may be an omission in the recipe. More on that later.

                                                                        So, the big plus. I LOVED the apple filling for this crisp. It was delicious and slightly different from other crisps that I've tasted. I'm not a real apple crisp expert but make at least one during the apple season and this filling is my favorite so far.

                                                                        Cut up a mixture of apples into chunks (leave the skin on). She actually has specific directions on how to cut the apple. I mostly followed it but probably made additional cuts because I had some freakishly huge apples. Toss the apples with sugar and cinnamon (I tried to use less sugar but it still ended up being too sweet. I suspect my apple mixtures were just sweeter).

                                                                        Meanwhile, chop up 1/2 cup dried apricots and place in a small pan with the zest and juice of one orange. Simmer until the apricots are soft and then add it to the apple mixture. Put the whole thing in a baking dish.

                                                                        The topping. This didn't work for me. The eaters all enjoyed it but to me, there was something wrong. The topping never browned as much as I thought it should. AND, I thought that there may be too much flour in it. The topping ingredients are 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 oats, 1 cup walnut pieces, 1/2 cup sugar, 5 T butter and 1/8 t salt. She gives the weights, which I did use. And, I was careful with the weights.

                                                                        The first time, I thought it may have been user error because I was in a rush and may not have mixed the crumble enough. Parts of the topping stayed pretty white. It looked floury. The second time, I really went to town, mixing the crumble. And, while it darken more so then the first batch, it still wasn't as browned as I would have liked.

                                                                        So, I consulted my good friend, google, and found Medrich's blog. And, in her blog, the butter is MELTED. That could be the difference. Or, it could be that I just don't like her version of the crumble.

                                                                        Regardless, the filling is a keeper. Next time, I may add some grated ginger in with it as well.