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Jan 2, 2010 03:44 PM

January 2010 COTM: Patricia Wells DESSERTS

Welcome to the DESSERTS thread for the January 2010 Cookbook of the Month, featuring Bistro Cooking, & Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Please post your reviews of Desserts(BC) and Desserts, Granitas, Sorbets & Ice Creams (T) here.

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  1. Quatre-Quarts aux Poires (BC, p. 226).

    Something just didn't work with this somehow. Not really sure what. Lulu helped me make it, and we were both so excited to taste it. But she didn't even want to finish the tiny slice I gave her after lunch. It was a *very* flat cake, which I wasn't expecting. Husband said "it is pleasant, but seems to need more sugar." I agree. It seems sort of like a soft short-bread with pears underneath. Not horrible, certainly, but not what I expected. I bake a lot, and all my ingredients were fresh, so not sure what the problem was.

    4 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      Hmm, I've made this a couple of times. I think I must have used bigger pears because they showed a bit above the batter in the finished cake. I remember thinking that it was quite nice but not great. I do know what you mean about its flatness. It's nice with a cup of good coffee, but I don't think I'd make it for guests.

      1. re: oakjoan

        Ah, I'm SO glad you chimed in, because I think of you as sort of the Queen of Desserts. I really couldn't figure out what on earth had gone wrong. She describes it as sort of a pound cake type thing, which usually rises more than this. Now I don't feel as much like I must have screwed something up.
        For Lulu to turn her nose up at something (let alone something she'd helped make) is rare.

        1. re: LulusMom

          Yeah, it's always good to have feedback about a recipe that's turned out not to be as great as you'd hoped.

          Gee, Queen of Desserts! Do I get a crown? A scepter? Will I be able to say "Off with their heads!"?

    2. Wells, Bistro, Quatre-Quarts aux Poires, p. 226

      Like LuLusMom, I was surprised at the result of this recipe. I wasn't expecting the cake to be so flat (though the ingredients should have given me a clue I guess). My husband asked, half-jokingly, if we were having cornbread for dessert. Like Oakjoan's, my pears did stick out of the top a bit.

      I served it; it was tasty enough. But I probably wouldn't make it again as I can think of so many pear desserts I like better. Actually this recipe sounds like many recipes for clafoutis I've seen--and I'm not crazy about clafoutis. But my friend commented that he thought this would be great for breakfast, with coffee, so I sent the leftovers home with him.

      1. Wells, Bistro Cooking, Tarte au Citron Madame Cartet, p. 240

        Definitely a keeper. This was, by far, the easiest lemon tart I have ever made; going in, I was pretty skeptical: 2/3 c. lemon juice (mine came from frozen cubes of Meyer lemon), only 1/2 c. sugar, 3 T. creme fraiche, 5 lg. eggs, no butter, no lemon zest. Whisked first three ingredients, then eggs one at a time. Poured into pre-baked tart pastry, and baked at 375 F for 20 minutes. Cooled on counter. Served at room temp. That's it. It set beautifully, was really yellow, tasted delicious, not too sweet.

        Now I will confess: I was very pressed for time and didn't make my own pastry, but used one of those rolled up Pillsbury refrigerated ones, which worked like a charm. Next time, I will make my own pastry and see if there's a discernible difference. I also think a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries scattered about would make for a spectacular dessert.

        This couldn't have been easier. I made this for company last night--it capped off a meal of spaghetti and turkey-arugula meatballs, asparagus, and salad (love a lemon dessert after a meal w/tomato-sauce)--and would make this again for company. Great find.

        5 Replies
        1. re: nomadchowwoman

          I love that lemon tart! I'm glad someone reported on it. The pate sucre that goes with it is also very good and so easy -- you don't even have to roll it out, just pat it into the pan.

          1. re: Westminstress

            Ok, that sounds easy enough. The recipe calls for the pate sablee. Do you think the sucree is a better choice?

            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              You know, I was writing from memory and I think you are right -- it is the pate sablee not sucree. Thanks for the correction.

            2. re: Westminstress

              I'm going to have to try her lemon tart. Up to now my favorite of all times is Alice Medrich's lemon tart in Pure Desserts. I lovvvvvve that combo of rich, buttery crust and sweet/sour custard.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Well, I've never had that one, but the real appeal of this one is the ease of preparation. I would recommend using a smallish tart pan--maybe 8 inches. I think mine was 10, and I wouldn't have minded having the filling layer a bit thicker.

          2. Two favorites from Bistro Cooking:

            Cafe du Jura's Raspberry Tart (p 236) - so simple and perfect. Rich with egg yolk and creme fraiche, but balanced by the acidity and perfume of the raspberries. Recipe paraphrased here:

            Pears in Red Wine (p 254) - this recipe was a complete revelation to me. Have to admit I don't usually include the creme de cassis.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Junie D

              I've been looking at that raspberry tart recipe. You've convinced me :)

            2. Bistro, Cake au Citron, p.227

              Baked this tonight. I should have followed my instincts and use smaller loaf pans rather than the 9 1/2 inch called for. The cakes were quite flat and somewhat dry. I took them out after 52 minutes--the recipe suggested "about an hour" at 350F--as the edges were very brown, and they were cracked . (I checked my oven recently, and it seems to be accurate.)

              The recipe was pretty simple. Into bowl of mixer, at low speed, vanilla sugar and 5 eggs, then creme fraiche, then flour (w/baking powder that should have been very fresh, then melted and cooled butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest; all blended until smooth an dpoured into buttered loaf pans.

              This is the second cake from this book (the pear pound cake was the other) that I've tried that was much flatter than I expected. (Once again, DH asked if we were having cornbread for dessert. This one looked exactly like cornbread.) The upside is that it was very lemony.

              I served it w/blueberry compote, which helped disguise the flaws. It will be good for breakfast, dunked in coffee. I may try to reinvent it tomorrow night, slicing it into two layers, filling it with compote, and topping it w/more berries in sweetened creme fraiche. It would also probably benefit from a lemony glaze; it definitely needs moisture. But I don't think this is a keeper. I'd love to know if anyone else has tried it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                I had forgotten until this moment that I have made this cake before and had a similar experience. At the time I blamed myself, because I rarely make cakes. I think at the time I made this I didn't even have a mixer, so I thought the flatness of this cake had to do with my failure to beat enough air into the batter when hand-mixing. Anyway, I am glad to hear that it is the recipe and not me!

                By the way, another recipe from this book that has never worked for me is the olive oil dough that goes with the swiss chard tart.

                1. re: Westminstress

                  Thanks for the tip because that chard tart sounds appealing. And I too feel better knowing it is the recipe that seems to be the problem. I loved the sound of it when reading it, and I loved how lemony it was. I'm wondering if I might get better results from baking it in one 9-inch round pan for 45-50 minutes. Maybe I'll give it another go.