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Mar 27, 2011 11:00 AM

Looking for some "sophisticated" dessert ideas

Any suggestions for more refined/cultured/high-end desserts? I'm thinking of things like creme brulee, souffle, tiramisu etc. vs chocolate chip cookies and apple pies

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  1. Anything from Albert Adria's Natura would fit the bill.

    Crème brulée and soufflé are more classic than sophisticated.

    1. Not to put the things you mention down, but in my book things like tiramisu and creme brulee are about as common these days as chocolate chip cookies. One of my old time classic favorites is Baked Alaska. It's not at all difficult and it has always always impressed the hell out of my dinner guests. I just never let on how easy it is.

      Basically, Baked Alaska is ice cream insulated by cake under it and a merangue covering it generously as well as the sides of the cake it sits on to ensure that it does not melt in a very hot oven. The meringue can be the standeard merignue you would use for a lemon meringue pie or it can be an Italian meringue, doesn't matter which because they are both good insulators.

      I bake my cake from scratch a day or two (or more) ahead and allow the cake to cool, then chill it before proceeding with the pre-assembly. The fun of Baked Alaska is that it allows for some great flavor combinations. Some cake/ice cream combinations I have found memorable were angel food cake with two ice cream layers of strawberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream for a strawberry shortcake flavor. A dense rich banana walnut cake topped with Dutch chocolate ice cream was delicious! On one occasion (years ago, I'[m no longer that ambitious!) I did a checkerboard ice cream layer on top of a checkerboard cake -- chocolate and vanilla of course -- for one of my kid's birthdays. They loved it b ut it was a LOT of work! Anyway, let your imagination run wild, and for adult occasions, I also liberally douse the cake with liquor or lieueurs to suit the occasion

      So once you've decided on your cake and ice cream flavors and have the cake baked, then you need to decide whether you want to do one large Baked Alaska to be sliced and served at the table, or individual Baked Alaskas. For more formal occasions, I go with the individual servings. So a day or two ahead of time, and depending on your decision, you will take the cold baking pan you baked the cake in OR individual ramekins the same diameter as you will cut from the cake for individual servings, line it/them with plastic wrap, then pack in the softened ice cream flavor of choice and put them in the freezer to harden. Put the cake or individual cakes in a sealed container in the refrigterator so they will be chilled but not frozen when you assemble the Baked Alaska.

      Assembly and the meringue: Depending on how complex the rest of the meal is, you may want to use an Italian meringue, which can be made ahead of time (within reason) and assembled at the last minute. Or, if you're guests are really good conversationalists and will keep each other entertained between the main course and dessert, it doesn't take much time to make a simple meringue if you have a good mixer. When you start serving dinner and the oven is EMPTY, crank it up to at least 400F or as high as it will go and go eat dinner while it preheats. To assemble, slip into the kitchen after your main course and place the cake or individual servings on a cookie sheet that has been given a coating of non-stick spray. Remove the plastic wrap from the ice cream and set it exactly on top of the cake with the edges perfectly matched. or do the same with individual servings. Now ice the cake or cakes with a thick layer of meringue that goes clear to the bottom of the cake. You can pipe and swirl the merignue with a large star pastry tube or you can swirl it on with a spatula. The critical thing is to remember it is the insulation that will keep the ice cream from metling. Pop it into a very hot oven and watch it like a hawk. You want the peaks nicely browned, but not burnt! Remove from oven and slide onto your serving plate or plates. I like to garnish with a mint leaf or a smear of coulee or sauce.

      Brace yourself for praise and lots of oohs and ahhhs. It's a fun, elegant dessert!

      1. Kudos to Caroline for such a detailed suggestion. I feel silly for merely throwing out ideas but crepes suzette and napoleans come to mind.

        2 Replies
        1. re: enbell

          Those are good uns! I love 'em both, but I'm allergic to them... They make my hips swell.
          FOREVER...! '-)

        2. i'm not sure if these fit your bill but...

          -peach or nectarine ice cream with tarragon or basil, served with tuiles
          -balsamic and black pepper macerated strawberries over basil-hinted shortcakes
          -profiteroles or cream puffs filled with lemon curd or pastry cream
          -passion fruit cheesecake with a dark chocolate drizzle
          -mango and rum infused flan
          -a tasting plate of various dark chocolate or chocolate truffles
          -or go the opposite direction - cheese

          1. For a really sophisticated dessert ("sophisticated" as in, you need a good palate or some knowledge to appreciate it), I'd serve creme de marrons with fromage frais. The prep couldn't be simpler, but your guests don't need to know that.

            Just go to the store and get a can (yes, a can!) of Clement Faugier creme de marrons (sweet chestnut paste flavored with vanilla), and then a little tub of fromage frais (Vermont Creamery makes a very good one.) Serve them side by side on dessert plates and watch your guests swoon. If you can't find the fromage frais, use Greek yogurt. If you can't find the chestnut paste, make a different dessert.

            The first time I had this dessert, I was a college student living with a French family in Paris, and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It is that good.