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December 2011 COTM: 150 Best American Recipes: Desserts

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapter about desserts.

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  1. I highly recommend The Intense Chocolate Torte. It was one of the best desserts, I have ever made and I only had Nestle chocolate chips at the time. The only change I will make is to chop the nuts almost to a powder because it was hard with the larger nut pieces to get the crust to stay in place in the sides of the springform pan.
    Enjoy

    3 Replies
    1. re: angelsmom

      Thanks for the tip on chopping the nuts. I think I might have to make every recipe in this book! They all sound so good!

      ~TDQ

      1. re: angelsmom

        angelsmom - Can you make this the day before? I am planning to make it as one of the desserts for New Year's Day.

        1. re: Bethcooks

          Yes, but I would keep it in a cake container to keep it from drying out.

      2. Souffled Lemon Custard, p. 283

        Excellent. Made this with Meyer lemons, as they are in season and have a flavor we love. Very lemony and refreshing. Didn't have a 10" round cake pan, so used a 13" oval baking dish -- worked perfectly.

        9 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            I baked it about 10 minutes longer, but since the dish I used had a larger circumference than the pan called for, I suspect that might need a bit longer, as well. I baked it until the entire top was a very light brown.

            1. re: pikawicca

              I'm thinking about making this for a dinner party later this month, what do you think is it company worthy?

              1. re: qianning

                I think that if you served it in little compote dishes (or similar), garnished with blueberries, it would be lovely. I would certainly serve it to guests.

          2. re: pikawicca

            Souffled Lemon Custard, p. 283

            I love lemon and love custard, and since my repertoire of desserts is somewhat limited, this has been a go-to for me since I got Gordon Hamersley's cookbook years ago. Asked to bring dessert to an Indian dinner last night, I decided to make this in individual ramekins (it filled six of the largish ones). Like pikawica, I used Meyer lemons as I have a tree currently heavy-limbed with these babies. In trying to tie in to the flavor profile, I subbed coconut milk for about 1 1/2 c. of the milk (amount determined by what I had on hand, as I had done once before. The coconut flavor was there, but not terribly pronounced. We served these on pretty dessert plates with a couple of strawberries (the local ones are already out). The dessert looked pretty and everyone seemed to love it. I know I did.

            I baked the individual custards in their water bath probably about 40 minutes; they were lightly browned on top. Next time, I might start checking them at 30 minutes or so. The custard wasn't as loose or "saucy" as it usually is, but that could just be a function of baking in the smaller vessels instead of one large dish.

            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              Souffled Lemon Custard p 283

              Made this last night for a dinner party and the guests loved it. Like NCW and Pikawicca I used Meyer lemons, and thought they were just right for this dish.

              I baked most of the recipe in a two quart souffle dish, but there was about cup of batter that wasn't going to fit w/o making a mess, so I stuck that in a ramekin and cooked it along side the larger dish. The funny thing was the total difference in consistency between the two, in the larger dish the bottom layer was definitely a sauce more than a custard, whereas in the smaller ramekin it set almost like the custard in a lemon meringue. They were both tasty, but totally different effects.

              So my question is has anyone ever had this at Hammersley's in Boston? Wondering which texture is closer to the "original"?

              1. re: qianning

                Yes, I had this at Hammersley's, and the custard was definitely saucy. As I recall (and this was probably 8-10 years ago), it was served in an oblong or oval dish, definitely larger than the average ramekin. BUT, I have made this recipe in ramekins and had the same result you describe, which makes sense as so much more area is exposed to the water bath than is in a larger dish. I like the saucier version better, and I wonder if cutting the baking time would give that effect even in the smaller dishes.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  Thanks NCW, I was really curious which effect was "authentic".

                  The funny thing was the top of the the one I made in the larger container browned more quickly than the one in the ramekin. It seemed the higher ratio of contact with the water bath changed things quite a bit. I liked the sauciness of the larger one, but thought the ratio of custard to souffle was better in the smaller one....

          3. I'm planning to make the browned butter cookies soon. Am I imagining it, or did someone not post about about sprinkling some coarse salt on top of the cookies? I can't find the post I thought I'd seen...

            Also, I noticed a comment on the linked recipe about this being similar to a..Italian, I think it was...refrigerator cookie. So I plan to try that out; to roll the dough and chill it, then slice and bake.

            24 Replies
            1. re: clepro

              Here's the post about the salt: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8169... There's a note in the book that suggests sprinkling them with sea salt right after they come out of the oven.

              I look forward to hearing how these work as slice-and-bake cookies. I plan to make these closer to Christmas, and would love to use that time-saving step if it works out well.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                On second thought (and based on my no-lemon-screwup with the pasta with arugula and cream fraiche recipe) I think I'll make half exactly as written, and half as roll cookies. Only way I'll be able to tell if the result approximates the original intent.

              2. re: clepro

                You will find that the most difficult part about making the browned butter cookies will be forming them. If you use a scoop for portioning out cookies, a small one works well. You kind of pack the dough into the scoop by pressing it against the side of the bowl, and eject them onto the cookie sheet. Don't eat them right away, though! They just get better after a couple of days.

                1. re: clepro

                  These are really pretty crumbly cookies. Just keep that in mind when considering the slice and bake thing. I'd LOVE it if it works out for you, because I think that would be a great way to have these cookies. And yes yes yes - definitely do the sea salt.

                  And Roxlet is 100% right. These cookies are so much better after a day or two.

                  1. re: clepro

                    When I made these, I thought I'd screwed up the recipe--they were difficult to shape, very crumbly, and didn't spread much. But, yes, they are delicious, better after a day or two. My husband ate ALL of them except for the two I tasted. I saved the crumbs from the container I'd put them in (there were a lot) and used then to sprinkle over other desserts--fruits, ice cream,etc.

                    1. re: clepro

                      Brown Butter Dream Cookies, p. 289.

                      Just made these last night; took them to church today and they instantly vanished at Coffee Hour (with which drink they are particularly good, I think.) I would have let them mellow in a tin as recommended but didn't have time and they were delicious anyway. For an unprepossessing-looking cookie, they were chosen immediately from the platter of several different cookie-types--I think it's something about the golden-brown color combined with the translucent sparkle of the sea salt sprinkled on top that promises an honest, unfussy cookie with pure flavors.

                      Anyway, these are a "sable" type butter cookie, easy and quick to make, and requiring only a few pantry-stalwarts. 2 sticks unsalted butter are carefully browned and then mixed with 1 cup white sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract. The directions say to add these two ingredients in 3 additions, I guess so that they are well mixed in. Then 2 cups unsifted AP flour are whisked separately with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt. (OR the salt is saved out to sprinkle over the just-baked cookies, which I did using a very scant pinch of sea salt for each cookie.) Meanwhile the flour mixture is blended into the butter-sugar mixture in 3 additions. The instructions say to roll into 1 1/2 tsp balls of dough and then bake at 350 F for 12 - 14 minutes until golden on the bottom and perhaps a bit cracked on top.

                      I made the cookies exactly as instructed except I eschewed the rolling into balls, which some commenters had noted were difficult to scoop out. Instead I rolled the dough into two "logs" about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, chilled for about 2 hours, and then sliced into 1/2 inch slices and baked. This yielded about 40 cookies. And yes; the rolls were slightly crumbly to slice, but I just pressed the dough-crumbs back into the slices. I used the method described in Hesser's The Essential NYTimes Cookbook for Pierre Herme's Chocolate Sables (p. 706): roll the dough into a log (or two), then flatten to press out any "air channel" and roll up tightly again in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed to bake.
                      My 1/2 inch slices took longer to bake to golden brown in the bottom than the 12- 14 minutes noted in the recipe--about 20 minutes all told. I also browned the butter carefully and slowly, but I think if you watched and stirred constantly, the process could be speeded up over medium heat.

                      For a quick and easy cookie that you can make spontaneously (and either keep in the refrigerator unbaked OR in tins for two weeks) with a toothsome texture and rich flavor, this recipe can't be beat. I read somewhere this is a typical German recipe (called "Heidesand") but I bet many cultures have similar recipes. The recipe also suggests adding a rounded tsp of cardamom seeds to the dough, for another layer of flavor.

                      1. re: Goblin

                        Wow thanks for the details.. I read a tip somewhere, perhaps here, to place the roll of cookies in a paper towel tube to keep them round.

                        1. re: angelsmom

                          Yes, and that's exactly what I did--was going to mention it but my report was already long! Anyway, I sliced two paper towel tubes lengthwise, the better to slip my two plastic-wrapped logs of dough inside. Popped 'em in the refrigerator and removed them easily a few hours later. This particular dough is relatively stiff and might have stayed "round" without the tubes, but they really work well with dough-logs that are a bit softer to start off, like some other refrigerator-type cookies.

                          1. re: Goblin

                            This method is ingenious. I suppose you just have to make sure your logs are about the right diameter in the first place.

                            Then after you slip them into the cut paper towel tubes, I suppose if you put rubber bands around it it would keep the slit tubes compressed?

                            1. re: karykat

                              Hi Karykat, It's not my invention but I read about it somewhere--Yes, paper towel tubes are about 1 1/4 inch diameter, which works out fine. In my last foray, I used a long empty wrapping paper tube (cut in half) crosswise) that I just happened to have around; again, they seem to be about 1 1/4 in in diameter, which is a good size for this type of cookie IMHO. A rubber band was not necessary in this case because the cardboard tubes were very stiff, but that's a good idea. It's not difficult to roll out a log of this size--I just eyeballed it.

                              1. re: Goblin

                                I suppose the dough is kind of pliable until you refrigerate it so it will conform to the tube. Then gets stiff in that shape when cooled.

                                But I have one question: do you push it through the tube? Or cut the tube away?
                                Or pull it away if it's cut lengthwise first.

                                I was just thinking about my favorite slice and bake cookie which is rolled in nuts or coarse sugar so it has that coating on the outside. That might not work because the coating would rub off as you push it through? But other kinds would?

                                I'm intrigued with this idea.

                                1. re: karykat

                                  Karykat, I cut the tubes lengthwise and just opened them up gently to lay the plastic-wrapped dough logs inside. Yes; that's right: the rounded tube shape keeps the pliable dough rounded until it solidifies in a rounded shape. I don't think that a dough log that has been well wrapped in plastic wrap--or any wrapping material like aluminum foil or wax paper for that matter--would have its coating rubbed off, particularly when you are not pushing the log into the cardboard tube, but rather gently placing it inside as you pull apart the two tube halves.

                                  1. re: karykat

                                    KaryKat, you are correct that the pliable dough conforms to the rounded shape of the tube as it chills and solidifies.
                                    I slice the tube lengthwise along one side and then gently place the wrapped dough log inside. Wrapping it in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or wax paper keeps any coating from rubbing off as you lay, not push, the dough log inside the tube and then allow the sides to come back together to enclose the log (or slip a rubber band around it to help keep the rounded shape.

                                    1. re: karykat

                                      Sorry about my two replies that repeat the same info. Couldn't get the first one to download, so I rewrote the post and somehow both got printed!

                                  2. re: karykat

                                    Yes, I usually use rubber bands on the paper towel or wrapping tubes. Not my invention either; I learned it from my Aunt Naomi while watching her make her date swirl cookies almost 50 years ago now. We do it exactly as Goblin explains.

                              2. re: Goblin

                                Next time, I will definitely use your log method.
                                Thanks for your very helpful report, goblin.

                                1. re: Goblin

                                  Yes yes yes, thank you so much for testing out the log method! I had serious doubts that it would work, but am happy to be proven wrong.

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    Brown Butter Dream Cookies, p. 289.

                                    I just packed these away to eat on Friday night. Just a few notes:

                                    1. I didn't use the tube method. I thought about it, but the dough was really soft and I thought that forming balls would be faster then trying to roll it into a tube.

                                    2. When these baked, they kept the same balled shape. I thought they would spread but they didn't move at all. They don't need to be 2 inches apart on the cookie tray.

                                    3. If you do decide to roll the balls, do them all at once. The dough is much easier to work with and will completely harden once the butter cools. Before I put my second batch into the oven, I wanted to flatten the ball to make the salt stick better when they came out of the oven (esp since it retained it's original shape). But, the ball just crumbled and I couldn't get it to re-assemble properly.

                                    4. My batch made about 4 dozen. A full dozen less then the recipe yield. I don't think the cookies were bigger then called for.

                                    I'll report back once I've served the cookies.

                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                      I really liked these cookies. So buttery and crumbly. The salt was a wonderful additional. A visiting friend just kept popping them into his mouth. He said they were slightly addictive. good thing there were about 4 dozen cookies in total.

                                    2. re: Goblin

                                      Heidesand are a little different, and are slice and bake. These cookies are too good. I didn't have any problems with forming them - I had let the butter cool, perhaps that is why?

                                      1. re: Goblin

                                        My turn with the brown butter dream cookies. Made these Sunday night to decompress from a long weekend on call. Easy to make, as others have described so well. I mixed my still hot butter with the rest of the ingredients and shaped them with a round old- fashioned measuring spoon and had no problems with the shaping (maybe I was expecting it to be much harder).

                                        I agree cookies did not spread hardly at all. I added the salt into the batter and like the salty edge. I sampled a cookie right out of the oven but then packed them away to let them "age". Just eating them now. They are very good. Not earth-shattering, but a very nice sable-type cookie. I think I prefer the "World Peace Cookies," of which these are the non-chocolate cousin.

                                        1. re: Goblin

                                          So here's an addendum to my method listed above: this time I was in a hurry so I didn't let the hot browned butter cool down all that much. The first time I made them I cooled it down to room temp (about 63 F.) This time I mixed the sugar mixture in while the butter was still quite warm, and then added the flour . This warmed dough was much more malleable. I used a small scoop and had no trouble forming the dough into little round balls. Baked them right away rather than forming them into logs for chilling. Like the first time, they didn't spread out much, but stayed somewhat rounded with edges that browned. Tasted better the second day, and even better today.
                                          I wonder if the different experiences folks have had with the crumbliness/dryness/difficulty in shaping is due to the difference in temperature of the cooled browned butter when it is combined with the other ingredients? I kept checking the list of ingredients again this time to see why the dough was so much softer. Same amount of butter; same amount of sugar, flour, etc. The only variable I can see was the temperature of the butter when combining the ingredients. I weigh everything, and the relative humidity in my kitchen was the same as only 10 days ago when I made them the first time.

                                          1. re: Goblin

                                            Brown Butter Dream Cookies, p. 289

                                            I baked these on Wednesday. Following all the reports here, I browned the butter in a larger pan with a curved bottom - saucier shaped - and only let it cool a bit before I mixed up the dough. I then scooped the dough in mounds onto the cookie sheet, as it was too soft to roll into balls, but also very easy to work with. By the time I got to the last few cookies on the second sheet, the dough had cooled and was definitely crumbly, so I think the key to ease is to not let the butter cool much and to work fast. Mine were a bit bigger than the recipe indicated, so I only made around three dozen.

                                            I chose to add salt to the dough, and I put in around 1/3 teaspoon. When I first tasted a cookie, I think the day after baking, I was dismayed to discover that they tasted too salty, but on Saturday, at the magic three-day mark, the salt had mellowed and balanced the browned butter flavor perfectly. Echoing everyone's sentiments, these are cookies to make ahead, as they are much better several days out.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              My butter was semisolid when i got back to it and I didn't have any trouble forming these.

                                        2. Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (page298)

                                          It may be time to hang up my toque blanche.

                                          It wasn’t until the ingredients were bought, the butter softened, the mis-en-place complete, and I was well into the recipe that I realized I had made these before. Twice. I offer in my defense that the name of the recipe was changed; a little. These are the Flat-and-Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Essential New York Times Cookbook that I raved about only five months ago.

                                          These weren’t as good as the batch I reported on here (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7632... ) or a subsequent batch for which I didn’t keep detailed notes. The differences between the first batch and this one? First batch: 7 ounces President-brand butter; odds and ends of 60% and 72% TJs chocolate plus some Callebaut bittersweet; however many walnuts I had on hand. This batch: 8 ounces Plugra; all chocolate was TJs 72%; 2 cups chopped, toasted walnuts.

                                          So what did I learn? I doubt it’s the butter. Both butters are about 82% butterfat and it’s hard for me to believe that one ounce less in the first batch could make much of a difference in taste. The nuts? Nah! I like nuts in my CCCs. Double the amount (if that’s what it was) is okay in my book. So I’ve decided it was the chocolate. I think the all-72% TJs was too dark and bitter and that it needs to be balanced with at least a third, maybe half, of something a little less dark. The Callebaut bittersweet is about 60%.

                                          Something else I learned: I baked the first batch on Silpat. They were really thin. I baked the second batch on parchment, thinking they might not spread as much. No difference that I could discern. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the amount of butter.

                                          I need to make another batch of cookies for a party next weekend. Even though I have a lot of the TJs 72% chocolate left, I’m going to buy some Callebaut to mix in with it. Haven’t decided yet which butter I’ll use. May just try Organic Valley European-Style. I haven’t had it before and it seems to be getting a lot of good reviews. Anyone here using it for their holiday baking?

                                           
                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Wow, those look incredibly good. Going to have to make those for Santa! Thanks for the recc re: chocolate to use. I will plan to use a mix of TJ 72% and some Ghiradelli chips (60%, i think).

                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                              I finally got around to making these as the Christmas Eve cookies for Santa. I used TJ's organic unsalted butter and a mix of Ghiradelli 60% chips and chopped TJ 72% chocolate and a little bit of chopped milk chocolate because I had it and wanted to use it up.

                                              These are a solid, flavorful CCC. A bit more adult in taste than average-- the salty edge really comes through. Surprisingly, I may cut the salt back a bit next time I make them (surprisingly because I am a salt-hound in general and particularly like the salty-sweet combination). Santa and everyone else has been eating these up enthusuastically, but no one has really raved about their superiority to any other chocolate chip cookies. Maybe I should go all out and try them with some high quality butter and Callebaut? After all the rich eating of the past few days, may need to wait a little while.

                                              1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                I made another batch of these the other day and thought they were AWESOME. The difference-- let the dough sit in the fridge for 4 days rather than just an hour and really watched them like a hawk while baking to make sure to take them out when the edges set and the cookie was just turning golden brown. (took 14 and a half minute for me). so good, they're dangerous

                                            2. re: JoanN

                                              Made these again today for a party I'm going to tomorrow, and this was the best batch yet. This time I used Beurre d'Isigny. And because I had just read in Alice Medrich's cookie book that if you're using European-style high-fat butters you should use about a tablespoon less, I used 7 ounces instead of the 8 ounces called for. I also used about three-quarters Callebaut bittersweet and one-quarter TJs 72%. I just can't get over how much better these were than the previous three times I'd made them. Yes, the ingredients cost nearly twice as much, but sometimes it's worth it.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I don't have a recommended butter to use, but do have a question. I'm making some caramel acorn cookies and some slice and bake cranberry pistachio. Both use a good deal of butter.

                                                I forgot the butter this morning and realized it while in the checkout lane. I'm not sure I got what I want. I was going to get Organic Valley unsalted. And ended up with Organic Valley unsalted cultured. Do you think using cultured butter will make a difference in cookies? I usually like uncultured better. Do you think that little twang from the culturing will be noticeable in the cookies? (Thanks for advice.)

                                                1. re: karykat

                                                  If I recall correctly, Cooks Illustrated rated the Organic Valley cultured butter quite highly, although they said that some cultured butters, Echire, for example, had too much of a tang. I've never used Organic Valley, although it's on my to-try list. I suspect you'll be happy with the results. Let us know.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (page298)

                                                    Like Joan above, I am pretty sure I made these out of TENYTC a few months back but no matter, reporting again here. A wonderful CCC recipe. The extra salt really makes them stand out in the flavor department. I used bittersweet chocolate from Surfas.

                                              2. Skillet Blueberry Cobbler p. 279

                                                I confess, I was getting a little disappointed in this book. Each recipe I've tried has been good but not great. This was definitely a huge winner and I hope turns around my experience.

                                                The recipe, first, is ridiculously easy. I don't think it could be easier! In cast iron skillet, you melt butter and then throw in 4 C blueberries and a little sugar. (We used frozen and it is hard to imagine it being much better... I cut back a little on the sugar as I wanted the berries to speak for themselves and am not partial to overly sweet.)

                                                Meanwhile mix 1 C self rising flour, 1 t baking powder, dash of salt and 3/4 cup milk. Spoon the batter into the cast iron skillet and stir around a little. Bake 20 min at 400.

                                                Wow. This was divine. Very 'berry' without being too sweet and the biscuit was perfect in a cobbler kind of way. (The biscuit was pretty blue in places, so you might not want to stir as much as we did for presentation.) 3 of us devoured the entire thing and had blue teeth for a day! This is a serious keeper for me, I will be making it often.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Tom P

                                                  Thanks for highlighting this recipe! I am thinking about making it tonight for desert. Have family staying with us but working all day so need something for desert that doesn't take much effort. (It's either this or ice cream from the freezer!) I know I have frozen blueberries in the freezer. Did you thaw them first, or just throw them in the skillet still frozen? Thanks!

                                                  1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                    I threw them in a bowl of warm water about 15 minutes before I needed them... then drained them.

                                                    I made it again the other night.. huge hit. And, wow, it is easy. I served it this time with some fresh whipped cream, and it was excellent, though it would be the bomb with vanilla ice cream.

                                                    1. re: Tom P

                                                      Awesome. Thanks, Tom! I'll report back how it goes.