All Things Yum: Flexing Your Dessert Muscles!

All Things Yum: Flexing Your Dessert Muscles, by Mary Waserstein
I like desserts. A Lot. During the week, I usually get by with a bag of gummy bears, but on the weekend and in particular when we are having a proper dinner party, I like to go the extra mile and make something special.

Baking for some reason makes me feel good. I mean I feel wholesome, bordering on pious when I see what I’ve made with own two hands. The other upside is that your guests will be super impressed. Overall, making dessert is a win-win for everyone and frankly once you get the knack of it – rather seamless.

The other great thing is even if you’re not a baker – I guarantee you have in your pantry the necessary ingredients to bake something quite tasty. The three pillars of baking are flour, sugar and eggs. If you have these items, then you are off the races.

These are not fussy recipes and allow for a fair bit of error. Your puff pastry is not quite how you would like it to look- dollop some extra filling on. The Upside Down cake decides it’s a bit too attached to the pan and not ready to move on- just pull the reticent berries off, patch away and serve with loads of whipped cream. All that matters is that it tastes great and it will.

The Ricotta Lemon Curd Napoleon with fresh fruit is always a crowd pleaser and makes you look like a rock star. Frozen Puff Pastry will make even the most challenged cook punch above their weight class. Puff Pastry is one of my Pantry Staples. It has an absurdly long shelf life and can be turned into all types of divine things.

The lemon curd is super easy to make and can be made ahead – as well as the Puff Pastry bit which needs to cool and can be assembled on the sly while your guests sip a glass of something between courses.

Feel free to mix up the type of fruit you use- I love how blackberries and lemon taste together – but there is really no wrong answer as long as the fruit is ripe and fresh. The presentation on this is very elegant and I love to dress a dessert up with a silver platter.

Upside Down Cake is one of my son’s favorites. I make it year round depending on what’s in season. When fruit is not at its peak, I like to use frozen berries. It’s an intensely satisfying dish and is perfect with a dollop of whip cream on top. I always found something homey about this cake and love it as the finale to a night of grilling.

The Ricotta Lemon Curd Napoleon

The first thing is to make the lemon curd. This can be made a day ahead – you want it fully chilled before you assemble.

Lemon Curd

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart saucepan.
Cut butter into bits and add to mixture.
Cook mixture, stirring constantly, over moderately low heat until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Remove puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to thaw for 20 mins. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 430 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Cut each sheet of Puff Pastry in half and place on baking sheet. Now comes the fun part with a fork poke the pastry all over (this is called docking and prevents the pastry from rising too much) sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar and cook for about 20 mins. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack completely.

Fold the Ricotta into the lemon curd. Now place one piece of the puff pastry onto a platter dollop 1/3 of the Lemon mixture evenly across the pastry sprinkle with fresh blackberries, place another piece and repeat. End with a final piece of puff pastry. When you are ready to serve cut with a serrated knife and enjoy.

Berry Upside Down Cake

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup corn meal
2 tspns baking power
½ tspn salt
2 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn orange zest
½ stick butter
½ cup sugar
1 bag frozen raspberries
1 bag blueberries frozen

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside. Grate 1 tsp. of orange zest and set aside.

In a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) in the bowl add butter and sugar and mix on medium high for about 2 minutes or until fluffy. Turn the mixer down to medium slow and add eggs one at a time until fully mixed. Add orange zest. Add the flour in 2 parts alternating with the milk and finally add the sour cream. Turn off mixer and give the batter a couple of good stirs to make sure that it is well mixed.

In a medium cast iron skillet over medium high heat add ½ stick of butter and ½ cup of sugar. You want to cook this for about 5-7 minutes stirring consistently until it begins to turn golden brown. Turn off heat and add the berries evenly over the pan- it will splatter- just be careful. Spoon the batter evenly over, making sure that it reaches to side. Place in oven and cook for 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Now comes the death defying part. Feel free to partake in some liquid courage. Put your oven mitts on. Place a flat plate which is wider than the pan and flip over. Slowly remove the pan and Voila! If any of the berries have stuck to the pan just place them back on the cake. This cake is wonderful served at room temperature with a dollop of whip cream.

** Guest Post written by Mary Waserstein. Mary is a lifelong New Yorker and East Hamptonite. All Things Yum was born from Mary’s love of cooking and entertaining as well as interior design. The featured recipes vary from the mid-week quickie to the more involved recipes for the leisurely weekend. Mary’s recipes focus on homestyle meals that work equally well for the casual family dinner or a more upscale evening. Throw in a dash of design and you have All Things Yum! http://www.allthingsyum.com **