Monday, November 2, 2009

The Sweet Flavors of Fall

Fall is my favorite season. The days grow shorter, the weather cools and the bright, juicy fruits of summer give way to the burnished yellows, oranges, reds and browns of apples, pears, persimmons, quinces, cranberries, pomegranates, squashes and sweet potatoes. To celebrate the change of seasons I've put several new desserts on our menu joining our Chai Creme Caramel with its infusion of cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, clove and black peppercorn ... believe me, if fall had a flavor it would be this dessert (see 9/28 post below). Our seasonal lineup now also includes Sweet Potato Tart, Guinness Ginger Cake and Apple-Cranberry Strudel.

I make the Sweet Potato Tart by roasting orange sweet potatoes until they're soft, then pureeing the flesh. I blend the puree with eggs, milk, cream, brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger, then pour the filling into pecan tart shells and bake them at a low temperature so they bake evenly and gently. The tarts are garnished with a dollop of toasted meringue, and flanked by candied pecans and a compote of butternut squash, Granny Smith apples and maple syrup. The gently spiced, creamy filling marries beautifully with the nutty pecan crust and the maple poached squash and apples - it's a delicious change from the usual pumpkin pie!

The Guinness Ginger Cake is packed with flavor - it has molasses, dark brown sugar, Guinness, ground ginger and cinnamon, and lots of candied ginger. I wrap the top of each little cake with slices of caramel-braised D'Anjou pears, then top them with lightly sweetened whipped cream and a candied pear chip. Since the taste of the Guinness is subtle in the cake I emphasize the flavor of the beer by making a sauce with it. I slowly reduce Guinness with dark brown sugar, then streak the sauce across the plate and place the cake on top. The cake is served warm so that the deep flavors really come through - the sweet pears are such a great complement to the moist, gingery cake and slight bitterness of the sauce - yummy!

Last, but certainly not least, is our Apple-Cranberry Strudel. In fact, it's already become very popular with our customers and staff as well. I slice Granny Smith apples, add dried cranberries and gently cook the fruit with brandy, white and brown sugar, and butter until the apples are just tender. The fruit is drained and the cooking juices returned to the stove to reduce to a lovely caramel, with cinnamon and a touch of cloves stirred in at the end. The fruit is then added back to the caramel and the mixture is laid out on phyllo sheets that have been buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. The strudels are rolled up like giant burritos and baked until golden brown. I make an apple-brandy sauce by reducing apple juice, brandy, lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon to a syrup, which is drizzled over the warm slices of strudel and French Vanilla ice cream. Oh, is it good - warm apples, sweet-tart cranberries, cold ice cream and flaky pastry ... not the mention the brandy ...

I hope you can join us for dessert - the sweet flavors of fall won't last forever!

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