Friday, March 27, 2009

Easter Dessert Recipes: Check out these favorite holiday recipes from local pastry chefs.

Rhubarb Almond Crumble
Toni Roberts, C-House
When Executive Pastry Chef Toni Roberts thinks of spring, she thinks of rhubarb. Growing up, the succulent stalks were a staple on her family's Easter table. She loves this recipe because it's simple to prepare and makes the perfect dessert for welcoming the season. Roberts notes that the Moscato wine can be left out of the recipe, but says that it really enhances the flavor of the rhubarb. And, the rest of the bottle can be an excellent accompaniment to enjoy as a nice treat with the finished crumble.

2 1/2 lbs rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp lemon juice (zest and reserve for crumble)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup Moscato

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine rhubarb, sugars, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and Moscato. Pour over rhubarb mixture and combine.

4. Fill either a 9” x 9” pan or ramekins with the filling. If using ramekins, leave an inch of space between the filling and the rim.

1 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup (3 oz) sliced almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
8 oz cold butter, cubed
1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low until the butter is smaller than peas.

2. Sprinkle generously over the top of the rhubarb filling. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the tops are golden brown, 30-45 minutes, depending on pan or ramekins used.

3. Allow to cool a bit. Serve with vanilla or almond ice cream.

Brown Butter Carrot Cake
Stephanie Prida, one sixtyblue
When it comes to Easter Sunday, pastry chef Stephanie Prida of one sixtyblue likes to stick with the classics. "This one is a little more special," says Prida of her indulgent dessert, "because it incorporates brown butter and it gives the cake a more toasty flavor." She notes that the brown butter adds a moist consistency, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill carrot cake. And of course, it wouldn't be carrot cake without the classic cream-cheese frosting. If you're not up to the challenge, you can grab a $7 slice of the stuff during one sixtyblue's Easter brunch.

1/2 pound butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp B. Powder
1 tsp B. soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla paste
2 cup carrots, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 325. Brown butter over low heat and strain. Next, sift the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

2. In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment combine the sugars, add eggs and vanilla one at a time. Add sifted dry ingredients. Slowly stream in brown butter. Add grated carrots last.

3. Bake in mini loaf pans for 15 minutes.

115 grams butter 225 grams powdered sugar 4 grams vanilla extract 1 vanilla bean 170 grams cream cheese

1. Cream butter and vanilla bean.

2. Add sifted powder sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and cream cheese and beat until mixture is white and fluffy (no cream cheese lumps).

Lavender Scented Panna Cotta
Anna Jarosz, Birch River Grill
You won't need to worry about preheating or over-baking anything with Anna Jarosz's sweet Easter treat. The Birch River Grill pastry chef welcomes spring to the suburbs with fresh lavender and citrus elements, while adding a light sweetness and a clean, refreshing bite to the dessert.

2 sheets gelatin
1 tsp. dried lavender flower
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Bloom gelatin. Steep the rest of the ingredients, except buttermilk, together for half an hour.

2. Strain all ingredients from step 2. Add gelatin. Add buttermilk and whisk together

3. Place in ramekin and let set in cooler for 1-2 hours.

1/4 cup apricot puree
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 sheet gelatin

1. Bloom gelatin. In a sauce pot heat the other ingredients. Add steps 1 and 2 all together.

2. Spoon over cooled panna cotta and place in cooler to set.

Hawaiian Sweet Potato & Golden Beet Tart with Creme Fraiche
Carol Wallack and Gerardo Villagomez, sola
Pastry novices may tremble in their non-slip kitchen-safe shoes over this one, but any skilled hand will appreciate the complexity of this Easter treat, created by sola executive chef and owner Carol Wallack and pastry chef Gerardo Villagomez. "I'm always the one who steers towards the savory dessert," says Wallack. And this alternative is no exception with its unique combination of sweet potatoes, golden beets and miso. "I absolutely love it. The beets are local and sweet from Werp Farms in Michigan. They are slow roasted and then candied a little bit more. We use Hawaiian sweet potatoes a lot here at sola and they are the perfect accent. Gerardo makes the creme fraiche in house, and folds in miso for a slightly savory finish."

16 oz. each, Hawaiian sweet potatoes, and golden beets, 1/4-inch dice

For each vegetable:
1 quart water
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick of lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves

1. Combine water, sugar, vanilla bean, salt, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in two separate pots. Boil sweet potatoes and beets separately in mixtures until tender (about 10 minutes each). Drain both, saving liquid from beets. Let vegetables rest in refrigerator for 24 hours.

10 oz cream
5 oz buttermilk
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 oz white miso

1. Pour cream and buttermilk into a container. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 48 hours. Whisk, and then cool.

2. Once cooled, whip together with ginger powder, sugar, vanilla and white miso.

1 cup liquid from the beet confit
2 oz. white miso

1. Boil together and reduce by half.

1.4 oz butter, softened
1.6 oz powdered sugar
1.7 oz honey
1.7 oz almond flour
1 oz egg whites
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1. Combine butter, powdered sugar, and honey with a paddle in the mixer. Add whites. Incorporate the dry ingredients.

2. Roll out dough, cut out circles. Bake flat on a silpat until golden, about 12-15 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove from oven, wait about 20 seconds and lift to lay over a small bowl to get a formed shape of the bowl. Let cool.

3. To plate: put a spoon of miso creme fraiche inside the cookie bowl. Spoon beets and sweet potatoes in and add another spoon of the creme fraiche on top. Ladle a spoonful of sauce onto plate around the "bowl." Garnish with a piece of mint and crushed almonds.

Hot Cross Buns
Jove Hubbard, David Burke's Primehouse
Executive pastry chef Jove Hubbard finds his favorite Easter treat in family tradition. "My mother always makes these on Easter," says Hubbard. "She loves to bake, and this reminds me of growing up."

1 cup warm milk (105°–115°F.)
two 1/4-ounce packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 tsp superfine granulated sugar
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. In a small bowl stir together milk, yeast, and 1 tsp granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.

2. In a large bowl sift together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cut butter into bits and with your fingertips or a pastry blender, blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Lightly beat 1 whole egg with egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixture, apricots, raisins, and zests. Stir mixture until a dough is formed.

4. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

5. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

6. Butter 2 large baking sheets. On a floured surface with floured hands, knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 400°F. While buns are rising, lightly beat remaining egg with superfine sugar to make an egg glaze. Brush buns with egg glaze. Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

8. Mix the lemon juice and powdered sugar. Place in a piping bag and pipe crosses onto the buns. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This article was first published on Centerstage.

Elegance on an Electric Burner

I have a tendency of forgetting the usuals-- things like names, birthdays and anniversaries. Things everybody forgets from time to time. But it's become a real issue since I've been pregnant and my poor husband gets the worst of it. It's now as bad as forgetting my next sentence, what I did last weekend or having the gas turned on in our new apartment.

We managed to endure an entire month in this place without cooking gas, which, at least for my chef-in-training husband, was no easy feat. Personally, I was delighted with the challenge of preparing all my meals without the convenience of heat. But you can only eat so many raw vegetables before you get the urge to kill someone with a carrot. So after about a week, I resorted to a tiny electric burner.

Now we were living luxuriously on pastas, boiled potatoes and soups. Chad still wasn't pleased. He had just started his baking class and reminded me every day just how helpful it would be if he could use the oven. After a few more weeks of blatant reminders and bland foods, I made amends. First, I hassled the folks at the gas company until they finally approved me for gas (I still don't understand why this is such a grueling process-- seriously people, it's cooking gas!) and then I whipped up a batch of no-bake cookies on that itty bitty electric burner for my patient hubby.

Now I realize that we're still technically newlyweds, but not once have I impressed my husband in the kitchen. Like I've said before, I'm barely even allowed in that room when he's home. And when I mentioned the term "no-bake" cookies, he looked utterly confused and severely skeptical. But after one bite (OK, maybe it was more like three), he was a believer-- not in my cooking abilities, mind you, but in this seemingly ridiculous dessert recipe. Oh, and he never brought up the gas issue again.

No-bake cookie recipe
Courtesy of


* 2 cups white sugar
* 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/2 cup margarine
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 pinch salt
* 3 cups quick cooking oats
* 1/2 cup peanut butter
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, margarine, milk, and salt to a rapid boil for 1 minute.
2. Add quick cooking oats, peanut butter, and vanilla; mix well.
3. Working quickly, drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper, and let cool.

***Note: I recommend using a candy thermometer until it reaches 210/120, as the boil time on these cookies means everything. Too long and you've got dry crumbles, not long enough and you end up with a big pile of chocolate goop.

This article was first published on
Photo: flickr / fatalysis

Eat Your Words: It's not a joke; you really can consume the creations at the Edible Books Festival.

As a culture, we're obsessed with food—preparing it, sharing it, smelling it and most of all, eating it. French gastronome and author Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) put it best in his celebrated book, The Physiology of Taste, when he wrote, "Gourmandise is an impassioned, rational and habitual preference for all objects that flatter the sense of taste." And sometimes, those objects just happen to be books.

But we're not talking about your average paperback or hardcover bestsellers here. No, the objects in question are showcased annually at the International Edible Books Festival and are handmade from edible mediums like seaweed, filo dough, cake, spam, hot dogs, fondant and rice paper. And with today's innovative culinary techniques and resources like edible ink and play-dough, this palate-pleasing literature is looking (and tasting) better than ever.

The festival has become a worldwide trend thanks to its founders, librarian Judith A. Hoffberg and artist Beatrice Coron. The first International Edible Books Festival was held in 2000 and the event has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, reaching numerous countries. To date, these include Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia and, of course, the United States of America, where our very own Columbia College will host its 10th Annual Edible Books fest this year on Wednesday, April 1. The "foolish" date isn't just a coincidence, either; it happens to be the birthday of Brillat-Savarin.

This year's festival will feature work from culinary artists, literature-loving chefs and plenty of bibliophiles. The two-hour event will take place at the Columbia College Library (600 S. Michigan, third floor) with book judging at 6 p.m., followed by book eating at 7 p.m. Everyone in the community is invited to participate, bearing in mind one golden rule: the artwork must be edible and book-related (registration deadline is Friday, March 27).

If you're at a loss for words (pun intended), check out the photo gallery on the International Edible Books Festival website, where you'll find plenty of inspirational pieces from past events. Some of our favorites include literary puns like the "Tequila Mockingbird," portraying a faux dead bird floating in a glass of tequila, and the more literal "Book of Pi," featuring a rectangular slab of pie with number cutouts in its crust.

Perhaps eating a book isn't quite what the French gourmand had in mind when he constructed his own popular work on good eating. But surely his sense of taste would've been at least mildly flattered by a palm-size chapbook made from fresh snap peas, or a crunchy graham-cracker novel bound together by strings of bright red licorice. And if we truly are what we eat, according to Brillat-Savarin, then what better to be than a literary work of art?

If you're interested in participating as a bookmaker, you can register at book& or by calling (312) 369-6630. Entries must be dropped off on the day of the event between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Columbia College Library. Admission is $10 per person (free for those who enter an edible book) and $5 for Friends of the Library. Tickets are available at the door (cash and check only); all proceeds will benefit the college's Center for Book and Paper Arts' Equipment Fund.

This article was first published on Centerstage.