Last week my colleague Erin was kind enough to bring some of the peanut butter chocolate cake she'd baked to the office to share. A sour cream chocolate cake to start, covered in peanut butter frosting, and then glazed with peanut butter-chocolate ganache. My God, was it good, and sinfully rich (recipe here, if I've piqued your interest).
It got me thinking about some of the amazing desserts I've tried over the years -- some made my friends and/or family, others made by yours truly. My friend Olga is an incredible baker, and her baklava is to die for. Perhaps I will see if she'd be willing to share her secret recipe in an upcoming post. She also once made a lemon mascarpone cheesecake that was published in the LCBO's Food and Drink magazine. That recipe is available here and if you have company coming over it not only tastes delicious but it looks impressive. The trick, I recall Olga telling me at the time as I swooned over the silky texture of the cake, is to beat the cream cheese for a long time. Patience is most definitely rewarded in this case.
I think my love of baking comes from my mom, who was always baking when my sister and I were kids. From apple pies to pecan pies, squares of all varieties (my favourites were the turtle bars and mint chocolate squares), cookies, homemade sheet cakes for our birthdays (chocolate cake and chocolate icing more often than not, although she switched to mocha icing at one point, which was also delish). But my favourite 'Mom' dessert is also probably one of the simplest -- fruit crumble. A base of mixed berries, or apples, sometimes peaches in the height of summer, covered with a layer of butter oats and flour, spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg, baked in the over until the fruit is bubbling and the topping crisp and golden. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side it's the most comforting of comfort foods. Rustic, and uncomplicated.
I've made some interesting desserts over the years -- last year I made a Marsala wine-spiked mocha semifreddo that was quite delicious and surprisingly light-feeling, given the amount of cream involved. I also made a chocolate amaretti cake that had a crust ever so light and crisp, giving way to a moist, dense filling. Part cookie, part cake, and entirely scrumptious.
With friends coming over for dinner on Saturday I'm thinking it's time to attempt another challenging dessert. But what? A few recipes have caught my eye, including:
1) Chocolate Caramel Tart (from the latest edition of Saveur) - this is Saveur's cover recipe this month and it looks mouth-wateringly good. It's taken from the menu of Brooklyn's Marlow & Sons, one of the restaurants featured in the issue.
2) Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Mascarpone Frosting (from Bon Appetit) - I see two problems with making this spectacularly rich-looking cake. 1) My friends aren't coffee drinkers. 2) There's no way the frosting would survive long enough to end up on the cake. Me. A spoon. End of story.
3) Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (also from Bon Appetit) - I admit it, I'm a sucker for cream cheese frosting. Was there ever a time that carrot cake was eaten without it? I don't even want to imagine it.
4) Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Port Glaze (from Gourmet) - Are you sensing a cream cheese theme here? Yes, I think I'm leaning in that direction. Although spring is here and part of me is looking for light options, I can have fruit salad any day of the week. That said, there's fruit in this dish, so it's not all bad, right?
At this point I'm still undecided - make one of these lovelies, or go another direction entirely. What are your thoughts? Do you have an out-of-this-world dessert recipe you'd like to share? If so comment below or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.