By Margarita Venegas
Must because dessert comes last doesn't mean it deserves any less attention than the rest of the meal.
Presentation is just as important as the quality of the dessert, said Chef Ryan Raney. When preparing the a meal dishes should be covered tightly with foil wrap to ensure the food does not overcook or dry out, and all courses should be made before guests arrive, he said.
"When having a dinner party make the desserts beforehand and have them plated up in the refrigerator or in the freezer," Raney said. "Doing so will allow for a smooth-running party. Be sure to garnish the plate at the end to ensure the dishes beauty."
Spices can add flavor to a desserts presentation, as well, Raney said. When using spices, keep in mind that they lose flavor quickly. The problem can be solved when, for example, a recipe calls for nutmeg, using a whole nutmeg and grating it as needed, he said.
The pink peppercorns in white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie sandwich with pink peppercorn ice cream and Godiva chocolate sauce (recipe follows) are not really peppercorns, although they are berries of the same tree. They are an example of a spice that goes a long way, Raney said.
"They have a wonderful flavor, sweet and a little touch of pepper," he said. "Use the pink peppercorn in moderation. Be sure to grind it coarsely in a coffee grinder before each use because pepper, as do other spices, loses its flavor quite quickly."
1 quart heavy cream
3/4 cup egg yolks
7/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place eggs and sugar in mixing bowl and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix. In a saucepan bring cream to a simmer and remove from heat. Slowly pour into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously. Let the mixture cool, then pour into souffle cups. Place cups in shallow roasting pan, then into the oven. Pour hot water into roasting pan until it is half way up the sides of the souffle dishes. Bake at 275 degrees F for approximately 35 minutes or until set. Take out of oven and chill the desserts.
Before serving, top the custard with a thin layer of sugar and place under a preheated broiler until sugar is golden brown and melted. Use care not to burn the sugar. Serve immediately with fresh berries and mint leaves to garnish.
Pecan rum tart
1/2 cup butter (softened)
Mix butter and sugar in bowl with electric mixer on high until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, sour cream and vanilla. When all is incorporated, fold in the nuts. In separate mixing bowl, bring the egg whites to a stiff peak with mixer and the fold in the nut mixture. Pour the mix in the pie shell and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until center is set. Cool the tart.
Before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce.
White chocolate and macadamia nut cookie sandwich
with pink peppercorn ice cream and Godiva chocolate sauce
4 macadamia nut cookies (Pepperidge Farm is the brand Chef Raney recommends)
1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream (Hagan Daaz is the brand Chef Raney recommends)
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns crushed
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons Godiva chocolate liqueur
Make the sauce first. Heat the cream and pour over the chocolate pieces, stirring until smooth. Add the corn syrup and liqueur. Keep warm. Next, partially thaw ice cream. Fold in pink peppercorns. To assemble the cookie, place half of the ice cream on one cookie and place the other cookie on top. Press down to seal. Be sure the ice cream covers it on the inside. Do the same for the other one. Take a knife and smooth out the sides of the cookies. Place in freezer to set.
To serve, place cookie in the center of a plate and drizzle the chocolate sauce over top. Sprinkle several peppercorns around the plate.