Crema Catalana

I am a lover of Crème Brûlée and was thrilled to learn that the quintessential Catalan dessert, Crema Catalana was very similar in structure to the Crème Brûlée…now to figure out how they are different! Where Crème Brûlée is a cream flavored with Vanilla Beans (check out my recipe for Crème Brûlée here!), Crema Catalana is steeped with a combination of citrus zests and cinnamon.

Most of the recipes I have seen for Crema Catalana call for a cream cooked on the stove top with cornstarch, and I gave several versions a try…they were ok…but I prefer a baked cream, so I incorporated my technique for the Crème Brûlée, for beautiful and consistent results.

Brazo de Gitano Cake with Persimmon Jam

This is the thought process that created our Brazo de Gitano. I saw a lot of rolled cakes during our trip to Barcelona. This cake, sometimes referred top as the Swiss Roll, is as the name implies, from Switzerland, but has made its way into French, Spanish, and Pan-European cuisines. Each culture alters the fillings based on tastes and local produce. In Barcelona, the flavor of the day is Persimmon. I love persimmon and figured it would be a beautiful flavor to finish our dinner.

Berry Tiramisu

I wanted something relatively light and bright to finish the meal. But what? A cheese plate didn’t feel right. I had a few tubs of berries in the fridge and a container of Mascarpone that needed to be used in some way or another before it’s expiration date. I decided to make a trifle of sorts, well as far as I understand a trifle. Really… I wanted to make a Fruit Tiramisu. I whipped up my Mascarpone with a bit of whipping cream. Instead of soaking my lady fingers in coffee and rum, I soaked them in orange juice to moisten them up a bit but to brighten up the flavors. I was doing this all on fly and was nervous for the result.

Smetannik Cake

Smetannik means “the one that is made of sour cream” and it is my all time favorite Russian cake. When we first came to North Carolina and found an International Grocery (read Russian store), we started buying their frozen Smetannik by the pound. It was THE celebration cake. It would get cut down to whatever size we wanted and thawed to a delicious creamy cake.

Cranberry Custard Tart

Cranberry is a standard Thanksgiving flavor, so I wanted to make a bit of a nod to it especially since I refused to follow any other aspects of the American tradition. The cranberry is cooked down and paired with some orange juice for a wonderful and complex flavor. I prepare the recipe in a 12 inch deep tart pan, if you are using a standard 9 inch tart pan, simply divide the recipe in half.

Baba au Rhum

But no meal is complete without dessert, right? I was originally planning some sort of tiramisu since I had a some Marscapone cheese that needed to be used…but this was a French dinner not an Italian one. Nico suggested a Baba au Rhum, and I decided to make it and serve it with a Marscapone Whipped Cream.

Of Crème Brûlée and Cognac

Is there a more amazing combination? I am have had a hard time finding one. I have become really interested in cognac of late. I have been doing a lot of reading and tasting different types. One of my favorite things in the world is when my dad comes over for an evening of cognac and philosophical conversations.

Perfect Cheese Plate

In America, the cheese course is something that happens at the beginning of the meal, as an appetizer of sorts. However, in France, the cheese course is a bridge between the main dishes and the dessert, in fact, it is frequently served in place of dessert. I really wanted to celebrate that idea on my birthday (and it meant I didn’t have to cook quite as much!).