Share this article

print logo

VARIATIONS ON A VALENTINE
FROM CHOCOLATE, CHERRIES AND CREAM, THREE CHEFS CREATE A TRIO OF DESSERTS THAT TEMPT THE TASTE BUDS

If chocolate, cherries and heavy cream start you thinking about Valentine's Day desserts, you are not alone.

As a follow-up to our January story where we delivered a basketful of ingredients to three chefs and asked them to create three main dishes, we asked the chefs to concentrate on dessert.

We delivered ingredients - including chocolate, cherries, cream, sliced almonds and Triple Sec (orange) liqueur - to Ruth DeLillo, executive chef at Westwood Country Club; Andy DiVincenzo, chef/owner of Billy Ogden's on William Street, and Lazaro Rojas, pastry chef at Fanny's Restaurant on Sheridan Drive. And we asked them to create a special last course utilizing those ingredients.

The rules were that the chefs could add up to three ingredients of their own choice plus, if necessary, standard pantry ingredients like flour, eggs and sugar. There was no time limit for preparing the dessert, which had to serve four to six people.

It turns out that it was the cherries that really inspired these chefs.

"Originally I thought of making a cake, but the cherries made me think of Valentine's Day and hearts," said DeLillo, who created Bavarian Phyllo Hearts with Chocolate Dipped Cherries.

Her dessert was based on the phyllo sheets that are readily available in large supermarkets. DeLillo also used a box of instant chocolate pudding and a box of instant vanilla pudding. "I felt that they were things most people would have in their pantries and would be easier to make than preparing a classic Bavarian custard from scratch," she explained. "By folding in the Triple Sec and whipped cream, they tasted really good."

At first, DiVincenzo wasn't too happy with the cherries because they weren't sweet. "Tart is tough," he said. "That threw me off for a minute."

But it didn't take long for him to come up with a recipe. "There were a million different ways we could go," the chef said, "but I decided to use just what was in the basket and not add any extra ingredients.

DiVincenzo went to the Internet with the ingredients to see what was suggested, but nothing appealed to him. So he decided to draw on his own heritage by creating Chocolate Almond Tortoni, a variation of the rich, frozen Italian dessert that uses candied fruit.

In his version, DiVincenzo utilized the well-drained cherries and topped everything with simple syrup.

Rojas, on the other hand, loved the idea of tart cherries. "I thought about what a good contrast they would make with something rich like mascarpone (double rich Italian cream cheese)," he explained.

Rojas, who has been the pastry chef at Fanny's for more than three years, also used sheets of phyllo to make Cherry Mascarpone Bon Bons with Triple Sec Honey Sauce.

"It wasn't very hard to do," he insisted, but his creation does involve rolling up the cherries in the pastry.

It's interesting to note that even though the three chefs used the same ingredients, each dessert was unique, as well as delicious.

There were some similarities, of course: all the recipes were relatively easy to make. DeLillo said that the hardest thing about her dessert was cutting the heart shapes from the phyllo sheets. She used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but because of the texture, also had to wield a sharp knife.

All the recipes can be prepared ahead of time, which makes them useful for party givers.

Each chef toasted the almonds ahead of time and all commented on the importance of using good chocolate. (We provided Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate because it has superior flavor.)

For maximum effect, all the desserts were garnished to a farethewell. Dessert is one course that should look pretty.

In DiVincenzo's case, the primary garnish was the syrup and whipped cream. (He likes to whip heavy cream with sugar and a little vanilla.)

Rojas used strawberries and mint leaves as garnish. He showed how to make the strawberries even more impressive by cutting through them but leaving the top attached. Then he fanned out the slices.

"You keep the green top on these berries," he explained, "That keeps the slices together. and the green adds a pretty touch."

The chef made a chocolate shape by drizzling some melted chocolate in a circular pattern on parchment paper and then refrigerating it until it hardened. He stood the shape into a scoop of vanilla ice cream atop the Bon Bons.

"Watch when you melt chocolate," DiVincenzo cautioned, "because if you get water in it, the chocolate will seize up and turn into one big blob."

DiVincenzo suggests you melt the chocolate in the microwave if you can. Keep testing, because even though it's melted, chocolate often holds its outer shape in the microwave.

Each of the chef's recipe had something unique to recommend it. In the case of DeLillo's tarts, it was the heart shape. The smoothness of the Bavarian mixture contrasted with the crisp pastry and the chocolate-dipped cherries were delicious.

Rojas' Bon Bons were fun to look at, and are reminiscent of birthday party crackers. His dessert also played the smooth filling and the crisp phyllo and the tart cherries against the unctuous mascarpone in an unusual and pretty way.

And, you could not help but enjoy how easily DiVincenzo's Tortoni slid down. It would be a perfect foil for a rich meal.

But, a warning: The bittersweet chocolate and toasted almonds in the frozen mixture plus the edginess of the Triple Sec in the syrup (the liqueur is made from both sweet and bitter orange peels) and, yes, those tart cherries make this a dessert strictly for adults.

We give it a full-fledged "R" rating, in fact.

The chefs' creations

RUTH DELILLO'S BAVARIAN PHYLLO HEARTS WITH CHOCOLATE DIPPED CHERRIES

1 package phyllo pastry sheets

Melted clarified butter

1 package vanilla instant pudding

Triple Sec liqueur

1 package chocolate instant pudding

Milk

1 medium size can dark tart cherries

2 bars (4-ounces each) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

1 package sliced almonds

1/2 pint heavy cream

Take 2 sheets of phyllo pastry and brush them with the melted butter. Top with 2 more sheets and brush with butter. Repeat until you've used up a total of 8 sheets. Then layer the remaining pastry sheets in the same way in a separate stack. (You should have used 16 sheets for the two stacks, but remember to keep the pastry covered with a damp cloth unless you are actually working with it.)

Take a heart-shaped cookie cutter and cut out shapes from both stacks. (You should have a total of 24 hearts.) Cut around the cookie cutter with a paring knife if necessary. Bake the hearts in a 350-degree oven until they are golden brown, approximately five to 10 minutes.

Melt one bar of the chocolate. Drain the cherries and pat them dry with a paper towel. Dip about half the cherries in the melted chocolate. Toast the almonds in the oven at about 350 degrees for about five minutes, stirring repeatedly.

Prepare vanilla pudding with milk per package instructions. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the liqueur. Refrigerate.

Prepare the chocolate pudding with milk per package instructions. Refrigerate. Whip the heavy cream until stiff, adding a little sugar if desired. Fold half of the whipped cream into the vanilla pudding and half into the chocolate pudding.

You are now ready to assemble. Take 8 of the baked hearts and pipe or spread vanilla pudding atop each; top with undipped cherries. Cover with 8 more baked hearts and spread chocolate pudding on them.

Finally cover with the remaining 8 baked hearts. Garnish with the chocolate dipped cherries and toasted almonds.

Melt the second bar of chocolate and drizzle over all. Top with a little whipped cream if you have some left. Makes 4 servings.

ANDY DiVINCENZO'S CHOCOLATE ALMOND TORTONI WITH CHERRY SYRUP

1 medium size can dark tart cherries

2 ounces Triple Sec liqueur

2 bars (4-ounces each) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

4 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1/2 pint heavy cream

4 ounces toasted almonds

5 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Drain cherries; combine cherry juice and Triple Sec and place over high heat until the mixture resembles syrup. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and cool. Beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar, cream of tartar and salt. Beat cream with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Incorporate egg white into chocolate with toasted almonds. Fold in whipped cream and drained cherries.

Place all in martini glasses and freeze for at least 4 hours.

To serve: Top with a dollop of whipped cream, drizzled with the cherry syrup. Makes 4 servings.

LAZARO ROJAS' CHERRY MASCARPONE BON BONS WITH TRIPLE SEC HONEY SAUCE

Sauce:

2 ounces honey

4 tablespoons Triple Sec

2 ounces orange juice

2 ounces sliced toasted almonds

Filling:

1 can tart cherries

1 tablespoon Triple Sec

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut in small chunks

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

8 sheets phyllo dough

2 ounces melted butter

Garnish for each Bon Bon:

1 scoop vanilla ice cream

Fanned strawberry

Fresh mint sprigs

4 chocolate shapes, made from 4 ounces chocolate

In a medium saucepan, bring the sauce ingredients to a boil and set aside.

In another medium saucepan, simmer the cherries and Triple Sec over medium heat until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Cool.

Layer pastry sheets with melted butter using a pastry brush and keeping pastry covered with a damp towel when you are not working with it. Cut the resulting large stack in half so you have 2 layered stacks. Cut each of these stacks in 8 pieces.

Place some cherry mixture in the center of one piece; add mascarpone. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Fold the four sides of the phyllo pastry over the filling and roll up, starting from the bottom.

Place this roll on another piece of pastry and roll it up again. Pinch the ends together. Repeat with remaining filling and pastry. You will have 8 Bon Bons.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

To serve: Make chocolate shapes by melting remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and drizzle it into four round shapes on parchment paper with a spoon. Refrigerate.

Drizzle the sauce around each plate; set a scoop of ice cream in the center and arrange two Bon Bons on either side. Sprinkle powdered sugar around the dish and garnish with strawberries and mint sprigs. Then place round chocolate shape on top of ice cream. Makes 4 servings.

The ingredients:

The ingredients supplied by The News:

2 bars (4 ounces each) Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 can tart cherries

1 small bottle Triple Sec liqueur

1 package sliced almonds

Cost: Just under $10 per chef.

The rules:

Create a dessert from these ingredients that can be prepared almost completely the day before it is served.

The dessert should serve from four to six people.

At lease a small portion of each ingredient given to the chefs had to be incorporated into the recipe.

Up to three other ingredients could be added, but they had to be easily obtainable in area supermarkets. Staples such as eggs, butter, vanilla and sugar could also be used.

There are no comments - be the first to comment