Thursday, June 01, 2006

Individual Desserts

There is something very appealing about individual desserts. They are beautiful to look at, fun to prepare, and a foolproof way to make your guests feel special. But I have another very important reason for making smaller desserts. I find that if what I eat is pleasing both to the eye and to the palate, I can be satisfied with much smaller portions. This way, we can have dessert without worrying about overindulging, and we don't have to deal with leftovers for several days to come. Last but not least, keeping the size small gives me an excuse to try new recipes more frequently.

The first miniature is an Apricot Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. I posted the original recipe (from a Pillsbury booklet) a while ago. This time, I made a 6" cofee cake and 4-3" miniatures using the original measurements. I normally use raspberry preserves for this, but this time apricot preserves were handy and the apricot flavor went well with the almondy undertones in this coffee cake. This is a really good recipe, and those of you who like cheese in desserts but think that cheesecakes are just too cheesy, should give this one a try. I am posting a slice picture from the 6" cake so that you can see the different layers.

The next in line is another mini dessert with apricots, almonds and cream cheese -- an interesting coincidence. I posted Dried Apricot and Almond Cream Tart in the early days of Our Patisserie. The tartlet you see in the picture below took more than its required share of heat in the top oven shelf; hence the blackened apricots. In general, this tart is difficult to cut into slices in its 9" size, so smaller versions make serving much easier.

And now for the really small --almost bitesize-- ones... These raspberry topped tartlets were inspired by a dessert posted in a Turkish food blog. The original recipe used sweet pastry crust, but I opted for my regular pastry crust which uses neither sugar nor eggs. I like it because it can be used for both sweet and savory tarts, is a cinch to prepare and can be rolled without any refrigeration. Half the recipe yielded about 10 mini tartlet bottoms. After blind-baking and cooling the shells, I spooned a little bit of raspberry preserves in the bottom of each. This not only adds a complexity of flavor, but keeps the shells from getting soggy fast. Then I filled the shells with pastry cream and topped them with raspberries.

My plan was to glaze the fruit with some strawberry banana gelatin on the verge of setting. However, since I kept the gelatin in the freezer a little too long, it was globby as I spooned it on the tartlets. Oh, well...

The last dessert of this post again features raspberries. This was inspired by Michel Roux's Mini Berry Tartlets in Finest Desserts. I was extravagant in my decoration with cream and fruit. He tops each tartlet with a small dollop of cream --so that the almond filling is still visible, a single raspberry and a mint sprig; and that looks lovely, too.

Once again, I do not have exact measurements, but I will outline the preparation. I used my regular tart pastry and piped a little raspberry preserves into the bottom of each shell. Then I spooned some almond filling into the shells. (I used the filling described in the Normandy Almond Tart.)

I baked the shells until the filling set. After they cooled, I decorated the tartlets with mascarpone cream (whipped with confectioners' sugar and vanilla to taste), raspberries, blackberries and mint leaves. Right before serving, I glazed the fruit with warmed apricot preserves. We devoured these the day they were made; and Roux recommends that this should be so.