Friday, March 30, 2012

Dinner Party - The Dessert

Trio of  Desserts
 Desserts are the final part of the meal - unless you count coffee & tea (which I normally serve with homemade chocolates or biscuits) and the last chance to make an impression. Desserts can be easily prepared ahead (I wouldn't even attempt to serve a chocolate souffle or fondant) and you as the host can finally relax - it is almost over and all is said and done.

I would love to be able to make these amazing artistic creations that the pastry chefs of the world are producing - I am not able so I try to make the best of my skills and try to serve up a treat nevertheless. In this case, I opted for a trio of desserts (yes, I hear you - how can this be simple - trust me, it is). I had some rhubarb in the garden but not enough to make a crumble or ice-cream with it, so the idea of a soup came up (and since I found some lovely mini terrines in Meadows & Byrne - I thought it would look stunning on a plate). Based on the soup, what better goes with rhubarb than apples and cinnamon, so I decided on an apple crumble tart with cinnamon ice cream - one word - stunning (if I say so myself).
Cinnamon Ice Cream

On ice cream, if you love ice cream, you will have to invest in an scream maker. There are plenty on the market and when ever I have some cash left over I will invest the €400 for a 'proper' ice cream machine (I need to freeze mine for at least 24 hours before I can use it - while a 'proper' one can be just plugged in). But for normal portion of ice cream - the simple version will do.

I served the crumble as a tart which looks so much better when served. The crumble was mixed with cinnamon and vanilla sugar which blended in nicely with the rest of the desserts - just be careful not to overdo it with the cinnamon. I make my own vanilla sugar - just put caster sugar with some vanilla pods in a jar, shake well and leave to infuse for a few weeks.

Trio of  Desserts

Cinnamon Ice cream

150g caster sugar
5 egg yolks
400ml cream (or half milk)
2 cinnamon sticks (or cinnamon bark - more fragrant so you need less)

Infusing the cream
In a pan heat the cream with the cinnamon sticks (try not to over boil it) and stir a few times to avoid building of skin. Leave to infuse for 30 mins.

In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar (you can add a bit of ground cinnamon if you really love cinnamon) until pale and creamy. Combine with the infused milk and strain into the ice cream maker. Churn until the custard turns into ice cream (the length depends on the machine, please read the manufacturer instructions). You can simply pour the ice cream into a freezing container and scoop the ice cream out later or you line some moulds with clingfilm and fill these with the ice cream. Lining the mould with clingfilm makes it easier to remove later.

Rhubarb Soup

Rhubarb Soup
100g Caster Sugar (or vanilla sugar)
100ml water

Preheat oven to 140C. Mix the sugar with the water in an ovenproof pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until you get a syrup. Add the chopped rhubarb and let it infuse. Place in the oven and leave there between 30 - 60 mins. Keep an eye on it. The syrup will evaporate and the rhubarb gets all mushy.

Remove - you shouldn't be needing to process the rhubarb at all as it should be soft enough to stir it with a fork. If it is too thick add some more sugar syrup. Chill until needed.

Apple Crumble Tart

Sweet shortcrust pastry (make yourself or buy in)
Apples (cored, peeled and chopped)
caster sugar (or vanilla sugar)
150g plain flour
60g caster sugar (mixed with some ground cinnamon if you like)
100g butter, unsalted

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a tart tin (or individual ones) with the pastry and blindbake for 10 mins. Take out and remove the baking beans (if using) and brush the surface of the pastry with beaten egg white. Return to the oven for a further 5 mins (or until golden brown - be careful not to brown them too much as it can taste bitter).

Meanwhile, place the sugar and apples in a saucepan and cook until soft (stir it from time to time to avoid the apples sticking to the bottom of the pan).

For the crumble, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs and mix in the sugar.

Put the cooked apples in the baked pastry case and top with the crumble mixture. Return to the oven and bake for about 15 mins until the crumble gets nice and crisp.

Arrange all 3 desserts on a plate and serve

Bon Appetit

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