Cheer Du Jour

A little cheer to forget your troubles, and better yet, to toast with a glass of bubbles!

Chef Gale Gand Made A Special Holiday Dessert for Me…and Shared her Secrets!

on December 4, 2012

Well, for me and 150 or so of my fellow library patrons. Yesterday was one of those dreaded Mondays, but one thought pulled me through the eight crawling hours of work…dessert by Gale Gand! While I dream of enjoying a luxurious meal at her restaurant, TRU, my budget shrieks at the idea. In addition to her dizzying array of roles (chef, restaurateur, television star, author, instructor, chef in residence at Elawa Farm, rootbeer innovator, etc., etc.), Chef Gand gives talks/demos to area groups. I was lucky enough to be one of the audience members during her demonstration of a holiday-perfect combination of velvety chocolate pots-de-creme, topped with a crisp cloud of peppermint (slight variations of recipes for both are included in the posts below). Either can be served individually, but the fusion of textures and flavors were heavenly. I would have taken a picture, but I was licking the cup before I thought of snapping a pic. She also shared some great tips that I madly scribbled down to share with you.

  • Bittersweet Chocolate: Chef Gand talked about the mystery of semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate. She advised using chocolate with a high percentage cocoa (she used 70% for the recipe). The higher percentage of cocoa, the lower percentage of sugar the chocolate contains. As she sagely opined, “Why pay chocolate prices for sugar? Get the most chocolate for your money, and you can add sugar yourself.” She also suggested to always opt for quality chocolate.
  • Melting Chocolate – Chips vs. Bars: Gale explained that chocolate chips are coated with edible paraffin to maintain their shape and keep them from melting. Chocolate bars are designed to melt, allowing for a much smoother and more pure liquid form.
  • Salt: A pinch of salt accentuates sweetness and maximizes flavor.
  • Vanilla Bean: The Tahitian vanilla bean has the highest content of “caviar” (the good stuff). Be sure that the bean is flexible when purchasing it, to ensure that it has been processed properly (these can be expensive, so get the best for your money!). Chef Gand doesn’t scrape the seeds out, as many recipes advise. She simply cuts of a portion of the bean, and splits it open. This way, the custard (or whatever you’re making) absorbs flavor from the seeds and the skin. Now, the best part – the money savings. After the recipe is made, Gale rinses the used bean in hot water, pops it into a sealed baggie and stores it in the fridge. The bean can be used 2 or 3 more times, until all the seeds disappear (maximum storage time is approximately one month). Many of her recipes include uses for the spent beans as well. You really get your money’s worth out of this premium ingredient (which requires a two-year process from growing the bean to drying it).
  • Adding Sugar to Eggs: For recipes such as the following pots-de-creme recipe, always follow this tip. Always wait to add sugar to the eggs until just before mixing them in with the other ingredients. Sugar will cause a chemical reaction that starts to cook the eggs, creating a tough crust as it sets.

I haven’t tried these holiday recipes yet, but I will. Her demonstration made it look pretty straight-forward…though you do need to keep an eye on when the custard boils (one last hint: when you see steam arising from the pot, it has reached about 160 degrees. The boiling temperature is 212 degrees), so steam signals that you are fairly close to a boil. Visions of sugarplums sugary yums are dancing in my head!

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