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Master the building blocks of dessert making and you can create anything. That is the simple philosophy of Jacques Torres, host of the public television series Dessert Circus and executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Le Cirque 2000 restaurant. In Dessert Circus he stays true to his principles. Learn how to temper chocolate (simply bringing melted chocolate to the right temperature) and you can make Chocolate-Covered Almonds. Learn to make sorbet (no harder than buying an ice cream machine) and you can make ...
Master the building blocks of dessert making and you can create anything. That is the simple philosophy of Jacques Torres, host of the public television series Dessert Circus and executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Le Cirque 2000 restaurant. In Dessert Circus he stays true to his principles. Learn how to temper chocolate (simply bringing melted chocolate to the right temperature) and you can make Chocolate-Covered Almonds. Learn to make sorbet (no harder than buying an ice cream machine) and you can make a Palette of Sorbets, a chocolate palette artfully topped with five different fruit sorbets. Master the recipe for Classic Genoise cake and you have the starting point for everything from Banana Moon Cakes to a raspberry mousse-filled ladybug.
Jacques explains it all in clear, plain language, like a teacher at your side. He doesn't just tell you what to do, he tells you why you are doing it that way. Dessert Circus isn't just a stunning collection of a hundred astonishing desserts, it is a primer in the basics of dessert chemistry. You will learn about ingredients and how they react when mixed, kneaded, chilled, or heated and be taught the red flags of warning—the signs that something is not going right—and what you might be able to do to save the situation.
Dessert Circus satisfies your every craving. Chocoholic? Revel in homemade Peanut Butter Cups. Want something simple and homey? How about Decorative Shortbread Cookies or Old-fashioned Macaroons? If you think creaminess is the hallmark of a dessert to die for, open up to classic Creme Brulee and soon-to-be-classic Tiramisu. There are fruit desserts (try Roosted Whole Peaches with Fresh Almonds and Pistachios), pastries, (Napoleons, Baba au Rhum), and frozen finales.
But that's not all. Jacques has included recipes for all his signature desserts. Appreciate the architecture of New York City without ever leaving your kitchen by making The Manhattan, chocolate cake layered with a bittersweet chocolate cream constructed in the shape of a skyscraper. Enjoy winter any time of year with The Snowman, a little man made not out of snow but snowy white meringue and filled with tart lemon curd. If you're really feeling your baking oats, there is the final chapter, For the Truly Adventurous. Make a Cookie Tree, a Croquembouche (a pyramid of small cream puffs), or a wedding cake for sixty.
Each recipe is rated for its level of difficulty so you can start with desserts that match your level of experience and work your way up to those more challenging. Every recipe is accompanied by a color photograph of the finished dessert and step-by-step photographs where appropriate.
If you love dessert, you'll love Dessert Circus.
Basic Buttercream 2
6 cups (40 ounces; 1,138 grams); enough to fill and frost two 8-inch round cakes
I borrowed this recipe from my friend Chef Dieter Schorner who was one of Le Cirque's first pastry chefs. His recipe is especially handy as a frosting for wedding cakes because it is very white. It is smooth, creamy, light, and easy to handle. When color is not a concern, this buttercream may be flavored in a variety of ways--with coffee extract, jam, nut paste, ganache, zest, etc.
One of the techniques used in this recipe is that of making an Italian meringue. I like to make an Italian meringue because the heat of the sugar kills any bacteria in the eggs.
Scant 1/2 cup (3.7 ounces / 106 grams) Water
2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons (17 ounces / 485 grams) granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
2 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (18.5 ounces / 520 grams cold) unsalted butter, cubed
The first step is to start cooking the sugar. Pour the water and sugar into a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, insert a candy thermometer in the mixture. When the sugar reaches 245°F (118°C), begin to whip the egg whites.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy and slightly soft peaks.
The sugar is ready when it reaches 250°F (121°C), what is known as the soft ball stage. Make an Italian meringue by pouring the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl while you continue to whip the egg whites. Do not pour the hot sugar onto the beaters, or it will splatter. Continue whipping the meringue on medium-high speeduntil the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes. Add the butter all at once and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the buttercream is thick, smooth, and shiny, about 10 minutes. At this stage, you can add flavoring, if desired. If you are not going to use all of the buttercream for your recipe, flavor only the amount you will use.
The buttercream can be used immediately or can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or in the freezer for several weeks if held in an airtight container. If it has been chilled or frozen, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before using, then whip it with an electric mixer on medium speed until it returns to its initial volume and is once again thick, smooth, and shiny.
Kris and I really have an appreciation for Champagne, We try to bring its festivity to any occasion. I think the subtle flavor of cassis really complements the taste of Champagne. This is a very fast and easy way to add a simple touch of elegance to any dinner party or brunch.
2/3 cup (5.3 ounces / 150 grams) water
Generous 1/3 cup (2.5 ounces / 75 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (5.3 ounces / 150 grams) frozen whole cassis
Combine the water and sugar in a nonreactive medium-size saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the cassis. Stir gently to combine and remove from the heat. Pour the mixture into a 5 X 9-Inch loaf pan or a rectangular shallow dish about the same size; it should make a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Place in the freezer until solid, about 2 hours. (At this stage, the mixture can be stored in the freezer, well wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to three weeks.)
To unmold, dip the pan in hot water for about 5 seconds. Run a sharp paring knife around the edges to loosen the sides of the frozen mixture from the pan. Center a small cutting board over the pan and flip over the board and pan at the same time so the pan Is on top. Lift the pan. If the pan does not come off, you will need to dip it in water again. Use a serrated knife to cut the frozen mixture into 1/2-inch-wide strips about 3 inches long (or to fit in the glass you are using). Place one cassis stick in each glass and add Champagne. As the cassis sticks melt, they add a delightful fruity flavor to the champagne.
If you can't find cassis, use fresh blueberries.Dessert Circus. Copyright © by Jacques Torres. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Makes about 55 sandwiched cookies
There are many macaroon recipes but I think this one is the easiest to make and to remember: One part sugar, one part almond paste, and as many egg whites as needed to bring the mixture to a consistency that can be piped. With those ratios in mind, you can make as much or as little of the batter as you like.
We make a lot of macaroons at Le Cirque. My sous-chef and I try to make it fun by racing to see who can pipe them onto a baking sheet the fastest. The loser has to wash the dishes. I'm not sure if I win all the time because Ken is a good sport or because I am his boss.
Almond paste: 1-1/2 cups (firmly packed)/14 ounces/400 grams
Granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling:1-1/2 cups/14 ounces/400 grams
4 to 5 large egg whites
Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C). Place the almond paste and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the almond paste is softened and the sugar well incorporated, about 5 minutes.
Add the egg whites a little bit at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Egg whites are difficult to pour in small amounts, so hold a rubber spatula against the rim of the bowl and use it to "cut" the egg whites as they are poured. If you add the egg whites all at once, the mixture will be lumpy because the difference in consistency between the egg whites and the almond paste mixture is too great. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. You may or may not need all of the egg whites, depending on the moistness and age of your almond paste. Stop mixing when the mixture reaches a consistency soft enough to pipe (like toothpaste).
Place the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 1-inch mounds onto a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. It will be easier if you hold the pastry bag at a slight angle and allow the tip to touch the parchment as you start to pipe. Once you have formed the mound, stop squeezing and lift the tip straight up, leaving a small tail on the top of each mound. Space the macaroons about I inch apart to allow for spreading. Pipe carefully: Your macaroons will look nicest when they are sandwiched together if they are all the same size.
Immediately before placing them in the oven, liberally sprinkle granulated sugar over the macaroons. This will give them a nice crust that will keep the inside moist and chewy. Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. The top of each macaroon should be very finely cracked, a characteristic for which they are known. If overbaked, the macaroons will be dry and crunchy.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately pour 1/4 cup of water onto the baking sheet under the parchment paper. Be careful: If you get any water on the macaroons, they will be soggy. You will need to tilt the baking sheet to spread the water evenly. Let it sit for 2 minutes. The water will loosen the macaroons from the paper. Remove the macaroons from the paper two at a time and stick them together, matching the flat sides. Do not put them back on the hot, wet baking sheet or they will become soggy.
The macaroons can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days or well wrapped in the freezer for up to one week. Unwrap them before bringing back to room temperature, or the condensation will make them soggy.
Makes 14 Fondants
This is one of the most requested desserts at Le Cirque. Once you have tasted it, you will know why it is a chocolate lover's fantasy. Although it is often compared to a flourless chocolate cake, it really is a cross between a chocolate mousse and a chocolate soufflé. To make them even more decadent, I cover the baked Fondants with chocolate sauce and decorate them with candied orange or grapefruit peels. Since the peels and sauce take a while to make, you may want to prepare them a day in advance.
It is very important to use the best-quality chocolate for this recipe. I like to use Callebaut from Belgium. Fondants can be prepared in about thirty minutes. Make a double batch and keep half of them in the freezer for a tasty last-minute treat.
For the Fondants
Unsalted butter, cubed: 1 cup + 2-1/2 tablespoons/9.4 ounces/260 grams
Bittersweet chocolate, chopped: 17.7 ounces/500 grams
Unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder: 1/3 cup + 1-1/2 tablespoons/1.6 ounces/50 grams
Pinch of salt
8 large egg whites
Meringue powder (optional): 1/3 cup/1 ounce/25 grams
Granulated sugar: 1/2 cup/3.5 ounces/100 grams
For the garnish
Heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks: Scant 1 cup/8 ounces/220 grams
Candied orange or grapefruit peels
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the inside of 14 individual 3-ounce molds (I use disposable aluminum molds) with softened butter. Fill each mold with granulated sugar; then pour out the excess. If you have properly buttered the molds, the sugar will stick to the sides and bottoms of them. The butter and sugar will keep the Fondants from sticking to the sides of the molds and allow them to rise evenly. The sugar will also give the Fondants a crunchy crust, which I think makes a great contrast to the soft interior. It will be easier to move the molds in and out of the oven if you place them on a baking sheet.
Prepare the Fondants: Melt the butter in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat. Add the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt and stir until well combined and all the chocolate has melted. The cocoa powder and salt accentuate the taste of the chocolate.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. If using the meringue powder, combine it with the sugar in a small bowl. The meringue powder contains a high quantity of albumin, which will add strength and allow for a stiffer meringue. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and make a French meringue by adding the sugar mixture, or the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time and whipping the egg whites to stiff but not dry peaks.
Gently but quickly fold the warm chocolate mixture into the meringue until combined. Be careful not to deflate the mixture, or your baked Fondants will be flat and heavy. The mixture should be homogenous in color. However, if you can still see streaks of meringue in it, that's okay.
Place the batter in a large pastry bag with a large opening (no tip). The pastry bag will be easier to handle if you fill it only half full; you will probably need to refill the bag two or three times to use all of the batter. Pipe the molds three quarters full with batter. (At this stage, the molded Fondants can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, well wrapped in plastic wrap. Thaw in the refrigerator for 2 hours before baking.)
Bake the Fondants until they have risen about 1/2 inch over the top of the mold, 7 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe rosettes onto each serving plate. Garnish with candied orange or grapefruit peels. Remove the Fondants from the oven and immediately invert each one over the center of a plate. Lightly tap the bottom and shake slightly to allow the Fondant to gently drop from the mold. Cover the Fondants with the chocolate sauce and serve. When you cut into the Fondant, the center should still be somewhat liquid.
Variation: Sometimes I like to make an orange sauce to accompany the Fondants. Combine 2 cups (16 ounces; 458 grams) orange juice, a scant 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces; 75 grams) Sure-Jell, and 3/4 cup (5.3 ounces; 150 grams) granulated sugar in a nonreactive 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the mixture has reduced about one third in volume. Place in an ice bath to cool. This will make 1-1/2 to 2 cups sauce.
Individual Raspberry Soufflés
Makes six 4-inch soufflés
I think Americans must love soufflés, because this is one of the most popular desserts at Le Cirque. There are many myths about soufflés. I have heard people say you shouldn't open the oven door or make any loud noises when they are baking. Actually, soufflés are not as fragile as you might think. Try this recipe and I believe you will be quite pleased with the results. I adapted the traditional soufflé recipe to make it easier and to ensure successful soufflés every time.
For the souffle base
Fresh raspberries: About 2 cups/8.8 ounces/250 grams
Granulated sugar: 1/2 Cup + 2 tablespoons/4.5 ounces/125 grams
Sure-Jell: 2 tablespoons/0.75 ounces/20 grams
For the Italian meringue
Water: 1/4 cup/2 ounces/50 grams
Granulated sugar: 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons/4.5 ounces/125 grams
8 large egg whites
To finish the soufflés
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Soufflés are baked at a high temperature to ensure a good rise. Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the inside of six 1-cup soufflé molds with softened butter. Fill each mold with granulated sugar, then pour out any excess. If you have properly buttered the molds, the sugar will stick to the sides and bottom. The butter and sugar will keep the soufflés from sticking to the sides and will allow them to rise evenly. The sugar will also give the soufflé a crunchy crust, which I think makes a great contrast to its soft interior.
Prepare the soufflé base: Place the raspberries, sugar, and Sure-Jell in a 1-quart saucepan and whisk over medium-high heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Allow it to boil for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Prepare the Italian meringue: Pour the water and sugar into a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, insert a candy thermometer in the mixture. When the sugar reaches 245°F (118°C), begin to whip the egg whites.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy and slightly soft peaks.
The sugar is ready when it reaches 250°F (121°C), what is known as the soft ball stage. Make an Italian meringue by pouring the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl as you continue whipping the egg whites. Be very careful not to pour the hot sugar onto the beaters, or it will splatter. Continue whipping the meringue until the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes. Do not overwhip, or it will not incorporate evenly into the base and, when baked, the soufflés will have pieces of chewy egg white in the center. You can tell the egg whites are overwhipped if they start to separate and look like scrambled eggs.
Fold the warm soufflé base into the warm Italian meringue in two additions. Fold just until combined (you may still see flecks of raspberry), being careful not to deflate the mixture. It is important for both of these mixtures to be warm so they will combine together smoothly. If one mixture is significantly cooler than the other, it will form clumps when the two are folded together. The warm meringue will also add stability to the unbaked soufflé by slightly cooking the egg whites, keeping the soufflé from collapsing.
Place the soufflé mixture in a large pastry bag with a 2-inch opening (no tip). Pipe into the buttered and sugared molds. The best way to do this is to hold the pastry bag directly over each mold with the tip down. Place the tip inside the mold about 1 inch from the bottom. Using even pressure, pipe the soufflé mixture into the mold, lifting the pastry bag straight up as the mold fills. When you have piped to about 1 inch above the rim of the mold, stop squeezing and lift the tip straight up, leaving a small tail at the top of the soufflé. The piped soufflé will look like a pink chocolate kiss. If you do not have a pastry bag, you can use a rubber spatula to gently spoon the soufflé mixture into the molds. (The unbaked soufflés will hold at room temperature for one hour before baking.)
It will be easier to remove the soufflés from the oven if you place the molds on a baking sheet. Set the baking sheet in the center of the oven; do not place the baking sheet under a rack. If the soufflés are too close to the top of the oven or under a rack, they will stick to the oven or the rack when they rise. If the soufflés are too close to the bottom of the oven, the bottoms will burn before the insides are properly cooked. Bake until the soufflés double in height and start to brown on top, about 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and dust the tops of the soufflés with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
If you prefer to make one large 8-inch (1-1/2-quart) soufflé, you can gently spoon the mixture directly into the buttered and sugared mold with a rubber spatula; it is not necessary to pipe it with a pastry bag. The soufflé mixture should come to about 1 inch above the rim of the dish. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for about 20 minutes.
The soufflé base can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks. It should be brought to a boil before it is combined with the Italian meringue.
Recipes from DESSERT CIRCUS, copyright © 1998 by Team Torres. Published by William Morrow and Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Posted June 28, 2005
Posted October 10, 2008
No text was provided for this review.