I think of dessert as a curtsy to the meal; a nod of thanks; the "peace be with you" of the church that is dinner.
We're honoring that final course of the meal with a site-wide, week-long celebration of dessert at TheKitchn.com.
One new dessert book that stands out is Ready for Dessert (Ten Speed Press) by David Lebovitz, who is in fact a dessert genius.
Ready for Dessert is a collection of David's best recipes to date, pulled from his days as Chez Panisse pastry chef and current resident American blogging the sweet life in Paris.
It's been a busy few weeks so I selected a few of the easier recipes to make from the book:
Although he is best known for his baked confections, chocolate, and ice cream (I'll get to that soon), given the mound of strawberries I bought, I couldn't resist David's Strawberry Sauce. Whiz the berries, a touch of sugar and either lemon or kirsch in a food processor (I used a blender with success) and you have the perfect tangy sauce for drizzling ice cream and cakes and dipping cookies.
I found time to tuck in one more of David's recipes, Caramel Ice Cream. While the two might not normally seem like a winning combination, the sweet Strawberry Sauce on the salty, subtly burnt ice cream hit the spot. The ice cream is particularly dangerous; I tested the recipe in the morning and I will not lie, it was part of my breakfast.
Part of David's genius is the way he delivers the goods. He's clench-your-legs hilarious but with a strong foundation of serious culinary knowledge. A rare gem in the ever-growing field of food writers — if you haven't gotten to know his books yet, start with this one. And definitely read his blog for a daily dose of expert recipes and tastes of the sweet life in Paris.
2 1/2 cups (1 pound/450 g) strawberries
2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or kirsch
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pureé the berries along with the sugar and lemon juice or kirsch. If you wish to remove the seeds, using a rubber spatula, press the pureé through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl.
Taste for sweetness and add more sugar, if desired.
Storage: This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Caramel Ice Cream
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spread the sugar in an even layer in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar begins to melt around the edges. Using a heatproof utensil, slowly drag the liquified sugar to the center and stir gently until all the sugar is melted. Continue to cook, stirring infrequently, until the caramel turns dark amber in color and begins to foam a bit. Remove from the heat and immediately add the milk. The caramel will bubble up vigorously, then the bubbling will subside.
Set the saucepan over low heat, add 1/4 teaspoon salt, and stir until almost all of the hardened caramel has dissolved into the milk. A few bits may remain, but don't worry; they'll melt later on.
Pour the cream into a medium bowl and set a mesh strainer across the top.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm caramel mixture, whisking constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula, until the custard is thick enough to coat the spatula. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the heavy cream. Stir in the vanilla, then taste, and add up to 1/4 teaspoon more salt, if desired.
Set the bowl containing the custard over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir the custard until cool, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Variations: Although wonderful by itself, caramel ice cream is also a perfect base for mix-ins such as chopped chocolate or candy bars, bits of broken caramel, crumbled brownies, or toasted nuts. Stir in 1 to 2 cups (100 to 200 g) just after churning.
I often substitute 1 cup (240 g) of sour cream or crème fraîche for the cream in this recipe. If you use crème fraîche, be sure to cool and freeze the ice cream mixture within a few hours. If you leave it overnight, the crème fraîche's culture may make the mixture too tangy.
Reprinted with permission from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz, ©2010. Published by Ten Speed Press.