(Please excuse dark photo!)
When I wrote about our Supper Club dinner party in the last post, I neglected to mention what I made for dessert. Over the years of cooking for friends at all different events and at all different times of our lives, I have developed a reputation for making good desserts. Most would acknowledge that I am a good cook but I would guess that many of them, in their heart of hearts, would qualify it by saying I am a good cook, but a vegetarian cook. Friends like my food (a few love it), but I can’t help but feel that dinner at my house is somehow lacking for them because, well, there is no meat.
But carnivores and vegetarians alike can agree on dessert and both camps always are thrilled to have something homemade. This is one of my dinner party tips that I blogged about and lost a few weeks ago (I promise I will re-create that post soon.) People love dessert and they love something homemade. It doesn’t matter if it is crooked, over-baked, or even just brownies or cookies – they will feel the love it it came from your oven and not a store or bakery. I think I started on my path to being a baker years ago when a friend asked me where I had bought the Linzer Tart I was going to serve for dessert. When I told him I had made it, he completely didn’t believe me. Once I convinced him, he was excited – and touched – that I had made something so beautiful and delicious for him and his wife.
Dessert doesn’t have to be epic. As I said, make cookies or – even easier – brownies. I almost always make something that can be done a day or two ahead of time, especially if it can sit out at room temperature and not take up valuable real estate in my refrigerator. Supper Club’s dessert had components that could be made ahead of time, and the day of prep was relatively easy.
It’s hard for me to believe this, but for the first time in my life, I made ice cream. I have had an ice cream maker since Randy and I got married six years ago, and I cannot tell you why I have waited this long. Actually, I probably can tell you. For some of those years, the machine was packed away, then it was unpacked but I had no idea where it was, and for the small amount of time that it was unpacked and in my pantry, I was afraid of it. I tend to get intimidated by machinery until I know how it works and then I’m fine with it. I use my standing mixer and my food processor without thinking about it, but using the ice cream maker required me to read the manual, which made me fearful.
Now, of course, it was about as easy as they come, and after I did the small amount of work needed to get the ice cream mixture ready and I put the machine together, I kicked myself repeatedly for the all the times I have served store-bought ice cream with homemade desserts. Undoubtedly, there are wonderful ice creams out there, but if you want to send your dessert over the top, give your guests a little extra love and make your own. The rest of the dessert was lovely and easy to make, but the ice cream was the bomb.
Apple Tartlets with Cinnamon-Balsamic Syrup and Butter-Toffee Ice Cream
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
I was serving 8 people, so I 1 1/2‘ed the ice cream (which was enough) and doubled the rest.
Butter-Toffee Ice Cream
3 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup half and half
1/8 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. Scotch
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup toffee bits (such as Skor)
Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in sugar, then half and half and salt. Bring just to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and finger leaves path on back of spoon when drawn across, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in cream, scotch, and vanilla. Strain into medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
Process cream mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add toffee bits about three minutes before ice cream is done. Transfer to container; freeze. (Can be made one day ahead. Keep frozen.)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 tbsp. water
Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and boil until syrupy and reduced to generous 1/2 cup, about six minutes. (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in microwave 10 seconds before serving.)
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3 oz. package, thawed)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sugar and butter to blend in small bowl. Divide mixture among four 1-cup ramekins or custard cups, pressing to cover bottom evenly. Layer apple slices over sugar mixture, pressing slightly on apples to compact and almost filling cup.
Open pastry sheet. Using biscuit cutter or small plate, cut out 4 rounds the same size as top diameter of ramekins. Using fork, pierce dough all over. Place 1 dough round atop apples in each ramekin. Bursh tops with beaten egg.
Bake tartlets until pastry is puffed and deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool at least 4 minutes. (Can be made 4 hours ahead, let stand at room temperature.)
To serve, invert warm or room temperature tartlets onto plates. Drizzle with syrup and serve with scoop of ice cream alongside.