Renowned pastry chef Carole Bloom has written eight previous cookbooks, as well as numerous articles that have appeared in all the major food magazines. I have always found her recipes reliable and well written. So when someone this talented creates a book devoted to only one tiny aspect of her craft, I pay attention.
I must also admit I was already predisposed to this topic, since bite-size desserts make total sense to me…at home and everyplace else. What a luxury to savor your own private dessert, one perfect mouthful at a time.
When I go to restaurants, most of my friends know better than to suggest we share. Oh, I'm fine with dishes that are meant to be shared; things like fried calamari or Chinese food or pizza.
What I no longer tolerate (now that I'm a grown-up) is the "Let's all order something different!" dinner doctrine, in which each entrée is massacred as everyone at the table rips off "just a taste." And so instead of enjoying the mushroom risotto I ordered, I would first be expected to have "just a taste" of seared tuna, followed by somebody else's duck l'orange and chicken Parmigiana. Ick.
When it comes to desserts, however, I embrace a total change of heart. Desserts are dope. Maybe it's just that common sugar denominator, but it doesn't offend my senses to sample one spoonful of pomegranate sorbet followed by consecutive bites of almond torte, molten chocolate cake, and sticky rice pudding with mango. Seriously. The more desserts that cover the tabletop, the merrier. This is no time for monogamy. Let the forks fly! If the pastry chef offers a selection of bite-size sweets for the table, all the better.
So imagine the fantasies that danced through my head as I poured over this stunning assortment of simplified recipes for miniature cakes, cupcakes, scones, shortcakes, muffins, pastries, tartlets, turnovers, galettes, cobblers, crisps, custards, mousses, puddings, cookies, candies, ice creams, and sorbets. I mentally downed a half-gallon of (nonfat) milk as I dreamt of diminutive desserts like Nectarine and Raspberry-Blueberry Crisps, Double Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Mocha Soufflés with Cacao Nib Whipped Cream, Spiced Buttermilk Doughnut Holes, Pecan-Ginger Biscotti, and Sea Salted Peanut Brittle.
Whether I'm serving just one special sweet to a lucky few or a full-blown dessert buffet, I will no doubt turn to this book for inspiration. The portions may be scaled down, but the recipes are genius.
Wicked Brownie Bites
From Bite-Size Desserts by Carole Bloom, Wiley 2009.
I call these wicked because they are intensely flavored, bursting with deep dark chocolate and toasted walnuts, and they are the most delicious brownies I've ever eaten, making them hard to resist. These will surely satisfy your most intense chocolate cravings. I used a combination of my favorite chocolates and cocoa powder, Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate, Scharffen Berger 70 percent cacao content chocolate, and Pernigotti cocoa powder, to create these.
Makes 2 dozen brownies
Use two 12-cavity 2-inch round silicone mini-muffin pans
- 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch processed)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 F. Place the mini-muffin pans on a baking sheet.
Place the walnuts in a cake or pie pan and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack.
Place the bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in the top of a double boiler over low heat. Stir often with a rubber spatula to help the chocolate and butter melt evenly. Remove the top pan of the double boiler and wipe the bottom and sides very dry. Let the mixture cool while mixing the rest of the brownie batter, stirring with a rubber spatula occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on top.
Or place the chocolates and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt on low power for 30-second bursts. Stir with a rubber spatula after each burst to ensure even melting.
Whip the eggs in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the wire whip attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until they are frothy. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and whip until the mixture is very thick and pale colored and holds a slowly dissolving ribbon as the beater is lifted, about 5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture and blend completely on low speed. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with the rubber spatula. The mixture will look smooth and dark chocolate colored.
In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Add the salt and stir to combine. In 3 stages, add this flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, blending well after each addition. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with the rubber spatula. Add the walnuts and stir to distribute evenly.
Use a 1 1/2-inch round ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the cavities of the mini-muffin pans, filling each cavity.
Bake the brownies for 25 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the mini-muffin pans to racks to cool.
When the brownies are cool, turn the pans over and gently push the brownies out of the cavities, then turn them top-side up.
Keeping: Store the brownies between layers of waxed paper in an airtight plastic container at room temperature up to 4 days. To freeze up to 4 months, wrap the container tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Use a large piece of masking tape and an indelible marker to label and date the contents. If frozen, defrost overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
Butterscotch Crème Brûlée
From Bite-Size Desserts by Carole Bloom, Wiley 2009.
My husband and I ate dinner at Zin restaurant in Healdsburg, California on a recent trip to the Sonoma wine country. For dessert we had an outrageously delicious butterscotch crème brûlée served with small oatmeal cookies. I loved the dessert so much that I wanted to recreate it at home, and I think I was pretty successful. Caramelize the top of the crème brûlée right before serving so it doesn't become too firm. Make the custards the day before you plan to serve them because they need time to cool and chill.
Makes twelve 1/4-cup servings
Use twelve 2 1/2 x 1 5/8-inch round ramekins
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Pinch of kosher or fine-grained sea salt
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 cups boiling water
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) granulated sugar, divided
Custard: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 325 F. Place the ramekins in a 3-quart baking dish.
Warm the cream and salt in a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges.
Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir together with a heat-resistant spatula until thoroughly blended. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the hot cream into the butter mixture and stir to remove any lumps.
Whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, stirring continuously. Strain the mixture into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and divide it evenly among the ramekins, filling each almost to the top.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the baking dish until it reaches partway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 20 minutes, until the custards are set around the edges but jiggle slightly in the center.
Remove the baking dish from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool on racks, then chill, covered loosely with waxed paper and tightly with plastic wrap, at least 4 hours.
Topping: Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar evenly over the custard in each ramekin. Use a butane kitchen torch to lightly caramelize the sugar on top of the custards.
Keeping: The crème brûlée, without the caramelized sugar topping, will keep up to 2 days, tightly covered with aluminum foil, in the refrigerator.
About Bite-Sized Desserts
Master baker Carole Bloom has collected a wide range of mini desserts here, and you're sure to find one (or two or three) that are perfect for every occasion. Wicked Brownie Bites, Double Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Chocolate-Espresso Pots de Crème, Spiced Buttermilk Doughnut Holes, Raspberry Sorbet Shots, and Salted Caramel-Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles are just a few of the petite goodies you'll discover. Throughout, more than forty striking color photographs show you just how appealing these bite-size desserts can be.
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Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.