Take a moment to think about a dessert that you've had that was truly unforgettable. Do you know what it was that made it so sublime? Was it the frosting, that just right amount of chocolate chips, a perfect combination of salty and sweet, or perhaps it was an unusual flavor combination that caught you by surprise? Have you ever thought it possible to recreate that dessert on your own?
Enter food writer and TV personaility Dede Wilson, and her new book Unforgettable Desserts: More than 140 memorable dessert recipes for all year round. As someone who openly admits that starters and desserts are my favorite part of the meal I had to see just what this book was all about. In this book, Dede shows you how to take seemingly simple flavors and create something show stopping for your next gathering or "just because".
Unforgettable Desserts starts out with some basics, building block recipes is what Dede calls them, that are used more than once in the book. Recipes that most experienced bakers are familiar with, but recipes that are also simple enough for anyone else who knows their way around the kitchen, such as butter piecrust, pastry cream, and chocolate ganache. After a brief tutorial on ingredients, equipment, and techniques (with a friendly note at the end about making a recipe your own), you get to dive into page after page of desserts that sound so mouth watering they will have you running for the kitchen.
How about French Crullers with Rose-Amaretto glaze that are light as air, Cranberry-Gingerbread cookies that are a special seasonal treat, or perhaps a Pomegranate-Chocolate Mousse cake is what you crave? The one that left a memorable impression on my family was the Frozen Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie (see recipe below). Despite the fact we've already had our first snow I've been known to indulge in a frozen treat during the colder months. Here, Dede takes the classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate to a whole new level - the peanut butter filling is creamy, rich, and downright moan worthy. A dessert that is truly unforgettable.
Frozen Peanut Butter-Honey Cheesecake with Warm Chocolate-Honey Sauce
From Unforgettable Desserts by Dede Wilson. Wiley, 2009.
serves 14 to 16
When my very good friend Pam Rys was turning 50, I asked her husband what flavors she might like in a cake. His answer was, "She likes chocolate, peanut butter, and sweeter is better!" I also happened to know she likes cheesecake, and as they are beekeepers, I thought honey should make an appearance. This cake features all those favorites. A dark chocolate cookie crust is topped with a creamy, very peanut buttery filling-with a hint of honey. Serving it frozen adds to the sensory interest, especially when it is topped with the warm semisweet chocolate sauce sweetened with a touch of honey. Chopped honey-roasted peanuts are sprinkled on top of each slice right before serving. As with most cheesecakes, this keeps very well and can even be made several days ahead. If you are a peanut butter lover, this should not be missed. Make sure you have room in the freezer for the 9-inch springform pan to be stored on a level surface.
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Ghirardelli (45%) or Callebaut (52%)
- 1 tablespoon honey, such as orange blossom or clover
- 1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs, such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (about half a 9-ounce box)
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 pounds cream cheese (not low fat), at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 1 2/3 cups smooth peanut butter (such as Skippy or Jif; do not use natural)
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- ½ cup honey-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
For the sauce:
Put the cream in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and immediately sprinkle the chocolate into the cream. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The heat of the cream should melt the chocolate. Gently stir in the honey until smooth. If the chocolate is not melting, place over very low heat, stirring often, until melted, taking care not to scorch the chocolate. Refrigerate for up to 1 week in an airtight container or freeze for up to 1 month. Rewarm in a microwave or over very low heat in a saucepan before using.
For the crust:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round loose-bottomed or springform pan with nonstick spray. Put the cookie crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and stir to combine. Press the crust evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes, or until dry to the touch. Cool the pan directly on a rack while preparing the cheesecake. Turn the oven down to 325°F. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, thoroughly wrap the bottom in foil to prepare it for the water bath. (Use extra-wide foil if you have it).
For the cheesecake:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the flat paddle attachment on medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add the sugars gradually and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down after each addition and allowing each yolk to be absorbed before continuing. Beat in the cream until smooth. Scrape the cheesecake batter on top of the prepared crust and smooth into an even layer. Place the foil-wrapped pan in a larger pan and add 1 inch of hot water to the pan.
Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes; the top will look and feel dry, the edges should just be starting to come away from the sides of the pan, and the entire cake will jiggle slightly when you gently shake the pan. Remove the pan from the water, unwrap the foil, and cool completely in the pan set on a rack. Wrap the cake well in plastic wrap-still in the pan to protect it-and freeze at least overnight before serving. The cake may be frozen for up to 1 month.
Have all the components ready to go; the sauce should be warm. Serve the cake frozen. Place the cheesecake slices on plates, top with sauce and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, and serve immediately.
About Unforgettable Desserts
Dessert is always a pleasure, but sometimes you want to up the ante a little, to make your guests utter a blissful sigh and lick their spoons. Packed with intriguing recipes and invaluable advice, Unforgettable Desserts helps you do just that. Baking expert and cooking show host Dede Wilson has created a collection of desserts that range from simple and elegant to exotic and extravagant. They are all absolutely unforgettable-and you don't have to be a pastry chef to make them. In Dede's hands, even the simplest, homiest treats like brownies and rice pudding become showstoppers.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.
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