Ideas are baking for fall desserts

Los Angeles TimesOctober 2, 2013 

FOOD BAKING 3 LA

Pastry chefs in the Los Angeles area were asked to submit recipes that use few ingredients and are easy for the home cook to make. Nicole Rucker offered her apple custard crumb pie. (Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

BOB CHAMBERLIN — MCT

Baking season has arrived, and the oven is beckoning. So we've asked some of the best pastry chefs in Los Angeles for home recipes to ease bakers into fall. Their recipes call for 10 ingredients or fewer but are desserts worthy of bringing to a party, even Sharlena Fong's marshmallow-studded campfire scones from Semi Sweet Bakery. ("Brunch is a party," Fong says. "And scones are fancier than muffins.")

Karen Hatfield of Hatfield's and the Sycamore Kitchen shares a rich, rustic-yet-elegant brown butter cake with dark chocolate and hazelnuts.

The traditional pecan pie is re-imagined by Genevieve Gergis, pastry chef at Bestia, with a filling and crust that's improved with a little creme fraiche. Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County makes a pumpkin mascarpone fool that is creamy and cool. And Gjelina Take Away pastry chef Nicole Rucker's apple custard crumb pie, spiced with cardamom, is sort of genius. Rucker uses dried apples so "you don't have to peel, core and cut them," she points out. Easy.

HAZELNUT BROWN BUTTER TORTE WITH BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE

1 hour. Serves 8 to 12

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (11.5 ounces) powdered sugar

1 cup (3.6 ounces) almond flour

2/3 cup (2.9 ounces) cake flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup egg whites, from about 7 eggs

1/2 tablespoon hazelnut oil

1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts

2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, for sprinkling

1. Brown the butter: In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat and cook until the butter melts and browns, taking on a nutty aroma, 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the butter will burn. Remove from heat and cool to warm before using.

2. While the butter is cooling, prepare the pan: Grease a decorative 10-inch cake or tart pan with butter and flour, or line with parchment. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar with the almond flour, cake flour and salt. With the mixer running, or using a hand mixer, add the egg whites in a steady stream. Once combined, quickly add the hazelnut oil, then the butter, and mix just until combined; be careful not to overmix.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, filling the pan three-fourths of the way full. Sprinkle with the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts, as well as the granulated sugar. Bake until the torte is puffed and medium brown on top, about 35 minutes. Cool before serving.

EACH OF 12 SERVINGS

Calories: 372

Protein: 5 grams

Carbohydrates: 39 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Fat: 23 grams

Saturated fat: 11 grams

Cholesterol: 41 mg

Sugar: 31 grams

Sodium: 185 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Karen Hatfield of Hatfield's and the Sycamore Kitchen.

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AUTUMN FOOL

40 minutes, plus cooling and chilling times.

Makes 8 individual fools or one family-style fool

GRAHAM CRACKER CRUMBS

2/3 cup (2.8 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cubed

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, wheat flour, salt, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar, pulsing until they come together to form a somewhat firm dough.

2. Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to a thinness of approximately one-eighth inch. Place the dough, still covered, on a cookie sheet and chill for 20 minutes.

3. Carefully peel the top sheet of parchment paper and bake the dough until it is a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool the graham cracker completely, then crumble the cracker and pulse in a food processor until it is broken into coarse crumbs. This makes about 2 1/2 cups crumbs.

PUMPKIN FILLING AND AUTUMN FOOL

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/4 cups mascarpone

Prepared graham cracker crumbs

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree with the ground cinnamon.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream, brown sugar and mascarpone on medium to high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes.

3. Carefully fold the pumpkin puree into the whipped cream mixture using a rubber spatula. Fill a large pastry bag set with a plain decorative tip with the pumpkin filling.

4. To build the fools, place 8 half-pint glasses or Mason jars on a tray. Put a tablespoon of the graham cracker crumbs into each glass, pipe about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture directly on top. Continue alternating until you fill the glasses to the top, finishing with graham crackers. Alternatively, to serve a family-style fool, build the layers in a trifle dish (4-quart capacity). Refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to 24 hours, before serving.

EACH SERVING

Calories: 710

Protein: 8 grams

Carbohydrates: 38 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Fat: 61 grams

Saturated fat: 35 grams

Cholesterol: 180 mg

Sugar: 23 grams

Sodium: 134 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County.

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CAMPFIRE SCONES

1 hour, plus overnight freezing time for the dough. Makes 10 to 12 scones

3 1/3 cups (14.1 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (1.4 ounces) whole wheat flour

4 teaspoons (.7 ounces) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus 1/4 cup for brushing, divided

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup mini marshmallows, plus extra for dotting the tops of the scones, if desired

Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the all-purpose and wheat flours, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is reduced to the size of peas.

2. Combine the honey and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy, and there should still be bits of butter visible in the dough. Combine the chocolate chips and marshmallows, add to the dough, and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

3. Place the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin, and roll the dough three-fourths-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles. Freeze the dough overnight after they're cut; the scones can be prepared up to this point and frozen for up to 2 weeks before baking (wrap the scones well if freezing for an extended period of time to prevent freezer burn).

3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the frozen scones with the remaining cream and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until puffed and set and the tops are a rich golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. If adding extra marshmallows to the top, sprinkle them over the scones halfway to two-thirds of the way as they bake so the marshmallows brown slightly (the extra marshmallows may deflate a bit once they come out of the oven).

4. Cool the scones on a rack before serving.

EACH OF 12 SERVINGS

Calories: 431

Protein: 5 grams

Carbohydrates: 49 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Fat: 25 grams

Saturated fat: 16 grams

Cholesterol: 68 mg

Sugar: 17 grams

Sodium: 194 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Sharlena Fong of Semi Sweet Bakery.

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MAPLE PECAN TART WITH CREME FRAICHE

1 1/2 hours, plus cooling, chilling and freezing times. Serves 8 to 12

CREME FRAICHE CRUST

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5 ounces) flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into cubes and frozen

1/3 cup creme fraiche

1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt together to combine. Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until the butter is reduced to pea-sized balls. Add the creme fraiche and pulse until mixed and the dough begins to form clumps.

2. Remove the dough and form into a coarse ball, then flatten to form a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

3. Roll the dough larger than the diameter of the 10-inch tart pan, approximately 12 inches in diameter. Chill the rolled dough for 30 minutes, then carefully fit it into the pan, trimming and saving any leftover dough. Freeze the dough until ready to bake, at least 1 hour.

4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the inside of the tart shell with foil and beans or pie weights. Blind-bake the frozen shell until set and golden on the sides, 20 to 25 minutes; the dough will shrink a bit on the sides. Remove the weights and foil and continue to bake until the crust is fully set and a deep golden brown, an additional 10 to 20 minutes.

5. Cool on a rack, then chill the shell until ready to complete the tart (chill up to one day before baking).

FILLING

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

6 tablespoons creme fraiche

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped lightly toasted pecans

Prepared frozen tart shell

Whipped creme fraiche ( 1/2 cup each heavy cream and creme fraiche beaten with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to soft peaks)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk the vanilla and rum into the creme fraiche.

2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar and salt over low heat. Cook, continuously whisking, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture comes together. Increase the heat to high and continue to cook until the mixture is frothy and bubbly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.

3. Remove from heat and slowly and carefully add the creme fraiche mixture, whisking until smooth. Continue whisking, adding the yolks, one at a time. Stir in the pecans.

4. Fill the cold tart shell with the filling just to below the top of the crust; you may have a little filling leftover. Bake until the top has developed a crust and the filling looks set, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and gently tap on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place on a rack to cool completely. Serve the cooled tart with whipped creme fraiche.

EACH OF 12 SERVINGS

Calories: 473

Protein: 4 grams

Carbohydrates: 33 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Fat: 37 grams

Saturated fat: 2 grams

Cholesterol: 128 mg

Sugar: 22 grams

Sodium: 165 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Genevieve Gergis of Bestia.

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APPLE CUSTARD CRUMB PIE

1 1/2 hours, plus freezing and cooling times. Serves 8 to 12

CRUST

6 1/2 ounces (approximately 12) digestive biscuits, preferably Gentilini Osvego

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter, melted

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cookies, sugar and salt until sandy in texture, then add the melted butter and pulse a few more times to combine. Turn out the mixture into a buttered 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate, pressing evenly onto the sides and bottom to form a crust with uniform thickness. Freeze the crust and, just before filling and baking, run a pairing knife around the top edge to trim the cookie crust cleanly.

APPLES

2 cups dried apples

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

1/2 cup water

In a large saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, cardamom, seeds and water. Gently simmer until the apples have absorbed the water and are plumped. Remove the apples from the pan and set aside to cool.

CUSTARD

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

Pinch of salt

3 eggs

1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

2 cups milk

While the apples are cooling, assemble the custard: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. Add the eggs and vanilla seeds, and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the milk until completely combined.

APPLE CUSTARD CRUMB PIE

Prepared apples

Prepared frozen cookie crust

Prepared custard

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. If there is any excess liquid with the apples, discard the liquid, and arrange or scatter the apples in the bottom of the prepared crust. Pour the custard over the apples, leaving one-eighth inch of crust at the top.

3. Place the pie on the bottom rack of the oven and bake until a light skin forms at the top of the filling, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the tablespoon of granulated sugar over the filling, then continue to bake until the custard starts to brown on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 55 minutes (timing will vary depending on the oven, beginning temperature of the crust and fillings, and type of pie dish). The finished pie will still jiggle slightly when remove from the oven but will set as it cools.

4. Cool the pie on a rack, then sprinkle with powdered sugar; serve warm.

EACH OF 12 SERVINGS

Calories: 281

Protein: 4 grams

Carbohydrates: 44 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Fat: 10 grams

Saturated fat: 5 grams

Cholesterol: 63 mg

Sugar: 31 grams

Sodium: 159 mg

NOTE: Adapted from Nicole Rucker of Gjelina Take Away in Venice, Calif. Digestive biscuits are available at select gourmet markets and cooking supply stores, as well as online.

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