5 Ingredients, 6 Desserts

By John F. Carafoli | December 05, 2011
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As we approach winter on Cape Cod, I reflect back on the summer months, and the farm stands, farmers’ markets, my own garden and all the fresh local produce available in the not-too-distant past. It was easy to come up with simple, delicious meals and desserts during that bountiful season. During the cold winter months, it’s harder to live off the land and enjoy the same experience of readily available produce. In thinking about the kind of foods available at this time of year, you have to be creative. Why not come up with special desserts that are comforting and soothing and that bring back some of the old-world ways of cooking? To that end, I developed six desserts using local ingredients found around Cape Cod.

I live in the mid-Cape area and like to shop at Crow Farm in East Sandwich almost every day. Before the farm stand closes on December 24th, I am like a squirrel loading up with the last of the apples, quinces and cranberries. I spoke to Justin Crowell, of the youngest generation farming the land on this fourth-generation farm. When asked how long the apples can remain in my refrigerator without losing their taste, he explained that they keep well for a month or two at 33 degrees F.

Quince has been around for over 4000 years and is native to warm-temperate southwest Asia and the Mediterranean. A relative of the apple and pear, quince is shaped like a lumpy lemon and turns bright golden yellow when mature. The Quince Poached in Monbazillac and Spices recipe is a simple, delicious treat after a rich, savory meal. Make it when you are expecting guests—it fills the house with a wonderful aroma. A dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche adds flavor and effect.

Chestnuts were once plentiful and native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. However, due to the blight in 1905, a foreign fungus wiped out most of the chestnut trees in America. Fortunately, there has been a resurgence and chestnut trees are coming back; a few of my neighbors shared their chestnut harvest with me. The Chestnut Ricotta Cheese Cake is a unique Italian dessert—definitely a grown-up dessert, not sweet but definitely sophisticated.

The cranberry, along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown. Cranberries are a unique fruit; they can only grow and survive under very special conditions. The growing season for cranberries stretches from April to November and I am fortunate to have cranberry bogs behind my home. Cranberries can be used in sauces for the holidays, chutneys, pies, and is delicious used with other fruits in recipes like Apple Cranberry Crisp. Instead of the traditional plum pudding, try this Steamed Cranberry Pudding recipe for the holidays. It’s a great addition to a special festive occasion, especially when you pour whiskey over the top and ignite it. The Apple Crisp is a down-home comfort dessert and one of my own standbys. It’s perfect with tea in the afternoon or after a light evening meal.

Continuing with the idea of using the freshest ingredients in my recipes, this past summer we decided to have chickens. We started out with six, but because of some unfortunate incident, we now have five and they have just started laying eggs. What could be better than farm-fresh eggs for breakfast and for making desserts? If you don’t have your own chickens, local eggs are more readily available now than in recent history on the Cape. I have included a Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée using fresh eggs, perfect for the holidays. The last recipe is Farmer Jim’s No Fuss Old-Fashioned Pie. Farmer Jim (a.k.a. Jim Knieriem) is a larger than life character: passionate, outspoken, hardworking. Usually recipes have a certain style, and with Jim’s recipe I left it in his style.

The wine suggestions for the following desserts are from Leslie and Kevin Plumb of Town Center Wine and Spirits. To accompany the desserts (other than the Chestnut Ricotta Cheese Cake and the Quince Poached in Monbazillac and Spices), Leslie and Kevin suggest a Paolo Saracco Moscato D’Asti 2010. Saracco is a reference point producer for sparkling Moscato. This is a truly elegant wine with impossibly tiny bubbles and notes of green apple, minerals and flowers. It’s a staple for almost any dessert pairing, and with only 6% alcohol it’s the perfect way to end a meal. $15.99/750 ml bottle.

RECIPES

CHESTNUT RICOTTA CHEESECAKE
STEAMED CRANBERRY PUDDING
FARMER JIM’S NO FUSS OLD-FASHIONED APPLE PIE
QUINCE POACHED IN MONBAZILLAC AND SPICES (see below)
APPLE CRANBERRY CRISP (see below)
PUMPKIN SPICE CREME BRULEE (see below)


QUINCE POACHED IN MONBAZILLAC AND SPICES

I find quince to be one of the most underutilized fruits. Most people poke them with cloves and place them in dresser draws to scent their clothes; there are also the jams and jellies. Serve this spiced quince dessert after one of your heavier meals.

Serves 6 to 8.

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe quinces
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups Chateau Tirecul La Graviere Les Pins Monbazillac
  • 1-½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 to 4 whole allspice
  • 5 to 6 black peppercorns

Instructions

  1. Peel, quarter and core the quince, reserving the peels and cores. Place the pieces in a bowl with the juice from the lemon, and toss to prevent browning.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the wine, water, sugar and spices and bring to a boil. Then bring down to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the quince, the peels and core to the sugar syrup. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until quince is tender. Remove from stove and allow to cool. Then remove the peels and core and discard. Put the pieces of quince in a bowl, and strain the remaining syrup and return it to the saucepan and reduce it to a thick consistency. It will also thicken as it cools. Pour the sauce over the quince, and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

The suggested wine pairing for this unique dessert is Chateau Tirecul La Graviere Les Pins Monbazillac 2007. Tirecul is the leading property in Monbazillac, making incredibly rich dessert wines in the style of Sauternes for a fraction of the price. Its honeyed marmalade and crème brûlée notes will pair beautifully with the poached quince and make for a stunning winter dessert course. $19.99/500 ml bottle.


APPLE CRANBERRY CRISP

When developing this recipe I stopped in at Crow Farm in Sandwich where they sell a variety of apples. Norma Mendeiros of Forestdale happened to be working that day, so I asked her what variety of apple she would suggest for this crisp. She suggested using Cortland because they maintain their whiteness and hold their shape. Baldwin and Northern Spy are also great for baking.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • ½ cup chopped cranberries
  • ¼ cup light packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ cup orange liquor such as Cointreau or Triple Sec

For the topping

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Generously butter a 6x10x2-inch baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the apples, cranberries, sugar and flour and mix well. Sprinkle orange liquor over mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°.
  4. For the topping: Lightly work the above ingredients except the nuts with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then mix in the nuts and set aside.
  5. Place the apple mixture in the baking dish and distribute the crumble topping evenly over the top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until top is light brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

PUMPKIN SPICE CREME BRULEE

I developed this recipe for HP Hood seasonal eggnog. The product is sold in stores around the holidays. It is simple, easy and a real treat.

Makes 4 individual servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups Pumpkin Eggnog (Hood or other brand)
  • 1 teaspoon good quality rum

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, egg yolks, pumpkin spice and salt until well blended.
  3. Heat the eggnog until steaming and gradually whisk it into the egg mixture. Stir in the rum and pour into 4 individual 1-cup ramekins.
  4. Set the dishes in a large pan on a dishtowel, surrounded with half an inch of boiling water. Bake 35 to 45 minutes until set. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the custard to cool in the pan. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.
  5. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of each custard with a teaspoon of sugar and place under a preheated broiler for two to three minutes until the sugar bubbles and turns slightly brown. Watch carefully—the sugar has a tendency to burn.
  6. Serve immediately.

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