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Sweet Fantasies

This classic French fruit tart delights with layers of decadent almond cream, topped with glistening berries.
~Elaine Chavanon, co-owner, Marigold Café and Bakery

This classic French fruit tart delights with layers of decadent almond cream, topped with glistening berries. ~Elaine Chavanon, co-owner, Marigold Café and Bakery

It’s the one time of year when the child in all of us has free rein to indulge in sweet fantasies–layers of puff pastry, swirls of buttercream, dense molten chocolate–fashioned into pies and tarts, cakes and puddings, meringues and soufflés.

What will inspire us this year?

As we pour through treasured cookbooks and much-loved recipe cards, fragments of memory transport us to holidays past–Grandma’s flaming plum pudding with brandy butter, Aunt Linda’s chocolate-topped cream puffs, and mom’s freshly baked apple pie.

So how can we incorporate our old favorites and give them a dazzling new twist?

We turned to the experts– three outstanding local chefs–who agreed to share some of their favorite holiday desserts.
Now you, too, can create sweet fantasies to bring joy to the loved ones in your lives.

Croquembouche

{Serves 12-15}

A Home-Friendly Recipe Choux Paste

1 cup water
3/4 stick butter
1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8  teaspoon salt
5 3/4 ounces flour
1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Pastry Cream Recipe

3 cups milk
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
8 yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Caramelized Sugar

3 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

Choux Paste:

Bring to a boil the water, butter, sugar and salt. Add the flour and stir to create a roux. The mixture should form a ball. Remove from the heat and place in a mixer. Mix on low speed to cool, add eggs and mix well. Place dough in a medium tipped piping bag. Pipe quarter-sized profiteroles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Lower heat to 300 and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Pastry Cream:

Bring to a boil: milk, vanilla and half the sugar. Mix together the remaining sugar with the egg yolk and cornstarch. Slowly temper the hot milk with the egg yolk mixture. Place back over medium heat to thicken. Chill overnight in an airtight container.

Generously oil your croquembouche cone. Fill each of the profiteroles with pastry cream. For caramel cook the sugar and water to a dark amber color. Set the pot in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Dip the bottom in caramel and starting from the bottom, build your croquembouche up. Once complete, let the croquembouche rest for 30 minutes before removing it from your metal cone. 

Simplified French Fruit Tart

{Makes an 11-inch tart}

Inspired by the Marigold’s traditional French Fruit Tart, this simplified home version offers many of the same lush flavors with several time-saving steps–eliminating the crust and substituting store-bought pudding for the pastry cream.

Almond Cream:

8 ounces butter
8 ounces almond meal (may grind whole almonds in Cuisinart to a fine powder)
8 ounces powdered sugar
3 eggs
1 package vanilla pudding mix, prepared with 1 cup of milk and beaten for 6 minutes.
2 1/4 cups fresh fruit--raspberries, blueberries, strawberries–sliced and whole to decorate the top

Apricot Glaze:

1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves
1 teaspoon water

Mix butter and powdered sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and almond meal. Stir to incorporate.

Bake in a generously-greased, oven-proof tart pan or casserole dish at 375 degrees until golden brown. Cool the almond cream then spread with prepared vanilla pudding. Arrange berries and sliced fruit over the pudding.

In small saucepan, combine jam with 1 teaspoon water. Heat until jam melts and remove from heat. Pass through a fine sieve. Use pastry brush to glaze fruit tart with warm apricot glaze. 

Bananas Foster

{Serves 2}

2 tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ of an orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 banana, sliced
1 ounce Crème de Banana
1 ½ ounces Bacardi 151 rum

26 ounce glass with 6-7 small scoops of vanilla ice cream (2 cups)

Set the burner on low heat and completely melt butter. Add brown sugar and juice squeezed from the orange. Allow the mixture to caramelize, letting the entire mixture bubble completely. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 ounce Crème de Banana and 1 ½ ounces Bacardi 151.

Return the pan to the heat, using caution as the alcohol catches fire. Set the pan on the burner and turn off the flame. Sprinkle cinnamon onto the flame. Add the sliced bananas and stir until the flame is extinguished. Pour the caramel banana mixture over the ice cream and serve.