Just Desserts

8 recipes that will make you want to skip dinner
Desserts Open

Ginger Cantaloupe Sorbet

Open almost any Louisiana cookbook and you’ll find a big section of dessert recipes, a testament to our love of sweets. The recipes often include both traditional and modern desserts. As tastes change and as recipes evolve over time, it is sometimes difficult to determine where tradition ends and innovation begins.

It is both interesting and instructive, in this regard, to look at early Louisiana cookbooks. “Creole Cookery,” published in 1885, contains recipes for ice creams, sherbets, puddings (including bread pudding), pies, cheesecakes and cakes. “La Cuisine Creole,” published in the same year, covers pretty much the same ground and includes a recipe afor bread pudding.

In 1900, the “Picayune’s Creole Cook Book” made an appearance. It was a major survey of New Orleans cookery that sold-out quickly. A second and enlarged edition was published in 1901. It included an extensive section devoted to desserts. “The Creoles are famous for their dainty and delightful desserts,” the book noted, before giving recipes for beignets, crepes, compotes, pastries and pies, puddings (including bread pudding), custards, creams, sauces, cakes, souffles, cream puffs, eclairs, cookies, meringues, ice creams and sherbets.

Also in 1900, the Southern Pacific Sunset Route published a small volume entitled “Mme Begué and Her Recipes: Old Creole Cookery.” It included recipes, written in both English and French, for dishes served at Begue’s, a restaurant famous for its elaborate breakfasts. Even here, there are recipes for two desserts — Floating Islands With Chocolate Cream and Cream Cheese Pie.

Bread pudding is of special interest to me. I love it and am fascinated by how it differs from one cook to another. It is a dessert that often appears on restaurant menus and can be considered a classic Louisiana dessert whose lineage dates at least to the 19th century. At its most basic, it is a practical recipe, a way to use up stale bread by transforming it into something delicious.

Pecan pie is another dessert for which Louisiana is famous, but the state’s early cookbooks don’t mention it, and for good reason. I’ve read that some pecan pie recipes were published in the late 19th century, but they differed from most contemporary recipes that are made with corn syrup. Karo corn syrup, which is inextricably linked with pecan pie, first came out in 1902, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that a recipe for pecan pie made with corn syrup appeared. Supposedly, the wife of a company executive created the recipe which was widely advertised to promote the sale of Karo.

Before the age of corn syrup, pecan pies might have been made with molasses, cane syrup or brown sugar, which were all Louisiana products. My favorite pecan pie, which is made with brown sugar, doesn’t have the tooth-aching sweetness of most versions made with corn syrup. So, which is the traditional recipe for pecan pie, the one made with corn syrup or the one made with brown sugar?


Ginger Cantaloupe Sorbet

Makes about 1 quart

1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 inch fresh ginger
1 large or 2 small cantaloupes
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup vodka

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Peel and slice ginger and add to pan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and macerate for an hour or two. Strain and discard ginger.
Halve cantaloupe(s), discard seeds, and remove flesh from rind. Cut cantaloupe flesh into chunks, add to blender and puree enough to yield 3 cups. Add ginger syrup, lime juice and vodka to blender and pulse to combine. Refrigerate mixture until thoroughly chilled. Process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to a container and store in freezer.

Desserts Peachcobbler
Peach Cobbler

Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons butter, divided
5 large peaches (about 2 pounds)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
For biscuit topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ cups low-gluten self-rising flour, such as White Lily
To serve
Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter. Slice peaches into a mixing bowl; add sugar, flour and nutmeg and toss to coat. Add peach mixture to baking dish. Top with pats of remaining butter.
Whip cream with sugar until stiff. Fold in flour with a rubber spatula to make a dough. Turn onto a floured surface and pat out to a diameter that will fit baking dish. Place biscuit dough on top of fruit mixture. Bake in preheated oven until fruit is bubbling and biscuit topping is nicely browned, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Desserts Breadpudding
Sour Cherry And Almond Bread Pudding With Crème Anglaise

Makes 6 servings

4 cups French bread, torn into small pieces
¼ cup melted butter
2 eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup dried sour cherries
½ cup sliced almonds
Crème Anglaise
2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bread in a 2-quart baking dish and drizzle with the melted butter. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with the sugar, then add milk and cream. Add vanilla and nutmeg and mix. Pour over the bread in the baking dish. Add cherries. Using a large spoon, press bread down so it is completely submerged in the custard. When the bread is saturated, sprinkle almonds over the surface. Bake in preheated oven until set in the middle, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with cold crème anglaise.
Crème Anglaise
In a heavy saucepan, bring milk to a boil. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy and slowly add hot milk while whisking. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over low heat, while stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl. Add vanilla and place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Stir until sauce cools. Cover and refrigerate. Makes a little more than 2 cups.

Desserts Lemoncake
Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake

Makes 1 cake

½ pound butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
juice and finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a large bundt or tube pan.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix to combine. Fold in flour by cupfuls until just combined. Fold in sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, being careful not to over mix. Turn batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place pan on a rack for about 20 minutes. Turn out and place cake upright on rack to cool.

Desserts Pralines
Pecan Pralines

Makes about 30 small pralines

1 cup pecan halves
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast in a 325 F oven for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, bring cream, sugar and pecans to a boil and cook until the mixture reaches 234 degrees. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla. Beat until candy thickens. Drop by teaspoonfuls on buttered wax paper.


Desserts Cheesecake

Mascarpone Cheesecake With Chocolate Crust And Raspberries

Makes 12 or more servings

1½ cups chocolate wafer crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon powdered instant espresso
¼ pound unsalted butter, melted
16 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Process chocolate wafers in blender or food processor to yield 1½ cups. Combine with sugar, instant espresso and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. Press mixture in the bottom of springform pan and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), mix mascarpone and cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs, sugar, brandy and vanilla and mix until smooth. Pour filling into cooled pan, smooth top and bake in center of oven until cake is lightly browned and pulls away slightly from the pan, about 55 to 60 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. When completely cooled, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving. Garnish each slice with raspberries.


Desserts Blueberrypie

Blueberry Pie

Makes 8 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons cold lard or shortening
About 7-8 tablespoons ice-cold water
4 cups blueberries
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

In a mixing bowl, whisk flour and salt to combine. Cut butter into small pieces and add to bowl. Add lard or shortening and toss to coat both fats with flour. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, mix butter and lard or shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal studded with tiny peas. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently. Divide dough into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other, form each into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or more.
Place a heavy baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450 F.
Place blueberries in large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest to combine. Add to blueberries and toss to coat.
Roll out the larger disc of dough to a circle about 10 inches in diameter and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Add blueberry mixture, then roll out the other disc of dough to fit pan. Pinch top and bottom crusts together and shape as desired.
Beat egg with water, then apply to crust with pastry brush. Cut several slits in top crust. Place pie on baking sheet in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake until filling is bubbling and crust is browned, about 30-40 minutes. Cool pie on a rack.


Desserts Pecanpie
Pecan Pie

Adapted from Bill Neal, “Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie”
Makes 8 servings

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cold lard or shortening
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1¼ cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
To serve
Vanilla ice cream

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour and salt. Pulse 3 times to mix. Cut butter into small pieces. Add to bowl of food processor, along with lard or shortening. Pulse 2 or 3 times until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add water and pulse just to combine. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Press dough into a disc about 5 inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or more. Roll out dough, position in pie plate, trim and crimp edges as desired.
Place a heavy baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450 F.
Beat the butter until light and add the sugars slowly. Beat in flour and salt. Beat the eggs separately, just enough to make them smooth. Stir into the butter mixture, add pecan halves and vanilla. Pour filling into prepared pie crust and place pie on baking sheet in preheated oven. Reduce heat to 325 F and bake until set in the middle, about 40 minutes. Cool pie on a rack. Serve with vanilla ice cream.


Categories: Recipes