Yes friends, it’s another “best of” list of sorts! I know they’re proliferating right now out there in cyber space but I did this last year and I wanted to do it again this year. It makes me relive all the sweet and delicious moments of 2011 and I hope it will bring about some new discoveries for you. There were many favourite desserts this year but I somehow managed to pick 10 of them to include in this list. There are a couple of Montreal ones and a few that are from my trips. Unsurprisingly, this list includes 3 very different versions of a chocolate cake. It also includes a very favourite recipe that I hope you’ll make.
So here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy!
St John restaurant, London
I was truly spoiled food-wise when I spent 5 days in London this past summer. Lunch at Fergus Henderson’s St John restaurant was delicious and it ended with this rich, gooey, chocolaty cake that was absolutely decadent.
Brooklyn Blackout cake
Ladybird Bakery, Brooklyn and Two Little Red Hens Bakery, Manhattan
I celebrated my birthday with an intense weekend of eating my way through New York City this past fall. My cousin surprised me with a birthday cake that looked like a Betty Crocker box cake but tasted like heaven! Don’t be fooled by the look of this cake, it is absolutely delicious, as are all the pastries made at the Ladybird and Two Little Red Hens bakeries.
Almond molten cake
Tickets restaurant, Barcelona
How do you end a nearly perfect evening in Barcelona, one that starts with a long chat with Albert Adrià, followed by an unforgettable array of tapas from Tickets, the best tapas bar in the city? With this great molten almond cake. Chocolate molten cakes may be passé but they are some of my favourite desserts. However, I didn’t miss the chocolate at all with this delicious and rich almond molten cake.
Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, Montreal
Pâtisserie Rhubarbe is one of my favourites, if not my favourite pastry shop in Montreal. I visited for the first time last year around the holidays and when I took a bite out of the caramel religieuse, I almost fell off my chair! I’ve always been a “chou” girl and have always had a leaning towards the choux à la crème or éclairs but pastry chef Stephanie Labelle’s take on this classic French pastry is pure perfection. The dough is crunchy, the filling is light and it changes with the seasons, which is always a good reason to visit often.
Pâtisserie Rhubarbe, Montreal
Fraisiers were my favourite cakes when I was a child and I always requested one for my birthday. Although I must say that I’ve never had one quite as delicious or as beautiful as this one from Pâtisserie Rhubarbe. When I suggested I bring a cake to a birthday party I was attending, it was purely for selfish reasons and because I needed an occasion to try this beauty which had been featured in The Gazette a few days earlier. Neither I nor anyone attending the birthday party was disappointed as this was just as delicious as it looked.
Michelle Marek, Montreal
The Strawberry Social organized this past June by another one of my favourite pastry chefs in Montreal, Michelle Marek, to profit Santropol Roulant was a great success. A sunny summer day in a park partaking in some delicious sweets is my idea of a perfect day. The sweet in question that day was Michelle’s fabulous strawberry shortcake, made at the height of strawberry season in Montreal. I have never tasted shortcake quite so delicious! I even took one home with me, which I was planning on eating the next day. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make it for that long…
Pastaga restaurant, Montreal
I will be writing a full review of Pastaga, this recently opened fun restaurant and wine bar by talented chef Martin Juneau on this blog soon. For now though, I will say that the carrot cake made by pastry chef Isabelle Leroux from an original recipe of Juneau’s grand mother is delicious! I love carrot cake and this version is moist, cleverly spiced and topped with heaps of sweet pineapple and candied carrot strips.
Christophe Michalak, Paris (eaten in Montreal)
I was so lucky to spend a few hours in the kitchen with some of the best chefs in Montreal a few months ago and even some from out of town including Daniel Boulud. Famous French pastry chef Christophe Michalak was supposed to be there but cancelled at the very last minute. His dessert, however, did make an appearance and what an appearance it was! Not only did it look beautiful plated but it tasted like a heavenly masterful mix of rich chocolate and praline…
Dominique Ansel bakery, New York
Dominique Ansel worked at Fauchon in Paris and was the pastry chef at Daniel for 6 years before opening this adorable little Parisian-style pastry shop in SOHO this past fall. Upon a friend’s recommendation, I visited the newly-opened store on my last visit to New York. His kouign amann, that hard-to-find buttery and flaky Bretagne specialty is simply delicious.
The year of the cannoli
Sicily and Montreal
I’ve had many a cannolo this past year, here in Montreal and abroad and a few of them are worth mentioning here. First there was the one I had in Sicily, from the mother land, delicious! Then there are the ones from La Cornetteria, just down the street from my apartment and which I only discovered lately even though I’ve been going there for a while. I am now wondering how I could’ve missed out on those delicious things for so long? I also discovered the ones from Alati pastry shop in the very Italian St Leonard neighbourhood of Montreal, also delicious! Then there are the very elusive ones from Michele Forgione, chef owner of one of my favourite restaurants in Montreal: Osteria Venti. Elusive because he doesn’t make them often which is really a crime since they are the most delicious ones so I suggest we get a petition going for 2012?
Tiramisu whoopie pies
From Whoopie Pies by Mowie Kay, published by Lorenz Books, an imprint of Anness Publishing
My friend Mowie had asked me to test a couple of recipes for a whoopie pie book he was writing. I have since made these tiramisu whoopie pies several times because they are just that good. They were one of the desserts I made for my 2012 dessert party (post coming up soon) and they are definitely one of the best sweet things I have baked this year. The book (with 70 different whoopie pie recipes!) is available on Amazon now. I am sharing this recipe with you today courtesy of Mowie.
Makes 12 whoopie pies
For the cookies
- 125g butter, softened
- 175g soft light brown sugar
- Seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
- 1 egg
- 350g plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 tsp salt
- 250ml buttermilk
- 4 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbs hot water
For the mascarpone filling
- 250g double (heavy) cream
- 200g mascarpone
- 5 tbs sugar (superfine)
- 50ml Marsala (optional)
For the topping
- unsweetened cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two baking trays with baking parchment or silicone mats.
- To make the cakes, place the butter in a bowl with the brown sugar and vanilla and whisk until light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg.
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a measuring jug, mix together the buttermilk and coffee.
- Fold half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Mix in the buttermilk mixture then the remainder of the dry ingredients.
- Using a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle, pipe twelve 2″ rounds of batter about 2″ apart from each other on each baking tray. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cakes bounce back when pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before assembling.
- For the filling, mix the cream, mascarpone, Marsala and sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Using a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, pipe some filling on to the flat side of one cake and top with the flat side of another. Repeat to make 12 pies. Dust the top with cocoa powder.
- You can make these in advance as the flavors will improve as they infuse. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Bring them back to room temperature before you serve them and dust them with cocoa powder.
- I filled my whoopie pies with a spoon instead of a piping bag. They don’t come out as pretty but they’re just as good!
- I made my whoopie pies a bit smaller and ended up with about 15 of them.
That’s it for this year’s roundup of my favourite desserts! I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you a very happy and delicious 2012! Happy New Year everyone!