2010 dessert roundup: my favourites

It seems only fitting that my last post of 2010 should be about my favourite desserts this year. I have had an amazing year of good eats all over the world, from London to Copenhagen and from Beirut to New York and of course my hometown of Montreal, where we are spoiled when it comes to amazing restaurants. In case you didn’t know by now, I have a very sweet tooth and I always leave room for dessert, no matter how full I am. So here is my roundup of 10 of the best desserts I’ve had in 2010, whether made at home or eaten in a restaurant. Please note that it was too hard for me to list them by order of deliciousness so they are listed in no particular order.

Patrice Demers’s “green” dessert:

2010 was the year I discovered the genius of Patrice Demers, first with his chocolate “pot-de-crème” at Newtown and then with this green dessert at Les 400 coups. I have since made it several times, mainly because I had a craving for it. The first picture is of the green dessert at Les 400 coups and the second one is my take on it at my 3rd annual dessert party.

Momofuku’s apple pie cake truffles:

My mistake was buying only one bag of these, I should’ve bought 10 because I should know by now that anything that comes out of Christina Tosi’s (pastry chef at Momofuku) kitchen is genius!

Beignets with a salted-butter caramel dipping sauce at Le St-Urbain:

Fried dough with salted-butter caramel, nothing more to say here…

Thomas Keller’s chocolate bouchons:

Very similar to his chocolate brownies, these are just as luscious and so chocolatey. If you’re a chocolate lover, then these are a must! They are from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon book but you can also find the recipe here.

Christophe Michalak’s chocolate moelleux with cappuccino mousse:

(Photo: Andrea D. Donida, my dessert-loving friend)

I tasted these at Michalak’s book launch in Montreal this past November. Michalak is one of the best pastry chefs in the world. There was a huge buffet of delicious desserts at his book launch but these stood out as my favourites. Even though I had already had way too much sugar that night, I just had to have seconds of this one. 

Choux pralinés and éclairs from Pâtisserie de la gare:

Definitely the best éclairs I’ve ever had! I’ve tasted the chocolate, espresso and caramel/raspberry versions and they are all out of this world! So good that I decided they would be the ones to make the desserts for the Dishcrawl event I helped organize. The picture of the praline choux à la crème was taken at the Michalak event but was (and is) made by Pâtisserie de la gare, whose pastry chef worked with Michalak in Paris for 5 years.

François Payard's verrine du japonais:

From their description: “Layers of hazelnut dacquoise, milk chocolate mousse, yuzu citrus crémeux, milk chocolate chantilly and dark chocolate glaze”. I had my first one of these back in April and had to go back and have another one on my recent trip to New York. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had!

My Kugelhopf’s tahini date shortbread:

Voted “best cookies in the world” first by me, then by my dessert party guests. Easy to make and seriously addictive, I have made these a few times since reading Kerrin’s post in October. I am still awed by how good they taste every time I bake a new batch (and almost burn my tongue with that first cookie because I’m too impatient to let it cool)

Cannelle et Vanille candied kumquats and pistachio financiers:

2010 will also be the year when I came to the conclusion that financiers are my favourite things to bake. They are easy to make, the combination of flavours are endless and they are absolutely delicious. My favourite combination so far has been the candied kumquats and pistachio one from Cannelle et Vanille.

Homemade panettone:

(Photo: Andrea D. Donida)

This is a once-a-year event only (around the holidays) and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time: the 19th anniversary dinner of Buonanotte. Every single food blogger in Montreal was talking about this panettone for days after we tasted it. This is a world away from the panettones you can purchase at your local supermarket. My wish for 2011 is that they decide to start selling it!

Bonus number 11: My birthday dessert at Eleven Madison Park:

This dessert concluded an unforgettable birthday lunch at EMP this past November. Chocolate composition with variations (dehydrated chocolate mousse, chocolate honeycomb, etc.) with milk - absolutely delicious!

This year is also the year I started to blog. The response has been great and I have met so many amazing people who are just as passionate about food as I am. I want to thank you all for reading, tweeting, sharing, commenting, etc. Have a very sweet 2011!

My 3rd annual dessert party, or how to bake 11 desserts in 2 days

Kreavie chestnut bites, mini canellés and lavender/pear mini financiers

This past Sunday was my 3rd annual dessert party. It all started 3 years ago when I decided to throw a party sometime between my birthday in November and the Christmas holidays. It has since become a tradition… I ended up making so many desserts that first year that everyone took a tupperware home. So the year after, I made a lot on purpose and prepared some nice gift boxes that my guests filled up and took home with a nice card as their Christmas gifts. I did the same this year as well. I love the idea of giving sweet treats as a holiday gift and this for me, is the perfect occasion to do so…

Key lime squares

"Green" dessert

All year long I go through hundreds of food and baking posts and I come across so many recipes I’d love to make but don’t always have time for. I bookmark them all and they come in handy when it’s time to pick a menu. I also often include some of my favourite recipes from that year. To be able to pull off a multi-dessert party, you must be very well organized so here below are some tips I’ve gathered with experience :)

Honey and pine nut tartelettes and Tahini date shortbread cookies

Pick your recipes – I spend weeks doing this, mostly because I can’t decide on what to make and also because this is my favorite thing to do! Look through those cookbooks or favorite blogs and pick the recipes you want to make. When choosing, try and pick various recipes in terms of types of desserts (pies, cakes, mousses, cookies, verrines, etc.) and flavours (chocolate, fruit, spices, etc). Prep time is also crucial when picking recipes, you have to have some recipes that are ok if done a couple of days ahead because you absolutely cannot make everything the same day! You may also want to include some true and tested recipes in there if you are not too confident about baking something for the very first time. In my 11 desserts, I only had 3 that I had made before; the rest were all new recipes. I always try new recipes when throwing a party, which might not always be the wisest choice!

Calculate your quantities – Once your recipes are chosen, print them out. Then go through the ingredients list of each carefully. Add up the most popular ingredients (flour, eggs, sugar, butter) to come up with a total needed then list the least common ones (dates, nuts, fruits, etc). Check your list twice, you don’t want to run out of sugar when in the middle of a recipe!

Go shopping – Do this a few days ahead so that you’ll have everything handy when you’re ready to start. I shopped for everything on the Wednesday before the party then came home and got everything organized .

Make a schedule – Decide what dessert you will be making when. Start with a couple of days before the party since you really can’t do a lot much earlier than that (unless you’re making things like ice cream, macarons or truffles, which can be made a few days ahead). Don’t forget to include preparation in your schedule, for example, you can pre-chop all the chocolate needed for your recipes, toast and chop any nuts needed, confit fruit since that can be done a few days ahead, etc. These steps will help you save some valuable time.

Start baking! – I started prepping on Friday night and made 2 desserts that night (the cookies and the chocolate/yogurt cream for the “green”) then made a few more on Saturday and prepared some things for Sunday. On Sunday, I baked the cannelés and financiers dough (which needed to rest in the fridge for 24 hours) and made a few more things, but was done early enough to tidy up and decorate the apartment before everyone showed up. I assembled some desserts at the last minute (assembling the “green” verrines, icing the cupcakes, dusting the cake with cocoa and plating it, etc.) and when everyone got here, everything was on the table and I was ready to party!

Be flexible – If you find yourself short on time (or just plain tired), then eliminate something. You’re probably making too many anyway so one less dessert won’t be missed by anyone (don’t tell anyone, but I decided to eliminate one at the last minute!) You can also supplement your homemade desserts with store bought ones. I bought some chestnut bites from Kreavie because they are absolutely delicious and I wanted to share them with everyone!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you prepare 11 desserts in 2 days, and have fun doing it!

Chocolate & chestnut truffle torte

Orange and olive oil cake

This was my menu for this year’s party. All the recipes just happened to be from my favourite baking blogs, except for the green, which is from genius Montreal pastry chef Patrice Demers and one of the best desserts I’ve had this year. Click on the titles to get to the recipes.

Tahini date shortbread cookies – Best. Cookies. Ever. Period. (My Kugelhopf)

Tortine alla nutella – Nutella cupcakes, need I say more? (Bell’Alimento)

Key lime squares

Cannelés – I had a little trouble with the baking temperature and time but the last batch was awesome! (Christelle is Flabbergasting)

Orange and olive oil cake  - One of the party’s favourites! (Christelle is Flabbergasting)

Chocolate & chestnut truffle torte – Dense, chocolatey and amazing! (Goodfood)

Honey and pine nut tart – These were a great hit! (Tartelette)

Milk chocolate peanut bars – In his words: “Peanuts, chocolate AND bananas” and you get to brûlé the bananas! (Zen Can Cook)

Sticky toffee pudding – Sticky, sweet, full of butter and so good! (Donna Hay)

Green – One of my favourite desserts these days! (Patrice Demers)

Lavender/apricots financiers – I love financiers and this was my first time baking with lavender, a success! Since it’s not apricot season, I replaced them with pear and it was great! (Tartelette)

Happy holidays everyone! I wish you lots of good foods and sweet treats in the new year. May your plate always be full and your table always be surrounded with loved ones….

Best dessert in Montreal at Les 400 Coups restaurant

To do the 400 “coups” - to get into all kinds of mischief

I had been anticipating the opening of Les 400 coups for a few weeks now. I was especially anticipating tasting some of pastry chef Patrice Demers's desserts. I couldn't get there soon enough so I made reservations for their second day of opening this past Tuesday night.

The restaurant is located on Notre-Dame street in Old Montreal where the old Resident used to be. The space is airy with very high ceiling, a bar on one side and an open kitchen in the back. A huge painting of Nicolas Ruel covers one whole wall of the restaurant. We were greeted by sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin - who is one of the 3 owners - seated by the window and of course offered a nice glass of Sauternes. Chef/owner Marc-André Jetté’s menu seemed very interesting and creative but I couldn’t make up my mind and asked the waiter for an omakase-style (up to the chef) appetizer and main meal. A tasting menu is available but we weren’t hungry enough for a 5-course meal.

Jerusalem artichoke soup with buttermilk mousse and bottarga shavings

The first course we got was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with buttermilk mousse and bottarga shavings delivered by Demers himself. This meal was boding well because the soup was absolutely spectacular! 

Yellow beetroot salad with crispy beef marrow, radish, yogurt and yuzu

Beef tartare with mustard ice cream

It was followed by our 2 appetizers: a yellow beetroot salad with crispy beef marrow, radish, yogurt and yuzu and a beef tartare with mustard ice cream. The beetroot salad was so fresh and who knew I would enjoy deep fried beef marrow so much? The tartare could very well be the best beef tartare I’ve ever had! And the mustard ice cream? Absolute genius!

Mackerel with Peking duck raviolis, parsnip purée and brussels sprouts

Black cod with dashi, rock shrimp, oyster mushrooms & green apple/wasabi condiment

Not knowing what to expect adds so much to the dining experience. The element of surprise is like receiving a gift from the kitchen. From where I was sitting I could see Jetté and Demers hard at work in the kitchen and I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to be sending our way. We got the mackerel with Peking duck raviolis, parsnip purée and brussels sprouts and the black cod with dashi, rock shrimp, oyster mushrooms and a green apple/wasabi condiment. Both fishes were cooked to perfection, tender and moist and absolutely scrumptious.

Green: apple, pistachio, olive oil, coriander and creamy white chocolate yogurt

Araguani chocolate mousse

The time had come for my very favourite course of any meal but especially this one, since I was so looking forward to Demers’s desserts. We picked the desserts ourselves and I went for the chef’s signature Green dessert, a mix of apple, pistachio, olive oil, coriander and creamy white chocolate yogurt, absolutely divine! We also tried the Araguani chocolate mousse with pear sorbet, caramelized nuts and sapote which was amazing as well.

One would think that for a chocoholic like me, the choice would be obvious - and it usually is - but I walked out of Les 400 coups seeing the world though green-tinted glasses! I wanted to take a green home but was told it wouldn’t make it. I guess that just means I’m going to have to go back soon.

Les 400 coups
400 Notre Dame East
514 985 0400