This past weekend, in order from least to most complex:
Lemon angel food cake, made with 1/2 Splenda for my diabetic father-in-law:
As a rule, I don't like to bake with sugar substitutes, but Splenda does pretty well if you don't sub for more than half the sugar and if you use it in a recipe with lemon or apple or other strong, fruity flavors. In a straight-up butter cake, Splenda's metallic aftertaste comes through too strongly.
Chocolate chip almond chiffon cake with almond crunch topping:
This is a favorite from an old issue of Fine Cooking. I've made it before, so you'd think I'd remember to cut back on the milk in the glaze, right? The glaze was much too thin to hold all of the almond crunchy goodness. Didn't matter much, though -- people just dove in with their fingers to rescue the nuts. This is a light, bouncy, moist, flavorful cake. Just about perfection.
Finally, for our little dinner soiree, a recipe from Chef Norman Love and my 3-day pastry class at the French Pastry School in Chicago last fall. I realize that I never got around to writing a full post about the class; I must rectify that soon.
Cream cheese mousse with an apple jelly center, almond financier and walnut streusel:
Components in my kitchen, prior to assembly:
On the left, crunchy cinnamon walnut streusel bases. On the right, buttery soft almond financier cookies.
Apple jelly centers with cubes of poached apple and vanilla bean.
This petit gateau gets assembled in the ring molds upside down, which is how you get the nice, clean upper edge.
Both the pan and the rings are lined with acetate for smooth release. The rings get filled about 1/3 with mousse, then the financier gets placed in, followed by the apple center. More mousse to fill in the gaps, then a crunchy streusel round as a base. It all gets frozen to set, and then unmolded and decorated with the marbled white chocolate band around and chocolate decorations on top.
Here's what it looks like inside (from the class tasting):
This was one of my favorite desserts from the class, flavor-wise. The tart apple jelly center is perfectly offset by the mild cream cheese mousse and the intense butteriness of the financier. The crunchy streusel is key, as having a crunchy element slows the eater down and distributes the flavors around the mouth more fully. White chocolate is a perfect complement to the strong flavors within.
Having successfully tackled this tiny treasure, I want to do try more of Chef Love's recipes... how soon do you think I can get another dinner party on the calendar?