Delectable Dessert Wines
Pairing them with Desserts -
With Ten Recipes
by Michael Sherwood
Iit only gets cold enough in a few places in the Pacific Northwest to make true ice wine, where it hangs on the vine until January to pick. That hasn’t stopped a plethora of wine makers from experimenting with both freezing grapes and freezing juice to make some complex and delicious dessert wines. Other winemakers have concentrated on long hang times and thick skinned grape varieties to allow sugars to concentrate and botrytis to form. The trick is to capture enough of the acidity in the grapes to balance the overwhelming sweetness of something harvested late and ultra ripe.
While dessert wines will go beautifully with any number of hard and salty cheeses from Parmesan to Stilton, in this section we will be talking about pairing sweet wines with a number of outstanding desserts. Let your palate be the guide.
Dessert wines cover a broad spectrum of styles which include sweet sparkling wines, late harvest and botrytised wines, ice wines, oxidized wines like a sherry and fortified port-style wines.
When pairing desserts and dessert wines, first choose which is more important: the dessert or the wine. Is there a must-have dessert, or do you want to serve a specific dessert wine?
Bottom line: the wine should always be sweeter than the dessert, otherwise, the wine can taste dull and acidic. For good wine pairings, desserts should not be pure sugar-fests. Serve ultra sweet desserts with coffee or tea.
The conventional wisdom is that frozen desserts
like sorbet and ice cream aren't perfect dessert wine partners. The coldness
can dull the palate and diminishes perception of the wine's character. Still,
a buttery caramel sauce over a double vanilla bean ice cream with a thickly
honeyed late-harvest Riesling can be awfully nice. Either that or a frozen
Zabaglione or a dessert soufflé are
the perfect match for a rich white Port. Rules are meant to be challenged.
Chocolate Mousse Cake
The coffee in this cake may be replaced with a dessert wine, your favorite liqueur or with even with orange juice or some tropical nectar. For cinnamon, I love to use Ceylon cinnamon. You can find it in Hispanic markets sold as Mexican Cinnamon. The sticks are light and wispy. The smell and flavor are lighter, brighter and more aromatic than your standard Chinese or Vietnamese cinnamon. Grind the sticks in your spice grinder (yes, convert your coffee grinder into a spice grinder and treat yourself to a new coffee grinder).
This dessert would pair well with a big Orange Muscat, a honeyed Riesling or maybe even a Ruby style Port.
Here is what you need for the cake:
1/3 cup of water
For the cream:
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
To make the cake:
1) Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan (about 2 inches deep) and line bottom with a round of parchment paper or foil.
2) In medium saucepan bring water and sugar to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Add butter and simmer, stirring occasionally, until melted. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, swirling pan to submerge chocolate in hot syrup. Let chocolate stand in syrup 3 minutes and whisk until smooth.
3) In a large bowl whisk together eggs, coffee, rum, and cinnamon. Add chocolate mixture, whisking until well combined, and pour into cake pan.
4) Put cake in pan in larger pan and add enough water to reach halfway up side of cake pan. Bake cake in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
5) Cake may be kept in pan, wrapped in plastic wrap, and chilled 1 week or frozen 1 month. Thaw cake completely before proceeding.
6) Run a thin knife around pan to loosen cake and put pan on hot stove burner for 3 to 4 seconds. Invert cake onto a plate and remove parchment or foil. Bring cake to room temperature.
To make the cream:
1) In a bowl with an electric mixer or whisk beat cream with sugar and cinnamon until it just holds stiff peaks. Over time, experiment with say a pinch of ground cardamom or ginger in the mix.
Source: Gourmet Magazine - February 1997
Frozen Praline Soufflés
These beautiful little single serving desserts are as tasty as they are handsome. Like any soufflé, they tend to want to rise. Adding a collar helps them rise up instead of flowing over the sides.
Pair this with a late-harvest white wine. Over time you will get to know the relationship between residual sugars in a wine and your favorite desserts. It’s always safe to pair sweeter wines with most any dessert. The trick is finding the balance of sweetness and acidity to carry the sugars off without being cloying on the palate.
Here’s what you need for the praline:
1/2 cup sugar
Here’s what you need for the meringue:
1/4 cup sugar
Special equipment: 2 (4-oz) ramekins; a candy thermometer
1) Prep the ramekin: Tear off 2 (3-inch-wide) strips of foil and wrap each tightly around outside of a ramekin, forming a collar that extends at least 1 inch above rim. Tape overlapping ends together.
2) Make the praline: Line a baking sheet with a sheet of foil, then lightly oil foil. Cook sugar with a pinch of salt in a dry 8- to 9-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, without stirring, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel. Immediately remove from heat and stir in nuts with a wooden spoon, then quickly pour onto baking sheet, spreading with back of spoon before praline hardens.
Cool praline on baking sheet 5 minutes, then break into large pieces. Put pieces in a sealable plastic bag, then seal bag, pressing out excess air. Break praline into smaller pieces by lightly pounding and rolling with a rolling pin. Measure out 1/3 cup (serve remainder on the side).
3) Make meringue and assemble dessert: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then wash down crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil syrup, without stirring, until thermometer registers 238 to 242°F (soft-ball stage), 3 to 5 minutes.
While syrup boils, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt in a bowl using an electric mixer at medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high, then add hot syrup in a slow stream (avoid beaters and side of bowl), beating constantly, and continue to beat until meringue holds stiff glossy peaks and is cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Fold praline into meringue.
5) Whisk cream with brandy in another bowl until it holds soft peaks, then fold into meringue gently but thoroughly. Spoon mixture into ramekins and freeze, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours. Remove foil collars before serving.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine - January 2004
Apple Pear Pie with Ginger
This dessert presents a challenge with the sweetness of cooked apples and pears playing against the zesty ginger flavors. Try late harvest Gewurztraminer. This spicy varietal can stand up to the cinnamon and ginger in this dish.
Here’s what you need:
1 batch of your favorite pie crust for a double crust pie
Here’s what you do:
2) In a large sauce pan over high heat, combine the sugar, tapioca, cornstarch, ginger, cinnamon, lemon juice and pears. Bring to a boil while stirring, then cook about 3 minutes, constantly stirring until slightly thick and shinny.
3) Remove from the fire, stir in the apples. Cool and spoon into the chilled pie shell.
4) Top with lattice cut crust then bake 50 minutes in the middle of the oven, until the fruit bubbles and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
Source: Elizabeth Terry, Savannah GA
French-style macaroons typically involve two meringue-like cookies, with a paper thin crunchy exterior and a moist, almost cake like interior, sandwiched together with ganache or pastry cream, with melt-in-your-mouth results.
This dessert comes from Pix Patisserie, the temple of desserts in Portland,
Oregon. Pix serves these morsels with a semi sparkling or still Muscat over
a scoop of fruit gelato, served in large flute or a conical Pilsner glass.
Here’s what you need:
6 egg whites
Here's the drill:
1) Preheat conventional oven to 325 degrees or, preferably, a convection oven to 315 degrees. Whisk egg whites in mixer. When they start to turn white, add the sugar. Whisk until firm, but do not overmix or whites will be dry and brittle. To check, lift whisk or beaters; they should leave a ribbon pattern that stays on the surface of the meringue.
2) Toss together almond meal and powdered sugar. Fold this mixture into meringue; fold in red coloring. Put mixture into pastry bag with wide, round tip. Pipe mounds the size of a quarter onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Tops of cookies should be smooth with no points sticking up. Bake approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until macaroons are set with as little browning as possible. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool.
3) Make filling. In food processor, combine chilled butter and almond paste until smooth. Stir in raspberry jam. Sandwich two macaroons together with about a teaspoon of filling. Note: Purchase almond meal at Fred Meyer Nutrition Centers or Wild Oats Natural Marketplace.
Chocolate-Cinnamon-Almond variation: Prepare macaroons using 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Heat 11/2 cups whipping cream until boiling; remove from heat. Place 2 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chips or small pieces) in a food processor. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a food processor. Let sit 1 minute and then process until smooth. Let stand until piping consistency, then pipe onto flat side of cinnamon macaroon. Top with second macaroon.
Special equipment: A pastry bag or something to dispense the meringue into small dollops, a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper.
Notes: The goal is to achieve a very light, crisp crust and moist, chewy interior.
Baking at too low a temperature will dry them, like a meringue, and just a minute too long will ruin the texture. It's all about texture.
Using a pastry bag, pipe macaroon dough onto a lined baking sheet and lets it sit for a few minutes to form a skin before baking, which helps ensure a smooth top without cracks. Also, using fresh egg whites doesn't work quite as well as those that have aged for a few days. Bake the cookies a day ahead and keep them in the refrigerator to allow time for the flavors to develop.
Source: Cheryl Wakerhauser - Pix Patisserie - Portland, Oregon
Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Bread pudding when it is light and fluffy with eggs and sweet and chewy with bread dried just right, is a wonderful thing. The caramel in this recipe calls out for a honeyed or apricot scented late harvest or botrytis riddled Riesling.
Here’s what you need for the sauce:
1 pound dark brown sugar
Here’s what you need for the pudding
1) For the sauce: Whisk all ingredients in heavy large saucepan to blend. Whisk over medium-high heat until beginning to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, whisking occasionally, about 25 minutes. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before serving.)
2) For the pudding: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 11x7-inch glass baking dish. Combine milk, cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl; whisk to blend well. Spread 1 side of each bread slice with butter. Arrange 6 slices, buttered side up, in single layer in prepared dish, trimming to fit. Sprinkle with currants. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered side up. Pour custard through sieve over bread in dish. Let stand 15 minutes, occasionally pressing bread into custard. Note: Some recipes call for cutting the bread up into cubes. This works too, but we like the texture and look of whole pieces of bread
We make this in a smaller pan and put it into a larger pan, similar to a crème brulee or a timble.
3) Place pudding dish into a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of pudding dish. Place in oven. Bake pudding until set in center and golden on top, about 45 minutes. Remove pudding from water bath. Serve warm or at room temperature with warm caramel sauce.
Notes: In most custard recipes, air in the mix is bad and leads to bubbles. Here, though, air in the mixture is good; it will help the pudding rise ever so slightly and remain light and airy.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: Thanks to the wonderful folks at the Bluewater Café in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Dried-fruit Tart with Brandied Crème Anglaise
This is one of those rich dense desserts where the fruit flavors are concentrated. It’s not so much sweet as it is dense in flavor. You have the choice of complimenting the flavors or contrasting ‘em.
We recommend an ice wine, a robust Late-Harvest or even a raisined-style dessert wine to pair with this dessert.
Here is what you need:
Walnut Pastry Dough [see recipe below]
For the dried-fruit mixture:
4 cups water
For the crème anglaise:
1 cup heavy cream
Here’s what you do:
1) On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough 1/8 inch thick (about an 11-inch round). Fit dough into an 8-inch tart pan with a removable fluted rim and trim edge. With a fork prick bottom of shell all over. Chill shell 30 minutes, or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375° F.
2) Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake shell in middle of oven 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights or rice and foil and bake shell until golden, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool shell in pan on a rack.
3) Make dried-fruit mixture: In a heavy saucepan simmer water with sugar and vanilla bean, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Halve apricots and add to syrup with prunes and cherries. Simmer mixture 10 minutes and pour through a sieve into a 2-cup glass measure (you will have about 1 2/3 cups syrup). Reserve fruit and vanilla bean.
4) In a food processor purée 1/2 cup reserved fruit and 2 tablespoons syrup until smooth. Spread purée evenly over bottom of tart shell and arrange remaining fruit on top. In a cup sprinkle gelatin over cold water to soften 1 minute. In a small saucepan boil 1/2 cup remaining syrup until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove pan from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved completely, and with a pastry brush brush glaze on fruit. Reserve remaining cup syrup for crème anglaise.
5) Make crème anglaise: Have ready a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan combine cream and reserved cup syrup. Split reserved vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into pan. Discard vanilla bean. Bring mixture just to a boil and remove pan from heat. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Add hot cream mixture to yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Transfer mixture to cleaned pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until slightly thickened and a thermometer registers 170° F. (Do not let custard boil.) Pour custard through a fine sieve into metal bowl set in bowl of ice water. Cool crème anglaise completely and stir in brandy. (Crème anglaise may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.)
Serve tart with crème anglaise.
Walnut Pastry Dough
This recipe was created to prepare Dried-Fruit Tart with Brandied Crème Anglaise. You could add a half teaspoon of cinnamon to this recipe for an added kick.
Here's what you need:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
Here's what you do:
1) Cut butter into pieces and soften to cool room temperature. In a food processor pulse walnuts until finely ground. Add confectioners' sugar, flour, and salt and pulse until combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add butter.
2) With your fingertips or a pastry blender blend together flour mixture and butter until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with remainder in small (roughly pea-size) lumps. Stir together yolk and ice water and add to mixture. With a fork toss mixture until liquid is incorporated. Gently form mixture into a ball and on a lightly floured surface smear dough in 3 or 4 forward motions with heel of hand to help distribute fat and make dough easier to work with. Form dough into a ball and flatten to form a disk. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, 1 hour, or until firm but not hard. (Dough may be covered and chilled 1 day ahead or frozen 1 month.)
Source: Gourmet Magazine - November 1997
Fruit Tartlets in Pistachio Phyllo Shells
These are a delight in any setting. The phyllo shells take some practice to make, but once you get the hang of it, they go quickly. You can use any combination of fruit and berries for this light freshening dessert. We suggest blackberries, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries along with a peach or nectarine for a little moisture and dimension in the flavors.
We’d suggest a lower residual sugar dessert wine with this or possibly one of those delicious semi-sparkling dessert wines.
Here’s what you need:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Here’s what you do:
1) Preheat oven to 375°F and butter four 1/2-cup muffin cups.
2) Melt 2 tablespoons butter and cool. In a shallow baking pan toast pistachios in middle of oven, shaking pan occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool nuts and finely chop.
3) On a work surface stack phyllo sheets and cut out four 6-inch squares (for a total of 12 single-sheet squares), discarding scraps. Stack phyllo squares between 2 sheets of wax paper and cover with a kitchen towel. Line each buttered muffin cup with 1 phyllo square, pressing into bottom (don’t worry if pastry rips). Fold in pastry overhang and brush inside and edges with some melted butter. In a small bowl stir together 1 tablespoon nuts and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Sprinkle bottom of each pastry shell with ‚ teaspoon mixture. Make 2 more layers of phyllo, butter, nuts, and sugar in same manner. Bake shells in middle of oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift shells out of pan and transfer to a rack to cool slightly.
4) While shells are baking, cut peach into 1/2-inch-thick wedges and halve wedges crosswise. In a bowl toss peach and berries with honey, lemon juice, and vanilla and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, at least 15 minutes.
5) In a small bowl stir together sour cream and remaining brown sugar to taste. Just before serving, divide sour-cream mixture among shells and with a slotted spoon fill shells with fruit.
6) Drizzle fruit and serving plates with some of remaining fruit juices in bowl. Sprinkle remaining nuts over tartlets.
Source: Gourmet Magazine’s Quick Kitchen
- July 1999
Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake
There is something intriguing about a recipe turned on it’s ear, or in this case, inside-out. Make no mistake, this cake takes some time to assemble but trust us, it will be worth the effort. You may have only a few real specialty times to buy in advance.
This dessert would go well with a Port-style wine from the Columbia Valley, a rich Orange Muscat or one of those over the top 15% ABV fruit bomb Zinfandels.
Here’s what you need for the cake layers:
1 1/2 cups sugar
Here’s what you need for the filling:
7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
Special equipment: 3 (9-inch) round cake pans
1) Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total.
2) Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.
3) Make filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
4) Increase oven temperature to 425°F.
5) Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath.
6) Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.
7) Make glaze while milk is baking: Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.
8) Assemble cake: Put 1 cake layer on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.
9) Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate.
Cooks' notes: Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
• For easier handling when assembling cake, place bottom layer on a cardboard round or the removable bottom of a tart or cake pan.
• The chef uses Valrhona cocoa powder in her cake, but other Dutch-process cocoa powders work equally well. The filling is made from sweetened condensed milk that is cooked in a water bath in the oven until it caramelizes. While the milk is baking, you can prepare your glaze.
• Makes 12 about servings. Active time: 1 1/2 hours. Start to finish: 4 1/2 hours.
Source: Mary Laulis of the Bridge Street Bakery, Waitsfield, Vermont