Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sweet Endings

The sentiment felt by Bridgett Jones walking into the Tarts and Vicars Party sent a resounding chill down my spine. While I haven’t ever been that, ahem, under dressed for a function, I have often bitten off more than I can chew, literally. These circumstances might appear to be inconsequential comparisons, but the resulting shame and physical discomfort manifest themselves almost identically. Last week I was tagged in a facebook picture that describes the exact gluttonous feeling that we all experience from time to time. For those of you that aren’t up to speed on your Catholic upbringing; gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins and literally means to gulp down or swallow-- an over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or intoxicants to the point of waste. This time of year there is a slippery slope, and I don’t just mean your doorstep, from gluttony to sloth. Then as my college roommate would say, “If we keep this up, there will be nothing left for us but our sloth cloths.” With that said, it is time for the favorite of the masses: Dessert. I confess that I don’t have the villainous sweet tooth; I am drawn to the saltier things in life like truffle oil fries and cheese plates; but I can certainly appreciate the joy of a sweet ending.

Lingonberry Puddings for Two

This first option is what I would be making, plus it’s a nice light tart finish to any big meal. The lingonberries can be quite difficult to find, so my mom and I end up ordering them by the case from Amazon. I have been successful at Earthfare and Wholefoods, but it’s not exactly a shelf stocker. The less than attractive feature is that the recipe is time consuming, but the bonus being that it will keep for several days; therefore it can be made ahead of time!

¾ of a 12oz package of unsweetened frozen raspberries, thawed (Total about 9 oz)
1/4 package of unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup bottled pomegranate juice (I use POM)
1/2 cup bottled wild lingonberry sauce or lingonberries
1/8 cup sugar

PUREE raspberries with their juices in a food processor, then force though a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Do not rush this process, it makes all the difference in a smooth pudding!

SPRINKLE gelatin packets over pomegranate juice in a medium saucepan and let stand 1 minute to soften. COOK over low heat, stirring, until gelatin has dissolved.

STIR in lingonberry sauce and sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved and sauce has melted. STIR into berry purée.

QUICK CHILL in an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to mound, about 30 minutes.

POUR into dishes or glasses and chill until set, at least 3 hours.

NOTE: This recipe was originally made to serve 8-12 which is why the measurements are so small. The full recipe can be made with the following proportions for a post-feast dessert.
[ 3 packages raspberries, 2 packages gelatin, 1 cup pomegranate juice, 2 cups lingonberries, and 1/2 cup sugar]

Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt

If you feel like embracing all that Valentine’s Day has to offer, and were raised in say an Episcopalian household, this recipe is sinfully divine. Just from the title you should gather the richness of this fudge. But as the commercial boasts, “Nutella is a delicious hazelnut spread that contains quality ingredients, such as skim milk and a hint of cocoa, that moms can serve as part of a balanced breakfast.” Right. A wolf in sheep’s clothing for sure.

Butter, for greasing pan
1 (14 oz. ) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. high-quality bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips
1 cup Nutella, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Sea salt, approximately 1/2 tsp

GREASE the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

STIR together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter in a medium glass or stainless steel bowl.

FORM a double-boiler by setting the bowl on a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. STIR until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

SCRAPE the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

RUN a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, LIFT the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper.

CUT the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

NOTE: Makes a lot of fudge. But hey, it’s for Valentine’s Day!

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