Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dinner at Trattoria Doe-Waite

Quite often on Friday evenings after a long and/or trying work week, a small group of friends and I go out to dinner at some local restaurant or another. The problem is, we just don't have that many decent restaurants in this teeny town! So two delightful members of our supper club were kind enough to invite us over to their house for dinner. Angela, the cook of the house, made some scrumptious entrees including something she called Venetian Chicken. The chicken breasts were lightly breaded, topped with tomatoes, garlic, balsamic and heaven knows what else. But they were beautiful, perfectly moist, and mighty tasty! She also made something that I shouldn't even try to pronounce or spell...something like Crespelle con (alla? agli?) Spinace--that is, spinach crepes with a delicious besciamella with just a trace of nutmeg. SO GOOD! (Yes, Angela is VERY Italian! And we bless her for it!)

Of course, I couldn't go over to the Doe-Waite household empty-handed. My mama didn't raise me that way! So I volunteered to bring dessert. I had the vision of combining two pie recipes from Ken Haedrich's book--a pumpkin cheesecake pie with a praline topping. About a week before, I floated this pie idea to our other hostess, Jen, who traumatized me by suggesting that not everyone likes pumpkin pie. So I feel compelled to make a second, back-up dessert to be on the safe side. I made one of my very favorite dishes, a croissant bread pudding that I prefer unadorned, but that I zhoozhed up with dried cherries and almonds and a cherry brandy sauce for this affair. Both desserts turned out perfectly, but the guests DEVOURED the croissant pudding (having seconds and even thirds!), and most of them never did make it to the pumpkin pie. I truly don't think it was a matter of not liking pumpkin pie as Jen (so meanly!) predicted, but they truly were swooning over and filling up on the bread pudding. So I left part of the pie for the hosts to enjoy the next day, and brought the rest home to share some with my next-door neighbor who said it was the best pumpkin pie he's ever had! In any case, both of these would make excellent additions to your holiday table. Enjoy!

Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
(Source: Ken Haedrich's Pie)

a single pie crust (your favorite--I made a half whole-wheat graham crust that was just wonderful with the spiced pumpkin filling and nut topping)

1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon groud cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup light cream or half-n-half

Prepare the pastry and fit into a pie pan, crimping the edges. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, then partially pre-bake the crust. That is, bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees with parchment or foil and the pie weights of your choosing, then another 10-12 minutes at 375 uncovered, docking the crust with a fork. When the crust is just starting to brown, remove from the oven and paint the holes and any cracks with a bit of beaten egg white. Return to the oven for a couple of minutes until the egg white hardens. (This will protect the crust if the custard leaks.) Let the crust cool.

Cream the cream cheese with the sugars. Blend in the eggs and egg yolk, then the vanilla, lemon zest, spices, and salt. Add the pumpkin and cream and mix until smooth. Pour into the cooled pie shell and smooth out the top.

Bake for 40 minutes until the top has puffed slightly and maybe cracked a bit around the edges. (The middle can be wobbly but not soupy.) Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate at least four hours. Top with praline topping (below).

Praline Topping:

1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons cream
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat broiler. Combine topping ingredients then spread evenly over the pie. Place the pie under the broiler until the topping is melted and bubbly (about a minute, give or take--watch it the whole time or it will scorch!). Let cool at least ten minutes to let the praline topping set before cutting and serving.

Cherry Almond Croissant Pudding with Cherry Brandy Sauce
(Source: adapted from Holiday Baking Magazine, 1999)

1 1/2 cups (or more) dried cherries
orange juice, heated
6 large croissants or 10-12 cocktail croissants, sliced in half lengthwise
8 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 cups heavy cream (can use light cream or even half-n-half but it won't be as good!)
2 teaspoons vanilla (or a vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups (or more) sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the dried cherries with heated orange juice and set aside. Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish. Layer croissants in the pan so that there are no spaces between them and the entire surface is covered. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until light in texture and a paler yellow. Stir in cream, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Pour all over the croissants. Drain the cherries. Sprinkle them evenly over the croissants, then do the same with the almonds. Gently press the croissants down in the cream mixture so that they absorb as much of the liquid as possible.

Set the baking dish inside a larger one and pour hot tap water into the bottom pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the inner pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until pudding is puffed, browned, and just set in the middle. Remove the inner pan and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or chilled with Cherry Brandy Sauce (below).

Cherry Brandy Sauce:

5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup kirschwasser or cherry brandy
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
pinch salt

In a large, heatproof bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Beat in brandy, almond extract, and salt. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook until mixture is thick and creamy, stirring constantly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Both of those desserts look so good. I made a pumpkin bread pudding last weekend. GMTA.