Dale believes that guests should not have to portion their
shareable desserts. “At Rioja, we offer our sesame black and
white cheesecake as three small canelés,” he says. “The plate
is finished with black and white sesame paint, nougatine and
random bite-size chunks of halva.”
Susan Wallace’s mother Sara Platte, a food writer for Ladies’
Home Journal, gave her daughter an Easy-Bake Oven for her third
birthday. Wallace grew up with a passion for baking. Today, she’s
corporate executive pastry chef for Washington, D.C.-based
Black Restaurant Group, LLC, overseeing pastry production for
BlackSalt Fish Market & Restaurant, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace,
Black Jack, Republic, and Black’s Bar & Kitchen.
At Republic, Wallace offers a simply plated carrot/parsnip
cake with brown butter frosting. But at BlackSalt she’ll do carrot
cake without the parsnip, layering the cake with caramel/pecan
filling and finishing with cream cheese frosting. “I add candied
pecans, creme anglaise sauce, a bit of caramel sauce and a small
scoop of vanilla ice cream,” she says. She adds julienned carrot
strips candied in a simple syrup on the cake itself, plus a small
white chocolate garnish piped on in a crisscross design.
Pies are also big in the Washington, D.C., area, and Key lime is a
traditional favorite. Wallace’s version strikes the perfect balance
between sweet and tart. The basic ingredients are egg yolks,
sweetened condensed milk and Nellie & Joe’s Famous Key West
Lime Juice. The pie is surrounded by white chocolate triangles, a
little candied orange peel, a raspberry mint leaf and caramelized
sugar. Additional garnishes include blueberry compote, passion
fruit sauce, whipped cream and a sesame seed tuile.
It’s almost impossible to change the menu, Wallace says,
because many guests come for specific desserts or to share favorites,
such as the best-selling Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. It’s
built from the bottom with layers of devil’s food cake, crunchy dark
chocolate, peanut butter and feuilletine, and chocolate mousse with
peanut brittle. The cake is glazed with dark chocolate ganache. Each
one serves 12 people, and Wallace typically builds eight cakes at a
time, chilling each layer before final assembly.
Make it mini
Laurie and Reto Weber are co-owners of The Swiss Bakery,
a full-service retail bakery and cafe with locations in Springfield,
Virginia, and Burke, Virginia. For catering and special orders, as
well as to increase bakery/cafe dessert sales, there are 20 varieties
of mini pastries, including bite-sized versions of napoleons and a
lemon roulade covered with meringue “and torched, so it’s really
pretty,” Laurie Weber says.
There are macarons, each of which looks like a miniature
clamshell open on the plate with a “pearl” of Grand Marnier creme
filling in the center. A raspberry is tucked on the side next to it.
In the bakery case, Weber sets out four different bites priced
the same as one full-sized portion. “Customers, especially female
customers who come midafternoon, will choose a bite-sized pastry
versus one large pastry with their cappuccino,” she says.
While aiming to create new pastries, Weber knows she
must keep the classic napoleons, éclairs and tiramisu. “These
are seen as comfort food if you’ve had a bad day, or a reward
or a celebration,” she says. “There are so many diet-related no-
nos out there today. When guests come in here, they don’t want
candied eggplant with carrot ice cream or beets in custard.”
Although people sometimes like the surprise element in a
dessert, she says that even at Galileo in Washington, D.C., where
she worked for eight years, “On the main menu, there always was
chocolate cake with ice cream, a nice hot fruit tart and tiramisu.”
PasTry arTs pastry + pudding
CloCKwise, froM ToP: 1) Chocolate Peanut butter Crunch Cake from susan
wallace. 2) gale gand’s butterscotch Pudding spoonfuls studded with salt-and-pepper peanuts. 3) laurie weber offers a wide selection of mini pastries, including,
left to right, éclairs, fruit tarts and a milk chocolate/raspberry pastry.
New york-BASeD AwArD-wINNINg JoUrNAlIS T kAreN weISBerg HAS CovereD THe
ISSUeS AND lUMINArIeS oF THe FooD-AND-BeverAge worlD—Bo TH CoMMerCIAl AND
NoNCoMMerCIAl—For More THAN 25 yeArS.