My Sweet Side
How could I have been so delinquent? The FUSSYlittleBLOG is coming up on its one year anniversary, and I have said precious little about dessert, or for that matter sweets in general. Oh sure, there was the odd post about eating ice cream in winter, or how I hate s’mores, but those hardly count.
Everyone has their own path into the realm of cooking. For me it was learning how to cook desserts. I was just recently reminded of this during a recent twitter dialog with ElizabethEss where we were discussing crepes.
This will not just be a trip down memory lane. Today will be a jumping off point for future posts on sweets and desserts. While I do not make them much these days, I still have plenty to say on the topic, and maybe I can even compel some people to quit spreading Nutella on tortillas. But since all the desserts I have prepared have an unusual similarity, I thought it was important to give you a little background.
In the beginning, specifically the Miami era around the high school and college years, Raf and a few of his friends cooked elaborate feasts for each other. Everyone participating would make a dish, and then they would all sit down to gorge upon the spoils of their efforts. It took me a while, but eventually I scored an invitation to these feasts. But since I didn’t cook, my job was to do dishes.
I’ve read that there are people who like to wash dishes, but I am not one of them.
So I needed to find something to cook on a regular basis. And I realized that the one thing missing in these multi-course extravaganzas was dessert. That was going to be my niche.
But from the beginning I made a clear distinction: I will make dessert, but I will not bake.
To me, baking was chemistry; baking required precision; baking was difficult. I had no interest in being precise. And there were plenty of things that I could make that would be delicious without having to extend myself beyond my comfort zone.
Dairy, eggs and sugar are really magical ingredients. I made custards, including several varieties of flan (we were after all in Miami). Custards with a bit of stale bread become bread pudding. Puddings get lightened up and turned into mousse. Mousse becomes the filling to the traditional Italian Diplomatico. And the French-Italian divide is conquered with sabayon/zabaglione.
Other desserts followed. Crepes were the dish that actually inspired me to buy my first piece of expensive cookware. It was a beautiful Calphalon professional nonstick skillet that did the most amazing job at turning out thin delicate crepes. Sadly I ruined it a few years later while making some other dessert, attempting some foolhardy technique that looked really easy when a professional did it on TV.
Eventually I bought an ice cream maker too. And that opened up a lot more possibilities.
I even found a cookie recipe that won me second prize in my ad agency’s bake-off for cookies that weren’t actually baked. One might think they were baked because:
a) They are cookies, and
b) They were cooked in an oven
But I assure you this is not the case. I know this because the secret to these cookies is that they are fried in butter. And they are delicious.
These stories, recipes and more will be written in the weeks and months to come. Desserts without baking is an odd distinction, but I won’t stop there. I plan to write more about dessert ingredients and techniques as well. Of course I will also include one or two posts about my dessert pet peeves and some things that I hate. We’ll see where it goes.
In the meantime, if any of these topics sound especially appealing and you would like to hear about sooner rather than later, let me know. I will do my best to put them towards the top of the queue.