In Good Taste

Chef Gale Gand’s hol­i­day desserts are a les­son in black and white


Tempt taste buds with choco­late and vanilla.

choco­late and vanilla are two things I can’t live with­out,” says chef Gale Gand, past Tra­di­tional Home mas­ter chef, au­thor, James Beard award win­ner, and 2014 in­ductee to the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame. For Gand, th­ese two in­gre­di­ents shine in any sea­son.

This fla­vor duo, wor­thy of a hol­i­day soiree, could be con­sid­ered the fra­ter­nal twins of the dessert world—they have a back­ground in com­mon but are very dif­fer­ent in taste and ap­pear­ance. Both fla­vors come from beans grown ap­prox­i­mately 30 de­grees north and south of the equa­tor. Once

picked, they re­quire roast­ing, ag­ing, fer­ment­ing, and re­fin­ing over a year’s time be­fore they are edi­ble.

The first afi­ciona­dos of th­ese ap­peal­ing fla­vors— an­cient civ­i­liza­tions in Mex­ico, where choco­late and vanilla orig­i­nated—be­lieved beans from the ca­cao tree and the vanilla orchid were gifts from the gods.

Eu­ro­peans quickly de­vel­oped a sim­i­lar affin­ity for the in­gre­di­ents in the 1520s, when it is be­lieved Span­ish con­quis­ta­dor Hernán Cortés in­tro­duced them to the con­ti­nent’s wealthy elite.

To­day, the fla­vors re­main fa­vorites, es­pe­cially among chefs. Gand’s pil­lowy Vanilla-Al­mond Rochers, sim­i­lar to a meringue or pavlova, boast a com­bi­na­tion of vanilla ex­tract and al­mond. A takeoé on berries and cream, But­ter­milk Panna Cotta fea­tures a sooth­ing vanilla base topped with bright, tart cran­berry syrup.

The husky taste of bour­bon in a julep led Gand to cre­ate Bour­bon Choco­late Mousse. The im­pres­sive Choco­late Ba­nana Cream Cake is a rié on ba­nana cream pie height­ened by rich co­coa pow­der. “I think to­day’s more cu­ri­ous palates can han­dle sharp, in­ter­est­ing, full-fla­vor co­coa,” Gand says.

So for­get the par­tridges, tur­tle­doves, and call­ing birds. Th­ese choco­late and vanilla recipes, which il­lus­trate the range of the two in­gre­di­ents by show­cas­ing creamy, crunchy, ethe­real, and dense tex­tures, are the gifts for your true love.

Clock­wise from top left Cran­berry syrup bright­ens the sooth­ing vanilla of But­ter­milk Panna Cotta. Bour­bon Choco­late Mousse is light with a clear choco­late fla­vor from bit­ter­sweet choco­late and unsweet­ened choco­late. Vanilla-Al­mond Rochers— “rocher” means “boul­der” in French—are volup­tuous treats topped with whipped cream, straw­ber­ries, and kiwi. To make choco­late curls for Choco­late Ba­nana Cream Cake, soften a choco­late bar in the mi­crowave for 15 sec­onds. Draw the blade of a veg­etable peeler across top of the bar. Chill curls in the freezer.

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