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.