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(Gerry Furth-Sides) Ten to try European desserts either on the way to becoming American mainstream or there already are a welcome addition to the “usual suspects” stuck on too many restaurant menus. Even if you are not a dessert lover, these might change your mind; they did change mine.
Canales at Proof, Atwater; Bouchon, Got Kosher?Bakery sometimes.
I have tried them all over the city, and these are the best. A more objective authority than I, French Tart, described them at “magical French bakery confections, little fluted cakes with a rich rum and vanilla interior enclosed by a thin caramelized shell. The brilliant recipe was developed long ago by an anonymous Bordeaux cook…. then subjected to 300 years of refinements. Glossy and dark brown, almost black at first sight, bittersweet at first bite, the
brunchy burnt sugar canale-shell makes an exquisite contract to the smooth, sweet filling. One day they may rival crème brulee.” They are baked in special, difficult to find, tin-lined copper molds. Fact: They sell out at Proof by 10 AM and usually at Bouchon by noon. Theu are popular at laduree and Pierre Herme in Paris. In Gironde, a southern region of French, alone consumed over 4.5 million canals annually as long ago as 1992.
Olive oil cake at Saddlepeak Lodge and Dominick’s
This textured, light cake has a hint of orange and the cornmeal that is made of gives it a slightly crunchy texture. The olive oil makes it moist without being greasy. The pastry chef at Saddlepeak serves it with drops of lemon curd, buttermilk ice cream and fresh strawberry slices.
Marino ristorante Ricotta Cheesecake
The Ricotta cheesecake looks “sorta” like the NY version but it is made in-house from a family recipe with freshly made ricotta, that lends it a more rustic and substantial feel, and dotted with dried citrus fruit. It has two pages on Google devoted to it. Enough said.
Traditional Moroccan Almond Macaron at Got Kosher? Bakery
They look like a winsome, round, cracked piece of clay. They are just big enough for one or two bites, almost stepping in for one layer of the Marjolaine with the snap and the uniquely satisfying taste of almond paste, just enough of the chewy quality of a cookie and the zing of a hint of lemon.
Chef Josette’s Mini Pastries at Normandie Bakery
Chef Josette intensifies flavors by reducing the size of pastries, including Opera Cake with its hint of coffee; Fresh Fruit tarts, German Cake, Chocolate Mousse Cake and cream puffs. (www.chefjosette.net)
Pastry Plate by special order– Modo Mio in Pacific Palisades
The Sweet Nuns’ stacked ream puffs are known as “religieuses.” The bakery’s original, classic num version are endearing tiny French pastries made of “chous” filled with custard-like cream. They can also be ordered in the shape of little birds and angels. This is a family affair Veronique, a pastry chef from Paris just happens to be the owner’s wife and by special order, she will prepare her specialties that taste like they come from the heart. In her words,” I just love to go into the kitchen and bake and bake and bake.”
Tres Leches Cake, AROLatin, South Pasadena, and Border Grill, Santa Monica
Another wife that loves to bake in home for the restaurant is at AroLatin in South Pasadena. Her Pan Tres Leches reflects her central American background, and it is moist, substantial and light (Three milks bread) is a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated, condensed and heavy cream. Mary Sue Milliken, whose heart remains true to her first love of being a pastry chef, has just done a new and springy individual, round version that is served with fruit.
Vanilla Bean Trio of Triangle Scones at Starbucks
Corporate tried to take them off the menu but popular demand brings them back. The actual specs of bean in the vanilla glaze was what first attracted me to them in the first place, the refined, slightly sweet bisquity texture under the delicate gaze keeps me coming back. My family friends’ 10 year old, I recently learned, loves them too and the three are perfect to share with one for me!
Hot Fudge Sundae at The Ivy, La Scala, Dominick’s and Norm’s: We bill this under “American” and include it because it comes as a surprise both at white tablecloth restaurants, The Ivy, La Scala and Dominick’s – where the prices for a generous sundae are as surprisingly low as at Norm’s. The sundaes have real hot fudge, real whipped cream and superb ice cream (the Ivy adds a second choice of butterscotch in small pitchers on the platter plus marconda almonds and lets you “do it yourself” with three scoops of different housemade icecreams. Norms serves a “schooner” that is as tall as you are and the hot fudge is real hot fudge.
Lemon Hazelnut Torte at The Rose Cafe
The Torte is a pared down, more elegant California version of the Marjolaine, which has for me every single ingredient makes a cake perfect: a nut and meringue base and I love anything so labor intensive and difficult as its small layers with fillings of praline buttercream, vanilla-rum buttercream and chocolate buttercream. The Lemon Hazelnut has instead lemon curd and buttercream, the better to contrast flavors as well as textures, my dear. I rode my bike six miles to and from the Rose Café to eat one of these beauties at least once a week or more,, and years before the pastry chef changed the shape from a cake wedge to the lovely singular, circular one. This chef worked under the incomparable Amy Pressman, Nancy Silverton’s colleague who was to be her partner at Short Order Restaurant. These are arguably the two most original and best pastry chefs to come out of Los Angeles.
Mount Blanc and Almond Covered Cherry at Susina Bakery
Another single bite as satisfying as a big piece of Susina’s gorgeous cake, pie or pastry. The Mount Blanc is a third of a cigar shaped butter cookie, half covered in chocolate and almonds. The Almond Covered Cherry has a hint of liquor.
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