I recently had a dinner party for some good friends, so I was going to write about what I served for dinner. However, I was not feeling the love to talk about lamb this morning, so I decided to write about the dessert course before the main dish! After all, everyone loves dessert! 😉 (And the pictures are way better to look at, especially early in the morning!)
This is one of the best and easiest desserts that I make. It is Ina Garten’s Brownie Tart (click for the link to the recipe). I thought about baking a flourless chocolate cake, but I was not interested in buying 28 ounces of top-notch chocolate. I had already gone big time over the budget on this dinner party and was receiving many lectures from my hubby on how much I was spending on dinner (again!) This is a great alternative and a little less intrusive to your wallet.
The presentation is beautiful served on top of a small puddle of Creme Anglaise (click for the recipe, also by Ina Garten). Don’t drown it in the stuff, just a few tablespoons will do! The brownie tart is best served warm, but you can make it ahead. Pop the slices in the microwave for a few seconds to slightly warm up the yummy and gooey chocolate center before your serve it to guests!
I serve the creme anglaise chilled as a custard in the traditional manner (and not frozen, as the recipe suggests). Of course, making the ice cream version is delightful as well, but this is still my personal favorite. You can always find a brownie topped with vanilla ice cream (can you say fern bar dessert??). I know that a half of vanilla bean is optional in Ina’s recipe, but it really makes a difference. The vanilla flavor is much more pronounced and it certainly looks more attractive knowing that real vanilla is in the sauce!
There has been some discussion between several bloggers and chefs about the proper way to make creme anglaise. Should it be made with cream or milk? You can read this blog by Michael Ruhlman on the subject. I really did not know that it was such a hot topic!
I have made creme anglaise for many years and have always made it with whole milk. I find that when the custard is properly thickened there is no need for cream (at least not for the desserts I serve it with). The consistency is perfect. Besides that, who needs the extra calories? We eat enough fattening stuff around here! I would think that there might be times when making it with cream would be preferable, but I think this particular version is wonderful with the chocolate in the Brownie Tart.
This is a beautiful and easy dessert to make. It is perfect for a larger dinner party because it can serve between 10 and 12 guests (I think it is best served in smaller slices). You can bake it and make the creme anglaise in advance and assemble the plates when you are ready to serve your dessert. It is always a huge hit and looks fussier than the time it takes to make it. Most of my friends are not big cooks, so it is easy to fool them into thinking you spent many long hours preparing this dessert when you didn’t! 😉
I feel better already now that I have had my dessert first!