When I lived in San Francisco, the baking community was a very friendly group and we all mingled easily. One of the people who I particularly admired and liked was Emily Luchetti, who was also a pastry chef and cookbook author. Her desserts were known for their stunning simplicity, which highlighted bold flavors as well as local ingredients, and whose recipes walked a balance between home-style and sophisticated. And even more importantly, she tends to like two of my favorite things – chocolate and caramel – and she uses them frequently.
Emily’s newest book is The Fearless Baker, a book of 175 easy-to-make desserts that won’t intimidate anyone. I asked her if she would be interested in doing a guest post, and when she suggested something combining…you guessed it, caramel and chocolate brownies, I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you. Please welcome this guest post by Emily Luchetti. -david
A common dilemma for chefs who participate in out-of-town events is what mise en place to take and what to prepare on site. Making dessert for 500-1000 people at a walk-around tasting away from your familiar work place takes logistical and advanced planning. If I have a couple of events within a month of each other, prepping the same dish is easier the second time around. I have a much better idea of how to pack it all. Since different audiences are at each event, it’s not like I am serving identical desserts to the same people. (It only took me 20 years in the business to figure this out!)
My dessert for offsite events this winter/spring was Brownie Brown Sugar Parfait. Originally I created it for the opening menu at Waterbar in San Francisco. It is perfect road trip dessert. There are 4 components brownies, caramel sauce, toasted pecans and a brown sugar pastry cream that’s lightened with whipped cream. Most of it can be made ahead of time and put together later in Connecticut at The Mohegan Sun Casino, or in Miami at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
Turns out 8 trays of brownies, 5 pounds of toasted and chopped pecans, 3 chef coats, a couple of knives, spatulas, and whisks weigh 33 pounds. And surprisingly they ALL fit into a suitcase that would fit in an overhead bin. The caramel sauce and brown sugar pastry cream were triple bagged and sealed in my trusty Food Saver vacuum seal machine and packed into a Styrofoam-lined cardboard box with some cold paks.
I coughed up $50 (ouch) for the baggage fees as there was no way I could explain to three burly TSA agents why I had knives in my carry-on. As my “luggage” disappeared from view, I said a little prayer that it would arrive intact. During the plane ride, I had nightmares of the caramel sauce leaking out of the box as they tumbled down the baggage claim chute. If that did happen, I was going to deny that the box was mine. Luckily all arrived intact.
While you won’t be making this at home for 500 people, the lessons I learned on breaking this recipe into steps can help you out at home too. The brownies and pecans can be made a couple of days ahead or even longer if you freeze them. The brown sugar pastry cream can be made two-three days in advance. Whip the cream, fold it into the pastry cream and assemble the parfaits the day you want to serve them.
Have you ever taken a dessert on the road?
Brownie-Brown Sugar Parfait
From The Fearless Baker (Little Brown and Co. 2011) by Emily Luchetti
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3 cups of half-inch pieces of your favorite brownies
- 1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
About 2/3 cup good-quality caramel sauce
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugars. Whisk in the evaporated milk then the cornstarch and vanilla.
2. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof rubber spatula until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture gets lumpy at any point, remove the pan from the heat, switch to a whisk, and whisk until it’s smoothed out.)
3. Transfer the cooked brown sugar custard to a medium bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.
4. Using a stand mixer with wire whip attachment, or hand-held mixer and medium bowl, whip the cream on medium-high speed until it forms softly mounded peaks. You want the cream somewhere between liquid and soft peak. It should just begin to hold its shape. If the custard has become really thick stir it with a rubber spatula. Fold the cream into the cooled custard.
5. Put three pieces of brownie, a generous 2 teaspoons of caramel and 2 teaspoons pecan pieces into the bottom of 6 parfait, wine, cocktail, or on-the-rocks glasses.
6. Spoon on 1/3 cup of the custard. Top with three more brownie pieces and then drizzle with 2 teaspoons of caramel sauce and sprinkle on 2 teaspoons pecans. Continue layering the custard, brownie pieces, caramel, and pecans.
7. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
Emily Luchetti’s Cherry Pie (Good Food)