Recipe by Ashley E. Rodriguez
I have enjoyed an abundance of desserts in my life. When I was young a meal wasn't complete until a morsel of something sweet was consumed.
Ice cream was my usual treat of choice. I had the ability to bat my eyelashes in such a way that would send my dad off, in the station wagon, on a mission to bring back his sweet, but manipulative daughter, some ice cream.
Not much has changed since the days of my sugar filled childhood. I still feel as if my taste buds are missing something if they aren't covered in sugar at the end of a savory meal. But unlike my younger days, now consuming the sweet stuff is part of my job.
I have been baking professionally for over five years. Throughout those five years I have devoured a lot of dessert, chalking it up to research. In every new place I have lived I make it my mission to search out the best bakery in town. While working at Spago, in Beverly Hills, I had the pleasure of sampling and creating (numerous times) the spectacular desserts by Sherry Yard, Wolfgang Puck's executive pastry chef. On several occasions Sherry would take my husband and me out for a fantastic dinner, and always at the end of the meal we would order every dessert on the menu, for research purposes.
Often, because of my long and personal relationship with the sweet stuff, I am asked, "What is your favorite dessert?"
I answer that question with this story... Before the days of children, my husband and I would try a new restaurant at least once a week while we were living in Seattle. On this particular evening we were exhausted from a long day of shopping. We happened upon a little French restaurant one block away from Pike's Place Market. Le Pichet is a simple restaurant with great food and wine as bountiful as rain in Seattle.
They seated us at the bar where an older gentleman stood behind the counter and served as our waiter and ordering guide. His love for food and drink added richness to our experience just as the plentiful amounts of butter did to our food. The exhaustion from our long day lifted as we filled ourselves with satisfying food and full-bodied wine. Then the question came, "Would you like dessert?" Whenever that question is asked at a restaurant, whomever my dining guests are, they always place the responsibility of ordering the dessert on my shoulders. I hold that honor with great esteem and this evening was no different. My wise husband deflected the question to me and I chose the most chocolate-y dessert on the menu. What came next was the most incredible taste that has ever touched my tongue.
Two bowls sat in front of us. One filled with a warm blend of bittersweet chocolate and unctuous cream. The other bowl was simply filled with lightly whipped unsweetened cream. We sipped on this decadent dessert as if it was soup. We would fill our spoon with the chocolate then dip into the whipped cream. Although simple in execution this dessert was creating explosions in our mouth. The warm richness of the chocolate was mellowed with the cool cream. The simple taste of whipped cream paired perfectly with the complexity of dark chocolate.
In all my years of consuming all things sweet this dessert continues to be number one on my list. This sophisticated dessert can be thrown together in minutes and makes a perfect treat for this time of the year. You can also add to it to make it your own. One of my personal favorite additions is cayenne and cinnamon, giving this chocolate treat a spicy kick the way it was intended to be consumed. I would also encourage you to try peppermint, vanilla and coffee.
Coming from someone who has years of dessert consuming experience, as my holiday present to you, I give you this recipe for my favorite dessert.
six servings - if you are willing to share
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces, the best quality you can afford. My personal favorite is Valrhona Guanaja 70%, available from Trader Joe's.
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (regular salt is fine in a pinch)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream for serving
- Place chocolate in a medium bowl.
- Bring milk, cream and salt to a slow boil. Watch this closely as it can scald and boil over very quickly.
- Add the milk and cream to the chocolate. Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Add the cinnamon.
- Whisk the chocolate mixture until completely combined. The resulting liquid should be smooth, creamy and about the thickness of full fat cream. If for some reason the mixture doesn't come together throw it into a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth.
- Serve with lightly whipped cream.
About Ashley E. Rodriguez
Food became my life while living in Italy. Growing up I was fortunate to have been brought up around a mother who intuitively knew how to cook, and just by being around that, it rubbed off on me. But it was in Italy where I truly began to appreciate the power of good food.
For me food is so much more than following a recipe in order to reach a desired product. As much as I enjoy that tasty product and the process in which it was created, my personal infatuation with food focuses on the aspects that go beyond satisfying a bodily hunger. I am completely and utterly obsessed with food because of its effect on the people who consume it, grow it, produce it, enjoy it, and live for it. Food is culture, it nourishes our bodies, it is passion, it is hard work, and for many it is their livelihood.
My culinary career has been primarily pastry focused. I worked under the Captain of the winning American Coupe du Monde team (the Olympics of bread baking) at the Essential Bread Baking Company in Seattle, WA. From there I went on to Los Angeles where I studied under Sherry Yard (Executive Pastry Chef for Wolfgang Puck's restaurant empire) at Wolfgang Puck's famous Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills. While working with Sherry, I also assisted her with her second book, Desserts By The Yard.
I moved back to Washington State and began my pastry business, fulfilling all sweet needs. You can see my work in numerous publications including Seattle Metropolitan Bride & Groom. Currently I am focusing on training my two young boys to have distinguished palates. You can also find me writing, teaching and creating a television program on the subject of real, good food.
Photographs copyright by Gabriel Rodriguez. Used with permission.
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