5B: Dessert Sauces

Dessert sauces are based on fruit, custard, caramel, chocolate, butter, or wine. A whole class devoted to dessert sauces wouldn’t be much without something to sauce, so in this class, we also made some crêpes and soufflés.

Fruit sauces and coulis are made from pureed fruit. Coulis is fruit that’s pureed and strained. Sauce is pureed fruit, usually strained (and therefore a coulis) that has butter or cream added to it. Depending on the flavor of the fruit, you might need to add a little simple syrup or lemon juice. Any fruit that’s very hard or fibrous (e.g., apples, pears, quinces) has to be cooked first, but many fruits, such as raspberries, can be used fresh and raw.

Crème anglaise is one of the most common dessert sauces. Any monkey can make a crème anglaise, says Chef Sharon, but it takes a pastry chef to make it right, so I’d better practice this one. Crème anglaise is a lot like pastry cream: It’s made with milk, egg yolks, and sugar. You can change the texture by adding cream or egg yolks, and you can change the flavor by adding vanilla or another flavoring. Pastry cream has starch, too, to stabilize it; crème anglaise doesn’t, so you have to be careful not to let it boil. Crème anglaise is done when it coats the back of a spoon; you wipe your finger over the back of the spoon, and if the line stays for 3 seconds, the sauce is done. Because it’s so important to make sure the sauce doesn’t overcook, you have to have an ice bath ready to set the bowl in. The other difference is that with pastry cream, you get your upper-body workout by whisking like mad, but with crème anglaise you must only stir and never whisk because whisking makes the sauce foam, and the foam doesn’t go away (as it does with pastry cream).

Sabayon (or zabaglione) is a light custard. It’s made with sugar, egg yolks, and sweet wine, usually marsala. The wine is very important in sabayon because a well-made sabayon always retains the wine flavor. You want to taste the wine and make sure you like it, and it’s important to use really good wine. Sabayon is good with fresh fruit. You need to make it at the last moment because it deflates quickly, but you can make a sabayon mousse with gelatin added to stabilize it.

Chocolate sauce is a combination of melted chocolate plus cream, milk, egg yolks, and butter (in some combination); it also can be made by adding grated chocolate to crème anglaise. If you want a flowing sauce, you use more liquid than chocolate; if you want a stiff sauce, you use less liquid. To make frosting, you use equal parts cream and chocolate; this is a classic ganache. White chocolate is tricky because it’s mostly fat (white chocolate is cocoa butter with some other things added). To make a sauce (or ganache) with white chocolate, you can’t use cream because all that fat will keep the sauce from holding together; you have to use skim milk or 1%.

Caramel is the last stage of cooked sugar syrup before the sugar carbonizes. The carbonizing stage is one you want to avoid at all costs: It stinks, the smoke damages your lungs, and it irretrievably ruins your saucepan. Caramel is plain cooked sugar, but caramel sauce has butter added and sometimes cream and other things. Suzette sauce (for crêpes Suzette) is caramel with butter, warm citrus juices (usually lemon and orange), and brandy or cognac.

We started with fruit sauce and fruit coulis. Raspberry sauce is one of the most common in a restaurant, and Chef Sharon encouraged us to consider other things. My partner and I chose to make strawberry sauce and strawberry coulis. Raspberry is darker and what you usually see on your plate in a restaurant. The strawberry is pink rather than red; I’m not sure when that would be a better choice for color; maybe with other pastels or as a contrast to something dark.

Strawberry coulis in the bottle and strawberry sauce in the pan

Strawberry coulis in the bottle and strawberry sauce in the pan

The strawberry sauce is a little darker; it’s pretty, but still not dark enough to use just as a decoration (unless you need this particular color). They’re both delicious, though.

Strawberry sauce

Strawberry sauce

We thought of using Riesling in our sabayon, but there wasn’t enough, so we used Cava instead. That might have been a mistake, because our sabayon was extremely light owing to the carbonation in the wine.

Sabayon with fresh berries

Sabayon with fresh berries

For our caramel sauce we thought it would be fun to do Suzette sauce so we could make crêpes Suzette. We were all making crêpes anyway, so this struck us as a golden opportunity. In a very clean saucepan, you put granulated sugar. Then you put that over a flame and watch it change from a pan of sugar:

Sugar cooking

Sugar cooking


to a pan of caramel:
Caramel

Caramel


Your caramel is done when it has the right color and fragrance, and these are up to you; just don’t let it carbonize! We added butter, orange juice, and lemon juice to the caramel and set the sauce aside to await our crêpes.

Suzette sauce (the butter hasn't finished melting)

Suzette sauce (the butter hasn't finished melting)


Crêpes aren’t difficult, but they take a little practice. The batter is very thin, and it has to rest for awhile, so we had already made our batter. We thought cinnamon would go nicely with the citrus Suzette sauce, so that was the flavor we used. The school has proper crêpe pans, but you can use a small skillet, say, 6 or 8 inches in diameter. You brush the hot skillet with melted butter.
Letting the extra butter drip off the buttered crêpe pan

Letting the extra butter drip off the buttered crêpe pan


Then you pour some batter into the pan while you swirl the pan so the batter evenly coats the pan. The pan is hot, so the batter cooks pretty quickly and you have to work fast.
Swirling the crêpe batter in the hot pan

Swirling the crêpe batter in the hot pan


When it’s cooked on the first side, which takes almost no time, you flip it over. It doesn’t take long to cook on the second side, either.
Finished crêpe

Finished crêpe


Then Chef Sharon made the crêpes Suzette, but she used chocolate crêpes instead of the cinnamon ones. I’ll try this at home with cinnamon crêpes. You fold the crêpes into quarters, which apparently is a traditional way of serving crêpes, and cook them in the sauce with orange suprêmes (orange sections removed from their membranes).
Chocolate crêpes in Suzette sauce with orange suprêmes

Chocolate crêpes in Suzette sauce with orange suprêmes


Then she poured on some Grand Marnier and lit the sauce with a blowtorch.
Crêpes Suzettes flambé

Crêpes Suzettes flambé


And here it is on the plate:
Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes Suzette


We plated our cinnamon crêpes with our chocolate sauce:
Cinnamon crêpes with chocolate sauce

Cinnamon crêpes with chocolate sauce


We also made a lime soufflé.
Lime soufflé dusted with powdered sugar

Lime soufflé dusted with powdered sugar


We plated a portion of that with our strawberry sauce and crème anglaise.
Lime soufflé with sauce garnish

Lime soufflé with sauce garnish

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About linguina

For most of my life I've loved to read and to make stuff. My mother says I taught myself to read when I was 4, and I never looked back. I also liked fooling around in the kitchen, but my mother wasn't really into cooking, so I learned a lot of that on my own, too. My sister and I had the Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cookbook (1965), and naturally I had to make the Enchanted Castle Cake. I learned how to bake bread when I was 14, and I bought a copy of the Joy of Cooking when I was 17. My aunt and uncle gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 19th birthday, and the first thing I made was soufflé. I've always been more of a baker than a cook, though. When our niece used to visit us during her breaks from college, she'd get me to show her some cooking things (including soufflé, of course!), but I kept having to tell her, "This is just how I do it. I have no idea if it's the right way." Finally, I took a basic cooking class, and that changed my life. After that class, I signed up for a 4-day baking class at King Arthur Flour. That's when I knew I was really a baker. Now I'm taking the professional pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. With this training, I'll become a pastry chef.
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