Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Serendipitous Sweets


Viana La Place's charming book Desserts and Sweet Snacks: Rustic Italian Style, is not specifically a gluten free cookbook. But, this inviting, slim volume, which contains beautiful photographs, emphasizes seasonal and not too sweet endings for a meal.

I found many naturally gluten free recipes, such as Fresh Figs with Chocolate and Almond Stuffing (doesn't your mouth just water with the title), Summer Fruits with Rose Water and Lemon, and Perfumed Panna Cotta.

I truly believe Americans have cornered the market on sticky, gooey desserts. If you want a loaded chocolate chip cookie, look to an American cookbook, not a French gastronomic tome. But, the Europeans have the market on delicately balanced desserts to compliment, not overwhelm a meal.

Here are two delightful desserts that are not only gluten-free, but good for Passover from Ms. La Place's cookbook:

Chocolate and Espresso Cake
The author suggests baking this cake a day in advance to intensify the espresso flavor.

3/4 Cup whole unpeeled almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
5 eggs separated
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons finely ground espresso (or instant coffee granules)

Pre-heat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9-inch round springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Finely grind the nuts using a coffee-grinder or blender.

In a large mixing bowl, using a fork, lightly beat the egg yolks. Stir in the sugar, nuts, melted chocolate, and espresso. Mix well.

In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Place in the oven and bake for about 55 minutes. It is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove form the oven and let rest a few minutes, unmold and serve.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ricotta with Cocoa and Brandy
This easy to assemble dessert makes an elegant dairy dessert.

1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons dark cocoa plus extra for sifting over the top
3 Tablespoons brandy or orange juice
1/4 cup unpeeled almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
Powdered sugar

To remove lumps from the ricotta cheese, process in the food processor until smooth.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta with the sugar, cocoa, and brandy, and stir well to combine.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve: spoon the mixture into small dessert bowls. Dust with cocoa powder, sprinkle the top with toasted almonds, then dust with powdered sugar.

Note: To toast the nuts, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 350F degree oven for about 10 minutes.

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