Domain: Kitchen Mission: Sugar Rush
Simple doughnut sticks and yummy bread pudding
I’ve created a food critic. And that critic is my husband. While he offers only the most complimentary of comments on my main course, he is inevitably most LaBan-like at the meal’s end. Dessert, you see, is always beyond my last thought. So, my juicy, sliced flank steak served with tangy panzanella ends with … mini cupcakes from Super Fresh.
I’ve created a food critic. And that critic is my husband. While he offers only the most complimentary of comments on my main course, he is inevitably most LaBan-like at the meal’s end. Dessert, you see, is always beyond my last thought. So, my juicy, sliced flank steak served with tangy panzanella ends with … mini cupcakes from Super Fresh. And topping off my homemade lasagna with crispy pancetta and rich béchamel is … a box of Entenmann’s doughnuts. Let’s be clear: It’s not that I hate to bake, it’s that I’m terrible at it. My husband has a point: Following a lovingly prepared dinner with a lowbrow sweet is a disappointing finale to an impressive show. Plus, he expects great desserts for another reason: His mom and aunts always have a surprise waiting at the end of a meal. It could be as simple as homemade chocolate sauce for vanilla ice cream or as elaborate as sticky rum cake, but it really completes the experience.
My challenge was clear: Develop two quick-to-prep, go-to desserts as awe-inspiring as my entrees. To get started, I turned to one of my favorite pastry chefs, Emily Landis of the modern French-Asian restaurant Nectar (1091 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn, 610-725-9000, tastenectar.com). Landis is a master in taking the fondest of childhood dessert memories and reinventing them with updated ingredients and modern presentations. Together, we developed two unfussy ideas, one for supereasy, churro-like doughnut sticks — inspired by my youthful obsession with zeppoli, fried dough balls that Boardwalk pizza places plop into paper bags of powdered sugar — and another for a crunchy-topped bread pudding served beneath vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. Besides her great technical tips, Landis imparted this confidence booster: Be patient, good things take time.
1 can Pillsbury premade, refrigerated pizza dough
2 c. canola oil (more or less, depending on size of pan)
1/3 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
For garnish (optional):
1/2 c. heavy cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. rainbow sprinkles
Unroll pizza dough so that long edge of rectangle faces you. Cut dough vertically into 1/8-inch strips, about the width of a pencil, with pizza slicer. Cut each strip horizontally in half. Strips should fit in flat-bottomed pan without bending. Fill pan with about 2 inches of oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Combine sugar and cinnamon in separate dish, and set aside. Test oil temperature with piece of dough—dough should float and little bubbles should form around it, but it should not burn. When oil is ready, place up to three dough strips in pan. Fry until golden brown (about 20 seconds per side). Drain on paper-towel-lined dish. Roll in sugar mixture until well coated. Continue until all dough is fried. To make chocolate sauce, heat cream in small pan over medium-high heat until just simmering. Turn heat to low, add chocolate chips, and stir until well combined. Add vanilla and mix. Remove from heat. Dip ends of doughnut sticks in chocolate sauce, then in sprinkles. Serve immediately.
1 loaf challah bread, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. reduced-fat milk
1 c. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted and brought to room temperature
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pint vanilla ice cream
Mint sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Place challah slices in baking dish, in one layer. Whisk eggs in bowl and add remaining pudding ingredients. Mix until well incorporated. Pour mixture over bread, adjusting bread so that it is fully soaked. Bread should be just covered. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour, until brown on top.
To serve: Let pudding cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Using a ring form or circle cookie cutter, cut out portions of bread pudding. Serve with crusty side down, and top with scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle of caramel sauce and mint sprig.