When creating a dessert, I really love to keep it simple and use what I have around the kitchen. The beauty of any dessert is a balance between sweet, an essence of savory, textural components that excite the palette and enough acid to balance out all of the elements of the dish. If I am being completely honest, I am not at all a pastry chef so I apply my cooking expertise of balance to my desserts. A lot of desserts I have tasted are so delicate and almost so perfect however they lack savory elements and end up being a little too sweet for my tastes.
For this recipe, I wanted to showcase using alcohol in desserts. I use Koval’s Cranberry Gin for this particular recipe because it offers a delicious tart flavor and special warmness from the juniper berries perfect for a cold day. To make this I wanted to pair the tart of the cranberry with something fruity and sweet, so strawberries were an obvious choice. Making a warm fresh jam to compliment a dessert is something that is simple yet delicious. I have also included a cranberry sour recipe at the bottom made by Kevin Randall, my lead bartender for all of my events.
1 Pound Strawberries (sliced thin)
½ Cup sugar
1 Tsp Salt
4 Oz Koval Cranberry Gin
Take all the ingredients and place them in a 2 quart pot. Using a stove lighter to ignite the liqueur. Swirl the pot around so that the fire burns evenly and to ensure that all the alcohol burns off.
Once the alcohol burns off, keep the jam on medium heat. What will happen now is all of the liquid from the strawberries will begin to cook out and help dissolve the sugar. At first, this looks like a soupy mess but give it time.
As the jam cooks the color will darken and begin to bubble. This stage is where we want to start paying attention. The jam is near complete when the bubbles start to turn sticky. Because it is hot the jam will appear thin. One way to test the consistency is to take a cold spoon from the freezer and scoop a little out. Wait about thirty seconds if the jam sticks pretty consistently to the spoon it is ready. Store in a warm place while the other components are being made.
So let’s get into the base of our dessert. I chose pound cake because it’s dense, sweet and savory. Its density allows for the cake to soak up flavors and blend with other textures. My favorite way to add texture to pound cake is to cook it in butter. The first step is I take pound cake and I freeze it. This makes it super easy to slice. Before the bread is ready to be sliced you will want to get your pan and butter hot so that the butter begins to bubble and almost begin to brown. While this is happening, you can remove the pound cake from the freezer and slice into half-inch slices removing the ends first. Place the pound cake into the butter and cook until each side is golden brown turning and checking often as this will happen very quickly. Once the cake is toasted place it on a plate and let it cool in the refrigerator. This is the secret to making this dish texturally perfect. As the cake cools the butter becomes hard and creates this amazing crust around and inside the cake offering the palette an amazing crunch. The hot and cold of the jam and cake play off of each other.
The next we will do the whipped cream. The whipped cream is so easy to make but in order to make it perfect, it has to be done with precision. You want to make sure the heavy whipping cream is really cold so leave it refrigerated until you are ready. You can use a whisk but I always use a mixer because it’s way faster. Set up your mixer with the whisk attachment. Add your cream, vanilla extract, salt, and powdered sugar. Begin mixing on low and gradually turn the mixer on high. As the cream whips, it will begin to expand. You will want to whip the cream to a stiff peak. A stiff peak looks kind of like ice cream. When you move the whisk attachment through the cream it will follow the whisk and keep its form as you move through it. If the cream starts to fall over or fold onto itself keep going a little longer its almost there. Once the whipped cream is set, transfer it into the refrigerator immediately and let it cool completely.
For the other crunchy component, I love to use toffee nuts because these are both sweet and salty. They also contain a lot of fat that adds a velvety layer to the dish. You can find toffee nuts at any local grocery store or you can simply make your own by cooking butter and sugar with pecans until the sugar and butter crystallize on medium heat.
To plate the dish first put down the crunchy pound cake and a scoop of the whipped cream. Add your cranberry infused jam on top of the pound cake and garnish with nuts and fried rosemary.