Decadent mini desserts
An array of exquisite desserts that you can serve in small dishes and mini sizes so your guests can enjoy several different sweet treats, writes EUNICE POWER
If one considers the dynamic of the traditional party, it is certainly a funny old gathering – a group of guests summoned together either through work or friendship or obligation. Some know each other and some don’t, but the one thing they all have in common is that they are known, in some way, by the host. Hence it follows that the successful party is one where the host keeps their guests “moving and meeting”.
When I host a party, or cater for one, I find that dessert time provides the ideal opportunity to get people moving and meeting. I tend to serve dessert in another room, or from a side table, so guests are invited to get up and move around.
Gone are the days of the huge pavlova and big bowls of trifle – all of which look a mess once the first spoon has dug in. Now, it’s more about small and sophisticated desserts.
Over the years I have gathered up little glasses, crystal sherry goblets, votive light holders, and other suitable vessels which I fill with delicious treats, all of them small so guests can sample more than one. I often include baskets of warm Madeleines, trays of florentines and bowls of little meringues sandwiched together with melting fillings. These are passed throughout the room. In fact I have often been known to grab a passing tray and hand it around as a means of escape from my captor in the corner.
Most of these treats can be prepared a day in advance allowing a cool and collected host or hostess to enjoy her own party.
LEMON AND PASSION FRUIT SOUFFLÉS
These are memorable, light and fluffy, with a gorgeous tangy flavour. Makes six large portions or 12 small ones.
3 large eggs
2 lemons, juice and zest
2 passion fruit
225g caster sugar
4 leaves of gelatine
3 passion fruit
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks, zest and juice of the lemons, sugar and passion fruit pulp into a large heatproof bowl. Stand it over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the mixture is thick and creamy – about five minutes. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile soak the gelatine leaves in warm water. When the gelatine is soft, take it out of the water, squeeze off excess water and add to the hot lemon custard. Stir to dissolve completely, and allow to cool.
Whisk the cream until it holds its shape and fold it into the cold egg custard. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Fold them into the lemon custard gently, until everything is amalgamated.
Carefully pour into serving glasses. Chill for at least six hours or overnight. Spoon some passion fruit pulp on top to decorate.
CHOCOLATE ORANGE CRÈMES
These are best made on the day. Makes four large or eight little portions.
200g dark chocolate
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
250ml whipping cream
Finely grated orange zest or chopped pistachios and rose petals
Break the chocolate into small squares and place in a bowl with the orange juice. Sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat gently, stirring until the chocolate melts and becomes a smooth, glossy mixture. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks then, using a metal spoon, fold carefully into the chocolate mixture – make sure you don’t beat it as this will knock out all the air bubbles.
Divide between glasses and chill for two hours before serving, sprinkled with chopped pistachios and dried rose petals or a few curls of orange zest.
CHOCOLATE ALMOND CLOUDS
These wonderful little meringue clouds will be a hit with young and old. I prefer to make really tiny ones, literally a half teaspoon of the mix, and sandwich two together with sweet chestnut puree. Chestnut puree comes in tins or jars can be found in most good food shops .
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
90g nibbed almonds
90g dark chocolate chopped up the same size as the nibbed almonds
Preheat an oven to 180 degrees/gas 4. Line the baking trays with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites and salt together until stiff, then add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the egg whites hold stiff peaks and form a glossy stiff meringue. Fold in the chocolate and almonds.
Drop half teaspoonfulls of the mixture onto the prepared trays. Put in the oven and turn it off. Leave them in the oven overnight with the door closed.
To serve, sandwich together with sweet chestnut puree. These can be stored in an airtight container, before sandwiching together, for at least a week.
60g caster sugar
220g flaked almonds
Finely grated rind of a small orange
50g dried sour cherries or cranberries
150g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees/gas 3. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. In a saucepan, melt the butter, cream and sugar together and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and stir in the almonds, orange rind, flour and dried sour cherries or cranberries. Mix well until combined.
Place teaspoonfuls of florentine mixture on the baking trays; space them out as they will spread a little when cooking. You will need to work quickly and not allow the mixture to get cool and sticky.
Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden brown. Keep an eye on them after eight minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool – they will harden as they cool.
Meanwhile, melt 100grams of the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 50 grams until it has also melted – this is a little trick I picked up and it should give the chocolate a nice shine. Spread a thick coat of chocolate on the flat base of the Florentines and set aside to cool and set.
You should get about 20-24 florentines from this recipe. Hide in an airtight container .
Makes 12-18 – depending on the size of your Madeleine tray
55g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
40g ground almonds
1 tbsp orange blossom water – grated rind of a small orange may be substituted.
150g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat an oven to 190 degrees/gas 5. Lightly brush the Madeleine moulds with a little melted butter. Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale.
Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in the almonds and salt. Stir the orange blossom water into the melted butter.
Using a large metal spoon, incorporate half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then fold in half the butter, and repeat with the remaining dry mix and butter. Allow to rest for half an hour, then spoon the mix into the Madeleine moulds so they are about three-quarters full. Bake for eight to 10 minutes until lightly coloured. Tip out onto a wire rack to cool.
These are best eaten warm, but may be stored in an airtight container for a day or two. Madeleines freeze well. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar.
Photographs: Shane O’Neill
Food styling: Paula Ann Ryan