Apple desserts from five NY pastry chefs.
As the leaves start changing color and diners return from summering in their country homes, New York City’s pastry chefs begin to focus on their fall menus. And one of the most prominent ingredients found in their autumn desserts is the humble apple. It’s versatile, locally grown and available in hundreds of varieties from sweet Fujis to tart Pippens. This versatility explains why you’ll find apples in a wide range of desserts from rustic to refined.
Here are five apple-based desserts from five of New York’s top pastry chefs. Each one reflects a bit of the chef and the restaurant’s personality. They cover a range of styles, from the comfort approach of Kierin Baldwin’s McIntosh and Concord grape crostata to the elegance of Ashley Brauze’s frozen green apple dessert.
Concord Grape and McIntosh Apple Crostata
Kierin Baldwin, Pastry Chef, Locanda Verde, New York, NY
Dubbed the “champion” of pies by The New York Times, native New Yorker Kierin Baldwin knows how to bake a good apple dessert. Her clever variations on the classic apple pie, like one made with caramel and vinegar to cut some of the sweetness, have been featured in many publications.
But Baldwin’s entire repertoire of comfort-style desserts are equally sought after by New York diners. This is because Baldwin seems to be able to incorporate nearly any seasonal, savory or sweet ingredient into accessible desserts — like doughnuts, cakes and pies. Last fall at The Dutch, Baldwin paired pumpkin doughnuts with a tangy ginger pudding.
Baldwin says her Concord Grape and Apple Crosata incorporates the flavor from her childhood of grape jelly slathered on buttered toast . “I’m a sucker for Concord grapes, their flavor is so intense, they’re really like an intense grape jelly. And their season is so small — starting right at the end of September — but it lines up right with apple season. And the smell when these come out of the oven is like concentrated grape jelly and baking butter (from the crust).”
The caramel sauce is surprisingly complex and incorporates apple cider and Calvados. The sweetness of the main ingredients is thoughtfully balanced by well toasted walnuts that bring some bitterness. Continuing with the buttered toast theme, Baldwin plates the crostata with brown butter flavored ice cream. “The brown butter ice cream is heavily salted to prevent the dessert from becoming too sweet or too cloying.”
Baldwin also loves her crostata dough recipe “This crostata dough is very versatile, it’s super-flaky and has some cornmeal in it for texture and is extremely buttery. Plus it’s a very forgiving dough — it doesn’t get soggy easily.” Ironically, Baldwin says you can use this for just about any dessert “except for pies!”
This past August, after three years at Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch, Kierin returned to run the pastry program at Locanda Verde where she was the original opening Sous Chef under Karen DeMasco.
Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich Street, New York, NY, 10013; 212-925-3797; www.locandaverdenyc.com
Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce
Ron Paprocki, Executive Pastry Chef, Gotham Bar and Grill, New York, NY
Ron Paprocki took over Gotham Bar and Grill’s storied pastry program in May of 2012. The restaurant is known dessert-wise for their famous flourless chocolate cake — a popular favorite they’ve offered for over two decades. Still, Ron wasted no time adding a signature dessert of his own to the menu, an Apple Tarte Tatin for Two that’s certain to eventually rival the chocolate cake’s popularity.
Paprocki says “We had talked about placing a dessert for two on the menu and I thought the Tarte Tatin would be the perfect solution.” But first he had to convince the team at Gotham to invest close to $3,000 in 12 special Mauviel copper pots and pans to bake and display the dessert. Paprocki made a tester in his own 6” Mauviel pot and the team was instantly sold on the idea.
When guests order the tarte tatin for two at Gotham the waiters proudly present the whole baked tart on a copper pan for the table, like a whole roast chicken before it’s carved. The waiter then returns to the kitchen to plate it and add the vanilla ice cream. The showy presentation, with the beautiful caramelized finish of the apples glowing in the light, really leaves an impression.
Paprocki said he tried over a dozen varieties of apples before settling on the organic Braeburns from the nearby Union Square Farmer’s Market, because they really hold up to the baking and keep their form.
This is the third year that the dessert will be on the fall menu at Gotham, and Paprocki says guests have been asking about it all summer. Ron Paprocki was named a Top 10 Pastry Chef by this magazine in 2011 and also won the inaugural StarChefs International Pastry Competition that same year.
Gotham Bar and Grill, 12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003; 212-620-4020; www.gothambarandgrill.com
Apple Bar with Huckleberry Jam, Caramel Applesauce, Oat & Emmer Crumble, Caraway Ice Cream
Miro Uskokovic, Pastry Chef, Gramercy Tavern New York, NY
Miro Uskokovic has been pastry chef at New York’s famed Gramercy Tavern for a little more than a year, but has already drawn praise from critics for his inventive and satisfying desserts. This is no small task, considering he took over the program from the hugely influential Nancy Olsen. One reason for his success might be a unique self-confidence for such a young chef. Although not yet 30, Uskokovic is not afraid to draw from his childhood food experiences in Serbia when creating dishes. Add to that his training at New York fine dining stalwarts Jean Georges and Aldea and you have a formidable foundation as a pastry chef.
Uskokovic likes to marry unusual components together on the same plate. One of his earliest successes was a dessert that combined lemon sherbet (using rare baboon lemons) with sweet ricotta cheese and crunchy poppy seed cake. The satisfying result was like a three-star creamsicle.
For this fall, Uskokovic developed a dessert that combined sweet Honey Crisp apples and tart Granny Smiths. He explained that the slightly crunchy and flavorful Apple Bar dessert is based on a cake from his childhood called a “lazy pie”. “It’s essentially a quicker version of apple strudel, except the dough is made from short crust and we use lard instead of butter.” The huckleberries for the slightly tart jam come from Gotham’s forager. Uskokovic knew he wanted to pair the bar with a unique ice cream flavor that wasn’t too sweet, and after trying a few different options settled on the unique caraway seed formulation, giving the result an interesting fennel-like finish.
Johnny Iuzzini, James Beard winning pastry chef and Uskokovic’s mentor, says, “Miro is one of the few chefs I’ve worked with that creates straight from the heart... When he was on my team I could always count on him to execute the right way every time.”
Gramercy Tavern, 42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003; 212-477 0777; www.gramercytavern.com
Apple Vacherin 2014
Ashley Church Brauze, Executive Pastry Chef, Cafe Boulud, New York, NY
Ashley Brauze’s desserts at Daniel Boulud’s fine dining outpost Cafe Boulud are colorful, highly composed creations that look like miniature sculptures in a design museum. To make the presentations even more visually striking she frequently uses components with sharply contrasting colors that pop off the plate. This spring one of her desserts featured a delicate cylinder of dark red raspberry sorbet surrounded with bright white meringue segments. It was one of the most stunning fine dining desserts I saw in New York this year.
This signature style is clearly recognizable in her new Apple Vacherin fall dessert. The frozen dish features contrasting tart and sweet flavors made from equal parts green apple and coconut sorbet. A tart yuzu curd helps to cut some of the dessert’s sweetness. Baked meringue bits add some texture, and dots of coconut foam are thoughtfully placed on the grey slate slab the dish is served on.
To find out where Brauze developed her eye for beautiful dessert aesthetics, you only have to look at her vast experience. Before moving to Cafe Boulud in the fall of 2013, Brauze worked at Daniel, DB Bistro Moderne, Per Se, and El Bulli, where she worked alongside Albert Adria while he was creating his influential French Pastry book “Natura”.
Cafe Boulud, 20 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021; 212-772-2600; www.cafeboulud.com/nyc/
Mark Welker, Executive Pastry Chef, The Nomad Hotel, New York, NY
Mark Welker’s desserts at The Nomad span a wide range of styles, from a technique driven ultra-modern lemon tart to a rustic blackberry cobbler that’s baked and served in a black cast iron pot. His fall Apple Buckwheat dessert leans slightly to the more refined, but has many characteristics of a comfort dessert you might find at a Vermont country inn.
Using a base of buckwheat cake, Welker packs no less than eight different apple-based components into this dessert. Each one delivers a specific texture or flavor to the plate. As with the other chefs featured here, Welker opted for an unusual flavor of ice cream to pair with his dessert — a savory sage.
Like many of Welker’s desserts, Apple Buckwheat explores a full spectrum of textures, from crunchy buckwheat brittle to soft poached apples. Even the sauces feature a variety of textures from a spiced apple to a slightly more viscous apple toffee glaze.
Versatility is a requirement at the Nomad Hotel, where Welker is not only responsible for the dessert menus in the main dining room and new Nomad Bar, but also the baked goods and viennoiserie items served at breakfast. And although Welker turns out some excellent standard croissants and pain au chocolat, he also occasionally creates a fun, specialty croissant like the whimsical Boston crème croissant. Guests at the adjacent hotel are sure to remember breakfast experience at the Nomad.
Daniel Humm, Chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and The Nomad, is full of praise for Welker: “Watching Mark develop into the pastry chef he is today has been amazing. He’s always had immense talent, but what truly makes him stand out is his ability to balance flavors, to make desserts that are delicious, but also beautiful and comforting. He’s also the best baker I’ve ever met and it’s amazing that he’s been able to excel in both baking and pastry, as those two areas don’t always go hand-in-hand.”
The Nomad Hotel, 1170 Broadway, New York NY 10001; 212-796-1500; www.thenomadhotel.com
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