The lusciousness of Gale Gand

Gale Gand, a pastry chef and co-owner of Tru in Chicago, deviates a bit from the traditional Chef on a Shoestring format. Instead of presenting a three-course meal, this chef is creating a holiday dessert buffet.

Gand has written five cookbooks and she is the host of her own show on Food Network. She is also part of the Marshall Field's Culinary Council.

Among the awards she has won: the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef (2001) and the Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence (1994). She was named top pastry chef of the year in Bon Appetit's annual Best of the Best awards in 2001. She and her partner, Rick Tramonto, were nominated for the 1998 James Beard Awards for Best Chefs in the Midwest and also nominated for the 2000 James Beard Awards, with Tru for the Best New Restaurant Award.

Born in Chicago, Gand started out studying silver and goldsmithing in college. After taking time off and working in a restaurant, she found that her skills with precious metals translated well to cuisine. So she started her own catering company and her career blossomed from there.

Here is her menu for Saturday:
Sparkling Cranberry Cocktail
White Hot Chocolate
Chocolate Pavlova Wreath
Easy Chocolate-Mint Frango Mousse
Vanilla and Mint Poached Oranges
Ginger Orange Spiced Nuts
Nutella Fondue
Chocolate Tootsie Roll Truffles

RECIPES

Chocolate Pavlova Wreath
This is a fudgy chocolate version of the traditional Pavlova. It comes out with a brownie-like interior.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature (from about 4 eggs)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
pinch of cream of tartar
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup high quality cocoa powder, sifted
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
10 strawberries, green parts trimmed off, cut up
2 kiwi, peeled and sliced into half moons
Fresh mint leaves
Powdered sugar
3-inch pillar candle

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, cream of tartar, vanilla and vinegar, and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes more. Add the sifted cocoa powder and mix 10 to 20 more seconds.
  3. On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, use a pencil to draw or trace a circle 9 inches in diameter. Line the sheet pan with the parchment, pencil side down (you should still be able to see the circle). Spoon the meringue into a ring and spread using an offset spatula or the back of the spoon to smooth the top, forming peaks if possible.
  4. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and let the pavlova cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, to room temperature. This ensures a gradual cooling, which protects the delicate meringue.
  5. Before you're ready to serve, place the meringue on a serving platter and whip the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. When you're ready to serve, pile on the whipped cream, spreading it almost out to the edge, then arrange the fruit decoratively and tuck in some mint leaves. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and place pillar candle in center and light. To serve, slice into wedges.

Vanilla and Mint Poached Oranges

Ingredients:

4 seedless oranges
4 cups water
1 vanilla bean, split
6 black peppercorns
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
8 fresh mint leaves

Method:

  1. Cut a slice off the top and bottom of each orange to expose the flesh. Cutting from top to bottom, following the contours of the orange, completely remove the peel and white pith. Discard the peel and set the oranges aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine all of the water, brown sugar, peppercorns, and 6 of the mint leaves. Heat to a simmer.
  3. Add the whole peeled oranges and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, turning the oranges every 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature in the liquid. Turn occasionally. Chill.
  4. To serve, cut each orange crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spread the slices, overlapping them, on a serving plate. Drizzle the liquid over each plate and sprinkle with the remaining mint leaves, torn or thinly sliced.

Chocolate Tootsie Roll Truffles

Ingredients:

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 candy canes, chopped finely

Method:

  1. Stir together the melted chocolate and corn syrup in a medium sized bowl just until well blended.
  2. Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and allow it to set at room temperature for 1 hour or in the fridge for 10 minutes until just set.
  3. Unwrap the dough and knead it until it becomes the consistency of playdough.
  4. Break off tablespoon-sized pieces of the chocolate, roll it into a ball and roll it in the crushed candy canes or peppermint candies.

Cranberry Prosecco Sparkler

Ingredients

32 oz. cranberry juice, chilled
1 bottle Proscecco, chilled
mint sprigs
fresh cranberries

Method:
In fluted champagne glasses, put a tall mint sprig and add 3 cranberries. Pour cranberry juice to fill the glass 1/3 of the way up. Top it off with proscecco (sparkling Italian white wine with lower alcohol content than wine) and serve.

White Hot Chocolate with Candy Canes

Ingredients
4 ounce white chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
candy canes

Method:

  1. Combine the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the milk and cream and heat over medium heat until simmering. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk to melt.
  3. Add the brandy and pour into glass or ceramic mugs. Hang the candy cane over the edge of the mug and serve.

Easy Chocolate-Mint Frango Mousse

Ingredients:

1 cup cream
1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces Frango candies, chopped
1 box lady fingers
3 ounces semi sweet chocolate, melted
3 ounces white chocolate, melted

Method:

  1. Whip the cream till stiff and keep chilled.
  2. In a clean, dry bowl whip the egg whites till frothy then add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff and glossy.
  3. Fold the whipped whites into the cream, then fold in the chopped Frango candies. Spoon into glasses and garnish with chocolate dipped lady fingers.
  4. To make the lady fingers, dip half of each cookie in semi-sweet chocolate and allow to harden. Then dip the tip of the chocolate-dipped half of the lady finger into the white chocolate. Allow to cool and harden.

Ginger Orange Spiced Nuts

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
the zest of 2 oranges
2 cups mixed nuts such as almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. In a two-quart saucepan, melt the butter with the honey, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and orange zest. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the nuts, toss to coat well, remove from the heat, and spread onto a sheet pan lined with parchment, or a nonstick material (such as silpat or easy-release foil)
  4. Bake coated nuts for 25 minutes.

Nutella Fondue

Ingredients:

2 cups Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 cup heavy cream
Items for dipping such as bananas, pound cake chunks, marshmallows, strawberries

Method:

  1. Heat and whisk together the Nutella and heavy cream in a fondue pot set over a burner.
  2. Dip the various items in the chocolate using skewers or fondue forks and enjoy!