desserts, Maine Restaurant Week, Signature Event

The Cherry on Top

As the Missus and I walked into the Prime Mercedes-Benz show room this past Sunday, it felt like we were walking into an adult wonderland of booze and sugary treats. We were hardly alone, too, as roughly 500 other people joined us to ring the final bell of Restaurant Week with their ‘Signature Event,’ a competition of local pastry chefs and bartenders.
While top honors for drinks went to Zapoteca and Sonny’s–for the “Peoples Choice” and “Judge’s Choice,” respectfully–the venue was so crowded that we never made it through the throngs of people to get to their tables.  However, we did manage a few sips of cocktails from:
Bar Lola, as co-owner Stella Hernandez worked as a one woman army mixing and pouring her Bulleit Rye anchored “Coolidge Ave. Cocktail,” as quickly as guests could scoop them up. Like many drinks on their menu, this was crafted by Stella and pulled off sophisticated drinking with little effort. We may have gone back more than once.
Academe, housed at The Kennebunk Inn, brought out the whimsy big time with their “Not So Old Fashioned,” which boasted both a pipette of chai maple syrup, cara cara sorbet and a maraschino cherry gelee. It was captivating to watch them assemble, but actually following the steps (I think we were given a four part instruction on how to drink it) proved to be a bit more complicated than the event allowed for. A pipette of maple syrup just makes for a hot, sticky mess when you’re getting knocked into every second and trying really hard to remember what you were supposed to do after that. But, that’s not to say that it wouldn’t be better appreciated sitting at their bar without risk of dousing yourself with syrup.
Azure Cafe, in Freeport, also played around with a dash of Molecular Gastronomy with their “Sweet and Tangy Screw with Basil-Mint Caviar.”  I honestly expected to come home and find that they had won People’s Choice with this as it seemed to be the one I heard the most buzz about. Not only did it have a dose of refreshing basil-mint orbs at the bottom of the glass, but it also listed ‘Tang Simple Syrup” as an ingredient in the program. Let me say that again: TANG Simple Syrup. I’m not one to drink with brunch, but I’d be extremely hard pressed to turn this down any given Sunday.
One of the Missus’ favorites of the evening was the “Driving Miss Dizzy,” crafted by The Great Lost Bear. Perhaps because they’re thought of as more of a ‘burger and beer’ joint, but it seems that the GLB has a tendency to surprise. You wouldn’t really expect them to have lavender buds kicking around, or making such a delicate drink with a base of sparkling lemonade, but they did. And they pulled it off well. 
Obviously, we only partook in a fraction of the cocktails (I could go on a rant about the lack of water available for those that didn’t want to drink as much as others), but my reason for being there was definitely the desserts. 
We started the tour with the Whole Foods entry of a goat cheese cheesecake, dubbed the “Tipsy Tennessee Goat,” that was topped with a Murphy’s Stout salted caramel and brown butter and gingersnap crust. 
The base was perfectly tart and tangy and the caramel, which generously coated every sample, had just a hint of bitter from the stout beer. We know that I’m a sucker for anything covered in caramel, so this was a great way to start our sugar fueled adventure. 
After that we sampled the eventual winner of the evening, from David’s Opus Ten, flaky beignets with peppered strawberries, creme chantilly and balsamic reduction.
David and his crew garnered automatic points for serving the only warm dessert of the evening, but the crunch of the beignet, paired with the lush chantilly creme and spicy strawberries, made for an all around pleasurable dessert.  With the ‘restaurant within a restaurant’ already gathering a bit of buzz, I’m more than certain this dessert won him a few new fans. 
Now, while we weren’t sold on the drink from Academe, you couldn’t help but fall for their interpretation of the classic childhood pairing of “Milk and Cookies.”
As you walked up you were handed a small whisk of raw cookie dough and then a vial of sweetened milk, which was really an uncooked creme anglaise, and told to squeeze the pipette as you bit down on the cookie. Because it was so simple, and so ingenious, this could have easily failed if the cookie wasn’t good. Luckily, it was a damn fine chocolate chip cookie, bringing the best of both chewy and crunchy to your mouth. They easily had my vote for my favorite of the evening.
Another uber-cute dessert came from Walter’s in Portland.
Their entry, dubbed “Panna Buttah and Jelly” called to the kid in me that loves peanut butter cookies, but also to the adult that could eat panna cotta every evening if given the option.  Sadly, this dessert suffered the same as Academe’s drink, nice in theory but fell apart in execution. As soon as the peanut butter spoon tried to pierce the concord grape jelly top, it broke and shattered into three different pieces–and some of it ended up on the floor. I was only able to taste the smallest bite, with a salvaged nub of the spoon, before we threw it away in disappointment.

I would like to apologize outright to Standard Baking Company for taking a horrible photo. It truly does not do their Lingot d’Or bars any justice. The bars, which held a smooth chocolate and whiskey souffle on top of an almond shortbread, were nondescript. Sure, there was obviously a little gold dusting on top, but it didn’t look as interesting, or as decadent, as the first bite turned out to be. Of all of the pastries I’ve had from Standard this is, above and beyond, their finest. It was also the last bite of our evening and it was a lovely one to go out on.

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desserts, fall desserts, pecan pie, pecan pie bars, thanksgiving

Peacan Pie Bars

From the “I’ll just leave this right here” files, I’m sharing with the best dessert of the week.  For the past few days I’ve been baking every night for my coworkers (apple cider spiced cupcakes, ‘crunch’ bars from Dorie Greenspan), trying to keep them fat and happy during the onslaught of madness from the holidays. Well, if this doesn’t send them into a blissful, sugary state…then I just don’t what will.
My recommendation for you:
Don’t worry about the floralness of the honey you use. I used some from Sparky’s of Maine and it was pretty intense but that calmed down after they baked.
Serve these with some vanilla ice cream or gelato.
And a cup of coffee from Bard.
I’m having one right now with my coffee. It’s perfect.

Pecan Pie Bars
(from Just a Taste)

For crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

For topping:
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups chopped pecans
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.

Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.

Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.

Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.

Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars and serve.

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crack pie, desserts

Crack Pie

I had my first hit of Crack a few months ago when a co-worker was more than kind enough to bring a piece back from her trip to NYC, which included a stop at Momofuku Milk Bar. I was hard pressed to share it with other co-workers, hell the Missus didn’t even get a bit of it, but didn’t want to come off as selfish even though I cringed at every bite they took. It was unlike any other pie I’d had before.

Fast forward to last week and me sitting down on the couch flipping through the latest Bon Appetit. When I reached the profile on Momofuku’s Pastry Chef, Christina Toshi, I nearly squealed when the recipe for the pie glared back at me from page 117.

Little time was wasted before I gathered up the ingredients, made a mess of my kitchen and tried my hand at my first batch o’ crack.





Because the recipe required the pie to set overnight, we enjoyed it as a wonderful Anniversary (#6) breakfast treat the next morning with coffee. My only complaint was a lack of light brown sugar in my house, for which I had to sub dark for. It did make a noticeable difference in color, flavor and texture but the pie was still enjoyable and, as the name implies, painfully addictive.

Crack Pie

Oat Cookie Crust

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Oat Cookie Crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper; coat with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until pale and fluffy.

Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.



Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan; press out evenly to edges of pan.



Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.



Using hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl; add 3 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together.



Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Using fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.

Filling

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.



Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.



Pour filling into crust. Bake pie 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack.



Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

crack pie on Foodista

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