Is high-cal or low our just dessert? Vice vs. Virture

October 17, 1993|By Kim Pierce | Kim Pierce,The Dallas Morning News Universal Press Syndicate

Choosing a dessert is really the battle of little voices. You know, the devil-you on one shoulder rhapsodizing over chocolate tortes and creme brulee while the angel-you murmurs about low fat, heart health and freedom from cellulite.

But no matter how the angel tugs at your conscience, sometimes you gotta have it: the richest, nastiest, most sinful dessert that ever wrapped itself around a thigh. A dessert where cream and butter, like price, are no object.

In these body-conscious times, people will give up cream sauces, bread and rich soups, "but they want to have a great dessert," says chef Emeril Lagasse, author of "Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking" (William Morrow and Co., $23).

His Bayou City restaurant, Emeril's, has a separate dessert menu with 16 items. At 1,272 calories and 77 grams of fat per slice, his banana cream pie with caramel drizzles is one of the most indulgent fruit desserts we could find.

Which was the object of half of this story -- to track down three mega-indulgent desserts: one made with chocolate, another with fresh fruit and another spiked with citrus.

But you can ignore the little health harpy only so long without consequences. Big, fat ripples of consequence. So we also scouted out three of the best lower-fat desserts in the same categories.

For there are occasions when rich desserts are cruel and unusual punishment, "where I know there's going to be a lot of activity, like at a picnic," says chef Jim Dodge, an executive at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.

"I can be bad," he says. "I always think of indulgent desserts as a reward."

He adds he will often balance a menu with a more restrained dessert when the entree or appetizer is already slow death by extravagance.

Then he reconsiders the picnic thing. And a sly note creeps into his voice.

No rich desserts, like, if you're going to be playing, oh, maybe soccer. "Unless of course it's for the opposing team."

Talk about bad -- but what a way to go.

Mocha pots de creme

Makes 6 servings

1 cup whole milk

1 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk (divided use)

3 tablespoons ground coffee (not instant)

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 (8-ounce) container liquid egg substitute

2 teaspoons coffee liqueur or dark rum

pinch of salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat, bring whole milk, 1/2 cup of low-fat milk and coffee to a simmer; remove from heat, cover and steep 10 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter; reserve.

Blend the cocoa and remaining low-fat milk, then gently whisk in (so you don't create bubbles) the coffee mixture, granulated and brown sugars, egg substitute, coffee liqueur and salt. Pour into 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.

Place in a pan large enough to hold all the ramekins without crowding and cover each with foil. Set pan in lower third of oven and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake about 45 minutes or until set like custard. Remove from oven and from water bath, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, still covered. Serve cold.

Per serving: calories: 171; fat: 2 grams; cholesterol: 7 milligrams; sodium: 134 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 10 percent.

Source: "Sin-Free Desserts" by Jean Anderson (Doubleday, 1988).

Lemon-white chocolate cake

Makes 12 servings

1 box pudding-added lemon cake mix, plus ingredients for preparation

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 teaspoons grated lemon peel (divided use)

4 ounces white chocolate, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 cups confectioners' sugar, or more as needed

1/2 cup heavy cream

Prepare cake according to package directions for a 2-layer cake, substituting 1/4 cup lemon juice for 1/4 cup of liquid and adding 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel to batter. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting, cream white chocolate and butter together. Add 2 teaspoons lemon peel. Beat in 2 cups confectioners' sugar. Add some cream to soften and lighten batter. Add remaining confectioners' sugar. Add more cream as needed to reach desired consistency. If weather is humid, you may need more sugar.

Set bottom cake layer on a serving plate. Spread with part of the icing. Add the top layer, pressing it gently into the icing. Frost cake with remaining icing. Refrigerate.

Per serving: calories: 579; fat: 15 grams; cholesterol: 115 milligrams; sodium: 420 milligrams; percent calories from fat: 38 percent.

Source: Christine M. Carbone, adapted from "Baking With Jim Dodge" by Jim Dodge (Simon and Schuster, 1991).

Banana cream pie with caramel drizzles

Makes 8 servings

1 banana pie crust (recipe follows)

3 cups heavy cream (divided use)

1 small vanilla bean

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3/4 cup cornstarch

2 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 large egg yolks

4 ripe bananas

3/4 cup caramel drizzle sauce (recipe follows)

1 cup heavy cream whipped with 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon sugar

shaved chocolate

Prepare banana pie crust; allow it to cool completely.

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