Chefs meet challenge of creating desserts phew!


As more and more Americans return to the pleasures of the table -- and a bit of dessert is no longer taboo -- pastry chefs are increasingly finding themselves in the celebrity spotlight previously reserved for executive chefs.

There is a new surge of creativity in the profession. The rococo dessert spectacles of the '80s are giving way to sleeker, more sculptural, self-assured presentations.

And as patrons have increasingly requested lower-fat desserts, American pastry chefs have added innovations in the art of low-fat cooking to their long list of talents. Here's an idea from Chef Mary Bergin of Spago in Las Vegas.

Three-berry compote in a crisp phyllo nest

Makes 8 servings


1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

8 ounces phyllo dough, thawed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably canola

confectioners' sugar for dusting

To make berry compote:

In a saucepan, combine berries, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gently stir over medium heat until the berries are just heated through and juicy, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool. (The compote can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)

To make phyllo nests:

Set oven racks in upper third and middle of oven. Heat to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, or use two nonstick baking sheets.

In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

If you are using an 8-ounce package of phyllo dough, unroll it, remove the paper and roll it back up again. (If you are using a 1-pound package of dough, cut it in half crosswise, rewrap one half and reserve it for another use.) Set the roll on a cutting board. Slice the roll into 1/2 -inch-wide strips. Toss the strips together, as if tossing fresh fettuccine, until the layers are well separated. Drizzle with oil, then toss again to distribute the oil.

Make two "nests" by arranging half of the phyllo strips in a neat 9-inch circle on each baking sheet. Sprinkle each nest with 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon sugar.

Bake the nests for 15 to 20 minutes, switching the position of the pans midway through baking, until golden brown and crisp. Cool on the baking sheets. (The phyllo nests can be made up to a day ahead and stored, well covered, at room temperature.)

To assemble dessert:

With a wide spatula, transfer one of the nests to a serving plate. Reserving about 3/4 cup of the berry compote, spoon the remaining compote over the first nest. Set the second nest on top. Spoon the reserved compote onto the center. Dust with confectioners' sugar, cut into wedges and serve.

Cooking tip: The day before making the dessert, put frozen phyllo dough in the refrigerator so it will be thawed and ready to use.

Per serving: 195 calories, 4 grams of protein, 4 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat), 40 g carbohydrate, 100 mg sodium, 8 mg cholesterol and 3 g fiber

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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