Lessons from chef who served presidents

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`Dessert University' offers recipes, tips Bookmark

October 20, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Pastries are nonpartisan.

Cream butter and sugar just enough, stir in flour to that point where mush metamorphoses into batter, maybe add the secret ingredient of hard-boiled egg yolks for flavor, and anyone from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton will be happy.

Roland Mesnier spent 25 years at the White House working under that philosophy, whisking and churning and kneading for the right, the left and various presidential guests in between.

Now, the executive presidential pastry chef, who retired from Pennsylvania Avenue earlier this year, has written a book for home cooks - for those aspiring to the simple post-supper treat or for those ready to create the state-dinner showstopper.

Dessert University (Simon & Schuster, 2004, $40) is not particularly chatty. It does not reveal whether Hillary actually baked those cookies herself; it does not expose Rosalynn's or Nancy's or Barbara's midnight sweet tooth. But it is what Mesnier says it is - an effective teaching guide to all things sweet.

"My dearest hope is to pass on the general principles of good dessert-making revealed to me by my best teachers," he writes.

These principles are not fancy - he says "economy and simplicity" are among his golden rules - but they are not necessarily easy.

"You can't become a good dessert chef without a solid knowledge of the basics and a lot of experience with your recipes," he says. "Don't be discouraged if the first time you whip egg whites, they dry out and collapse. Try again."

The book's 13 chapters begin with a tip-filled introduction, continue with recipes geared to the egg-white-challenged cook and lead up to those appropriate for a master.

Chapter five, for instance - "Magical Meringues" - starts with the basic French Meringue and becomes increasingly complex, with recipes for such impressive delectables as Floating Hearts and the Raspberry Floating Island. Chapter 10, "Perfect Cakes for All Occasions," starts with a Lemon Poundcake and leads to a Chocolate-Vanilla Dacquoise.

His 300 or so recipes include frozen treats, among which a creamy chocolate ice cream is a standout; breakfast goodies, including perfectly flaky scones and egg-white lightened blueberry muffins; cookies, with a basic chocolate chip destined to become a household favorite; and various other puddings, tarts, pies, candy and treats.

Cobbler, Scone, Shortcake or Turnover Dough

Makes enough dough for 1 cobbler, 16 scones, 12 shortcakes or 24 turnovers

2 large eggs, hard-boiled and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar

pinch salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the egg yolks from the whites and set the whites aside for another use. Push the yolks through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl, and set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the egg yolks and the heavy cream, and mix until the dough just comes together. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel until ready to use, up to 1 day.

Per serving (1 turnover): 113 calories; 2 grams protein; 7 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 10 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 39 milligrams cholesterol; 31 milligrams sodium

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