Five favorites from L.A.'s best bakers
Baking season has arrived, and the oven is beckoning. So we’ve asked some of L.A.'s best pastry chefs for home recipes to ease bakers into fall. Their recipes call for 10 ingredients or fewer but are desserts worthy of bringing to a party, even Sharlena Fong’s marshmallow-studded campfire scones from Semi Sweet Bakery. (“Brunch is a party,” Fong says. “And scones are fancier than muffins.”) Karen Hatfield of Hatfield’s and the Sycamore Kitchen shares a rich, rustic-yet-elegant brown butter cake with dark chocolate and hazelnuts. The traditional pecan pie is re-imagined by Genevieve Gergis, pastry chef at Bestia, with a filling and crust that’s improved with a little crème fraîche. Roxana Jullapat of Cooks County makes a pumpkin mascarpone fool that is creamy and cool. And Gjelina Take Away pastry chef Nicole Rucker’s apple custard crumb pie, spiced with cardamom, is sort of genius. Rucker uses dried apples so “you don’t have to peel, core and cut them,” she points out. Easy.
Maple pecan tart with crème fraîche crust (Genevieve Gergis, Bestia)
A pecan tart from Genevieve Gergis is less sweet and gooey than it is fresh and balanced. “I really like the idea of pecan pie, but it can be so overwhelmingly sweet,” Gergis says. There are two things she does to correct this: One is to bake it in a tart pan for a higher ratio of pecans to custard, and the second thing is to add a little crème fraîche to the filling to mitigate the sugar with some lactic acidity. She loves crème fraîche so much that it’s in the dough as well as whipped and served on the side. “You get the flavor throughout the whole tart.”
Autumn fool (Roxana Jullapat, Cooks County)
“There’s something very charming about desserts served in a glass,” says Roxana Jullapat. “They’re nostalgic in the right way. And there’s a real interest now in British desserts — fools, trifles, flummeries and syllabubs. This is my interpretation of a fool.” Traditionally, stewed fruit is stirred into custard; this version mixes pumpkin purée with whipped cream and mascarpone. Make sure the graham cracker crumb is really toasty. You can also serve the fool in one large dish or mold.
Apple custard crumb pie (Nicole Rucker, Gjelina Take Away)
Nicole Rucker’s idea to use dried apples in a pie is sort of genius. “You probably have them in your cupboard, you don’t have to peel, core and cut them, and the texture is intriguing,” she says. “This pie is sort of like a clafoutis but has a crumb crust. You just whisk the filling together. It’s as easy as making French toast batter.” It’s also an apple pie spiced with cardamom rather than cinnamon. “I purposely avoided cinnamon; it’s everywhere this time of year.” And her favorite pie pan? She says glass conducts heat evenly, “and you can also see what’s going on with your crust as it bakes.”
Hazelnut brown butter torte with bittersweet chocolate (Karen Hatfield, Hatfield’s and the Sycamore Kitchen)
“I’ve been making this brown butter cake for a really long time,” Karen Hatfield says, “and I keep going back to it again and again. It’s super-versatile; you can make it individually as petits fours, in a cake pan, tart pan, mold, whatever. You can make the batter in advance. I’ve made it with pear and hazelnuts, roasted apples, figs. It has a lot of depth.” When the cake pan is filled almost completely, the cake will puff and get “crispy-chewy on the outside. Sometimes that’s the best part.”
Campfire scones (Sharlena Fong, Semi Sweet Bakery)
Sharlena Fong’s campfire scones are studded with chocolate chips and marshmallows, spiced with cinnamon, sweetened with a little honey and drizzled with more chocolate. They get an extra layer of marshmallows that become melty-toasty during baking. “I like scones that are crispy on the outside, a little moist on the inside,” says Fong, “and this requires a wetter scone dough.” She rolls her scone dough rather than scooping and dropping it by the spoonful so that they’re an even height. Freezing them overnight before baking ensures they keep their shape.
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