Divine Dessert Recipes for Winter

Montage Laguna Beach Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith shares two warm and cozy winter dessert recipes to savor this season.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee with Ginger Ice Cream
Serves 8

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

1 cup egg yolks (about 12 yolks)
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla pods
1 cup milk
3 cups cream
2 ¼ cups pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ tablespoon mace (a spice related to nutmeg)
¼ tablespoon ginger
Superfine sugar, as needed to caramelize the tops with a torch

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Beat the yolks and sugar together. Scrape the vanilla from the pods and, along with the whole pod, scald in the milk; strain out over the egg yolk and sugar mixture and whisk together. Add the cold cream, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and ginger and combine.

Pour mixture into eight porcelain creme brulee dishes and bake in a water bath for about 45 minutes. ​

Ginger Ice Cream

1 ¼ cups freshly grated ginger
6 cups milk
2 cups cream
2 cups egg yolks (about 24 yolks)
2 cups sugar

In a mixing bowl, steep the fresh ginger overnight in the milk and cream, then strain. Remeasure the milk and cream to ensure it still amounts to 8 cups, then place the cream and milk into a thick-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. When the milk and cream come to a boil, pour half over the egg-and-sugar mixture and combine. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining half of the milk-and-cream mixture. Place saucepan back onto the stove at medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook.

Immediately pour the mixture into a fresh mixing bowl placed over a bowl of ice and stir occasionally until cool. Once cool, pour into your ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Plate:
Once the creme brulees are cooked and cooled (overnight in the refrigerator is recommended), proceed with caramelizing them. Spread a thin layer of superfine sugar over the top of the creme and then, using a propane gas torch, carefully use the flame to caramelize the sugar until a thin, even crust is achieved. Allow the sugar to cool a little. Serve with a scoop of the ginger ice cream on the side.

Blond Chocolate Carrot Cake with Creme Fraiche Lime Ice Cream
Serves 20

Carrot Paper

¼ cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons egg whites
⅓ cup carrot juice
4 teaspoons melted butter

In a food processor, mix sugar, flour, egg whites, carrot juice and melted butter, spread mixture very thinly onto parchment paper and then dehydrate in the oven at 122 F for 48 hours.

Whipped Dulcey Ganache

3 cups Dulcey blond chocolate
6 ½ cups cream
⅓ cup glucose (such as corn syrup)
⅓ cup trimoline (invert sugar)
4 ¼ cups cream

Chop the Dulcey blond chocolate into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a saucepan, combine 2 ¼ cups of cream (reserving the rest for later), glucose and trimoline and bring to a boil. Once the cream has started to boil, pour it over the chocolate and let it stand for one minute.

Using a hand blender, mix the chocolate and cream together. Once well combined, add all of the remaining cream. Leave to set in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, this cream can be whipped stiff and piped onto the cake.

French Meringue

1 ¼ cups egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 250 F. In a planetary mixer, whisk the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks are formed. Add sugar and continue to whisk for 5 minutes. Remove from the mixer and place into a mixing bowl; carefully fold in sieved icing sugar. Pipe mixture onto parchment paper. Bake until dry, about 2 hours.

Carrot Cake

½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ¾ cups white flour
¾ cup toasted pecans
⅓ cup dried black currants
2 ½ cups shredded carrots
2 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
⅓ cup olive oil
12 whole large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and paper two 12- by 16-inch baking sheets.

In a food processor, blend both types of flour, pecans and currants to a fine meal. Set aside. Then blend carrots to a fine meal in the food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine the fine meal, carrots, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, blend olive oil and eggs together. Fold in the mixture containing all of the other ingredients and pour onto the 2 baking sheets. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Dulcey Creme Fraiche Mousse

1 ¼ cups Dulcey blond chocolate
2 ¾ teaspoons gelatin
1 ¼ cups cream
1 ¼ cups creme fraiche
¼ cup egg yolks
2 ½ whole large eggs
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar

Place a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water and add the Dulcey blond chocolate. Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and feels just warm to the touch. In a separate bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the cream and melt in the gelatin; then, mix in the remaining cream and creme fraiche. Pour the mixture into the bowl of Dulcey blond chocolate and fold in until combined.

In a planetary mixer, whip egg yolks and whole eggs on a medium speed until soft peaks form. While the eggs mix, in another saucepan add sugar and water and boil to 244 F then pour the resulting hot simple syrup into a glass sauce jug. Being careful (as the liquid will still be very hot), gently pour the hot sugar liquid down the side of the planetary mixer bowl into the eggs and whisk ingredients together on medium speed until cool, about 15 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the bowl of chocolate, folding it in until the mousse is smooth and evenly colored. Use this mousse to fill the cake and as a topping for the cake.

Creme Fraiche Lime Ice Cream

2 ½ cups creme fraiche
1 cup yogurt
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup lime juice
Zest of 2 whole limes

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk together until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Plate

To assemble the carrot cake, place 1 sheet of the cake onto a cutting board and spread half of the Dulcey Creme Fraiche Mousse in a level and smooth layer all over; then place the other sheet of carrot cake directly on top of the first sheet and smoothly spread the remaining mousse on top. Place your cake into the refrigerator and let it set for at least 1 hour.

Cut the cake as desired—Montage chefs cut very thin slices and lay each on its side—then decorate with the whipped Dulcey ganache, carrot paper and French meringues.

When ready to serve, add a scoop of the creme fraiche lime ice cream on top of the cake.

Recipes by Executive Pastry Chef Lee Smith | Photography by Anne Watson