Winter can be tough. It gets dark before dinner and is often too cold to enjoy the outdoors. The first flurries are great, but after the second or third blizzard, you’re ready for some sunshine. This season is brutal, and you need some comforting. Try these delicious desserts in your restaurant or home to warm customers, friends, or yourself.
Nutella-Swirl Pound Cake
If you haven’t had Nutella, resist no further. The chocolate hazelnut spread is absolutely delicious. It works great on toast, waffles or pretty much anything that could use a sweet sprucing. This recipe from FoodandWine.com puts Nutella front and center in a succulent pound cake. Pound cake is always a warm, filling dessert, but it has never been better than this.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 13-ounce jar Nutella
Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9” x 5” loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 ½ cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not over mix.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.
Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits
The combination of salt and caramel has become a hot commodity in the dessert world over the course of the past decade. Don’t believe me? Go to your local grocery store or read this 2008 article from the New York Times. The flavor mash-up can be found in chocolate bars, coffees and ice cream, and there’s a reason why: the salty and sweet combo. It’s what makes chocolate covered pretzels great and chocolate covered bacon surprisingly satisfying. This recipe from FineCooking.com takes the salt and caramel phenomenon to a whole new level. Parfaits, as Donkey from “Shrek” once said, may be the most delicious thing on the whole planet. This parfait may require more specialized ingredients and time than most, but it is well worth the effort.
1 ½ cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups whole milk, at room temperature
½ cup Caramel Sauce (recipe follows, and makes about 1 cup)
1 ½ teaspoons fleur de sel
Whisk together 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, the cornstarch, and vanilla paste in a small bowl. Set aside.
Put 1 cup of the sugar into a medium copper or heavy stainless steel saucepan and set over medium heat. As the sugar heats, you will see it start to melt around the edges and then turn golden in color, in 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, nudge the sugar slightly on one side. You will see liquid caramel slowly move out from underneath the granular sugar. Very slowly start to move the sugar into the liquid caramel. Do not rush this process—if the caramel starts to look grainy, you are incorporating the sugar too quickly. If the caramel starts to smoke or get very dark, remove the pan from the heat until the smoking subsides or lower the heat.
When the sugar has completely melted and is dark amber in color, turn off the heat and pour in the milk—it will bubble up. When the bubbles settle down, turn the heat on to low and whisk the milk and caramel together, then cook, whisking, to dissolve any hardened bits of caramel.
Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the caramel and continue cooking, stirring, until the pudding thickens and coats the back of the spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Pour the pudding through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap so the pudding doesn’t form a skin and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
Caramel Sauce Ingredients
1 1/3 cups sugar
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
½ tablespoon kosher salt
Caramel Sauce Directions
Put the sugar into a medium copper or heavy stainless steel saucepan and set over medium heat. Pour the cream and corn syrup into a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat.
As the sugar heats, you will see it start to melt around the edges and then turn golden in color, in 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, nudge the sugar slightly on one side. You will see liquid caramel slowly move out from underneath the granular sugar. Very slowly start to move the sugar into the liquid caramel. Do not rush this process—if the caramel starts to look grainy, you are incorporating the sugar too quickly. If the caramel starts to smoke or get very dark, remove the pan from the heat until the smoking subsides or lower the heat.
Meanwhile, watch the cream: You want it to come to a boil when the sugar reaches the liquid caramel stage, so adjust the timing accordingly by raising or lowering the heat under the cream (if the cream comes to a boil too early, just remove it from the heat).
When the sugar has completely melted and is dark amber in color, remove from the heat and pour in the cream—it will bubble substantially. When the caramel has settled down, stir the ingredients together until smooth. Add the butter and salt and stir until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Pour the hot caramel into a heatproof jar or container and let cool completely. Bring to room temperature or reheat gently before serving.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), whip the remaining 1 cup cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until firm peaks form.
Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons of caramel sauce into the bottom of each parfait glass. Scoop about ½ cup of pudding into the glass, drizzle with another 1 to 2 teaspoons caramel sauce, and top with a large dollop of whipped cream. Drizzle a little more caramel sauce over the whipped cream, finish with a sprinkling of fleur de sel, and serve immediately.