Year's Best: Most Beautiful Desserts
Berry-Yogurt Pavlovas with Chamomile-Lavender Syrup
Aromatherapists take advantage of the calming powers of both chamomile and lavender. Melissa Rubel Jacobson steeps the flowers in a syrup for antioxidant-rich berries.
This outrageously elegant tart is from Alain Ducasse's Manhattan restaurant Benoit.
Raspberry Tart with a Pistachio Crust
Pastry chef Jennifer McCoy of Craft in New York City bristles when other people offer to bring dessert to parties. "What are they thinking?" she says. "That's mine!" McCoy often brings this raspberry tart, with its creamy filling and pistachio-studded crust. She packs the components separately and assembles the tart just before serving.
Raspberry-and-Pistachio Eton Mess
Eton Mess is a lightly sweet, old-fashioned British dessert made by blending whipped cream with freshly crushed berries and crisp meringue. As a shortcut, use store-bought meringues instead of homemade.
Strawberry Tart with Flaky Pastry
Elisabeth Prueitt invented this exceptional, flaky dessert, made with a rough puff pastry, for San Francisco's Tartine Bakery. She cuts the pastry into a precise circle and weighs it down during baking to create an elegant base for sliced strawberries and whipped cream. The adaptable crust can be topped with almost any seasonal fruit.
Grilled-Fruit Bruschetta with Honey Mascarpone
This knife-and-fork dessert from Bottega pastry chef Michael Glissman is a fantastic showcase for seasonal fruit at its peak; caramelizing the fruit on the grill intensifies its flavor. The grilled bread served alongside soaks up the sweet juices.
Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème
Mexican chocolate, which is flavored with ingredients like cinnamon, almonds and vanilla, lends a distinct flavor to Stephanie Prida's rich custard. Look for it at Mexican markets and specialty-food stores.
Maura Kilpatrick's killer parfaits are the perfect contrast of cold, crunchy and creamy. They're fabulous for entertaining, because you can make the caramel cream, granita and caramel ahead of time and assemble them just before serving. The crunch can also be served over vanilla ice cream.
Towering Coconut Layer Cake
For this recipe, chef Tyler Florence researched menus dating all the way back to the Gold Rush. This cake couldn't be more traditional: four layers of rum-brushed yellow cake filled and frosted with a light and airy, coconut-scented meringue-buttercream.
Harvest Cake with Grapes and Sangiovese Syrup
Sheamus Feeley loves to bake this moist cake at harvest time using Long Meadow's own Sangiovese grapes and grape juice, but any seedless red table grapes and unsweetened grape juice will work.