Friday, December 25, 2009

Project 04: Butterscotch Budino with Sel Gris

While I've never had the privilege of dining at Pizzeria Mozza due to time constraints (there's simply too many restaurants to try and not enough time!), I did try one of their offerings: the butterscotch budino. It was inconspicuously listed in the dessert menu at Bottega Louie, to which I immediately ordered.

It looked innocent enough, a tiny glass filled with a khaki-colored pudding, a thin layer of caramel and topped with whipped cream. And yet, it had the ability to transform my dining companion and me into ravenous animals—despite the fact we were stuffed from dinner already. The custardy pudding was complex with a full-bodied caramelized flavor and was luxuriously smooth, but the main show stopper was the delicate sea salt that was hidden from view by the whipped cream and caramel. It gave each bite a little crunch and a burst of saltiness that cuts through the dessert's sweetness. It was the stuff that dreams were made of.

Since then, I've been pining over the budino—until I found the recipe online in New York Times. Adapted from Dahlia Narvaez of Pizzeria Mozza, this was the real deal! Since the recipe serves 10, I made it for my friends' pre-Christmas party.

I'm happy to report that the recipe is straightforward and the results divine. I did made several changes as I am not good in following directions (I failed first grade P.E. because of it—it was strangely similar to Zoolander's situation where he couldn't make a left turn).

The first alternation is that I only used 1/2 of a teaspoon of kosher salt since the recommended 1 1/2 teaspoon was too much for my taste (it gave the caramel a soy sauce flavor, no joke). Also, because I had no dark rum, I used Kahlua instead and upped it to 1/4 of a cup. It gave the budino a rich coffee flavor—that little something extra that took it to the next level.

I've also switched the fleur de sel for sel gris as I like its larger crystals (ie. greater crunch).  And lastly I omitted the cream topping due to my conscience. You see, if you read the entire recipe, you'll see that it has around 4 cups of cream and a stick of butter—I couldn't in my right conscience add more cream on top of it to my friends. In addition, I made the serving size smaller by serving the budino in double shot glasses. My friends loved it.

Give the recipe a try and let me know how it compares to Pizzeria Mozza's version!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Sweet Tour

You're in! Thank you to all who responded—you're now on the list for the exclusive Sweet Tour!

Because of the overwhelmingly number of positive responses, I had to rework my plan. My original idea of just having you all come to my house for each dessert tasting wasn't going to fly because of space issues (doesn't help that I'm situated in the boonies as well). So, after a few staged Sweet Tooth events—thanks to my guinea pigs, I mean, OG Sweet Tooths—the logical solution is to begin a dessert tour!

Below is my schedule, which is really a dessert hit-list. Each week, I plan to tackle a dessert, and you'll get to participate by either signing up to be a host and/or sponsor:

• An ideal host is someone with a working oven and stove. By donating their kitchen for a specific dessert, they basically determine where the venue is, which in turns establish the number of Sweet Tooths can participate. Just as it's impossible to fit thousands in the Troubadour, it's not prudent to fit a crowd in a bachelor's pad... you get the idea. In exchange for the use of your kitchen, you get unlimited bragging rights as well as control of the guest list.

• Sponsors on the other hand is more of a shareholder. They invest in the dessert by donating ingredients needed in exchange for a return on their investment or as they say, for a bigger piece of the pie (figuratively and literally). In most cases, sponsors get extra portions of the dessert. And sometimes, if the dessert is for a baking contest, the main sponsor gets a cut of the prize (if the dessert wins that is). For example, I plan to enter the Scharffen Berger contest for a chance to win 10 grand. The sponsor who decides to fund that particular project will get a meal of their choice if the recipe wins.

Once I have a host for a specific project, I'll let Sweet Tooths who live in the general vicinity know a few days ahead of time to put together a small gathering. We can do a potluck, tea party... anything really—the sky's the limit. Take a look at the schedule and let me know which dessert tickles your fancy :)

Ps. Sweet Tooths who live ways away from LA need not be sad. If you're up for sparing a few coins for shipping, I can always send you a sample!

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