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Wow your guests with these show-stopping desserts from the inventor of the Cronut

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Dominique Ansel

The Cronut was one of the hottest foodie trends of recent years, holding gourmands agog with a clever, simple and downright delicious formula that blended all the best qualities of a doughnut and a croissant. 

Now the man behind this world-famous hybrid, New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel, has released his very own recipe book that's overflowing with wildly innovative dessert ideas. 

Ansel - who has been dubbed a "modern day Willy Wonka" - has laid bare the secrets of his massively popular sweet treats. And with a background that includes classical pastry training in Paris and work at a Michelin-starred restaurant, he certainly has a lot of bake-based knowledge.

We won't lie, not all the recipes are simple. In fact, several of them include a rather sophisticated level of equipment such as blowtorches and piping bags.

But they DO promise to bring Ansel's particular brand of magical alchemy direct to your kitchen table, with comprehensive instructions that will result in show-stopping desserts. 

We've selected five of Ansel's most sumptuous-sounding desserts from the book, for you to try at home. From pecan cookies with a molten chocolate centre to a melt-in-the-mouth cotton soft cheesecake, be prepared to wow your dinner party guests - or at least have fun along the way.

Secret Recipes from the World Famous New York Bakery by Dominique Ansel is out now (Murdoch Books £20). Photography: Thomas Schauer. 


Chocolate pecan cookies

chocolate

I love making this recipe because of its forgiving nature and utterly addictive results.

Skill level Beginner
Time 15 minutes one day before; 20 minutes the day of
Yield 20 cookies 

Ingredients

Dark chocolate chips, 455 grams
Unsalted butter, 45 grams
Granulated sugar, 250 grams
Cornflour, 42 grams
Baking powder, 3.75 grams
Salt, 1 gram
Whole eggs (large), 3 
Pecans, coarsely chopped, 55 grams

One day before - make the dough

Melt 340 grams of the chocolate chips (set aside remaining chocolate) in a double boiler: Fill a medium saucepan with about 7.5 cm water and bring it to a simmer. Place the chips in a medium heatproof bowl and place the bowl snugly over the water. Stir slowly with a heatproof spatula to ensure that the chocolate chips are completely melted and smooth before turning off the heat.

Melt the butter in the microwave (about 30 seconds on high). Mix into the melted chocolate with the spatula. Keep warm over the hot water.

Combine the sugar, cornflour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until fully blended and the mixture resembles pancake batter. Use the spatula to make sure you incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled on the bottom or sides of the bowl.

Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate–butter mixture. 

Gently fold in the remaining 115 grams chocolate chips and the pecans with the spatula.

Transfer the dough to a shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.

The day of - make the rest

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) for conventional or 350ºF (175ºC) for convection. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Using your hands, break the dough into pieces the size of your palm (about 50 grams). Roll the dough into balls and place them on the baking tray at least 5 cm apart from one another. Press gently on the top of each ball with the palm of your hand to make a thick disk. This dough doesn’t spread much, so the disks should be relatively close to the size of cookie you’d like.

Bake on the centre rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for about 4 minutes more. When the cookies are just beginning to crack on top but the dough is set on the edge and has a soft spot about the size of a 10-cent coin in the centre, remove from the oven.

Let the cookies cool on the tray for 5 to 7 minutes, to further set.

Remove the cookies from the tray and set aside. Reline the cooled tray with clean baking paper and continue with the remaining dough.

Serving Instructions All cookies are best eaten while warm. A glass of ice-cold milk helps.

Storage Instructions The dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week. (Thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.) The baked cookies can be kept in a closed airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


Cotton soft cheesecake

cheesecake

I love making this recipe because it’s cheesecake for people who don’t usually like cheesecake.

Skill level Intermediate
Time 2 hours
​Yield 10 individual 3-inch (7.5 cm) cheesecakes or 1 large 8-inch (20 cm) cake

Ingredients

Almond biscuit

Egg whites (large), 3
Cooking oil spray (optional), as needed    
Icing sugar, 45 grams
Almond meal, 45 grams
Whole egg (large), 1 
Egg yolk (large) , 1 
Plain flour, sifted, 36 grams
Granulated sugar, 33 grams

Cheesecake mousse

Pouring cream, 85 grams
Gelatine sheet (160 bloom)*, ½ each
Granulated sugar, 80 grams
Lemon juice, 26 grams
Whole-milk ricotta cheese, 528 grams
Granulated sugar (to brûlée), as needed

* If you can’t find gelatine sheets, use powdered gelatine. One gelatine sheet = 2.3 grams powdered gelatine. For every teaspoon of gelatine, bloom in 15 grams water.

Special tools

Silicone baking mat to fit the quarter baking tray (optional)
Ruler (optional)
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
Ten 3-inch (7.5 cm) metal ring moulds
Whisk
Uncut piping bag
Ateco #805 plain tip (1.1 cm diameter)
Blowtorch

Make the almond biscuit

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 380°F (195°C) for conventional or 355°F (180°C) for convection. Line a quarter baking tray with a silicone baking mat or baking paper.*

Combine the icing sugar, almond meal and whole egg in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Beat on low speed until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the speed to high and mix for 1 minute more. The batter will become pale yellow and fluffy.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using the rubber spatula, fold in the egg yolk. When the yolk is completely incorporated, carefully fold in the plain flour. Overmixing the batter at this stage will result in a tough biscuit. Transfer the batter to a medium bowl.

Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk, making sure they are clean and free of any residue. Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl. Whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. With the mixer still on medium, slowly stream in one-third of the granulated sugar and continue to whip until the sugar is incorporated. Whip in the remaining sugar in two additions.

With the rubber spatula, fold one-third of the meringue into the batter. Once incorporated, add the remaining meringue, folding gently to avoid deflating the batter. When finished, the batter will be cream-coloured, and you will see bubbles on its surface.

Pour the batter onto the middle of the quarter baking tray. Using the spatula, spread the batter to fill the pan. (If you are using a larger baking tray, spread it to fill the outline of the rectangle.) Overworking the batter at this point will result in a tough biscuit. Try to spread the batter as quickly and evenly as possible. When finished, the biscuit should be about 1.25 cm thick.

Bake the biscuit on the centre rack for 5 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for 5 minutes more. When finished, the biscuit will be light brown and will spring back when touched in the centre.

Let the biscuit, still on the baking paper, cool completely.

Invert onto another piece of baking paper and carefully peel off the original baking paper. Using a 7.5 cm ring mould as a guide, cut 10 circles of biscuit just slightly smaller than the ring mould. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until needed.

Make the cheesecake mousse

Whisk the cream in a medium bowl until it doubles in volume and holds a stiff peak. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Soak the gelatine sheet in a bowl of ice water until soft, about 20 minutes. If using powdered gelatine, sprinkle 1.5 grams gelatine over 7.5 grams water in a small bowl, stir, and let sit 20 minutes to bloom. Squeeze any excess water out of the gelatine sheet.

Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat to fully dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the bloomed gelatine. Whisk until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Set the syrup aside, keeping it warm.

Gently whisk the ricotta in another medium bowl to break up any large lumps. Slowly whisk the warm lemon syrup into the ricotta until fully blended.

With the rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of the whipped cream into the ricotta so as not to deflate the cream. Fold in the remaining two-thirds of the whipped cream. When finished, the cheesecake mixture will have a uniform consistency similar to yoghurt.

Cut the tip of a piping bag to snugly fit a #805 plain tip. Twist the bottom of the bag around the tip to prevent the cheesecake mousse from spilling out. Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of cheesecake mousse in the bag so that it is one-third full.

Assemble and brûlée

Line the baking tray with baking paper. Place ten 7.5 cm ring moulds on the baking tray. Place a circle of almond biscuit in the centre of each mould. Holding the piping bag about 2.5 cm above the centre of the almond biscuit, pipe in the cheesecake mousse to fill the mould. When it is filled to the top, slowly lift the piping bag away while still piping. This will help give the cheesecake a dome-like top. Repeat until all the moulds are filled. Freeze until completely solid, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove the cheesecakes from the freezer. Warm the moulds by rubbing your hands around the sides until the cheesecakes slide out. Put them all back in the freezer for a few minutes. Take only one or two out of the freezer at a time and place the unmoulded cheesecakes on a wire rack or a baking tray.

Sprinkle a thin, even layer of granulated sugar on top of a cheesecake. Holding the blowtorch about 2.5 cm away from the cake, caramelise the sugar with a focused, high flame (this is very similar to making crème brûlée). When the first layer of sugar is completely caramelised, sprinkle 10 grams more granulated sugar on the caramelised surface and brûlée again. Repeat this step one more time for a total of three layers. Repeat with the remaining cheesecakes. 

When all the cheesecakes have been brûléed, place them in the refrigerator to thaw completely, 2 to 3 hours.

Serving Instructions Serve directly from the refrigerator.

Storage Instructions The cheesecakes should be consumed within 24 hours of thawing. Unbrûléed cheesecakes can be kept in the freezer, wrapped well, for up to 1 week.


Marshmallow chicks

chicks

I love making this recipe for the kids and the child within ourselves.

Skill level Beginner
Time 2 hours
Yield 12 chicks

Ingredients

Eggshells

Whole eggs (large, in white shells), 12
Cooking oil spray, as needed

Soft caramel

Pouring cream, 160 grams
Light corn syrup, 100 grams
Dark brown sugar, 24 grams
Granulated sugar, 51 grams
Fleur de sel, 2 grams

Marshmallow

Powdered gelatine, 12 grams
Water, 125 grams
Granulated sugar, 205 grams
Light corn syrup, 101 grams
Honey, 32 grams
Water, 75 grams

Assembly

Yellow sanding sugar, 60 grams
Dark chocolate, finely chopped and tightly packed, 10 grams                                                           

Special tools

Egg scissors
Clean egg carton
Candy thermometer
3 uncut piping bags or 2 uncut bags and 1 baking paper cornet
Stick blender (recommended)
Stand mixer with whisk attachment
Ateco #803 plain tip (0.8 cm diameter)

Prepare eggshells

Using egg scissors, remove the narrow point of the eggshells. Make sure to remove any small fragments as you cut. Empty the eggs (you can save the yolks and whites for another recipe or for breakfast the next day). Carefully peel away and discard the inside membrane from the eggshell.

Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lay out paper towels on the work surface.

Gently place the empty eggshells into the boiling water and let them simmer for 1 minute. Carefully remove the shells with a slotted spoon. Place the shells hole down on the paper towels to drain out any excess water. Let the shells cool completely.

Lightly coat the inside of the eggshells with cooking oil spray. Rub the spray evenly over the interior of the shells with your finger to make sure the surface is covered. This will help ensure that the marshmallow does not stick to the shell. Reserve the shells in a clean egg carton until ready to fill.

Make the soft caramel

Combine the cream, corn syrup and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside, keeping it warm.

Place an empty medium saucepan over high heat. When the saucepan is hot, sprinkle a thin, even layer of granulated sugar into the saucepan. As the sugar melts and caramelises, slowly whisk in the rest of the sugar, one small handful at a time, until all the sugar has been added.

When all of the sugar has caramelised and turned deep amber, slowly stream in one-third of the hot cream, whisking constantly. Be careful! The cream might cause the caramel to splatter. When incorporated, whisk in the next third, and then the last.

When all of the cream has been added, turn down the heat to low and continue to whisk the caramel until it reaches 221ºF (105°C), 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, whisk in the fleur de sel, pour into a medium heatproof bowl, and let cool completely.

When the caramel has cooled, stir well to reemulsify any fat that may have separated. Fill a piping bag with the caramel and refrigerate until needed.

Make the marshmallow

Sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for about 20 minutes to bloom.

Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, honey and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 248ºF (120°C).

Carefully pour the hot syrup into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and add the bloomed gelatine. Let it cool for 5 minutes, until warm. Then whip on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip for 4 to 6 minutes. The mixture will turn white and quadruple in volume. When the marshmallow is firm enough to hold a peak, stop whipping.

Cut the tip of a piping bag to snugly fit a #803 plain tip. Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of marshmallow in the bag so that it is one-third full. Push the marshmallow down toward the tip of the bag. Remove the caramel-filled piping bag from the refrigerator and cut an opening about ½ inch (1.25 cm) wide straight across the tip of the bag. This is the temperature at which sugar reaches the ‘soft ball’ stage. It will hold a shape without becoming hard and brittle.

Assemble the chicks

Working as quickly as possible, assemble the chicks one at a time. While the marshmallow is still warm, pipe it into an eggshell to fill it three-quarters full. Set the piping bag with marshmallow aside. Pipe a cherry-size dollop of the soft caramel into the centre of the marshmallow.

Pick up the marshmallow-filled piping bag and fill the eggshell to the brim. Then, holding the tip ¾ to 1 inch (2 cm) above the egg, pipe a marshmallow teardrop on top, pulling the tip away as you finish. This will form a small beak for the chick.** Immediately sprinkle with yellow sanding sugar to cover all exposed areas of the marshmallow. Continue filling the remaining eggshells one at a time. Refill your piping bag with marshmallow as necessary.

Melt a small amount of dark chocolate in the microwave. Mix it gently, making sure it is not too hot. Pour the chocolate into the third piping bag or the baking paper cornet and cut a very small opening across the tip, about the size of the tip of a pen. Pipe 2 small dots onto each chick’s head for ‘eyes’. Let set at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serving Instructions Serve at room temperature.

Storage Instructions Marshmallow chicks can be kept in a closed airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Mini madeleines 

madeleine

I love making this recipe because it takes only 5 minutes to bake (faster than boiling water), and even faster to eat!

Skill level Beginner
Time 15 minutes one day before; 15 minutes per batch the day of
Yield 100 mini madeleines

Ingredients

Unsalted butter, 115 grams
Dark brown sugar, 15 grams
Honey, 15 grams
Granulated sugar, 100 grams
Salt, 1 gram
Plain flour, sifted, 120 grams
Baking powder, 4 grams
Whole eggs (large), 3
Grated lemon zest, ½ lemon
Grated orange zest, ½ orange
Cooking oil spray, as needed
Icing sugar (for serving), as needed

Special tools

Microplane (for grating zests)
Uncut piping bag
Nonstick mini madeleine tin
Small sieve

One day before - make batter

Melt the butter, brown sugar and honey in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir gently with a heatproof spatula to ensure that nothing burns. Keep the mixture warm over very low heat, or reheat if necessary

Combine the granulated sugar, salt, flour and baking powder in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk. Form a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the eggs one by one, whisking to incorporate each before adding the next.

When the eggs are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth, slowly whisk in the butter mixture. Whisk in the lemon and orange zests. The batter will still be runny and similar in consistency to cake batter. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.

The day of  - pipe, bake, and serve

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) for conventional or 350ºF (175ºC) for convection.

Using a rubber spatula, place 2 large scoops of batter in a piping bag so that it is one-third full. Push the batter down toward the tip of the bag.

Cut an opening about 1.25 cm straight across the tip of the bag.

Hold the cooking oil spray about 10 cm away from a nonstick mini madeleine tray and spray evenly in all the cavities.

Holding the piping bag at a 90-degree angle about 1.25 cm above the tray, pipe the madeleine batter into the cavities so that it fills each about three-quarters of the way to the top.

Bake the madeleines for 2 to 2½ minutes on the centre rack. When you see the batter puff up in the centre, rotate the tray 180 degrees. Bake for 2 to 2½ minutes more, until the sides of the madeleines are golden blonde and the centre has set.

Unmould immediately. Bang the corner or sides of the madeleine tray against your work surface so that the fresh madeleines drop out.

Serving Instructions Using a small sieve, sprinkle icing sugar evenly over the freshly baked madeleines. Eat immediately (do not wait more than even a few minutes!).

Storage Instructions Madeleines are good only when freshly baked. Do not attempt to store them. However, you can keep the batter in a closed airtight container, with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Apple tarte tartin

apple

I love making this recipe because it’s 80 per cent gorgeous, juicy fruit.

Skill level Beginner
Time 20 minutes one day before; 2 hours the day of
Yield 6 individual 7.5 cm tarts or 1 large 20 cm tart

Ingredients

Sablé Breton cookies

Egg yolks (large), 2 
Granulated sugar, 85 grams
Salted butter, 65 grams
Plain flour, 90 grams
Baking powder, 5 grams
Salt, 1 gram

Caramelised apples

Granulated sugar, 137 grams
Water, 60 grams
Unsalted butter, 35 grams
Gala apples , 7 for 6 individual tarts; 8 for a large tart
Crème fraîche (for serving, optional)

Special tools

Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments
Ruler
Six 7.5 cm round cake tins or one 20 cm round cake tin
Candy thermometer
Vegetable peeler
Apple corer

One day before - make dough

Combine the egg yolks and granulated sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whip on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Soften (but don’t melt!) the butter in the microwave. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the butter.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix just until the flour is incorporated, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The dough should be firm yet pliable.

On a piece of baking paper, draw a rectangle a little larger than 15 by 23 cm with a pencil if making individual tarts, or a 20 cm square if making a large tart. Flip the baking paper over on the work surface. Transfer the dough to the centre of the outline. With an offset spatula or your fingers, shape it into a square 6 mm thick. Cover with another piece of baking paper. Using a rolling pin with steady, even pressure, push the dough from the middle outward to the edges of the outline. When the dough is rolled evenly and fits the outline, place on a baking tray, still between the two pieces of baking paper, and refrigerate overnight to rest.

The day of - bake Sablé Breton cookies

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) for conventional or 325°F (160°C) for convection. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Remove the sablé dough from the refrigerator and peel off the top layer of baking paper. Using a cake tin as a guide, trace around the rim with a paring knife and cut out 6 individual cookies or 1 large cookie. Remove the excess dough. Transfer the sablé cookies to the baking tray.

Bake the sablé cookies on the centre rack for 8 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for 8 minutes more or until the sablé cookies turn golden brown. The single large cookie might take a little longer. Transfer the sablé cookies, still on the baking paper, to cool.

Make caramelised apples

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) for conventional or 325°F (160°C) for convection.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook without stirring until the caramel reaches 350ºF (175ºC) and turns a dark amber.

Whisk the butter into the caramel. Be careful! The butter will foam and the caramel will rise in the saucepan. Continue to whisk until all the butter has been incorporated and the caramel is smooth. Divide the caramel equally among the cake tins. It should fill each pan about 1 cm deep.

Peel and core the apples. If making individual tarts, slice 1 apple into 6 segments. Place 1 whole apple into each small tin. Push 1 segment into the centre of each whole apple. For a large tart, place 1 whole apple in the centre of the large tin. Cut 6 apples in half vertically and place the halves, standing up, in a circle around the whole apple. Slice the remain­ing apple into 6 segments and fill the spaces between apples.

Transfer the cake tins to a baking tray and bake on the centre rack for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently press each apple down with an offset spatula. Return the apples to the oven. Repeat this process 3 or 4 more times. When finished, the apples will have lost half of their size and turned a dark amber. A light skin will have formed on top of the apple, which will become the bottom when unmoulded.

Let the caramelised apples cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for an hour for the caramel to set and thicken.

Assemble

To unmould the apples, warm the outside and bottom of the tin by plac­ing it directly on the stovetop over medium heat for 30 seconds. (Alter­natively, place it in the oven at 350°F [175°C] for 3 minutes.) Using a small offset spatula or a fork, gently pull the apples away from the edge of the mould. Invert each tin and slide the apple onto a sablé cookie. Serve immediately.

Serving instructions Serve warm or at room temperature. A dollop of crème fraîche is a great accompaniment.

Storage instructions Assembled tarts should be consumed the day of. Caramelised apples can be kept in a closed airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days. Sablé Breton cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

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