A good chef knows that the best way to the heart is through the stomach. LN caught up with three top local pastry chefs as they dished about their favorite Valentine’s Day treats, sharing the recipes and stories behind them. Shared with a sweetheart, baked with a friend or even eaten alone, these desserts—ranging from tangy and sweet to chocolaty and rich—are sure to make hearts beat a little bit faster this Feb. 14.
Mary Boehne, Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis
Johnny Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb and Lemon Meringue Tart
Until a few months ago, Four Seasons St. Louis pastry chef Mary Boehne always heard the same two pie requests from her boyfriend, John: lemon meringue and strawberry rhubarb. “His mind exploded when we thought, What if we put the two together?” Boehne says. “My grandma actually made it first, with strawberry rhubarb on the bottom and lemon meringue on the top. It was a hit.”
Boehne says this dish can be tweaked to please any palate—she suggests swapping blueberry compote for the strawberry rhubarb, or key lime for the lemon meringue. Here, she garnishes the dish with meringue kisses and red coconut butter.
Yields 1 9-inch pie or 8 individual tarts
1 C butter
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon zest
8 egg yolks
2 1/2 C cake flour
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Blend in yolks, then add flour. Do not over mix. Wrap dough and allow to cool for one hour. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thick. Place into prepared pans and chill. Using a fork, stab a few holes into the dough to ensure it doesn’t bubble in the oven. Cut a piece of parchment paper 3 inches larger than the pan with the dough. Place the parchment on top of the dough and fill with baking beans. Bake dough at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until the crust is slightly brown. Take the beans out and continue baking the crust until golden brown, another 5 to 8 minutes.
6 egg yolks
1/2 C lemon juice
2/3 C sugar
3/4 C butter
1 t lemon zest
Bring lemon juice and sugar to a boil. Mix the eggs and yolks together. Pour 1/4 of the hot lemon juice into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Add the rest of the hot juice to the egg mixture, then pour the mixture back into the pot, stirring constantly until thickened. Pull from heat and stir in the butter and lemon zest. Place in a different container and allow to chill completely in the refrigerator. Set aside.
Strawberry Rhubarb Filling:
1 pt. fresh strawberries
1 pt. fresh or frozen rhubarb
Sugar to taste
1 C water
Bring berries, rhubarb, water and sugar to a simmer. Allow to cook down until thickened. Cool completely, set aside.
4 oz. egg whites
6 oz. sugar
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Whip the egg whites, add sugar slowly. Whip to full volume. Set aside half for the pie topping. For the kisses, use a round piping tip to pipe the other half onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Hold the tip 1/4 inch from the parchment paper and pull the piping bag up, releasing piping pressure to form the traditional ‘kiss’ shape. Bake the meringues for 1 hour or until crunchy.
To assemble the tart:
Layer the berry filling into the bottom of the prepared crust. Add the lemon curd on top of the berry mixture. Pipe or spoon the meringue on top of the lemon. Either use a torch or a broiler to brown the meringue. Garnish with fresh berries, meringue kisses or chocolate.
Julie Weldele, Scape
Red Velvet Bread Pudding
Julie Weldele, pastry chef at Scape, has an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to red velvet desserts. It was there she found a recipe for red velvet bread pudding “that used red velvet cake,” Weldele says. “I thought, Why would you use cake in bread pudding?” Thus, her recipe was born. She suggests using high-end or specialty cocoa powder, and says you also can add small chunks of cheesecake or Philadelphia-brand cheesecake filling. The vinegar, Weldele says, gives an extra hint of tang, creating the signature red velvet flavor.
Yields 4 to 5 small ramekins, or 8 to 10 servings
1 C heavy cream
1 C buttermilk
3/4 C sugar
2 T cocoa powder
1 T red food color
1/4 t white vinegar
7 egg yolks
1/2 loaf of bread, cut into cubes (Weldele uses challah, brioche or croissants)
Bring buttermilk, heavy cream, sugar and cocoa powder to a boil in a small pot. Add vinegar and red food color. Pour about a cup of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, and whisk. Mix in the rest of the cream mixture. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for about an hour, letting the bread soak up the custard. Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
Cream Cheese Glaze
1/4 C softened cream cheese
2 T butter
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 to 3 T whole milk
Mix together cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar with a mixer. Slowly add the milk until it reaches the consistency of corn syrup. Warm on low heat and drizzle over the bread pudding.
Simone Faure, La Patisserie Chouquette
Passion Fruit Crème Brulee
La Patisserie Chouquette owner and pastry chef Simon Faure describes this crème brûlée with a smile. “It’s tart, it’s sweet, it’s creamy, and dreamy and romantic,” she says. “It literally tricks your brain. You don’t believe it’s cold outside, you think you’re someplace tropical.” Faure first encountered a tropical-fruit crème brûlée on her first day of work at The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla. She tinkered with the recipe, adding more passion fruit and removing the other fruit. Faure serves the dish with a coconut congolais, but with gloved hands—she’s allergic to coconut.
Faure warns against baking the brûlée using a water bath, which can be dangerous, and recommends buying passion fruit puree at Global Foods Market or Jay’s International Foods.
Yields 4 servings
1 c heavy cream or whipping cream
3 T passion fruit puree
2 1/2 to 3 T sugar
4 egg yolks
3 t raw sugar
In a medium-sized bowl, gently whisk egg yolks, white sugar and puree until blended. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a medium-sized pan, add cream and heat to medium. Once the cream is just boiling, turn heat down to a low simmer, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes. Temper the cooked cream into the egg-sugar-puree bowl, one ladle at a time. Pour the mixture into ramekins. Bake the ramekins for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set. Remove and allow the ramekins to cool completely. Chill the brulee in a refrigerator for at least 4 to 6 hours, or overnight. Once chilled, sprinkle about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of raw sugar on the top of each ramekin, and blow torch the top to melt and caramelize the sugar. Serve immediately, once the burned sugar has cooled.