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Divine Pastries

Pastry chefs are the oft-forgotten artists of the kitchen. with many diners skipping dessert, their confections are relegated to the display case instead of the table.

So while we sing the praises of chefs who focus their talents on the main course, tossing out accolades for those whose skill set runs sweet is rare.

Not anymore. We sought out the best and brightest talent in the region. What we found were four chefs who cross Escoffier with Willy Wonka to bring you treats that are as much art as food.


Paw Mikkelsen, Mikkelsen’s Pastry ShopPaw Mikkelsen, 
Mikkelsen’s Pastry Shop
Dried fruit tart with brown butter filling

Paw Mikkelsen’s mikkelsen’s pastry shop has been a go-to spot for Southwest Florida’s best pastries and desserts for years. Chef Mikkelsen says, “My motivation for selecting dried fruit ingredients for this particular dessert was the availability, or lack thereof, of fresh fruit in olden days. Dried fruits were available in early springtime when all the summer and fall fruits were gone. I chose to suspend these fruits in a brown butter filling as a delicious yet neutral background to showcase the fruits. The ingredients are readily available in most kitchens (modern and olden day), making this a classic dessert.”

Dried fruit tart with brown butter filling

Nathaniel Reid, Norman Love ConfectionsNathaniel Reid,

Norman Love Confections

Internationally recognized pastry Chef Nathaniel Reid of Norman Love Confections is respected for the timeless elegance of his jewel box-like confections. Chef Reid’s contemporary creations have a refreshing aromatic and visual European flair, favoring seasonal flavors and fruits. He notes that, “My dessert’s named Ruby, a fitting name to describe the simple beauty of the cake and its raspberry tea-flavored chocolate mousse.”


Eric Truglas, Lush BakeryAndre Gratesol,
Lush Bakery

Chef Andre Gratesol of lush bakery in Fort Myers selected a croque-en-bouche to introduce Floridians to a classic French pastry that heralds festive occasions, scaled for a home baker to craft and enjoy. Simple, bite-sized vanilla cream-filled creampuffs are dipped in hard caramel and then arranged into a memorably delicious dessert.


Tara Lumley, Tony’s Off ThirdTara Lumley,

Tony’s Off Third
Mozart’s Quartet 

Culinary institute of america-trained Chef Tara Lumley, Tony’s Off Third’s specialty cake/pastry chef, created Mozart’s Quartet, a lively springtime treat that contrasts cold creamy panna cotta with a candied walnut’s sweet heat, shown here plated three different ways.Crisp gingerbread’s spices are heightened by the cranberry compote’s tart sweetness. Garnish with mint and it’s a hit!

Mozart’s Quartet

WEB EXCLUSIVE! Make the recipes from this story.

Nathaniel Reid, Norman Love Confections

Makes 8 individual portions.

Raspberry tea chocolate mousse
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon whole milk
1 tablespoon raspberry tea
4 ounces 66-percent  dark chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspons granulated sugar
5/8 teaspoon gelatin powder
1 tablespoon cold water
1 cup light whipping cream

Finely chop the chocolate.

Boil the milk and then add raspberry tea into milk and infuse for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle gelatin powder over the cold water.

Strain the tea from the milk with a fine strainer pressing hard on the tea to extract the most tea flavor.

Pour the warm milk infusion over the chocolate and add the gelatin and water mixture.  Let sit for 3-4 minutes.  Stir the chocolate and milk together making it smooth and shiny. Cool chocolate mixture to approximately 86 degrees.
Whip the cream to soft peaks.Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate.

Tender chocolate cake

3.5 ounces 66-percent dark chocolate
2 ounces unsalted butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites
¼ cup plus ½ teaspoon granulated sugar   
2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
Fresh raspberries

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter together to approximately 130 degrees.

Make a meringue with the whites and the sugar beating the egg whites to medium peaks.

Fold in 1/2 of the meringue mixture to the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Fold in the egg yolks to the chocolate mix. Fold in the remaining meringue delicately. Sift the flour.

 Fold in the sifted flour delicately.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread cake batter with a spatula onto a piece of parchment paper 3/8 inch thick and bake for 10 to 14 minutes.

Building the cake:

Place some of the mousse into a mold or into a glass. Place a few raspberries on top.

Cut out a piece of the soft chocolate cake and put on top. If using a glass, this procedure can be repeated again to make layers. Store in the refrigerator. Take out of the refrigerator ten minutes before eating.

Mozart’s Quartet: Vanilla Panna Cotta,  Gingerbread Cake, Cranberry Compote and Candied Pecans
Tara Lumley, Tony’s Off Third

Gingerbread Cake

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch all spice
Pinch nutmeg
1 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
½ cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugars and spices until fluffy. Slowly add eggs. Add flour and milk while gently stirring, gradually alternating. Bake in cake pan until middle is set about 15 minutes.

Panna Cotta

2 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
4 gelatin sheets or 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon powdered gelatin               
1 vanilla bean   
Bloom gelatin in enough ice water to soften, then remove.
Heat condensed milk, heavy cream , vanilla bean to a simmer. Add gelatin. Pour into molds and refrigerate.

Candied Pecans

2 ¼ cups pecans   
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
½ tablespoon of vegetable oil
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat sugars, spices with corn syrup and oil. Bring to a boil, then pour over salted nuts.
Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until candied, about 15 minutes, then cool.

Cranberry Compote

1 cup cranberries
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 cup water
Zest of 1 orange

Add all ingredients, cook until cranberries break down and thickens.

Dried Fruit Tart with Brown Butter Filling

Paw Mikkelsen, Mikkelsen’s Pastry Shop

Brown butter mix.

1 ounce vanilla extract
9 eggs beaten
18 ounces sugar
6 ounces all purpose flour.
12 ounces butter

Mix the vanilla extract and eggs together. Mix the flour and sugar together and fold into the egg mix. Melt the butter, but melt it enough so it browns a little. Set aside.

Chocolate sugar dough.

7 ½ ounces butter
7 ½ ounces powder sugar
6 ounces  egg yolks
13 ounces all purpose flour
2 ounces cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 380 degrees.

Mix butter and powder sugar together. Add flour and cocoa powder. Add egg yolks. Mix until combined. Do not over mix the dough.Cool the dough in fridge for 1 to 2 hours.

For the filling use dry fruit, apricot, dark and golden raisin, dates and cherries, soaked overnight in Marsala wine.

Roll the dough out to 1/8" and line tart shells. Drain the fruit and divide it between the tart shells. Fill the tart shells with the brown butter mix.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and serve.

Eric Truglas, Lush Bakery

Serves 12. 

2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 1/2 cups water
10 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, cut up
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
3 tablespoons light corn syrup, divided

For the filling, heat milk with vanilla bean in medium saucepan, until small bubbles appear around edge.

Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a bowl; set aside. Remove vanilla bean from hot milk. Scrape seeds from bean and add to milk mixture. Gradually whisk half the hot milk into sugar-cornstarch mixture; then add mixture to saucepan. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in yolks. Stirring with whisk, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. (Once thickened the mixture might appear curdled— it's okay.) Whisk custard vigorously 4 seconds, until smooth. Return custard to a boil; boil 1 minute more. Stir in peel and juice. Transfer to medium bowl; cover and refrigerate until cool, 2 hours. Beat cream in mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gently whisk half the whipped cream into custard; fold in remaining cream with rubber spatula.

For the cream puffs, heat oven to 400 degree F. Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets. Bring water, butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, and salt to boil in medium saucepan; boil until butter melts. Reduce heat to medium, add flour all at once; stir until dough pulls away from side of pan. Continue stirring 1 to 2 minutes to dry. Transfer dough to
a mixer bowl. Beat in eggs at medium speed, one at a time, until blended after each addition and mixture is stiff. Spoon warm dough into large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe into eighty 1-inch balls, 1 inch apart, on prepared sheets. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, switching pans after 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pans from oven. Turn oven off. With a small, sharp knife, cut a small slit in the center of the flat bottom of each puff. Return puffs, bottom down, to cookie sheets and let stand in oven with door ajar, 1 hour. Transfer puffs to wire racks and cool completely.

To prepare half the caramel, heat small skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup to the skillet; cook, swirling pan occasionally until sugar melts and turns golden, 7 minutes. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, swirling pan until sugar melts after each addition and caramel is light amber.
 Remove pan from heat. Carefully dip top of each puff into caramel and immediately return each puff caramel-side up to cookie sheet. (If caramel hardens, reheat over low heat until melted.)

Spoon half the filling into large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch tip. Insert the tip into the slit of a puff; fill and return to cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining puffs and filling.

To form cone: Cover an 8-inch round cardboard circle with foil; set aside.

Make remaining caramel: Clean and dry the skillet. Heat over medium heat 1 minute. Add remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar melts and turns golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Dip bottom of each puff and arrange a circle of puffs along the edge of the foil-lined circle (about 14 puffs). Combine gluing and stacking seven more layers of puffs with caramel to form a cone, (If caramel hardens, reheat over low heat until melted.) Let stand until caramel completely hardens. To serve, transfer croque-en-bouche to serving plate. Then cut horizontally in rows through caramel with serrated knife to separate puffs, and transfer to serving plates.

Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare filling as directed above. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Prepare cream puffs as directed above. Wrap loosely in foil and store at room temperature overnight. Assemble and stack cream puffs as directed above. Cover and chill for up to 6 hours before serving.

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