What is it people say about pleasure?
That it is “found first in anticipation, later in memory”?
Although many sites on the Internet (that waggish rapscallion!) attribute the line to Flaubert, the author may actually be Julian Barnes, who gave this line as a thought to his version of the verbose flâneur in Flaubert’s Parrot.
This detail is neither here nor there.
(Though pleasure may reside in both.)
But let me get to the point: crowdsourcing!
My friend M organizes the greatest dinner invites. Once a month, she has me over for a meal, to which I bring the dessert. At the end of the night, we negotiate the following month’s menu: I pick something interesting and/or challenging for her to make, and she decides on some parameters for my part.
We felt a bit lazy last night and didn’t get beyond the food theme of “Mexican(ish).” So now I’m looking for recommendations from any culinary types — of either the cooking or the eating variety — out there: favorite Mexican (or Tex-Mex) desserts? Preferably something with a bit of a wow-factor, be it taste, presentation, or culinary skill required.
[This is how anticipation gets going. As for the memory side of pleasure…]
Remembrance of Desserts Past
M’s first request was for a chocolate-peanut butter pairing, as this is her favorite flavor combination. I went with this chocolate & peanut butter mousse tart from Everybody Loves Sandwiches. I modified the crust slightly by using chocolate graham crackers, which I highly recommend. Even if your neighborhood corner store spoils you by carrying the non-chocolate variety.
[Don’t let the lightness of the word “tart” mislead you — this thing’s a behemoth! I was feeding leftovers to my building’s doormen and -women for DAYS.]
The following month, M nominated this lemon-blueberry layer cake, reciped by Sally’s Baking Addiction (and familiar to users of Pinterest the world over). As someone who has neither three cake pans — nor an oven large enough to hold three, even if I did — I opted for two layers, rather than the three recommended in the original. Verdict: right call!
[Before you ask: Yes, I am the sort of person who keeps spare candied lemon slices lying around for just such decorating situations. Don’t judge.]
June was Cherry Month, chez Alice-n-cats, and yielded (according to M) “the greatest dessert of all time!” Her original request had been for a goat-cheese cheesecake. Not having the small-scale springform pan required for any cheesecake small enough to let the rich tang of the goat cheese come to the foreground, I opted for David Lebovitz’s individual goat cheese custards baked in ramekins instead.
Topped with these cherries in red wine syrup, AKA nectar of the gods, AKA the dessert I suspect M will be begging me to recreate from now until the universe collapses.
[I have no photographic evidence of the dessert in question. In its place, I hope you enjoy this photographic evidence that I own a cherry pitter.]
And finally, last night’s pavlova! Vanilla meringue layered with Grand Marnier whipped cream and mango puree, and topped with diced kiwi, mango, and strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar.
[While pavlovas can look quite fancy-schmancy, they’re also incredibly easy and versatile. Check out these ideas from Serious Eats on how to trick out your pavlova.]
What about you? What rituals do you and your friends enjoy from anticipation, through event, into memory?
And if you’ve got any favorite Mexican(ish) or Tex-Mex desserts to recommend, please leave suggestions, recipes, and/or recommended links in the comments!