As the executive pastry chef of an innovative restaurant, it’s my job to come up with sensational desserts that not only taste great but also prompt gushing oohs and aahs with their originality. The catch is that most of these creations require hours of prep time, not to mention years of experience. You couldn’t make them at home, and truth be told, neither could I. With twin toddlers, a 10-year-old, four restaurants, and a TV show, I run on a tight schedule. But I still like to impress my family and friends with imaginative desserts that are big on flavor yet easy to make. With a few simple tricks—and a little creativity—I’ve found that I can pull it off. And so can you. Here’s how I’ve done it in the three desserts on these pages.
I limit the number of ingredients. Measuring, cutting, and chopping a lot of ingredients takes time. For these desserts, I never use more than eight ingredients—often fewer. But I’m a stickler for quality. I look for the best raw materials, so I don’t have to do much to them to coax out great flavor. For the pear tarts, for example, try to get your hands on some juicy pears at the peak of ripeness.
I use store-bought doughs. The secret to making these desserts without spending hours in the kitchen is to use prepared ingredients like frozen puff pastry, phyllo dough, and wonton wrappers, as well as jarred spreads, juice concentrates, and ice cream. To liven up my homemade sweets and elicit that jolt of surprise, I sometimes put a whimsical twist on a classic dessert, as in my redesigned pear tarts (the crust opens like a blossom), or a sweet spin on a savory dish, like my sweet chips and dip or fried wontons with orange dipping sauce.