elimination challenge: dessert wars

Top Chef Just Desserts elimination challenge is dessert shop wars!  The premise behind this challenge is the following:  the cheftestants are divided into two teams of three; each team “opens” a dessert shop (picks a theme, etc), and than each individual must bake / create three individual desserts to serve in their shop (for a total of 9 different options in each shop).


This is my kind of challenge … since I often find myself day-dreaming about what I would offer if I ever opened my own little shop … obviously I’d have some tarts on offer: chocolate pecan, lemon meringue, fresh berry tart, then apple and fruit pies … I’d offer a scone of the day: lemon, vanilla, dark chocolate cherry, jalapeno-cheddar, apple walnut, lemon blueberry, raspberry white chocolate, trip chocolate … I could probably go two weeks without offering the same scone twice!  I’d make my brownies, and my flour-less torte … I’d make as many things drizzled or macerated in lemoncello as possible … I think my little shop would be cute … and would smell incredible.

Julie thinks I should name it Lynnoncello (yeah… it seems my obsession with lemoncello has gone to her head).  I kinda like the name one heck of a tart!  But that doesn’t really matter… what really matters is what three recipes I’d make for the challenge.

It’s simple really.  Go with what you love.  And I love the following:

date squares.  I love date squares more than I should.  Mostly because it brings back memories of my grandmother.  I even have her recipe framed in my kitchen… see :0)

lemon scones.  Because I love lemon.  And these scones are the bomb.  They are so good – fluffy and airy and oh so tart.  Sigh.

chocolate espresso sandwiches.  Chocolate espresso ganache (from failed truffle recipe fame) sandwiched between two mini shortbread cookies and rolled in vanilla sugar.  They are so small and cute – I could present them in a pretty bowl. 

I found the chocolate espresso sandwiches recipe in Gale Gand’s book chocolate and vanilla.  They looked too cute to pass up – – and when she recommended filling them with ganache (rather than jam), I just couldn’t help going back to that failed truffle recipe for dark chocolate espresso ganache.  It was a win-win kinda idea to me.

This recipe is SIMPLE.  I know – I always say that: but in this instance it REALLY IS.  It’s just not the quickest recipe in the world.  You need chilling time after every step.  Think of this recipe as assembly line baking – step 1, chill, step 2, chill, step 3, chill, step 4, serve! 

chocolate espresso sandwiches


shortbread cookies

1 c. butter, room temperature

1/2 c. sugar

1 3/4 c. flour, sifted

half batch dark chocolate espresso ganache

vanilla sugar, for rolling

Gale Gand’s original recipe asks that you beat the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer using your whisk attachment.  I actually started it off using the paddle attachment – since my butter wasn’t as soft as I had hoped it would be.  Once the butter had softened (well… been beaten into submission), I then switched out the paddle for the whisk attachment and proceeded to beat away for another 3 – 5 minutes: the butter became very fluffy.

Add the sugar, and once well blended, add the flour.  The dough will start to form – lifting away from the sides of the mixing bowl and gathering around the whisk in one ball.  Wrap the disk of dough in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours (keep chilled, unused up to 1 week in the fridge, otherwise freeze for up to 1 month)

See … step 1 is completed.  Now you’re chillin’

When you’re ready to roll out the mini balls – take the dough out of the fridge and temper it for 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough into small balls – it’s a pretty tedious task.  Place each ball on a parchment lined cookie sheet; they spread out slightly while baking – so don’t press them next to one another – but I left a little too much unnecessary space between them :0)

Return the filled cookie sheet to the freezer and chill for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 F.

Bake each try for 10 minutes – the balls become firm, but not really golden (although the base will be slightly golden).  Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet on a wire rack.  Once cooled, remove and place in the freezer for 5 minutes – this will allow the cookies to get cold enough to add the tempered ganache.

Step 2 …. complete. 

Remove your sugar cookies from the freezer and top every other cookie with a slight dot of ganache. 

Grab the un-ganached cookies and top them – forming a little sandwich ball. 

Allow the ganache to firm up a bit again – I put mine back in the freezer for 5 minutes to help this along.

Step 3 – done! 

Remove from the freezer and roll each ball in vanilla sugar – coating the little sandwiches as best as you can.

There you have it!  Chocolate espresso sandwiches – done!  And so pretty too!

I brought the baked goodies into the office today.  WOW.  I was shocked at how quickly everything went!

The date squares disappeared in 5 minutes.  For Reals!  I put them out and … all gone.  I take that as the ultimate compliment.

The vanilla balls were a pretty huge success as well… everyone thought they were so cute – and since they’re shortbread they would be prefect for the holiday season … can’t you just picture bowls full of them, being scooped up and enjoyed by the handful — DEADLY (deliciousness).

The chocolate espresso sandwiches – you should ask Platonic Jeff what he thought of them … just like a real bakery – he bought them all up!  LOVES IT!

FYI – my virtual bakery (as per last year) is open again.  If you want some scones … send me an email (see top left hand corner).

Orders are accepted :0) … Yes …  Zarah, Audrey, Platonic Jeff, Pierre, Mary, Lilu, Tonya, Vanessa … I’m talking to you!

8 thoughts on “elimination challenge: dessert wars

  1. Chocolate espresso sandwiches are oh-so-cute and delicious!!! I’m thinking about my order and those will definitely be on my list 🙂

  2. I love that you have a framed Grandmother recipe card in your kitchen – LOVE IT!

    And, as always, everying you put on your blog looks amazing… I am starting to compile a ‘try to bake from Lynne’s blog’ list!

    • and Michele… the recipe is clear enough that you could make these date squares for uncle Gordy :0) a little taste of his mom’s baking … :0) gotta love the internet! xx

  3. Oh I wish that you would open your own little shop! I think I’d make a special trip to visit it every day. Everything looks so good in this post. Your grand-mother’s date square recipe is very similar to my Mom’s. My brother-in-law’s favourite dessert is date squares. Sweet that you framed the recipe ♥

    • that would be lovely (the daily visit!) – maybe one day I will have my own little shop :0) lucky for me – I get inspiration from all of the other bakers out there (and yes … I mean you!)

  4. I LOVE ‘one heck of a tart’ and LOVE the recipe framed. I have a whole box full of my Memaw’s recipes (that’s Southern for grandma). What a cool idea…I might borrow it 🙂

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