TORONTO — Jars filled with sweet confections make for novel desserts, and are an easy and fun way to achieve portion control.
In 150 Best Desserts in a Jar (Robert Rose), chef Andrea Jourdan has recreated recipes for traditional goodies like lush chocolate mousse, pecan bread pudding and creamy panna cotta that can be prepared and served in glass vessels.
"Some desserts are baked while others are cold. There's something for everybody," she said in an interview from Montreal.
Jourdan, who spent more than 25 years in Europe working as a film producer and chef, has concocted everything from puddings and cobblers to pies and cakes, as well as parfaits, soups and trifles. Layered desserts can look particularly attractive in jars.
Not only can you use jars for cold desserts, but you can also bake in them. "People think jars will crack, but no, they're made of glass," explained Jourdan, who tested each recipe three times. "Glass is heated to very, very high temperatures to make the jars, so obviously it's not difficult to bake in them."
She's seen high-end restaurants using jars for several years.
"I think it's just because it looks so cute and it makes everything so easy to portion."
Most people have jars languishing in the back of cupboards. Jourdan says cooking with them helps the environment by keeping them out of the landfill.
"Every week we eat a jar of jam in my family," said the author, who ran a restaurant in Los Angeles before returning to Canada. "Even if you only ate one a month, it would mean that 12 jars are lying in your garbage can or your cupboard. So you can make 12 desserts. I can make 52."
Inexpensive jars are also available in dollar stores and flea markets. But ramekins or small bowls can also be substituted.
Said Jourdan: "You can also take every one of these recipes and treat it as a simple dessert. It's just that they are portioned. So you can make a banana cream pie crunch or praline and papaya crunch or a chocolate mousse, coconut cream."
Cracked or chipped jars should be discarded as they might leak or break during baking, she noted, and jars should be placed on a baking sheet in the oven on the centre or a lower rack. If freezing, leave space at the top and leave the lid off as contents will expand.
With a convection oven, reduce the temperature by at least 14 C (25 F).
Jourdan said she often serves cold fruit soups in jars during the summer. They can be starters or desserts. Here is a quick recipe for cold strawberry soup with an orange tang. It can be made with fresh or frozen berries.
Cold Strawberry Orange Soup
You will need six 250-ml (8-oz) jars for this soup. Use a funnel to pour the liquid neatly into the jars.
1 l (4 cups) hulled fresh strawberries
125 ml (1/2 cup) icing sugar
250 ml (1 cup) orange juice
45 ml (3 tbsp) chopped fresh mint leaves, divided
15 ml (1 tbsp) finely grated orange zest
5 ml (1 tsp) granulated sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) slivered almonds
50 ml (1/4 cup) plain yogurt
6 mint leaves, for garnish
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or a blender, puree strawberries. Add icing sugar and process for 1 minute. Add orange juice and process for 1 minute. Add 15 ml (1 tbsp) of the mint and process for 1 minute. Transfer to jars, dividing equally, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a bowl, mix remaining mint, orange zest, granulated sugar and almonds. Add yogurt and mix well. Top each jar with a dollop (about 15 ml/1 tbsp) of the mixture, garnish with a mint leaf and serve immediately.