5@5 - The five C’s of dessert
July 7th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

"C" may be for cookie - but that's certainly not good enough for us.

Before her several year stint at The French Laundry and the opening of her own sweet venture, Platine Cookies, Jamie Cantor was taught at the Culinary Institute of America to build a dessert menu around the five C's: chocolate, citrus, coffee, cheese and caramel.

Incidentally, she was also taught "desserts" is "stressed" spelled backward.

But who wants to stress about making fancy, involved desserts during the long, hot, carefree days of summer? Here are some simple, delicious ways to incorporate the five most popular dessert flavors into your summer entertaining.

The Five C's of Dessert: Jamie Cantor

1. Chocolate
"The chocolate dessert is probably the most popular one at any restaurant. Go big and bold with this one - focus on good quality chocolate and you can turn a simple dessert into one with a ‘wow’ factor.

For example, make a tasting of chocolate puddings with a high percentage single origin chocolate. I am really into Pralus chocolates these days; they have some great single origin bars that are fun to try.

Use some really cute individual-sized dishes for each type and create a conversation starter for your foodie guests. Take a simple, old-fashioned recipe and turn it into something more sophisticated with the right technique and proper ingredients."

2. Citrus
"I find that the people who aren’t chocolate lovers tend to be fans of citrus. In the summer, citrus is so refreshing so go ahead and make a grown-up creamsicle.

Make your own fresh orange sorbet and vanilla ice cream and layer them in fantastic popsicle molds; or take the easy way out and buy the sorbet and ice cream, layer them in Dixie cups and stick a popsicle stick in the middle.

3. Coffee
"Your guests may never leave after you serve them a great coffee dessert, so I say, feel free to use decaf!

The affogato is a super easy dessert that kills two birds with one stone – coffee and dessert. You can be a real foodie and make your own ice cream to float in a shot of espresso, or just buy a pint of vanilla at the grocery store.

Now that summer is in full swing, I think the best way to do affogato is to make an espresso granita instead of the hot espresso."

4. Cheese
"I have a huge sweet tooth, but sometimes an amazing cheese platter is just the right thing to do. Especially since it is summer you might not want to end the meal with a heavy dessert.

So get a bit of three to five REALLY nice cheeses (ask your local cheesemonger what to pair with your dinner) with a few different accoutrements. I like to have an assortment of flavors and textures – so some nice crackers (I am really into Raincoast Crisps), some quince paste or fig jam, a nice piece of honeycomb, and maybe some nuts, to go with the cheese selection."

5. Caramel
"There are so many delicious treats you can make with this one – caramel bread pudding, caramel parfait, caramel candies, caramel apples. It is hot out right now, so I would make a caramel sundae – subtle caramel ice cream, served with crunchy toffee bits, and a hot heaping spoonful of crème fraîche caramel sauce."

Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
Courtesy Jamie Cantor

Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 loaf or 6 each Challah, Brioche, or Croissants
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla paste or extract
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 pints milk
  • 2 pints heavy cream (or 1 quart half and half)
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Caramel sauce ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 teaspoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel

Cooking Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into random chunks (about 1 1/2 inches for baking dish or regular muffins, or 1/2 inch for mini muffins). In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, vanilla, 1 tablespoon salt, milk and cream. Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Toss the bread cubes into the mixture until all the pieces are saturated.

If you are using a large baking dish: Spray the pan with nonstick spray. Add the mixture to the pan. Melt the remaining 4 ounces of butter and combine it with the 3/4 cup of brown sugar and salt to taste. Drizzle this mixture over the contents of the pan and then cover the pan with a layer of plastic and a layer of foil. Bake at 325° until the custard is almost set. This could take about 1 hour. Uncover the pan and bake for about another 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.

If you are using muffin tins: Melt the butter and mix in the remaining brown sugar and salt. Place a generous spoonful if this mixture into the bottom of each muffin space. (The size of the spoonful depends on the size of the pan, but it is always better to be generous, you can make more of this butter/sugar mix if needed) Then spoon some of the bread custard mix into each space – fill about 3/4 of the way. Drizzle the tops with more brown sugar if desired. Bake in a 325° oven until the custard is set and the tops are golden brown. Cool on wire racks and remove each pudding carefully to preserve the caramel at the bottom.

For the Caramel Sauce

Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small, heavy bottom saucepan. Gently stir once to dissolve the sugar, and then do not stir again. Place the pan over high heat and allow it to cook until you see an area of the sugar turning golden brown. Once the sugar starts to brown, carefully swirl the pan (do not use a utensil to stir… just swirl the pan with your wrist) so that the browning begins to spread evenly. Once the sugar is a uniform brown color, turn off the heat. Add the cream and then whisk to incorporate it. Add the butter and sour cream and whisk gently until the mixture is smooth. Allow the sauce to cool slightly, then add half of the fleur de sel. Carefully taste the sauce (it will be very hot), and add more fleur de sel as desired.

Once the bread pudding has cooled, drizzle the caramel sauce over the pan, or cut into individual servings and drizzle individually for a more festive look.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Baked Goods • Make • Recipes • Think

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Jennifer Singh

    Did no one else catch the direction of covering the dish with plastic and foil before baking in a 325 degree oven for an hour? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't that melt the plastic?

    July 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  2. Rob

    I have been to platine in culver city too...totally worth the trip if you're in LA. i've also ordered online which works really well for some treats for both home and office

    July 8, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  3. Jerv

    My god! I love this woman!

    July 8, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  4. Stew Pedassle

    Since "stressed" is "desserts" backwards, next time you're stressed, have dessert!

    July 8, 2011 at 7:25 am |
  5. cheryl sohner

    Mmm good

    July 8, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  6. sophistimom

    Desserts is stressed spelled backwards. How do I always miss stuff like that?? I feel so enlightened, just by learning that. And then, of course, I love the 5 Cs. That salted caramel sauce sounds delicious.

    July 7, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  7. Goat Bottoms

    Coffee and cheese are not dessert items. Unless the cheese is immediately followed by cake; I.E., cheesecake.

    July 7, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  8. Shana

    Fantastic ideas! I can't wait to make the bread pudding! And I agree – Platine cookies and treats are fabulous :)

    July 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  9. Jason

    I agree, I've tasted cookies from tons of bakeries in L.A. and Platine cookies are the best I've had, hands down.

    July 7, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  10. Bobby

    Platine cookies are the best! I hope Platine bakery is making some of these amazing sounding desserts so I can buy them from the source, instead of having to shop for ingredients, turn on the oven, and bake them at home.....

    July 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  11. Scott

    that recipe looks delicious!! I have been to platine bakery in Culver City... the cookies, sweets and desserts are beautiful and taste amazing!!

    July 7, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  12. Texas-T

    Where is the cherry pie? It starts with a "C".

    July 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  13. Ichi

    Really, no cake?

    July 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  14. irishman

    Why are all the commenters gals ? Looks like gals love dessert...Wonder if these gals are cute or what ?? Especially Emily and Tracy below...

    July 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • irishman

      Above i mean

      July 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  15. GoodGrief

    It's supposed to be plural, not possesive: "five Cs" not "five C's". Good grief, CNN. Hire some editors who know the difference.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • SoCal Caral

      :) May I suspect that I am not the only one on this board who has slyly corrected menus with the sharpie marker I carry in my purse?

      July 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • JT

      Actually when making a letter or a number plural, the apostrophe is acceptable, i.e. 5's or C's

      July 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • PaleoRules

      Someone needs a new style manual–use of the apostrophe is perfectly OK when making a plural of a single letter.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Moron Hater

      Wow, get a life.

      July 7, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Todd

      Someone needs to stop being so picky... we get it your a better speller then most people. Congrats!

      July 8, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Rachel

      "There are all kinds of pedants around with more time to read and imitate Lynne Truss and John Humphrys than to write poems, love-letters, novels and stories it seems. They whip out their Sharpies and take away and add apostrophes from public signs, shake their heads at prepositions which end sentences and mutter at split infinitives and misspellings, but do they bubble and froth and slobber and cream with joy at language? Do they ever let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss? Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it? Do they use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those they talk to? Do they? I doubt it. They’re too farting busy sneering at a greengrocer’s less than perfect use of the apostrophe. Well sod them to Hades. They think they’re guardians of language. They’re no more guardians of language than the Kennel Club is the guardian of dogkind." -Stephen Fry

      July 11, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  16. Tracy

    Calories, cavities...

    July 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • PaleoRules

      cardiac arrest, cholesterol, CRP elevation, Colitis, Carb overload.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
      • Todd

        don't forget herpes and gonorrhea...

        July 8, 2011 at 8:52 am |
      • Par!s H!lton

        How could I forget? They're with me all the time.

        July 8, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  17. Just Me


    July 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  18. Yum!

    So I was thinking th 5 C's: Chocolate, Creme, Caramel, Cake, and Cookies? But noooo you had to go and add healthy stuff like citrus.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Mary Ann

      Citrus? Healthy? Try lemon bars or lemon meringue pie or orange cake!

      July 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  19. Fiona

    Can we please ban the word "foodie"? I laughed when I read "for your foodie guests." i stopped having "foodies" over years ago, when one too many criticized my food, wine choice, or home, or told me how much better their food, wines and homes are. "Foodie," in my experience, stands for: friggin' overbearing, over-the-top, declasse, "I"obsessed EATER.

    On the other hand, I disagree that a cheese platter is dessert. It's a cheese course, which is its own thing. as for the four C's, you need to add a B, for berries. Berries should be on every dessert menu, in some form.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  20. Emily

    Mmmmm...it ALL sounds delicious! I don't even have a sweet tooth, but I'm craving it all right now.

    Also, caramel isn't nearly as hard to make at home as I thought. Posted the recipe on my blog here: http://agiltnutmeg.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/vanilla-bean-salted-caramels/

    July 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  21. Jose

    Lets give it up for Diabetes!!!!!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • PaleoRules

      Send more glycosylated hemoglobin, ma!

      July 7, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • cwal

      diabetes linked with obesity... what a nice combo.


      July 8, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Todd

      8.3 out of 100 people are diabetic... including me... wheres my 5Cs??

      Well I figure as long as I have them I'll be just fine...

      Command & Conquer

      July 8, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  22. fob

    Chocolate chip cheesecake with caramel sauce and a nice mug of hot coffee. I wish I had some right now!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
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