Vintage desserts are a treat for today

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Chef Bridget Burns makesTartufo at Jerry's Restaurant in Winnetka.| Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media


(From Bridget Burns)

2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened slightly

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted and salted

½ cup brandied cherries

1 ½ pints chocolate ice cream, softened slightly

Line each cup of jumbo muffin pan with plastic wrap cut into squares. Double wrap plastic for more strength. Scoop vanilla ice cream into each cavity, and (using gloves) press vanilla ice cream against sides of each cup, creating a hole in middle for almonds, cherries and chocolate ice cream. If ice cream starts to melt, place everything in the freezer for a few minutes.

Sprinkle toasted almonds and cherries in each cup. Place a scoop of chocolate ice cream in the middle. Fold plastic wrap over top and press down to remove air pockets. Place tray in freezer and chill for at least two hours or overnight. The longer you let them freeze, the easier the last step will be.

Chocolate coating:

1 ¾ cups whipping cream

¼ cup light corn syrup

24 ounces extra bitter chocolate (or semisweet), chopped

6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

Bring whipping cream and corn syrup to a boil in small pan. Combine chocolates in large mixing bowl. Pour cream mixture over top and stir until all chunks have melted. Allow to cool slightly.

Remove ice cream from molds, one at a time and place on wire rack with the wide part down.

Ladle chocolate over top of ice cream and let it run down the sides to coat. Return to freezer to let chocolate set and cover remaining desserts.

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Jelly rolls and shortcakes are trending as fast as Fire King coffee cups and Melmac plates among people with a yen for ’50s culture. Those vintage dishes look just right for serving heirloom pineapple upside down cake, or a slice of jelly roll, or even a tartufo, that ice cream treat that can take you back to Venice in an instant.

Chefs everywhere are proving that those nostalgia-inducing sweets can be simple and elegant while remaining as affordable and scrumptious as they were they first made the dessert scene.

Laury’s Bakery in Oak Park turns out 30-40 classic jelly rolls each week. That’s nearly double from last year when manager Jerry Ketzback began noticing taller orders for pineapple upside down cakes and berry shortcakes. It’s evident that coin-conscious sweets shoppers are opting for smaller desserts over big ticket cakes.

Fruit showcase

And why not? Jelly rolls, which require a few standard ingredients available in almost every kitchen, are a cinch to make and a fresh way to showcase seasonal berries. Make a sauce with berries or, like the bakers at Laury’s, blend them into whipped cream for a flavorful, colorful filling.

At The Storefront Company in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, jelly rolls are given a savory twist with an onion jelly filling.

Whatever way they roll, savory or sweet, jelly roll cake can crack, or even break, if not handled properly when turned. “The cake has to be really cold; not frozen, but close to it,” Ketzback said.

Once rolled, those decadent bûche de noël toppings that camouflage jelly rolls at holiday time can be replaced with simple, airy dustings of fine light powdered sugar or coconut, a favorite topping at Laury’s.

At Jerry’s in Winnetka, Tartufo is on the menu this summer. It reminds owner Betsy Simson of happy dinners shared with her late father, Jerry, while, growing up in New York City.

Making the toasted almond and brandied cherry-filled ice cream dessert can be tricky. “You definitely don’t want to do this on a hot summer day without the air conditioning on,” said Jerry’s Chef de Cuisine Bridget Burns. “You need to move quickly.”

If the ice cream starts to melt, return it to the freezer for a few minutes.

Once frozen and served, Burns, an Elmwood Park resident, sees a special value in such desserts, which she considers “home style.”

“I think they are a reaction to the very structured, beautiful, if not sometimes strange desserts we have seen lately in fine dining. Goat cheese cheesecake with lavender drizzle is fine, but I find people are happier with a big piece of homemade pie with vanilla ice cream on top,” she said.

Modern pizzazz

And even when staying with the staples, some chefs can’t resist the urge to modernize them with herbs and other personalized twists.

Phil Rubino, Executive Chef at the new Moderno restaurant in Highland Park, adds a 21st century punch to strawberry shortcake with some balsamic and shiso, a Japanese herb akin to basil. “Strawberry, balsamic and basil are a great combination. I wanted to find an herb similar to basil but something a bit out of the ordinary,” Rubino said.

At the JW Marriott Hotel in Chicago’s Loop, the hotel’s restaurant pastry chef, Kimberly Junior, has revitalized the whimsical classic known as Floating Island. Three dollops of fluffy meringue are “floating islands” in a circle of crème Anglaise.

Junior, who worked at the Renaissance Marriott in Oak Brook before the JW Marriott, updates the delicate dessert with semi-circles of refreshing, bright orange citrus carpaccio and bits of rich green anise-scented fennel.

Accent any classic dessert with vintage, homemade candy or serve the candy alone. Representatives of Chicago’s Katherine Anne Confections will teach how to make raspberry elderflower, carrot cake, lady grey and other truffle varieties at Quince at the Homestead in Evanston, 3-5:30 p.m. June 24. For reservations, call (847) 570-8400.