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Recipe by Karen Krasne, executive chef, Extraordinary Desserts

What’s unusual about me is that while I am a pastry chef, I lead a very healthy lifestyle. I do raw food sometimes and there are periods where we are vegan and periods where we are vegetarian and periods where we eat fish. I have always had a passion for being active and healthy.

Yoga is also a big part of my life and I’ve been practicing for about 12 years. I discovered yoga after I had already been studying desserts for over 20 years and was traveling to Asia regularly. There was something that I responded to in the spiritual life over there as well as the aesthetics. Yoga was a part of that and it really resonated with me.

It’s very stressful to operate a growing business. Without yoga and meditation, I don’t think I could source the energy I need or be as comfortable doing what I’m doing. It taught me who I am and what I want. I spent a lot of time at the Chopra Center and it was the greatest thing I ever did. Because you can get lost just baking and making everyone’s wedding cakes. It was important for me to learn why I was doing this.

When I learned that I loved serving people, it became apparent that I wouldn’t be retiring anytime soon. It turned out that I was having the optimal experience for me. And that’s what makes me feel really good about what I am doing on a daily basis.

My life has a lot of yin and yang. By creating desserts, I offer something completely pleasurable and not really necessary. But it makes people really happy. I deal with purple and orange and green and all of these beautiful colors. I know that I am doing what I love when I hear people singing in the dining room. You don’t really hear that when you bring out an entrée.

INGREDIENTS

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup lowfat milk
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 large egg yolks (use egg whites for something else)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding
  • 10 medium/large croissants, cut into 2˝ pieces
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (Valrhona 61 percent)

HOW TO DO IT 

In a medium saucepot, heat cream, milk, and vanilla to almost — but not quite — a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar until smooth. Carefully stir the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture and then whisk until smooth. Strain the mixture by pouring it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a separate bowl. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place one and a half cups of the crème brûlée mixture in the bottom of a heavy oval baking dish. Layer the croissant pieces on top of the crème brûlée mixture. Sprinkle two cups of the chopped chocolate on top of the croissant pieces. Add another layer of croissant pieces followed by one cup crème brûlée mixture poured on top. Place the remaining croissant pieces on top and cover with the remaining crème brûlée. Bake at 275–300 degrees for 50 minutes. Serve hot or warm.  

Editor’s note: To save reserved egg whites for more than a few days, beat lightly to mix and freeze (all at once or in portions) in freezer bags. They may be used for macaroon-type cookies, meringue pie toppings, or in flourless chocolate cakes (where, beaten stiff, they serve as the main “lift” to lighten the cakes.) Use in smaller quantities for glazing breads and pastries before baking or (beaten fluffy) to lighten matzoh balls.  In Chinese cooking, they are invaluable as quick marinades to “velvet” shrimp, fish, or cut-up  poultry, or as a vital ingredient in “Lobster Cantonese.” Otherwise, use as you might use Egg Beaters, for healthy breakfast dishes and omelets.  

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