While the pandemic is keeping Americans from enjoying many of the things they love, club members can still take comfort in special sweet treats, whether dining outside, inside or at home.
Prior to the COVID-triggered shutdown of the dining room at Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J., 60 percent of members and guests ordered $6 to $8 desserts to conclude their meals, with many ordering multiple items to share with the table, according to Anthony Villanueva, the club’s Executive Chef.
Not long after outdoor dining resumed in mid-June, along with golf outings and outdoor weddings, Villaneuva reports, dessert sales regained their momentum and are once again hitting the sweet spot to create member excitement and profitability for the club.
Members and guests come to Edgewood CC “to try to temporarily escape our new reality,” Villaneuva notes, so every course from appetizer to dessert is equally important and receives full attention in the kitchen. In addition to serving desserts for dinner and special events, the chef likes to send out “unexpected sweet treats,” such as coconut sorbet shooters with rum-soaked pineapple, or a cool cabernet sorbet with fresh blackberries, in sample portions to guests at the pool.
Dessert selections at Edgewood CC may be fancy, such as the yuzu crème brulee that concluded a special Steak & Sushi Night. Or they may be hearty and homey, such as bread pudding made with challah, or chocolate babka left over from a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, served with a side of Bailey’s ice cream. Then there are the whimsical choices, like a basket of cronuts (fried doughnuts made with croissant dough) with caramel, white chocolate and raspberry dipping sauces.
One particularly clever creation is a dessert imposter— “burger” and “fries” (see photo, pg. 32), accompanied by a tiny vanilla malted shake shot. For the “burger bun,” Villanueva uses two sugar cookies sprinkled with sugar and sesame seeds. The “burger” itself is chocolate fudge. Slices of ripe strawberries mimic the tomato, and kiwi or honeydew melon imitate the lettuce. White chocolate mousse serves as the mayonnaise. The “fries” are zeppole, with a caramel sauce as “gravy” and red raspberry sauce as “ketchup.”
David Daddezio, Executive Chef at the Vicmead Hunt Club and Bidermann Golf Course in Wilmington, Del., also draws heavily from his imagination to produce desserts that are colorful and fun. For one tasting menu featuring cities around the world, he presented a “sushi and sashimi” dessert station (see photo, pg. 34) that included a coconut rice pudding and mango “sashimi,” and a “spider roll” made with apple pie filling, minced ginger, fried tortilla strips sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, cinnamon sugar-rolled fondant and a caramel drizzle.
For the past four years, Daddezio’s club has done a brisk business selling whole pies (key lime, apple, cherry and pecan) as well as lemon bars, cookies and brownies by the dozens and special seasonal requests. During this year’s dining-room shutdown, the desserts still sold well as accompaniments for to-go family dinners.
Daddezio recently put together a takeout, four-course wine dinner complete with chef instructions, including photos for each course of the meal and craft-cocktail and wine pairings. The dessert was a local peach and raspberry crisp with honey (produced on the property) whipped cream.
Still Having Their Cake…
Fanny Hicks, Pastry Chef at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, N.C., reports that she is also selling more brownies, seven-layer bars and cookies as part of to-go orders. Cookies can be purchased pre-baked by the dozen, or as a frozen, bake-at-home dough roll, so members can enjoy them fresh from the oven anytime. The most popular variety is a signature blueberry white-chocolate cookie.
Whole cake orders have increased as well, Hicks reports. “Members are now using us as their personal bakery, and during one recent week we did seven whole cakes,” she says. “We’ve been promoting them to our members over e-mail, and the response has been enthusiastic.”
Edgewood’s Villanueva also takes special to-go orders for his signature chocolate almond Nutella rugalach (see recipe. pg. 34).
And pies are also guaranteed top sellers at some clubs. Joshua Elder, Executive Chef at Indian Hills Country Club in Tuscaloosa, Ala., bakes a wide variety, from peanut butter with a chocolate crust and chocolate on top to pecan to chess.
“They’re great for us, too, because they’re easy to make and garnish to look pretty,” Elder notes.
If there is a fruit pie on the menu, members at Vicmead Hunt Club/Bidermann Golf Course will order it, Daddezio reports. “If a particular kind of pie isn’t on the menu and the member wants it, we’ll take a special order and have one ready in one hour,” he adds.
Members at Biltmore Forest CC seem to gravitate to pies, because they are a familiar and “approachable” comfort-food dessert, Hicks notes. Her best seller, not only among pies, but among all desserts, is her signature peppermint ice cream pie, which “sells strongly” all year on the menu and does a gangbuster business when sold whole during the holidays.
“It’s very popular as a birthday cake substitute,” says Hicks. “We probably average selling three whole pies a month—except between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when last year we sold about 40, on top of the many that we went through for dining-room service.”
Hicks also sells peppermint pie cups at the pool and as a to-go grocery item. The cups are composed of a layer of crushed Oreo cookies, peppermint ice cream and a topping of chocolate ganache.
Pool guests at Biltmore Forest CC can also enjoy a frozen treat from a portable ice cream station. The station (see photo, pg. 33) was purchased for outdoor special events and is used at the pool when no events are scheduled.
At Indian Hills CC, golfers like Southern classics such as fruit-filled hand pies and banana pudding, Elder notes. During golf tournaments, the pudding is available in individual portions from a cooler at the course’s 19th Hole.
One key way that chefs control the costs of making desserts while keeping the offerings fresh is to take advantage of seasonal ingredients. During peach season, for example, Daddezio offers a trifle featuring the fruit. To take advantage of the summer bounty, Elder prepares a roasted peach with sweetened mascarpone, candied thyme, local-honey drizzle and an almond crumble.
Lemon curd is one of Daddezio’s other best friends in the kitchen. He fashions it into a mousse, pairs it with fresh berries and butter-fried pound cake in a summer trifle (see recipe with the online version of this article at www.clubandresortbusiness.com), bakes it into classic lemon bars, or tops it with bourbon peaches and Swiss meringue.
Although COVID-19 restrictions have curtailed indoor parties and other special events, Villanueva plans to be ready for them when they return, with an impressive dessert concept that can take the place of a massive (and expensive) wedding cake, Viennese table and plated desserts.
“Serving slices of the wedding cake or plated desserts require that guests return to their tables instead of continuing to dance and mingle,” he notes. “In most cases, that’s a party-ender.”
So instead, he suggests offering six to eight varieties of mini, easy-to-carry, butlered “pickups,” such as chocolate-covered, pretzel crumb-crusted bacon or mini-gelato cones.
“We send out 15 servers with sparklers on their trays that stay lit for about 60 seconds, long enough for them to circle the dance floor,” Villaneuva notes. “Clients love the fact that the party does not stop and that guests can keep on dancing as they enjoy dessert.”
When thinking about indulgent desserts, nothing satisfies a sweet tooth quite like silk-creamy cheesecake. That (along with key lime pie) is what members are craving at Indian Hills Country Club in Tuscaloosa, Ala., according to Executive Chef Joshua Elder.
“Members are very vocal about keeping cheesecake on the menu at all times, and I fear there would be a riot if I tried to take it off,” Elder jokes.
And there are many ways to serve this perennial favorite. The Indian Hills recipe, created by Sous Chef Madison Jones, is New York-style (see recipe, above left). It is served plain or with a choice of three sauces, such as bananas foster, pecan praline and bourbon peach.
At Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J., one of Executive Chef Anthony Villanueva’s signature desserts is an Oreo cookie-crusted, white-chocolate cheesecake. Before coming to Edgewood, Villanueva paired the cheesecake with a strawberry, agave and lime compote for a special Latin America-themed food and golf event held at the Four Seasons and St. Regis resort in Mexico.
Villaneuva has prepared 150 of the three-inch cakes for an awards dinner at the club. He has also made a strawberry trifle with the cheesecake. As a variation for a small pick-up dessert, Villanueva stuffs a big juicy strawberry with the white-chocolate cheesecake filling.
Great Without Gluten
In a recent benchmarking survey of members, Vicmead Hunt Club and Bidermann Golf Course in Wilmington, Del., discovered that of the 20 percent of members who had allergies, 45 percent—two out of 10—were gluten-specific.
“When I put a gluten-free dessert item on the menu, I know it’s going to sell,” says David Daddezio, the club’s Executive Chef.
Some popular gluten-free favorites at the club are chocolate pot de crème; a pecan pie with gluten-free graham cracker crust, and a summer berry trifle layered with gluten-free brown butter pound cake (see recipe with the online version of this article at www.clubandresortbusiness.com).
“I can even make a gluten-free birthday cake, using sugared soy flakes and caramelized white chocolate that looks and tastes great,” says Daddezio.
Anthony Villanueva, Executive Chef of Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J., estimates that about 10 percent of guests who come to parties at his club avoid gluten. He caters to their cravings with creations such as creamsicle shooters and a lemon curd and meringue “martini.”
One of the signature desserts at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Ashville, N.C., is pastry chef Fanny Hicks’ gluten-free bombe-like pecan ball, composed of a scoop of house-made butter pecan ice cream dipped in a thin chocolate shell, surrounded by vanilla ice cream, rolled in toasted pecans and served with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry. Hicks also bakes a variety of gluten-free cakes, including an ultra-popular chocolate decadence and a rosemary mocha cake (see recipe online), both of which substitute almond meal for flour.
At Indian Hills Country Club in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a popular confection offered by Executive Chef Joshua Elder is a flourless chocolate torte.
Summing It Up
> Desserts, both traditional and unique, can be an especially effective way to position clubs as go-to (or to-go) dining options during the pandemic.
> Dessert costs can be controlled while keeping offerings fresh by taking advantage of seasonal ingredients.
> Offering mini- and easy-to-carry butlered “pickups” as wedding-dessert options can avoid having to serve plated cake and ensure a more festive and memorable event.
New York-Style Cheesecake
INGREDIENTS For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted
INGREDIENTS For the filling:
2 lbs. cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 large eggs
1. Make the crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon; add butter or margarine.
2. Press crust onto bottom and 2/3rds of the way up a 9” springform pan lined with parchment. Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan.
3. Freeze until filling is prepared.
4. Make the filling: Use an electric mixer to mix cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla.
5. Blend until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl.
6. Whisk eggs in a bowl; add to cream cheese mixture. Blend just until eggs are incorporated.
7. Remove crust from freezer and pour in filling.
8. Preheat oven to 475º F. Place a large pan filled with 1/2” water in oven. Carefully place cheesecake into preheated water bath. Bake for 12 minutes, then turn oven to 350º F. and bake until top of cheesecake turns golden, 50 to 60 minutes.
9. Remove cake to a wire rack to cool.
Submitted by Joshua Elder, Executive Chef, Indian Hills Country Club, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Chocolate Almond Nutella Rugelach (with Apricot Walnut Filling variation)
YIELD: 24 pieces
INGREDIENTS For the Dough:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, unsalted, cut into 1/4” pieces
8 ozs. (1/2 lb.) cream cheese, cut into 1/2” pieces
2 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
Procedure FOR the Dough:
1. Mix flour, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl or food processor.
2. Add butter, cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla extract. Mix together one pulse at a time until dough begins to come together. Do not overmix.
3. Lay dough onto a work area dusted with flour.
4. Roll dough into a log and cut into four even pieces.
5. Gently roll out each piece into flat dough sheets, about 8” x 10”.
6. Place the sheets onto plastic wrap or wax paper and freeze until ready to use.
INGREDIENTS For the Chocolate Almond Filling:
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup Nutella
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sliced blanched almonds
INGREDIENTS For the Egg Wash:
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. milk
Procedure FOR Chocolate Almond Filling:
1. Mix sugar and cinnamon together.
2. Remove pastry sheets from freezer one at a time.
3. Spread Nutella over dough and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
4. At the very bottom of the dough sheet, sprinkle a layer of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Then sprinkle with blanched almonds.
5. Gently roll up the pastry and seam the ends nice and sealed.
6. Beat the eggs and milk together and using a pastry brush, brush the rolled rugelach. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar and coat with additional blanched almonds.
7. Freeze the log for about 30 minutes. Remove and cut into 1 1/2” to 2” pieces, and bake on a non-stick cookie pan or a tray lined with parchment paper.
8. Bake for 15 minutes at 350º F.
INGREDIENTS For the Apricot Walnut
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
Submitted by Anthony Villanueva, Executive Chef, Edgewood Country Club, River Vale, N.J.
Flourless Rosemary Mocha Cake
YIELD: 12 to 15 servings
INGREDIENTS For the Whipped Coffee Ganache:
5 ozs. cream, hot
5 ozs. white chocolate, melted
1 tsp. espresso concentrate
5 ozs. cream, cold
PROCEDURE FOR the Whipped Coffee Ganache:
1. Emulsify hot cream into chocolate.
2. Add cold cream and espresso. Chill.
3. Whip to soft peaks.
INGREDIENTS For the Flourless Cake:
8 ozs. butter
8 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate
8 ozs. almond meal
8 ozs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Procedure For the Flourless Cake:
1. Melt butter and chocolate.
2. Stir in almond meal.
3. Whip sugar and eggs on high until very light and frothy. Add salt.
4. Fold into chocolate mixture.
5. Bake in parchment-lined half sheet pan at 325ºF, low fan, for 15 minutes.
6. Allow to cool, then refrigerate.
7. Cut to line base of ring molds.
INGREDIENTS For the Mousse:
8 ozs. sugar
6.6 ozs. egg yolks
1 lb., 10 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
7 ozs. cream, hot
1 lb., 12 ozs. cream, soft whip
Procedure For the Mousse:
1. Add just enough water to the sugar until it is wet. Cook to 240º F.
2. Whip eggs and yolks, stream in hot sugar, whipping to a ribbon consistency.
3. Combine chocolate and hot cream. Fold egg mix into chocolate, fold in whipped cream.
4. Spoon into ring mold over the flourless cake.
5. Refrigerate until set.
INGREDIENTS For the Rosemary Whipped Cream:
2 cups cream
1 sprig rosemary
2 tbsp. sugar
Procedure For the Rosemary Whipped Cream:
1. Combine cream and coarsely chopped rosemary. Rest half an hour, then strain.
2. Add sugar and whip.
INGREDIENTS For the Rosemary Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 sprig rosemary
1 cup water
1-1/4 ozs. cocoa powder
2 ozs. semi-sweet chocolate
Procedure For the Rosemary Chocolate Sauce:
1. Simmer water, sugar and rosemary. Remove rosemary. Add syrup to cocoa powder slowly to make a smooth paste.
2. Return to heat, bring just to a boil and pour over chocolate.
Stir until smooth.
INGREDIENTS For the Garnishes:
Chocolate shavings or pearls
1. Place mousse cake in the center of the plate. Add tempered chocolate collar if desired.
2. Above and below the cake, pipe alternating dots of rosemary whipped cream and whipped coffee ganache, using two different-sized tips for added interest.
3. Add a few small dots of rosemary chocolate sauce.
4. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings or pearls and garnish with fresh rosemary.
Submitted by Fanny Hicks, Pastry Chef, Biltmore Forest Country Club, Asheville, N.C.
Summer Trifle (with Brown Butter Pound Cake, Brandy Peaches, Maine Blueberry Lemon Curd and Italian Meringue)
YIELD: 6 servings
INGREDIENTS For the Brown Butter Pound Cake:
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. fine kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 lb. + 1 tsp. unsalted room temperature butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
2 large room-temperature eggs
1 cup sour cream
PROCEDURE For the Brown Butter Pound Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350º F., low fan.
2. Using 1 tsp. room-temperature butter, coat 1 1/2 lb. loaf pan, then coat with 1/4 cup gluten-free flour.
3. Sift together remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
4. In a mixer, beat together 1/4 lb. of remaining room-temperature butter with sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 4 minutes).
5. Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time until
6. Add almond and vanilla extracts.
7. Add half the flour mixture slowly until just incorporated. Add sour cream and remaining flour mixture.
8. Evenly spread batter in pan and bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry. Rotate pan 180 degrees halfway through baking.
INGREDIENTS For the Maine Blueberry Lemon Curd:
1 1/2 cups Maine blueberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Procedure For the Maine Blueberry Lemon Curd:
1. Using a micro plane, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
2. Cream the butter and beat in the lemon zest sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time.
3. Add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
4. Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170º F., or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and chill over ice bath.
5. Fold in Maine blueberries.
INGREDIENTS For the Italian Meringue:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 room-temperature egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Procedure For the Italian Meringue:
1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat over high heat, brushing down sides of pot as necessary with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cook until sugar syrup registers 240° F. on an instant-read or candy thermometer.
2. Meanwhile, combine egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
3. Set mixer to medium speed and mix until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes).
4. With the mixer running, carefully and slowly drizzle in hot sugar syrup. Increase speed to high and whip until desired stiffness is achieved.
INGREDIENTS to assemble:
2 tbsp. strained brown butter
10 ozs. fig jam
Procedure for assembly:
1. Slice pound cake into 1”-thick slices. Pan-fry in brown butter, just to color. Set on paper towels.
2. Layer blueberry curd, brown butter pound cake, reserved peach and apricot brandy, fig jam, cooked peaches and piped Italian meringue in serving dish.
3. Toast meringue with torch and serve.
Submitted by David Daddezio, Executive Chef, Vicmead Hunt Club/Bidermann Golf Course, Wilmington, Del.