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Lightening Up

Three pastry chefs who understand this body-conscious town show how to satisfy a sweet tooth and still feel virtuous. (But when you can't resist that chocolate indiscretion or a little sugar from great-grandma, don't hold back.)

October 29, 2006

Berry Gazpacho

From pastry chef Robert Witkoski, Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles

Serves 4

1/2 pint huckleberries (blackberries may be substituted)

1 pint blueberries

1 pint strawberries

1/2 pint raspberries

1 cup lingonberries*

Zest from 1 lemon

1/4 cup light corn syrup

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, reserve 1 generous tablespoon of each berry and the lemon zest for garnish. Combine the rest of the berries in a large bowl with the corn syrup, lemon juice and vanilla. Puree the berry mixture with an immersion blender until it is well blended. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or chinois and refrigerate at least 4 hours. To serve, place 1 tablespoon of the reserved berries in the bottom of each bowl. Pour 3/4 cup of the gazpacho into the bowl and garnish with the lemon zest. Serve with pumpkin biscotti.

*Lingonberries are available in jars at most supermarkets.

*

Pumpkin Biscotti

Makes 16 biscotti

183 calories each

1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut up

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/4 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4 cup packed pumpkin

1/4 cup chopped pecans

In the bowl of a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment and then add the egg. Add the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin and pecans. Mix until the dough is well blended. Put a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Shape the dough into a 12-inch log on a well-floured surface and place on the sheet pan. Press down on the log until it's 11/2 inches thick. Bake at 350 degrees until it's golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Using a serrated knife, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices on the pan and bake for a second time until golden brown, about 1 hour (turning every 15 minutes). Let cool.

*

Individual Citrus Pavlovas

From pastry chef Karen Hatfield, Hatfield's, Los Angeles

Serves 12

Meringue

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Scant 1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of cinnamon

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar while still mixing. Continue until it all has been added and the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. With a small mesh sieve, sift the powdered sugar and cinnamon and fold in. Drop 2 heaping tablespoons of meringue onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Using the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each so that there is a small well. Place the baking sheet in the oven, lower the temperature to 250 degrees and dry the meringue for 40 to 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop open the door and leave until the meringue is cool, about 30 minutes (the meringue can be made two days in advance and stored at room temperature).

Filling

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup creme fraiche

3 tablespoons sugar

Tangerine, orange and grapefruit, 1 each, cut into segments

Mint leaves

In a small bowl, combine the whipping cream, creme fraiche and sugar and whip to soft peaks. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the soft whipped cream into each Pavlova shell. Garnish with tangerine, orange and grapefruit segments and fresh mint leaves. Refrigerate until served.

*

Tangerine Consomme With Lemon Gelato

From pastry chef Verite Mazzola, Ford's Filling Station, Culver City

Makes 8 to 10 servings

SIMPLE SYRUP

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Place the sugar and water in a small pot and boil until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and chill.

CONSOMME

2 cups fresh tangerine juice

1/2 cup simple syrup

Zest of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients and let sit 10 minutes. Strain through a chinois or fine strainer, making sure to press out all the liquid. Chill, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator.

LEMON GELATO

Zest of 3 lemons

2/3 cup sugar, or more to taste

2 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

1 egg

1/2 cup lemon juice

Mint leaves

Combine the lemon zest and sugar. Scald the milk with 1/2 of the lemon zest-sugar mixture. Combine the egg yolks and egg with the remaining lemon zest-sugar mixture. Whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture and return to the heat. Cook for about 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and place in an ice bath. Whisk in the lemon juice and chill completely until it is cold to the touch. Put in an ice cream maker and follow the directions. To serve, scoop the gelato into a serving dish and add the consomme. Garnish with mint leaves.

Store-bought sorbet or gelato may be used.

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