Casta Diva-Tahitian Vanilla Gelatin with Lemon Granite and Summer Berry Salad
Steve Klc of Jaleo - Washington, D.C.
Adapted by StarChefs
Rising Pastry Chef Steve Klc

Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico and Zaytinya — Washington, D.C.

August 2003

Philosophy on cooking:
Sweet and savory cooking should be seen as one long continuum. The rigid distinction between chef and pastry chef should be dissolved. I try to work like a chef and more closely with chefs. I think desserts should be smaller, less sweet, less bound by traditional forms and utilize herbs and vegetables more. It’s also important to embrace culinary innovation and not get too hung up on terms like "authentic" and "traditional." I try to get the essence of what an ingredient says to me first.

Culinary school:
The only "cooking" school I attended formally was L'Academie de Cuisine's part-time professional pastry program under Mark Ramsdell in 1993, which taught classic French pastry.

The Medal of the French Government from the Societe Culinaire Philanthropique - which they've awarded for something like 135 years.

Tools you can't live without:
A freezer that gets down to –5. My Indian spice grinder. A handheld immersion blender with interchangeable frothing disks and variable speeds, the iSi Profi whipper.

Favorite ingredients:
Very dark caramel, single origin and varietal dark chocolates from E. Guittard and Michel Cluizel, vanilla beans, raw sugars like jaggery and panela, muscovado sugar, Greek or goat's milk yogurt, dessert wines of all kinds, especially Pedro Ximenez and botrytised wines, Medjool dates, gelatin and agar-agar, cardamom, anise and cinnamon.

Three tips for dessert success:
1. Don't settle job-wise and try to take more control of your own destiny;
2. Don't do something just because that's how it was taught to you or it has always been done - keep an open mind, rethink, re-imagine.
3. Be your own harshest critic.

Mentors/pastry heroes:
Jacques Torres - He is the only modern pastry chef to have reached both the absolute pinnacle of professional respect and achievement AND to also attain widespread popular recognition; Philippe Conticini - for his willingness to create fearless combinations of flavor and texture, his unique and poetic palate and his generosity.

Favorite desserts:
I will always choose something with caramel, chocolate and fleur de sel if it's on the menu. I appreciate any dessert that is good.

    Vanilla Gelatin
  • 3 sheets gelatin
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups Casta Diva wine
    (Casta Diva is a wonderfully fragrant Spanish dessert wine - but Sauternes, Muscat des Beaumes, Chappellet Moelleux or Inniskillin ice wine can be substituted.)
  • 6 ounces sugar
  • 2 Tahitian vanilla beans, split and scraped

  • Summer Berry Salad
  • 1 pint fresh berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 ounces simple syrup
  • Baby mint and/or lemon verbena leaves, optional

  • Lemon Granite
  • 9 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 9 ounces simple syrup
  • 18 ounces water


For Gelatin:
Soften gelatin in cold water and set aside. Bring the wine, sugar and the vanilla beans to a boil; turn heat down and simmer gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add gelatin, stir and let cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour into shallow, wide bowls about 1/4 inch tall. Refrigerate until set. Wrap each bowl in plastic to keep odors out.

For Summer Berry Salad:
Puree a handful of berries in a blender, strain out the seeds, and toss with the rest of the fruit. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and some simple syrup to adjust sweetness. Add baby mint and lemon verbena leaves, if using. Toss and set aside to macerate. Fruits will have different sweetness and acidity, so remember to taste as you go!

For Lemon Granite:
Combine lemon juice, simple syrup and water. Stir, and pour into a container and freeze 4 hours or up to overnight. Scrape surface with a spoon to shave ice crystals.

To Serve:
Unwrap gelatin. Place the berry salad in the middle of the bowl, making sure to leave a 1-inch border of gelatin. Place granite crystals on top of the berries and serve with spoon.