Gallery: First Look: The Guest Pastry Chef Collaboration Series at Dominique Ansel Bakery, NYC

Michael Laiskonis:
Michael Laiskonis: "Couronne" milk chocolate and caramel mousse

We covered the details of Michael Laiskonis' dessert two weeks ago but the chef provided us with some additional insight for this feature.

Lasikonis said, "Dominique approached me about the collaboration sometime in mid-late April. He actually proposed the idea of doing a riff on my 'egg' from Le Bernardin, but we agreed it might not make sense so soon after his genius peep-in-the-eggshell dessert he sold at Easter."

"The dialog on flavors and textures went back and forth for a week or two before I settled on the recipes, which I sent for his team to test and adapt to their production set-up. And then a week or two before the launch Dominique and I compared notes once more."

Michael Laiskonis:
Michael Laiskonis: "Couronne" milk chocolate and caramel mousse

This is Laiskonis' concept sketch of the design and components of the dessert. It also shows reminders to follow-up on certain items such as to "test the caramel" and a note that the holes in the chocolate disc will be irregular.

When I asked Ansel if he could reach out to the other chefs to see if they could send me their sketches he said that Michael is the only one to send him a sketch beforehand.

Michael Laiskonis:
Michael Laiskonis: "Couronne" Milk chocolate and caramel mousse

Ansel's team told me that the cubes on top were originally going to be lemon flavored but in the end they decided to go with orange. Laiskonis says, "They did a great job with the execution."

Johnny Iuzzini: Raspberry passion fruit mint pavlova
Johnny Iuzzini: Raspberry passion fruit mint pavlova

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer of the 1920's, Anna Pavlova. Typically, the meringue on top is crispy and the interior soft and marshmallow-like. Johnny's dessert features a slightly less sweet passion fruit to go with the sweeter mint flecked meringue.

Johnny Iuzzini: Raspberry passion fruit mint pavlova
Johnny Iuzzini: Raspberry passion fruit mint pavlova

Only the most select raspberries are chosen to be perfectly centered within the Pavlova. From the crispy meringue to the soft center with ripe fruit, each bite has a satisfying combination of textures.

Laurie Jon Moran and Dominique Ansel taste-testing Johnny Iuzzini's pavlova
Laurie Jon Moran and Dominique Ansel taste-testing Johnny Iuzzini's pavlova

Sometimes, Ansel calls upon special, highly trained tasters from outside his bakery. In this case, Laurie Jon Moran, Executive Pastry Chef at the three Michelin Starred Le Bernadin, helps him out.

Sherry Yard: Cannele Popover
Sherry Yard: Cannele Popover

Dominque Ansel says "Sherry Yard's desserts just hit you right at the heart." Yard's "cannele popover" was definitely the most "comfort-style" dessert of this group.

Yard originally wanted to offer a popover by itself, but after some discussion they agreed on something "more elegant". So they added the jar and what Ansel calls "strawberry salad": fresh strawberries, strawberry jam and strawberry confit

Ansel adds some extra strawberry jam to the Popover
Ansel adds some extra strawberry jam to the Popover

The Popover Cannele uses similar ingredients to a standard cannele, including rum and vanilla, but but is made in a mini-muffin tray instead of a copper mold. If you enjoy the moist and eggy characteristics of a popover but also are a fan of the classic canele, you will enjoy this dessert.

Franciso Migoya: Yuzu praline tart with micro basil
Franciso Migoya: Yuzu praline tart with micro basil

In addition to meringue and a light yuzu filing, this tart also features a thin feuilletine layer along the bottom of the pastry shell that adds a delicate but significant crunch.

About the collaboration Migoya says, "I respect [Ansel] as a professional and as a person. He's an actual pastry chef and to me it seems there are fewer and fewer pastry chefs who can actually execute the methods and techniques that constitute our craft."

Migoya continued, "The group of chefs Dominique chose was very smart and I was honored to be included in it."

Franciso Migoya: Yuzu praline tart
Franciso Migoya: Yuzu praline tart

As with the Iuzzini dessert, the tangy citrus-based yuzu is balanced by the sweet meringue drops. Though Migoya is very busy with his new chocolate shop and a number of other projects he said, "These sorts of collaborations don't happen very often, so it's great to be able to do these things whenever the opportunity arises."

Christophe Adam: Caramel popcorn eclair
Christophe Adam: Caramel popcorn eclair

Adam's eclair features a caramel mascarpone cream. The mascarpone enhances the caramel flavor making it much richer and slightly less sweet.

On top is a creme brulee-like crust of caramelized sugar and four evenly spaced pieces of crunchy caramel corn. Note how perfectly tubular the eclair's choux pasty is.

Christophe Michalak: 100% Caramel religieuse
Christophe Michalak: 100% Caramel religieuse

Ansel said that when he asked Christophe Michalak to collaborate on a dessert, the chef sent him an intricately detailed itemized list of ingredients, ingredient prices, baking times and instructions. In contrast, none of the US chefs took this approach.

Perfectly executed choux pastry and two different kinds of caramel fillings plus a caramel flavored glaze make this pastry a caramel dessert lover's dream. The choux pastry puffs are topped with a brown sugar "jacket" that adds an additional crunch and texture. The decorative umbrella-like glaze is made from a caramel fondant.