LIANE HANSEN, host:
If you're looking for something new and maybe a little sweet to throw on the grill tonight, you're in luck. Over the last month, we asked you to send in recipes for grilled desserts. We handed them all over to Susan Lindeborg, who's been a pastry chef at top-rated restaurants. Gourmet magazine named her one of the country's top chefs when she was at the Morrison-Clark here in Washington. These days, Susan Lindeborg is living in New Mexico, and she joins us from member station KANW in Albuquerque. Welcome, Susan.
Ms. SUSAN LINDEBORG (Pastry Chef): Oh, thank you so much. I'm delighted to be here.
HANSEN: Thanks a lot for going through all of those recipes. What…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. LINDEBORG: It was fun. It was really lots of fun.
HANSEN: So, what criteria did you use to sift through them?
Ms. LINDEBORG: Well, first of all, I was looking for something that was creative and it was innovative and that was something more than simple grilled fruit. So that was the starting line. And I began the consideration at that point and moved forward and then found recipes - only two with no fruit at all. Then I began to look at them in terms of how long each recipe - the ingredients were actually on the grill beyond the creative and innovative. I was looking for things that might adopt some of the flavors that were coming off of the grill, whether it be gas, charcoal, wood, whichever. So things that would taste like they'd been grilled.
HANSEN: Tell us about the three finalists. What did you like about their creations?
Ms. LINDEBORG: Well, they were all very different. The first one I could speak about is the grilled Indian-spiced ice cream. Homemade ice cream that was spiced with Indian spices and then rolled in a sugar mixture and put into a dry ice container so it'd get really hard and then put on the grill to caramelize the sugar.
HANSEN: And then that came from listener Andy Evans.
Ms. LINDEBORG: Right. I understand from the testers in Washington that they had a bit of trouble with it. And they couldn't actually get the ice cream balls to caramelize in the way that they should before they melted. I think we need some specific instructions from Mr. Evans on that one.
HANSEN: And two more.
Ms. LINDEBORG: The next one was a sweet apple and bacon puffs with a pomegranate glaze. And this dessert was made with puff pastry, which was cooked in the oven, but then put on the grill to heat up and to absorb the flavors of the grill. And slices of apple were wrapped with bacon and gorgonzola cheese. The apples had been pre-cooked a bit with some sweet spices.
And then these little fruit packages were grilled until the bacon was crisp, put into the puff pastry square and then a little bit of a pomegranate glaze. The reduction of the syrup was put over the top.
And I chose this one because it was pretty innovative. And, also, I noticed from going through the recipes, bacon is a really hot new thing for desserts. Bacon is trying to make the leap from breakfast to desserts.
HANSEN: And that recipe was from Chrystal Baker and Amir Thomas. And the third.
Ms. LINDEBORG: And the third is something that I call a Nutella banana stack. This dessert is done by cutting rounds of challah, buttering both sides, grilling one side, turning it over and putting a schmear of Nutella on the toast and putting it back on the grill and grilling the other side. Then taking banana pieces and rolling them in a little sugar with cinnamon and grilling them so they're nice and caramelized and soft. And then layering the bananas with the whipped cream between three stacks of the challah. This dessert takes on the flavor of the grill. It's on the grill for a good bit of time.
HANSEN: And that was from Cheryl Bryant.
Ms. LINDEBORG: Right.
HANSEN: Right. Kind of a Napoleon, I guess you could call it, too.
Ms. LINDEBORG: Exactly, exactly, yeah.
HANSEN: Right. Well, we took those three recipes, the top ones, and we passed them onto our own panel of judges, who gathered this week at the home of NPR food essayist Bonny Wolf.
BONNY WOLF: Okay. Let's dig in.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: I think we should be aware that other people are covering the economic meltdown and the crisis in Iran.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ZWERDLING: This is a more difficult assignment.
HANSEN: Those are our judges: Bonny Wolf, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling and Kate Jansen, the owner and head chef at Willow in Arlington, Virginia. They fired up the grill on Bonny's back patio and put the finalists' recipes to the test. And here they're talking about the winner.
ZWERDLING: It reminds me sort of a s'more, a big giant…
Ms. KATE JANSEN (Chef and Owner, Willow): Yeah, the only thing, no marshmallows. See, mine is completely falling apart. The bread is challah.
WOLF: Could you use, you could use any soft white bread, I guess.
Ms. JANSEN (Chef, Owner, Willow): I like the creaminess with the coolness of the whipped cream and the creaminess of the Nutella and the crunch of the toast. I think it's a winner.
WOLF: It's very good.
Ms. JENSEN: It's restaurant savvy.
WOLF: Is it?
Ms. JENSEN: It really is. Yes.
ZWERDLING: Wow. (unintelligible)
HANSEN: There you have it. Our winner, Cheryl Bryant of Winter Park, Florida, creator of the Banana and Nutella Napoleon. And she joins us now from member station WUCF in Orlando, Florida. Cheryl, welcome and congratulations.
Ms. CHERYL BRYANT: Well, thank you very much.
HANSEN: What do you think?
Ms. BRYANT: Well, I'm very excited, I have to say. I'm thrilled.
HANSEN: Is this something you make all the time?
Ms. BRYANT: It isn't, but I have to tell you, my husband got so excited I won, he went out and bought a new grill today.
(Soundbite of laughter)
HANSEN: Oh, that's hysterical. Where did this recipe come from?
Ms. BRYANT: I tell you, I heard on the radio the contest and my creative juices just started flowing. And I just sat down and started thinking about it and putting it together. I do cook all the time, so I'm always concocting recipes in my head.
HANSEN: You're not a professional chef, though, right?
Ms. BRYANT: No. I did bake for a short stint in Bloomington, Indiana at Michael's Uptown Cafe and Bakery, and that was years ago. And that's where I really got turned on to cooking. So I do think about it all the time and it's really my favorite thing to do. When I'm in my kitchen, I'm really in my zone.
HANSEN: What do you do for a living?
Ms. BRYANT: I'm a real estate agent.
Ms. BRYANT: Yeah, in the worst market in the country right now.
Ms. LINDEBORG: Well, you might want to think about going back in the kitchen, you know?
Ms. LINDEBORG: You know, the real estate market's slow, you could pick up a little work.
Ms. BRYANT: That's right. It's not a bad idea.
(Soundbite of laughter)
HANSEN: Well, you know, Kate Jansen, who was one of our judges, called your recipe restaurant-savvy, she's even offered to feature your dessert for two weeks at her restaurant starting this Friday. How about that?
Ms. BRYANT: I just got a tingle. That's a thrill.
HANSEN: Yeah. Well, this has been great fun. I want to thank you both for being with us. First, Susan Lindeborg, our pastry chef and one our judges. Thanks, Susan.
Ms. LINDEBORG: Thank you so much. I enjoyed doing the contest.
HANSEN: And Cheryl Bryant and her Banana Nutella Napoleon. Cheryl, congratulations and thank you.
Ms. BRYANT: Thank you so much.
HANSEN: You can watch a video of the judges prepare, taste and evaluate each dish. That's on our blog, npr.org/soapbox. And if you missed a chance to send in your recipe this time around, don't fret, we've got another contest coming your way. Next time: pizza - deep dish or thin crust? What kind of sauce? What kind of toppings? Pineapples, olives, Tic Tacs, whatever. Email your recipes for the perfect pie to email@example.com.