Johnny Iuzzini

Johnny Iuzzini makes a case for chocolate and caramel with lemon and provides tips on how to keep your cake in tact in the heat.

on Sep 6, 2011 Lemon and desserts. What can you tell us about working with lemon. 
Johnny Iuzzini: I love lemons. They are bright, tart, and refreshing, but they can be difficult to pair sometimes, as well as difficult to work with. They can adversely affect other ingredients, like dairy, if not combined properly, causing it to curdle. I use lemons and other citrus quite often -- they help make a dessert that may seem heavy feel much lighter through the acidity. Also, when you heat any citrus you change its flavor, you lose some of the acidity, freshness and bite. Whenever possible I always try and add the citrus last and to a cool mixture. Did you agree with the guest judges’ comments that caramel and chocolate don’t work well with lemon? How could the chefs have made them work? 
JI: I do not agree with Margaret's comments that caramel and chocolate do not go well with chocolate. That said, the way that Orlando incorporated the chocolate in his dessert was not very creative or thoughtful. I often make desserts that combine caramel or chocolate with lemon. It is all about proportion and balance. They are all very strong flavors -- they can't all be the stars at the same time. What I mean is, if you are making a dessert with chocolate and lemon, pick which one will be the dominant flavor and have the second be the complementary flavor so they are not competing. The problems arise when you can't figure out if it's a chocolate dessert with lemon or a lemon dessert with chocolate. As far as caramel is concerned, I think the rich, bitter buttery flavor of caramel has the potential to pair nicely with lemon. The acid helps balance both the bitterness and fatty quality while contributing a brightness to the combination. Did you notice a difference in the level of this week’s showpieces to last week’s? 
JI: I think the chefs are starting to feel more comfortable in front of the cameras, they aren't as timid and they are sure cursing like the cameras aren't around. I think they are starting to figure who has which strengths, and the smarter teams are capitalizing on it. Unfortunately some of the chefs weren't so forthcoming with their strengths and weaknesses. I don't understand why the chefs didn't stop at any point and evaluate their progress and quality of their other teammates' work. This is a different genre of the business. Not everyone makes these types of cakes everyday. There is an art as well as a certain discipline to make these types of cakes. Some of the chefs definitely understood this more then others.