Recipes: Bright flavors, seasonal fruit shine in desserts from Claudia Martinez

Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez offers some spring-to-summer seasonal recipes: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts (top), Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries (bottom left), and Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch (bottom right). Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

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Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez offers some spring-to-summer seasonal recipes: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts (top), Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries (bottom left), and Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch (bottom right). Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Miller Union pastry chef shares recipes for spring, summer

But Martinez has quite a resume of her own, studying culinary arts and earning a food service degree at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, and starting out at Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene, where she worked as a line cook and a prep cook, before deciding to learn more about pastry.

“It wasn’t something I liked in school or something I was really good at,” Martinez said during a recent chat at Miller Union. “I got really curious about it at Eugene because the chefs there were playing with vegetables and local ingredients, and it was a little bit more elaborate, and a little more fun.”

In 2017, Martinez doubled down on that curiosity and moved to Sweden for a month, where she worked and studied with pastry chef David Vidal.

“I ended up falling in love with it,” she said. “He taught me about molds, and different fruits, and playing with textures and powders.”

When Martinez landed back in Atlanta, she joined the team at Atlas, then became the pastry chef at Tiny Lou’s, where her career really took off. In 2019, she was named an Eater Young Gun, and she was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2020.

Combined ShapeCaption
Pastry chef Claudia Martinez of Miller Union, with her desserts: (from left) Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts, and Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch. (Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Pastry chef Claudia Martinez of Miller Union, with her desserts: (from left) Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts, and Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch. (Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Pastry chef Claudia Martinez of Miller Union, with her desserts: (from left) Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts, and Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch. (Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

When she’s not in the kitchen at Miller Union, Martinez often can be found at her weekend “Café Claudia” pop-ups, where she sells desserts and pastries, and partners with other Atlanta restaurants and chefs to raise money for social justice organizations.

Asked about the signature style of her desserts, Martinez said she always likes to incorporate fruit and keep things light, and she often pays homage to her Venezuelan heritage.

“I think my desserts aren’t as sweet or heavy,” she added. “I think I play off nostalgic flavors. So if it’s something I grew up eating, or something that’s well known, like a PB&J or strawberry shortcake, I break it down in different ways. Fruit and chocolate are important to me, as far as letting them shine on their own.”

Asked to come up with some spring-to-summer seasonal recipes to share with readers, Martinez decided on a Meyer Lemon Semifreddo with oat cookie crumble and macerated strawberries.

“Semifreddo translates to semi-frozen,” she said. “And it’s topped with strawberries with some sugar, and an oatmeal cookie that’s been broken up for some texture. You just spread the dough out in a pan and bake it.”

Then there’s a no-bake recipe for Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse topped with pretzel crunch. “You just put it in the fridge and it sets up,” she said. “Then you scoop it out however you want to serve it. I just use an ice cream scoop.”

Martinez explained that year-round she always likes to offer a chocolate dessert for those who don’t care for fruit desserts. This time, it’s a gluten-free chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce and candied hazelnuts.

RECIPES

These spring-to-summer desserts from Miller Union executive pastry chef Claudia Martinez feature bright flavors and seasonal fruit, but there’s a special treat for chocolate lovers, too.

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You can cool off this time of year with Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez's Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

You can cool off this time of year with Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez's Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
You can cool off this time of year with Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez's Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries

A semi-frozen dessert made with tart lemons and sweet strawberries is topped with cookie crumbles for more flavor and texture.

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo With Oat Cookie Crumble and Macerated Strawberries
  • For the semifreddo:
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice, Meyer lemons preferred
  • Salt to taste
  • In a medium bowl, whisk heavy cream until medium stiff whipped cream is formed and let chill in refrigerator.
  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to medium heat on the stove.
  • In a large metal bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Set the bowl over the pot of heated water (not boiling) and whisk constantly until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy, about 4 minutes, or 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Remove bowl from over heated water. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  • Fold in the chilled whipped cream. Transfer mixture to a large container and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or with a knife. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze semifreddo until firm, at least 6 hours or overnight.

  • For the oat cookie crumble:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time and add vanilla.
  • In another medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, then pour and stir into the creamed mixture, and mix in the oats until incorporated into a dough.
  • Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 10-inch baking pan.
  • Spread the dough out evenly in the baking pan, allowing it to crumble up a bit.
  • Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  • Cool and crumble up the pieces of cookie until small and broken up.

  • For the macerated strawberries:
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Wash, hull and slice strawberries and place in a large glass bowl.
  • Stir in sugar, lime juice and zest and let stand for 30 minutes, to allow the strawberries to release their natural juices.
  • Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

  • To assemble:
  • Remove semifreddo from freezer, scoop into ramekins, and top with cooled oat cookie crumble and strawberries, plus a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately. Serves 10.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, entire recipe: 898 calories (percent of calories from fat, 41), 15 grams protein, 120 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 41 grams total fat (23 grams saturated), 262 milligrams cholesterol, 705 milligrams sodium.
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Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez knows some people prefer chocolate desserts to fruit ones, so here's her Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez knows some people prefer chocolate desserts to fruit ones, so here's her Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez knows some people prefer chocolate desserts to fruit ones, so here's her Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts

This dense, gluten-free take on chocolate cake is topped with a salty-sweet combo of gooey caramel and crunchy hazelnuts.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake With Salted Caramel and Candied Hazelnuts
  • For the cake:
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • Sea salt to finish
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a small pot over low heat, add chocolate chips and butter and stir until melted and combined.
  • Transfer the melted chocolate and butter to a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar, salt and cocoa powder.
  • Add the eggs one by one, beating briefly until smooth. Whisk until well combined and lump free.
  • Grease a 10-inch baking pan and pour in the chocolate cake mixture, spreading evenly.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes or until cake is firm on top.
  • Remove from oven and let cool.

  • For the salted caramel:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • In a medium pot, combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Allow to boil until the mixture turns a light brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and immediately, while whisking, add cream in stages until well combined.
  • Add the vanilla extract, salt and butter into the same pot and whisk to combine.
  • Allow the caramel sauce to cool, then strain into desired container to ensure a smooth texture. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

  • For the candied hazelnuts:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12-ounce bag of chopped hazelnuts
  • Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg white, salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Add hazelnuts and toss to coat.
  • Spread nut mixture in a single layer on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 325 degrees until crisp and toasted, about 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool completely. Store nuts in an airtight container up to 1 week.

  • To assemble cake:
  • Cut into slices or use a biscuit cutter to shape into rounds, drizzle caramel on top, sprinkle with candied hazelnuts, and add a pinch of sea salt. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, entire recipe: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 8 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 40 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 89 milligrams cholesterol, 832 milligrams sodium.
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You can leave the oven off when you make Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch, a recipe from Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

You can leave the oven off when you make Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch, a recipe from Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Combined ShapeCaption
You can leave the oven off when you make Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch, a recipe from Miller Union pastry chef Claudia Martinez. Styling by Claudia Martinez / Chris Hunt for the AJC

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch

This easy, no-bake cheesecake mousse is served with a white chocolate, pretzel and peanut butter crunch topping.

Raspberry Cheesecake Mousse With Pretzel Crunch
  • For the mousse:
  • 15 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 15 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pulse raspberries, lemon juice and zest in a food processor or blender until well pureed. Strain puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl to remove seeds. Set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, use a mixer with a whisk attachment to whip heavy cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  • In a separate large mixing bowl, paddle together cream cheese and 2 cups powdered sugar until combined. Add vanilla. Increase to high speed and whip until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • With a spatula, mix in strained raspberry puree until well combined.
  • Fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream mixture, then add remaining mixture and fold until just combined.
  • Once combined, pour mixture into a container, cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours until ready to serve.

  • For the pretzel crunch:
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini pretzels or pretzel pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Place chocolate in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Fill a large pot with water to halfway full and bring to a boil.
  • Place bowl with chocolate over the pot and stir with a spatula until chocolate is melted. Remove bowl from the pot and add pretzel pieces, peanut butter, salt and vanilla, stirring to combine.
  • Spread mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, as thinly as possible, and freeze until chocolate hardens.
  • Remove from freezer and break up crunch into small pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • To serve: Scoop the raspberry cheesecake mousse into bowls and top with pieces of pretzel crunch. Add fresh fruit or whipped cream if desired. Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, entire recipe: 501 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 5 grams protein, 51 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 30 grams total fat (19 grams saturated), 69 milligrams cholesterol, 422 milligrams sodium.

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