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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Strawberries and Cream (Cheese)

Is everyone ready for Christmas?! I almost thought I wouldn't make it; but right there at the end, my husband and I managed to pull out all the stops, and get the shopping done, gifts wrapped, tree up, and goodies baked.  Whew! Just in the nick of time.

For those of you who thought you got everything done, and then, just at the eleventh hour, realized that you're heading to a friend/family member/colleagues' place and you have nothing to bring, it's ok.  Don't panic, and for the love of God, put down that dusty bottle of wine.  Here's an elegant treat that you can whip up at the last moment. (Actually, the later you wait, the fresher it tastes.)

Strawberry Cheesecake Bites (modified from Pinterest, my new love)


Fair Warning: This is the lazy method (or panic-d method) of making this recipe.  You could make the cheesecake filling yourself. . . but why?  Just buy the tub from the grocery store and save yourself some time.

Ingredients:
4 Packs of strawberries (the larger the berry the better)
Beautiful Berries
1 Tub Philly cheesecake filling
4 oz White candy disks
4 oz Semisweet chocolate
Sugar pearls

Equipment:
Snowflake Template from Tickle the Imagination
Fancy pastry tip (1M works best, but I hadn't run the dishwasher, so I ended up with a french tip instead)
Parchment paper
Melon baller (or a small spoon works fine, just with slightly more effort)


Procedure:

Prep a cookie sheet with parchment paper

Cored and Ready!



Cut the leaf part off of the strawberries, and core them, inserting the melon baller at the widest part.

Cut a small portion of
the tips off so they stand up straight on their own.






Heat the semisweet chocolate gently over a double boiler until fully melted and glossy.  Be careful not to overheat, or else the chocolate will look lumpy and charred.

Tacked to the Parchment
Dip the point of the strawberry  (which is no longer really a point, since you chopped that part off) into the warm chocolate mixture and place on the cookie sheet.  Wiggle it around a little, so that there is a small pool of chocolate that forms beneath the strawberry, binding it to the parchment.

Let the chocolate solidify for at least 15 minutes.  The longer the better.  If you have enough time, wait an hour.





Meanwhile--

Fit a large pastry bag with a fancy tip -- some sort of star tip is best.  Fill with the cheesecake filling.  Store in the fridge.

Lay the snowflake template on a cookie sheet.






Cover with parchment paper and tape down.  Fill a pastry bag with the candy disks.  Microwave on 50% at 30 second intervals until the chocolate is fully melted but not burned.  In other words, the moment the chocolate is melted, remove it from the microwave.  Twist the top shut so chocolate won't come out the wrong end. The bag will be very hot, so wrap it in either a paper or kitchen towel to be able to properly handle it.  Cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the bag and test on a plate or scrap paper to make sure that you can pipe a smooth steady line of chocolate.  If not, cut the hole slightly larger.  Make sure you don't cut the hole too big, otherwise it will be impossible to control the line of chocolate.  It's all about moderation, people.

Pipe over the outline of each snowflake.  If you are anything like me, your snowflake may look a little messy, but that's ok, just tell people that it's in the process of melting ;)

Press a sugar bead into the middle of each snowflake.  This is easiest with a pair of (cooking) tweezers.  Otherwise, if using your fingers, be very careful.

Let the chocolate harden completely.  This won't take long because the lines are so thin, but I waited about 15 minutes just to be sure.  Peel very carefully from the parchment.

So pretty!

My chivalrous husband









Ok, back to the strawberries.  Pipe a mound of filling into each berry.  I found that this works best if you first pipe a ring on the border of the strawberry, then pipe straight down until the cavity fills, and then finally pipe up into a pyramid, starting from the border and working in.  If you use the same filling that I did, beware, it is very, very firm.  I almost gave myself a stress fracture trying to squeeze it out of the bag.  Eventually, my husband took over. 




Place a snowflake on top of each strawberry.  Be very careful; if you exert too much pressure, the snowflake will break. Sprinkle with some edible glitter.


Carefully move each strawberry to your serving plate to display as you wish.  Some of the chocolate may not transfer completely (I think this may be a consequence of contact with the relatively moist strawberries.)  If the chocolate is still moist, press down slightly when placing on the serving tray to suction the berry onto the tray.  Store in the fridge.  Surprisingly, these transport remarkably well, so they are a great gift

.

Because who doesn't like cheesecake and chocolate?? And the crowning grace? Definitely the lush juicy strawberries. . . In the middle of winter,  it's like a tiny bright promise of hope that one day summer will return.  So take a bite and taste the sunshine.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Delicious De"light"ful Dessert

Is anyone else stuffed to the gills by now? And we still have two weeks until the New Year! Far be it for me to ever say no to a plate of delicious holiday fare, but I think I'm coming up on my limit.  Of course, that will never prevent me from indulging, but I think I'm going to lean towards some lighter forms of sustenance until the end of the season.

Here is a great little dessert that's enough to end the day on a sweet note, without feeling like you'll have to be rolled to bed.  I made it as a birthday treat for a friend, but it would be great to bring to a holiday party or as a homemade Christmas present as well.  Much better than fruitcake in my opinion!
(Does anyone actually eat that stuff anyways?)

Raspberry Lime Meringues Nests

Ingredients
3 egg whites at room temperature
(If you are ambitious, you can save the yolks for ice cream.  If you are me, then you'll dump them down the garbage disposal and pat yourself on the back for using the 'healthy' part of the egg, conveniently ignoring the sugar content in this recipe)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp Razzmatazz liqueur
Rose pink gel food coloring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp chocolate extract
4 oz cream cheese
Lime curd
(You can make this yourself, but I buy Dickinson's every time I need a lemon or lime curd.  It's more shelf stable and tastes dee-li-ci-ous) 
Raspberries
Mint l

eaves

Stiff Peaks!



Technique

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a sheet pan with a Silpat or with parchment paper.  If using parchment paper, be sure to weigh down the edges so it doesn't move when piping the meringues.  Stability is key for this recipe!

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and flavorings to soft peaks using a whisk attachment.  Color the meringue to personal taste. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar, 1/3 cup at a time until stiff peaks form.


Note the Leaning Tower of Meringue in the upper left corner

Fill a large piping bag with the meringue.  I fitted a Wilton 1M star tip to the bag to make it pretty, but you can even just cut a small hole in the tip of the bag and pipe that way as well.
Starting from the center, pipe outwards in a spiral to form a flat circle. Don't leave any holes, or you won't be able to fill the nests without leaking.  The diameter is personal preference.  I made mine approximately 2 1/2 inches.  Carefully, build a wall by piping circles (higher and higher) around the outer edge of the base.
You must make sure that your wall is 90 degrees to the base, or else your nests will start to lean.

Carefully transfer the sheet pan to the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cream 1/3 cup sugar with cream cheese.  When fully incorporated, add the whipping cream, chocolate extract and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and whip to stiff peaks.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton 2D star tip with the whipped cream.

After the 45 minutes of baking time has elapsed, turn off oven and leave tray in oven 15 minutes more until the meringues are crisp and feel light. The base may still be a bit soft, but don't worry, it will firm up when cooled completely.

You can store the meringues within an air-tight container in a cool, dry place for up to a few days.

Spoon layer of lime curd into nest to cover the bottom, and fill 2/3 full.  Pipe whipped cream to fill the remainder of the nest. Then overlapping a small portion of the edge of the nest, pipe towards the center to create a pyramid of whipped cream.

Top with a couple of raspberries and a mint leaf. (And some edible glitter if you're like me and love sparkles!)



Now they're ready!  Again, makes a great gift.  And you know, you can always gift something to yourself. . . right? Just a thought! ;)