An Adieu to Strawberries: Individual Strawberry Crisps

They weren't plentiful this year, but they sure were pretty and sweet!

They weren’t plentiful this year, but they sure were pretty and sweet!

Although it seemed unusually short, we did have a brief strawberry season here and the few I was able to procure were very sweet and lovely. They were from North Carolina and Florida, not Georgia berries. I think we had too much rain for a good local crop this year, in fact.

The first round of berries were consumed for breakfast in short order. The second round involved a big blowout berry sale, and I felt compelled to make a dessert. Thinking I would still have more berries coming to make a shortcake this year, I decided to do a crisp first. Alas, I was wrong about the first part of that statement, but this new little twist on my older version of a crisp was absolutely outstanding! Good enough to revisit and share with you today, I think. Making individual servings versus a large pan of crisp concentrated all the flavors of the berries, juices and even the crisp component, into a truly divine dessert. Even if you don’t have fresh and local strawberries, this is a great way to enjoy any berry or peach crisp. But hopefully you do have some strawberries coming your way and can give the following recipe a try!

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But before I post the modified recipe below, I must show you the last of the spring flowers from both my garden and my mom’s garden. I know we still have a couple of weeks of Spring left, but it sure feels more like Summer around here right now, and the spring flowers are gone for this year. Above is another little slideshow of flowers for your enjoyment. Have a happy Monday!

The key to this recipe is definitely individual servings. The smaller delivery vehicle concentrates the flavors!

The key to this recipe is definitely individual servings. The smaller delivery vehicle concentrates the flavors!

What? No strawberries? No worries, this will work with apples, peaches, cherries or berries. The Grand Marnier is good with cherries, but you can change up the liqueur to suit the fruit and yourself…peaches and a splash of amaretto or bourbon, perhaps? Or you can omit the alcohol altogether. You can also try lemon zest instead of orange…it’s all good!

Individual Strawberry Orange and Almond Crisps
Makes 6

For the berries:
2 1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced
zest of one orange
1/3 cup sugar, preferably cane sugar
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 Tablespoon flour

For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup rolled (not quick cooking) oats
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 lb. (I stick) unsalted butter, cold and diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter six 1-cup baking ramekins generously and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the berries, zest, sugar, Grand Marnier and flour, stirring to mix well and set aside while you make the topping.

In a small bowl combine the flour, both sugars, salt, oats, almonds and the butter, and use your hands to lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients until it just becomes crumbly with pea-sized pieces of butter.

Transfer the berries and their juices to the prepared ramekins and divide evenly. Top each evenly with the crumble topping. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet that has been completely covered in aluminum foil and place the whole in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees until the filling is bubbling and the topping is a light golden brown and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla bean ice cream.

The full Strawberry Moon!

This post wouldn’t be complete without an unedited picture of the full Strawberry Moon!

*****

Always Easy, Always Elegant: Coeur a la Creme with Strawberry Raspberry Grand Marnier Sauce

Coeur a la creme by candlelight...very romantic!

Coeur a la creme by candlelight…very romantic!

True. This is certainly a go-to recipe for Valentine’s Day, and this is the dessert I made for my Valentine. But this oh-so-versatile and easy dessert really shouldn’t be reserved for just once a year. It’s cool and creamy—nice for those hot months. It’s pretty impressive looking and can be made ahead—great for company. And best of all, you don’t have to cook a thing to make it! At least not for this version.

You’ll find more variations on this not very sweet, but very elegant French dessert than you can “shake a stick at!” Whether you choose to use cream cheese or mascarpone…sour cream, whipping cream or crème fraiche (or even yogurt!)…vanilla bean or vanilla extract…a coeur mold, or no mold at all—the truth is, it’s hard to go wrong! And just about the same thing can be said of your sauce in that you can substitute your favorite berry or berries, liqueur or no alcohol, jam or no jam. It’s all good!

This take on Coeur à la Crème is dead easy. The hardest part is forcing the mixture through a sieve before you mold it, and even that isn’t too difficult. So why wait for the next Valentine’s Day to roll around before you give this dessert a try? Year round, it’s a beautiful winner of a dessert for any occasion…or no occasion at all.

Coeur à la Crème (Heart with cream)
4 to 6 servings

12 oz. good quality regular cream cheese at room temp
4 oz. light sour cream (I like to use half light and half regular sour cream to lighten the dessert)
4 oz. regular sour cream (or use 8 oz. creme fraiche instead of sour cream if you’re feeling really decadent!)
4 Tablespoons confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
3/4 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the sauce:
6 oz. fresh raspberries
1 1/2 cups of sliced fresh strawberries, plus one strawberry cut into a fan for garnish
3 Tablespoons of granulated cane sugar, or more to taste if the fruit is too tart
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1- 2 cup Coeur à la crème mold, or a fine meshed sieve (this will make a domed shaped dessert)
Cheesecloth

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and the lemon juice with a hand mixer on medium high speed until it’s smooth and fluffy. Using a stiff spatula, force the cream and cheese mixture through a fine meshed sieve to remove any lumps. Cut a single layer of cheesecloth to fit your mold, or if not using a mold, a clean fine meshed sieve. Dampen the cheesecloth with water and squeeze out any excess moisture, then line the mold or sieve with the cheesecloth. Transfer the cream and cheese mixture to the mold, spreading evenly and smoothing the top. Cover the top with the edges of the cheesecloth, pressing down lightly, and set the mold on a plate, or the sieve over a bowl, to catch any drips. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two days ahead, or for at least for 6 hours before serving.

To make the sauce, in a medium bowl combine 1/2 of the raspberries, 1/2 of the strawberries, all of the sugar, lemon juice and Grand Marnier. Mash the berries and other ingredients together until there are only small bits of fruit. Add the remaining whole raspberries and strawberries and gently toss with the rest of the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours before using, stirring occasionally.

To serve, pull back the cheesecloth from the top of the coeur, then unmold the coeur carefully onto a serving plate and gently peel off the remaining cheesecloth. Allow the coeur to stand at room temperature for 10 – 15 minutes, then decorate with a sliced and fanned strawberry, present it whole at the table and then portion onto dessert plates, serving the berry sauce spooned on top of each portion. Ooh, là, là!

There's something about the texture of the cheesecloth and the holes in the mold that I find charming!

There’s something about the texture of the cheesecloth and the holes in the mold that I find charming!

Strawberry Shortcake for Breakfast and the ABC Award

We’ve had some fine Florida strawberries in the market lately and I wanted to make something special with them…at least special to us as we don’t eat dessert all the time around here. Enter the current issue of Bon Appetit, where I saw this recipe for shortcake that sounded intriguing and a bit healthier than some. Not that it has any ‘diet’ ingredients, or low fat this or that, but it incorporates ground almonds and oats into the batter…lovely! I tweaked it only a little in that I used half and half instead of cream because that’s what I had on hand. The result was really flavorful and not too sweet, with a coarser and more crumbly texture than the traditional biscuit or cake-y versions. We had some for dessert the first time, and then I realized I’d like it ever so much better for breakfast! I layered it with Greek yogurt instead of whipped cream and it was a really nice way to start the morning. Here’s the link to the original recipe, if you’d like to try it for yourself. Continue reading