Category Archives: Custards, creams, puddings, mousses

Light Almond Cream with Plums

almondcreampIf your only idea of a perfect sweet treat is a thick slice of a rich, frosted cake, then you might not appreciate this post. If, however, like me, you avoid (or at least you try…) doubling the meal’s calorie intake in its last course or/and if you are thrilled at the idea of guiltless, but luscious refreshing desserts, this almond cream is definitely worth your attention.

Some of you might remember my custardy creams/custards set with agar, a gelling agent made from seaweed. Agar, or agar-agar (“kanten” in Japanese) is usually sold in a form of powder or in long sticks, but I always use the powdered form which seems easier to handle. Agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, contrary to most agar users, I am not fond of thick standard jellies, so I simply use less agar. Thus, it barely sets liquids, resulting in something similar to a custard or a cream.

Until now most of my agar experiments featured coconut milk mixed with cow milk as the basic ingredient (see below). This one follows exactly the same method, but I use here almond milk instead and am more than satisfied with the results. I will soon test almond milk with other fruits, but at least I know that together with plums it creates a fantastic cooling dessert or snack. I am planning also to test almond cream since I’m sure it can be substituted with a similar albeit slightly richer result.

If you are not fond of almond milk, you might like some of these:

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

TIPS: I find agar even easier to use than gelatin (though it is not a gelatin replacement since it sets liquids in a slightly different way and cannot be used in every recipe). I use powdered pure agar and it is very easy to dissolve in liquids. There are however different agar powders on the market (some contain sugar for example or other additives), so check the ingredients list and look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is supposed to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon”, custardy consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package, but make sure you don’t use too much agar (it’s easy to overdose!) because you might end up not only with a standard jelly, but with something practically inedible.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and, once disturbed, it will not reset properly! On the other hand do not pour the very hot cream because it will “boil” the fruit. Leave the mixture until it is still a bit hot, but not room temperature.

These creams will keep in the fridge for several days, so you can make a whole batch only for yourself!

You can make these creams for example in small jars with lids and take with you to work, on a trip or for a picnic.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

500 ml/about 2 cups almond milk

4 flat tablespoons sugar (or more if you prefer very sweet desserts or if the plums are very tangy)

1/3 flat teaspoon pore agar agar in powder (if your agar powder contains other ingredients too, check the TIPS above)

about 1/2 kg (about 1 lb) plums cut into bite-sized pieces + some more for decoration

(toasted almond slivers)

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the almond milk.

Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).

Distribute the plum pieces evenly among the bowls.

Pour the slightly hot (not room temperature yet!) almond milk over the fruit pieces and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold decorated with fresh plums and, if you want, toasted almond slivers.

 

Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Mousse with Cherries

choco_cherry_pThis year, thanks to favourable weather conditions, cherries have appeared in France and Switzerland early, so I have been enjoying them for quite a long time. This refreshing slightly tangy dessert keeps them raw, untransformed, preserving not only their taste, but, I guess, much of the precious vitamin C. Obviously, they make a perfect pair with dark chocolate. The photograph you see above was taken last year when I was offered some black sour cherries (unavailable here), but I have tested this mousse with sweet cherries several times this year and it was equally delicious (well, to be frank… almost… if, like me, you appreciate sour cherries).

WARNING! This lighter mousse contains Greek yogurt and it will be slightly tangy in taste, so if you don’t like tanginess combined with chocolate and/or you wish to prepare a richer dessert, you might want to try the below quick eggless chocolate mousse version instead, prepared with cream (and without gelatin):

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin used depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller; powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products (for example sugar) and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid, so check the package instructions. (The whole mixture has more than 500 ml (+ cherries), so the mousse will be firm, but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you want to make this dessert quicker and in an easier way, you can omit the gelatin and you will obtain a cream rather than a firm mousse. The taste will be the same.

The colour of this mousse will depend on the chocolate’s quality. The darker it is and the higher its cocoa content is, the darker the mousse will be.

The mousses keep well (covered) in the fridge for several days.

Preparation: 20 minutes + several hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

350 ml (about 12 fl oz) Greek yogurt (if you use low-fat yogurt, it might be too sour, so I cannot guarantee the same taste result)

200 g (about 7 oz) good quality dark chocolate (I use here organic, min. 72% cocoa chocolate) + some more for decoration (if you wish)

about 25 big pitted cherries + 20 for decoration

5 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

(1 flat teaspoon instant coffee)

(several tablespoons kirsch)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a pan on a very low heat or in a water bath (stirring and watching it constantly so that it doesn’t burn) or in a microwave (if you microwave it, do it in two-three stages because once it’s “cooked”, it cannot be used).

Put aside and let it cool down.

When the chocolate is warm, but no longer hot, pour it into a food processor.

Add the yogurt, the sugar, the coffee and the kirsch if you use it.

Mix the yogurt and chocolate mixture until smooth.
Taste if it’s sweet enough for your taste and add more sugar if needed. Mix again.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water or even hot water if it’s advised on your package. If using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water.

Mix well the dissolved gelatin with the yogurt mixture. 

Divide the pitted cherries into individual serving bowls.

Pour the mousse over them.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and cherries just before serving.

 

Greek Yogurt Mousse (Light Unbaked Cheesecake) with Canned Peaches

cannedpeachchWhoever invented canned peaches, was a genius. Unlike pineapple or litchi, I never see them as  poorer – and sickly sweet – cousins of fresh ones, but almost like different fruits, which, apart from being delicious, are easy to stock and to use. They add a beautiful sunny touch to all the cold season desserts and proved perfect with this new spring variation of my simple Greek yogurt mousse. When summer comes, fresh peaches will be a marvellous replacement, obviously.

To some of you this basic mousse recipe might seem familiar. Indeed, I have already posted several different versions of it (see below), but all under the name “unbaked cheesecake”. Now you might wonder how it became a Greek yogurt mousse. First of all, even though this popular Polish dessert is prepared as a whole cake (usually with crusty bottom and jelly on top, but I have never liked either, so I skip both) and cut before serving, I have always opted for individual portions. Secondly and finally, the substitution of its main ingredient (smooth fresh curd cheese/”quark”/fromage frais), difficult to find in some countries, with the ubiquitous Greek yogurt is a perfect solution and technically makes it a… Greek yogurt mousse.

This mousse (or rather its different versions) is one of the most frequent sweet treats I indulge in. It is easy, quick to prepare, versatile and totally guilt-free; moreover, individual portions keep well for several days in the fridge. I come up with new modification ideas every year, so you will probably see some new creations soon. Until now I have prepared the following versions:

with Passion Fruit

with Passion Fruit

with Blueberry

with Blueberry

with Strawberry

with Strawberry

with Sour Cherries

with Sour Cherries

with Vanilla

with Vanilla

TIPS: As I have mentioned both the natural fresh cheese I usually use here and Greek yogurt are perfect.

The amount of gelatin depends sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

If you have a choice of different forms of gelatin, but have never worked with it, I strongly advise buying the powdered one, my favourite. It’s easier to dissolve than the one in “cristals” and you don’t have to go through two stages, as it’s the case with leaves.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 g  (about 17 oz) Greek yogurt or very smooth (mixed) fresh cheese/curd cheese/quark/fromage frais/serek homogenizowany) 

1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)

4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

1 can of peaches

(2 tablespoons rum)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the yogurt (or cheese), the rum and the sugar in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Pour the yogurt mixture into individual bowls or glasses and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving cut the peaches into bite-sized pieces and put on top of each mousse.

Light Matcha (Green Tea) Cream

matchacreamnSpring is still at its earliest shy stages here, but I already start dreaming of light refreshing desserts and those flavoured with matcha instantly come to my mind. This cold light matcha cream with its freshness, its astringency and its magnificent green colour perfectly embodies springtime and the boost of energy I desperately need now.

The recipe is based on a classic French milk and yolk baked cream, which can be tweaked with any chosen flavour. I took it from “Le meilleuret le plus simple de Robuchon and simply added matcha. At the time I made this cream for the first time I used the cheapest matcha available in Switzerland (which was quite expensive anyway, like every matcha I see in Europe). When I used a better quality product brought from Japan, I realised that not only the colour but also the taste and aroma had nothing to do with my first experiments. Instead of pale, greyish hue, I have been obtaining a vibrant, impressive green colour and intense taste. Now that I see my old photos and this one, I feel this is a completely different dessert! (Not to mention the flavours). I encourage everyone to avoid the cheapest matcha. Buying the second least expensive one will make a big difference (UPDATE: of course this advice is for those who live outside of Japan, where the cheapest matcha from a good brand is excellent anyway).

After dozens of creams prepared and thoroughly enjoyed, I must admit I still have a slight problem with matcha sediments staying at the bottom of each dish… It doesn’t bother me and I’m even delighted to find the most intense flavours at the bottom, but I thought it’s worth mentioning in case some of you have a trick to avoid this flaw.

If you feel like playing with matcha, you might also like these ideas:

Moist Poppy Cake with Matcha Ganache

Moist Poppy Cake with Matcha Ganache

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml (about 14 fl oz) milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 flat tablespoons matcha + some more to sprinkle before serving

Pour the milk into a pan.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the matcha.

Strain the warm milk into the bowl with egg yolks and mix everything with a spoon.

Wash the pan.

Pour the cream mixture into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling), constantly stirring.

Strain it and put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture once more into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that it comes up to the halfway point of the baking dishes.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with sieved matcha just before serving.

Far Breton (Brittany Prune Pudding Cake)

farbretonpp

I rarely bake (at least compared to most bloggers I follow), mainly because, no matter which season of the year, I crave usually light creams, custards or mousses you will find published quite often on my blog and I often find a piece of good dark chocolate totally sufficient as a daily sweet treat. When I do bake, I often go back to my favourite thin French-style tarts or moist, creamy cakes, such as Polish Light Cheesecake, Moist Coconut Cake or… Far Breton, which is my definite favourite. Actually, if I were to show here every single sweet treat coming out of my oven, I think it would appear on my blog probably 80% of the time. I hope my love for this light, custardy pudding cake and a slight photographic improvement are valid excuses to rewrite about it after two years.

Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition. As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, several centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, far meaning “wheat” or “spelt” in Latin. Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.

Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton according to the same method for at least ten years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and also for its low sugar content.

Coolness, extreme softness, moisture and a slight elasticity are the main reasons I find this cake irresistible. I also appreciate it for its lightness and low flour and fat content. My far breton is only slightly sweet, so if you are not the kind of person who cuts down the sugar content by half in every recipe (I do), add at least 50% more. The balance between the sweetness and acidity depends also on the prunes though.

TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).

Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)

Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):

250 g/about 9 oz flour

70 g / about 2,5 oz sugar

4 eggs

750 ml/ about 25 fl oz milk

1 pinch salt

a bit of salted butter to grease the dish

25 big prunes (stoned)

a bowl of hot strong black tea

50-100 ml/about 1,7 – 3,5 fl oz rum

Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).

Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).

Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.

Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.

Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).

Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.

Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.

Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold, sliced.

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

matchacbpIf you are fond of matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) you have probably tasted Matcha Crème Brûlée, which has become popular worldwide. Green tea’s astringency and slight bitterness is not everyone’s fare, but its fans appreciate its refreshing, cooling effect and unique herbaceous aroma. I have always enjoyed all the sweets and desserts with matcha, so even though I had always been disappointed with such inventions as chocolate or coffee crème brûlée, I wasn’t surprised that matcha crème brûlée proved an exception. Nowadays, apart from the traditional vanilla-scented one, it’s the only version of this French dessert I like and prepare.

I have called my crème brûlée “light” because it’s lighter than the old cream-only recipe. Following the vanilla-scented recipe found in “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition I put half milk and half cream. As I have mentioned in one of my crème brûlée posts, this is not a diet recipe or a diet book and the author doesn’t call this cream “light”. Alain Ducasse is one of the most renowned French chefs and his cuisine simply follows the modern tendency (adapted to our lifestyles) to make food less fatty and less sweet, as long as it doesn’t affect the taste. Personally, I find this lighter version an improvement to the old-fashioned heavy one: I find it more elegant and sophisticated.

I have already written about Matcha Crème Brûlée two years ago. In the meantime I stopped using the cheapest matcha brand and this – wise – decision made me change the ingredients’ amounts (if the tea is of higher quality, you use less of it) and seemed a good excuse to write about it once more. I have also realised that a higher quality matcha produces a more beautiful, brighter colour. In short, if you ever try making any matcha dessert, invest in a slightly more expensive brand.

If you don’t feel like experimenting with matcha or if you are simply not a fan of this Japanese green tea, you might like the classic Light Crème Brûlée:

Light Crème Brûlée

Light Crème Brûlée

TIPS:  Do not taste this matcha version (it doesn’t concern the traditional crème brûlée) unless it has spent 12 hours in the fridge. It improves with time. It was excellent after 12 hours, but, after 48 hours in the fridge, it became simply sensational.

Blowtorch is a very good investment since, at least from my experience, it’s impossible to obtain the contrasting textures and temperatures crème brûlée is famous for with an oven broiler (the cream warms up). You can use blowtorch on many other custardy desserts and sweet tarts. (It’s usually quite cheap, at least here).

Click here for a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

If you don’t have brown cane sugar, you can use caster sugar to burn, but the taste is worse.

If you travel to France and order burnt cream in an unknown restaurant, I would strongly advise asking if it’s burnt just before being served. I had several times an unpleasant surprise of soggy caramel and a uniform temperature in restaurants where the cream is burnt before the opening hours and sits for several hours in the fridge.

Special equipment: a blowtorch

Preparation: about 2 hours+ min. 12 hours in the fridge (the best is to wait 48 hours)

Calories (the whole batch, using skimmed milk and including the burnt sugar): about 1600 kcal

Ingredients (serves 4):

5 egg yolks

250 ml/8,5 fl oz/about 1 cup milk

250 ml/8,5 oz/about 1 cup liquid cream (without any thickeners; I use cream with 25% fat content)

4 teaspoons matcha (choose a medium quality brand; if you use cheapest brand you should increase the amounts)

4 slightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar

about 50 g/about 1/4 cup cane sugar (but not the moist one!)

Put the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, put aside for 30 minutes.

Strain it.

Preheat the oven at 100°C or 120°C if it’s the old oven type .

Put the yolks, the sugar and the matcha in a blender or food processor and mix it.

Add the warm – not hot! – milk with cream and mix again for a couple of minutes.

Strain it to eliminate the foam and pour the mixture into six burnt cream dishes or other small shallow ramekins.

Bake it for approximately 45 minutes. (The custards are ready when only their centres are slightly trembling when moved).

Let them cool down. Put into the fridge for at least 12 hours (but it would be even better to leave them for 48 hours).

Just before serving take the creams out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel (water drops will appear on the surface and they will make the burning process difficult).

Sprinkle with cane sugar and caramelise it with a special blowtorch.

Serve immediately while the top is still warm and crunchy and the cream below stays very cold.

Black Currant and Yogurt Mousse

moussecassisp

Tantalising colour, inebriating, strong aroma and unique, sophisticated tart flavour… I was completely taken aback by this new version of my staple yogurt and fruit mousse. The results of this experiment went well beyond my expectations and proved that black currant operates like a magic wand, taking everything to an unforgettable, superior sensory level.

I remember when already as a small, tanginess-loving child I was thrilled to be able to eat finally ripe black currants straight from the bush, hypnotised by the amazing aroma of both the fruits and the leaves. For long years, apart from its fresh form, the only black currant product I knew was my beloved tart, almost black jam which has no equals and is particularly excellent in cakes. Several years ago I started to infuse vodkas and quickly realised that the black currant one beats by far all the other fruit alcohols I have ever made. This light dessert will be one more reason I will impatiently wait every year for the short black currant season.

If you feel like experimenting other black currant recipes, you might like to try the amazing Black Currant Infused Vodka:

vodkacassisp

If you find only red currants, you can test them in this mousse too (though I don’t guarantee the results: I haven’t tried them yet this way) or check the fabulous hot and sweet red currant jelly at Eva’s Kitchen Inspirations.

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh), but this particular black currant one loses a lot of its aroma after about two days. If you want to serve the mousse for a dinner, you can prepare it a day before. It will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

The only annoying part here is removing the dry black currants tips, but it’s definitely worth the effort and time. I did it with small scissors.

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

300 g (about 10,5 oz) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

150 – 200 g (about 5 – 6 oz) black currants (hulled, with dry tips removed)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

some black currants for the decoration

Mix the black currants (without the dry tips!) in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Serve very cold.

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Chocolate Ganache

strmousseganachep

How I wish the strawberry season stretched to the whole year… Even though I’m happy to see cherries, apricots or peaches appear on my market, I am unable to ignore strawberries, which now, in their later varieties, have a much more complex and interesting taste. Last weekend I ended up once more making my staple yogurt and fruit mousse. At the same time the chocolate craving wouldn’t leave me, so I decided to cover each portion with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache instead of the initially planned strawberry coulis. “Sensational” is the only word I find to describe it.

If you like this recipe, you might also like this coconut and strawberry combination:

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you prefer a sweeter ganache, you can add sugar. I never do because even bitter chocolate is sweet enough for me (of course the instant coffee can be replaced with several teaspoons of strong espresso or skipped; I practically always add a pinch of coffee to my chocolate desserts because it enhances the bitter chocolate flavours). The chocolate ganache can be prepared with milk chocolate too.

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh). If you want to serve them for a dinner, you can prepare the mousses a day before and cover with ganache just before the guests arrive. They will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

Chocolate ganache:

70 g (about 2.5 oz) good quality chocolate (I have used 72% cocoa chocolate), roughly chopped 

70 ml (about 2.4 fl  oz) natural liquid cream, min. 25% fat (do not use crème fraîche or any thickened cream)

(1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or several teaspoons of strong espresso) 

some strawberries for the decoration

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

When the mousses are well set, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Bring the cream to a boil. Put aside.

Throw the chopped chocolate and the instant coffee into the pan and, quickly stirring, dissolve in the hot cream (do not boil the mixture of chocolate and cream!).

Distribute the warm (not hot) chocolate ganache equally among the mousse portions and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes more.

Serve very cold.

Light Unbaked Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Sour Cherries

cheesecsourch_p

I have a big passion for black sour cherries. I don’t talk about the mouth-puckering, early light red cherries with transparent flesh. I mean the dark red fruits, with a deep serious elegant taste, impossible to confound with any other variety: the ones used in the famous schwarzwälder kirschtorte, kirsch and other products, where sweet varieties might become bland and boring. They are excellent in cakes, jams, home-made liquors, but nothing equals the unique bold mixture of tanginess and sweetness of raw ripe fruits I have been crazy for since I was a child. Rare guests in my house and impossible to buy fresh here, dark sour cherries have become for me an unattainable luxury I long for almost as much as for fresh wasabi root.

Conscious of my fondness for this fruit, my kind friend has recently surprised me bringing a big box of sour cherries from her trip to Hungary. I spent the two following days, enjoying them nature straight from the box and wondering which dessert would highlight best this rare delicacy. My choice went finally for the simplest, tangy, unbaked cheesecake.

I have posted several unbaked cheesecake versions, but as a reminder I would like to emphasize they are not made with US cream cheese and I do not advise it as a substitution. I make them with fresh, natural, smooth cheese, often called “quark”, “fromage frais” or “fromage blanc”, which is slightly similar in taste to Greek yogurt (its excellent replacement by the way). Such a cheesecake doesn’t contain eggs and is set with gelatin, which creates a kind of thick moussy, creamy texture. Some people prepare it with a crust, but I’m not a fan of these, so my cheesecakes contain only cheese, gelatin, (not always) sugar and make particularly light desserts. Of course different seasonings (vanilla, aromatic alcohols, spices etc.) can be added, as well as seasonal fruits. Whatever you add, serve the unbaked cheesecake very cold and enjoy its refreshing qualities.

If you don’t like/have cherries, you might like one of these unbaked cheesecake/Greek yogurt mousse versions:

with Passion Fruit

with Passion Fruit

with Blueberry

with Blueberry

with Strawberry

with Strawberry

TIPS: You can substitute dark sour cherries with any other variety, sour or not, but do profit from seasonal fresh fruits (even though this cheesecake will be excellent with candied, canned or frozen fruits too).

This cheesecake can be made in one big mould lined with plastic film, and then sliced into portions, but I find individual portions easier to handle and much cuter when served.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Difference between sheets and powdered gelatin: gelatin in sheets/leaves requires three stages (softening in cold water, then squeezing them to get rid of the water and then dissolving in warm/hot water), while powdered gelatin requires only one step: it needs to be stirred in warm (I prefer hot) water. There is also gelatin in “cristals” but I have never used it.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 g  (about 17 oz) smoothly mixed fresh cheese or curd cheese (quark/fromage frais/fromage blanc) or Greek yogurt 

30-40 medium sized cherries (pitted, though you may save some with pits for the decoration)

1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)

4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

3-4 tablespoons rum or kirsch

(I haven’t added any sugar here, but if you are not fond of tangy desserts, add 4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the cheese, the rum (and the sugar if using) in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Divide the cherries equally into individual glasses (saving some for the decoration), pour the cheese mixture over them and  put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving decorate with cherries. Serve very cold.

 

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

cocostrpI am fond of both coconut and strawberries, yet their presence in the same dessert has never crossed my mind. Either I have been inattentive in past years or coconut and strawberry flavoured sweets are in fashion particularly this season. Inspired by so many tempting recipes I saw on favourite blogs, I couldn’t resist testing this combination and now consider coconut as one of the strawberry’s best friends.

As a basis I have used here one of my favourite light sweet treats: coconut and cow milk wobbly dessert set with agar (see my other experiments with it below), called “cream” because it’s closer to a cream than to a jelly. I have cut up some strawberries, covered them with the coconut mixture, chilled and served with a layer of strawberry coulis. The result was fantastic. The strawberry and coconut milk (diluted with cow milk) compliment each other, without being too overwhelming (the thing I feared most). The fruits’ tanginess is a pleasant change from the mellow, sweet wobbly creamy basis, while the coulis adds an additional texture and makes the dessert more appealing. In short, this is what I call a perfect summer dessert: quick, easy, light, refreshing and featuring one of my favourite seasonal fruits.

If you are familiar with jellies set with agar, you might think what you see above is a jelly. I am not very fond of thick jellies (the kind that can hold alone when placed on a plate), this is why all of my agar desserts contain a tiny amount of this gelling product. This way the obtained result is a delicate wobbly custard, falling off the spoon (see the TIPS below).

Agar-agar (“kanten” in Japanese), apparently meaning “jelly” in Malay, is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold in a form of powder or in long sticks (I always use the powdered form which seems easier to handle). It has been used by food industry all around the world and has been gaining popularity in Western households probably thanks to its vegetable origins and to its health benefits. In fact agar-agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it. It sets food in a different way.

In case you are interested in coconut desserts set with agar, here are some of my previous experiments (none of them is a thick jelly though; they are all light wobbly custardy creams):

Coffee and Coconut

Coffee and Coconut

Matcha and Coconut

Matcha and Coconut

Chocolate and Coconut

Chocolate and Coconut

Talking about refreshing seasonal desserts… you might also like this Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse (it’s funny how two different strawberry varieties produce different coulis colours! I have realised it only now comparing the two photos):

strmoussecoulispp

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is supposed to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly! On the other hand do not pour the very hot cream because it will “boil” the strawberries. Leave the mixture until it is warmer than room temperature, but not very hot.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 5):

250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk

250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk 

4 flat tablespoons sugar (I have put only 2 but I like moderately sweet desserts)

1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder 

10 medium strawberries

dessicated coconut

Coulis: 

10 medium strawberries

5 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar (not necessary; I don’t add any sugar if the strawberries are sweet)

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks. Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).

Cut up the 10 strawberries into cubes and distribute evenly among the bowls.

Pour the warm (not hot but not room temperature yet) creamy mixture over the fruit pieces and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Just before serving prepare the coulis: mix the strawberries and the confectioner’s sugar (or no sugar if the strawberries are ripe and sweet).

Serve very cold covered with a layer of strawberry coulis and sprinkled with dessicated coconut.

 

Strawberry Gratin (Strawberries Under a Creamy Blanket)

bakedstrpp

Slightly softened fruits, hidden under a light creamy vanilla-scented blanket… This how I imagined a strawberry gratin and at first it seemed an easy task. I made a quick research on internet, found a reliable-looking recipe and… a disaster. Then, another recipe and another inedible, mushy result. Then I decided to find my own method, turning to foolproof basics. I quartered the fruits, covered them in pastry cream (crème pâtissière), baked for 15 minutes and this obvious, straightforward solution worked perfectly. If you like strawberries and pastry cream in fruit tarts, you will probably enjoy them in this warm, light gratin.

This dessert is an excellent way to use up leftover egg yolks. If you start with whole eggs, click here to browse some egg white using ideas.

If you don’t like the idea of a warm strawberry dessert, you might like this Yogurt Strawberry Mousse I have recently wrote about:

strmoussecoulispp

TIPS: I strongly advice to serve this dessert warm (not hot). When it cools down, it somehow loses its charm.

Vanilla is not necessary here, but in my opinion it enhances the strawberry taste.

You can prepare this dessert in two stages (in two days). First make the pastry cream, refrigerate it overnight (well covered) and, if you still have some cream left the following day ;-) , prepare the final stage just before serving.

Unless you have health problems which forbid you even its smallest intake, do not skip the butter in the pastry cream! Even if you are on a diet. This is only one tablespoon divided into six portions, but it changes the taste and texture a lot. (The worst thing you could do here though would be substituting butter with margarine…).

Special equipment: 6 x 9 cm/3,5 in shallow round baking dishes (or similarly sized baking dishes)

Ingredients (serves 6):

24 big strawberries

(6 tablespoons almond slivers)

Pastry cream (crème pâtissière, based on Pierre Hermé’s recipe (from “Plaisirs sucrés”), the best I have ever found):

250 ml (about 1 cup) milk 

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar 

1/2 – 1 vanilla pod

2 egg yolks

1 heaped tablespoon butter 

Prepare the pastry cream.

Bring to boil 3/4 of the milk with the vanilla pod cut in two lengthwise.

Put aside and let it cool down.

Scrape off the two vanilla pieces so that the small vanilla grains stay in the milk.

Combine the yolks, the sugar, the corn starch and the remaining 1/4 cold milk.

Strain the warm vanilla milk, constantly stirring, into the yolks mixture.

Discard the vanilla pod (wash it, dry it thoroughly and put into a confectioner’s sugar jar: you’ll have vanilla scented sugar).

Put back the obtained mixture into the pan and constantly stirring bring to boil.

Put aside when it thickens to the cream consistency.

If the cream is not smooth and you see many lumps, mix it in a blender or rub through a sieve.

When the cream is no longer hot, but still very warm, combine it with butter.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (about 400°F).

Prepare 6 individual baking dishes.

Quarter the big strawberries and distribute equally among the dishes. (If the strawberries are small you can halve them or even leave whole).

Spread the pastry cream equally on the top of each dish, sprinkle with almond slivers and bake for 15 minutes (until the almonds start changing colour).
Serve warm.

(You can sprinkle the gratins with some brown sugar and burn it with a torch just before serving, but make sure you don’t burn the almonds).

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Strawberry Coulis

strmoussecoulispp

If my blogging rules consisted of posting every single dish I have, you would see this mousse at least every other day during the whole strawberry season (regardless the weather). In fact, this is one of the rare sweet treats I never get bored with. First of all, I never get tired of strawberries and if they are a part of a very light, quick and easy dessert, which moreover keeps fresh for several days in the fridge, it obviously becomes my staple.

I have already posted a basic light strawberry mousse recipe (see below), but this one is my recent favourite: it is topped with an irresistible strawberry coulis. Making the coulis (which consists simply in mixing fruits with confectioner’s sugar) takes a minute, but adds an additional texture, a sharper flavour and, in my opinion, a little elegant touch.

If you don’t feel like making the coulis (or don’t have enough strawberries), here is a basic version of my Yogurt Strawberry Mousse:

strawbmoussep

TIPS: I used to prepare all my quick fruit mousses with fresh cheese (also called “quark” or “farmers cheese”) and discovered that this mousse is perfect with yogurt too. Given the fact that many of my readers cannot easily buy fresh cheese, the yogurt version can be prepared I suppose all around the world. The only tiny difference is that when made with quark or Greek yogurt, this mousse is slightly creamier than the one prepared with yogurt. Both are terrific.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard).

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier, or quark (fresh cheese)) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

(some strawberries for the decoration)

Coulis: 

150 g (about 5- 6 oz) chilled strawberries

4 flat teaspoons confectioner’s sugar (or more if you want)

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Coulis should be prepared just before serving: in a blender mix the remaining strawberries with confectioner’s sugar. Top each serving dish with an equal amount of coulis.

Serve very cold.

Rhubarb Kisiel (Warm Gooey Rhubarb Pudding)

kisielp

This is one of the most extraordinary things that can be made with rhubarb. The tangy fresh flavours, the pink hue and, most of all, the addictive gooey consistency make this pudding one of my favourite spring sweet treats. One of the rare desserts I prefer when still warm.

Probably a majority of my dear readers have never even heard of kisiel, so I will start with the explanation. Kisiel (pronounced “kishyel”) is a very popular Polish pudding, made with fruit soft drinks or whole fruits with water (and nowadays, alas, most people buy its powdered instant versions…). It is thickened with potato starch (hence the gooey consistency), served warm or cold and usually has a fresh, tangy note. Its unique texture – vaguely reminiscent of Lemon Curd – is as important for me as its flavour. It is a very light, fat-free pudding that can easily be made even lighter if you use a sweetener instead of sugar.

I have learnt only recently that similar fruit dishes exist for example in Germany, Estonia, Lithuania or Finland, but sometimes they mean slightly thickened soft drinks and not puddings. When I saw a Finnish Rhubarb Kiisseli recipe in my Moomins Cookbook (for those of you who don’t know it yet, I am particularly fond of Moomin characters; I have already mentioned this book here), this discovery gave me the idea to include the Moomin family into the photo. The beautiful tray you see above was one of the most touching presents I have ever been offered. I was completely blown away when I received it from my dear friend Charles (from Five Euro Food), who bought it during one of his trips to Sweden. This tray, my infallible mood improver, was perfect to serve kisiel, since both bring back my childhood memories. Thank you so much again, Charles, for your thoughtful kind  gesture.

Since all this has put me in a happy “Moomin” mood, here is the cartoon’s theme song:

Even though the Finnish kiisseli was my inspiration for this post, I have used my own old recipe which is a bit different. I prefer to have this pudding warm, but it can also be served cold.

If you feel like playing with rhubarb, you might like this quick and easy Rhubarb Soft Drink (which by the way is the first step of this pudding’s instructions):

rhubarbdrinkpp

or this refreshing Wobbly Rhubarb Delight I made with agar agar (kanten), and which, I insist, is not a jelly, but a less dense, incredibly light dessert:

wobblyrhubp

TIPS: Potato starch thickening properties can vary, so you might need to adjust its amount during the cooking process. Start with the below amount and if after 3-4 minutes of cooking, the texture is still too liquid, dissolve one more tablespoon starch in a glass with two tablespoons of cold water and add to the pan, constantly stirring (see the instructions below).

This pudding can be served both warm and cold, but I prefer it warm. Taste both to choose your favourite way.

BEWARE! Do not eat or cook rhubarb leaves! They are toxic. Only stalks are edible.

Preparation: 1about 40-50 if you need to prepare the Rhubarb Soft Drink, 15 – 20  min if you already have it

Ingredients (serves four):

500 g (about 1 lb) fresh rhubarb, leaves removed, stalks cut into 2-3 cm pieces (about 1 inch)

2 litres (4 cups) water

sugar or sweetener

4 slightly heaped tablespoons potato starch

First prepare the rhubarb soft drink (if you already have it, skip this step).

Put the rhubarb into a big pan with water.

Bring to a boil at medium heat and cook until the rhubarb completely softens.

Strain while still hot, put aside and wait until the rhubarb drink cools to the room temperature. (You can also prepare it in advance, refrigerate and follow the dessert instructions the following day or even two days afterwards).

Measure 1 liter (4 cups) rhubarb drink and pour it into a pan. (Do not throw away the remaining soft drink, which is delicious!).

Add sugar or sweetener to your taste.

Dissolve the potato starch in additional 4 tablespoons rhubarb drink (make sure it is no longer hot!).

Bring the rhubarb drink to a boil. Pour slowly the dissolved potato starch, constantly stirring.

Cook it until thickened (about 4 minutes).

If your pudding is still liquid after four minutes, put the pan aside.

Dissolve one more tablespoon in 1 tablespoon cold rhubarb drink or water and add it to the pan, stirring. Heat, constantly stirring until it thickens.

Serve warm or cold.

Light Crème Brûlée (Light Burnt Cream)

cremebruleep

Even though most people consider crème brûlée (or burnt cream) a typically French dessert, British sources often cite Trinity College, Cambridge, as the place where it first appeared at the end of the XIXth century. The famous British food writer, Jane Grigson, says (in her excellent English Food) she has come across burnt cream recipes in several ancient English cookery books, some dating back to the XVIIth century. The French claim to be the inventors and also cite a XVIIth century (1691) book “Le Cuisinier royal et bourgeois” by François Massialot as the first occurrence of crème brûlée. The doubt of the origins will probably always haunt both sides of the Channel, but whatever the origins, crème brûlée or burnt cream is an invention of a genius.

The recipe I share with you is the very first I used and certainly the last one, not because it is lighter (half milk, half cream), but because it produces the best crème brûlée I know. I found it in “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition” written by one of the most renowned French chefs, who is also among the three most Michelin-starred in the world. Alain Ducasse is not any diet guru, the book has got nothing to do with any weight loss plans (see the title of his book!) and the recipe wasn’t labelled as lightened. It is simply excellent, elegantly fresh and as such didn’t need any explanations. The addition of milk also illustrates the way the traditional cuisine has been changing in hands of modern French chefs and confectioners, following the way our lifestyles and nutritious needs change, but wisely, i.e. without any taste compromise.

I have already posted this recipe a long time ago, but I thought it merits to be mentioned again, especially since now I know I’m not the only one blogger who looks for lighter desserts and also because some of my friends have recently been trying to lighten their eating habits ;-)

If you feel like playing with this classic dessert, I strongly recommend this refreshing and amazing matcha crème brûlée, my second favourite:

matchacbp

TIPS: Blowtorch is a very good investment since, at least from my experience, it’s impossible to obtain the contrasting textures and temperatures crème brûlée is famous for with an oven broiler (the cream warms up). You can use blowtorch on many other custardy desserts and sweet tarts.

Click here for a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

If you don’t have brown cane sugar, you can use caster sugar to burn, but the taste is worse.

If you want to prepare a smaller batch (serving max. 4 people), divide the below amounts by two, but use 5 egg yolks.

If you travel to France and order burnt cream in an unknown restaurant, I would strongly advise asking if it’s burnt just before being served. I had several times an unpleasant surprise of soggy caramel and a uniform temperature in restaurants where the cream is burnt before the opening hours and sits for several hours in the fridge.

Special equipment: a blowtorch

Preparation: around 2 hours+a couple of hours in the fridge

Calories (the whole batch, made with skimmed milk, 25% fat cream and including the burnt sugar): about 3200 kcal

Ingredients (serves six – eight, depending on the size of the baking dishes; if you use the ones I did (8-9 cm diameter) you will obtain eight portions):

9 egg yolks

500 ml/17 oz milk

500 ml/17 oz liquid cream (min. 20% fat, without any thickeners)

4 vanilla pods

9 slightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar

about100 g/about 1/2 cup cane sugar (but not the moist one!)

Cut the vanilla pods lengthwise in two.

Put into a saucepan with milk and cream. Bring to the boil, put aside for 30 minutes.

Strain it. Scrape off the vanilla seeds and blend with milk and cream. The seeds are not necessary, but I think the cream looks nicer with small black spots.

Preheat the oven at 100°C.

Mix the yolks with sugar in a big bowl. Pour the warm (not hot!) milk with cream over it and mix again.

Pour the mixture into burnt cream dishes or other small individual ramekins.

Bake it for approximately 45 minutes. (The custards are ready when only their centres are slightly trembling when moved).

Take out the creams and let them cool down. Put into the fridge for several hours.

Just before serving, take the creams out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel (there will be some water drops on top and it will make the burning difficult).

Sprinkle with dark cane sugar and caramelise it with a special blowtorch.

Serve immediately while the top is still warm and crunchy and the cream below is very cold.

Light Unbaked Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Passion fruit

passioncheesep

Bored with lemons, oranges, apples and pears, I decided to experiment with something more exotic and discovered a new passion for the… passion fruit. Passion fruit macarons are one of my beloved Pierre Hermé’s creations, passion fruit chocolates are made by many chocolatiers in my city, passion fruit daiquiri is one of my favourite cocktails… and yet, I have never tried making a passion fruit dessert on my own. This first attempt felt like uncovering a whole new world of exciting culinary adventures. Topping a simple unbaked cheesecake with passion fruit pulp cannot really be called elaborate work in the kitchen, but it proved one of the most astonishing experiments I have ever made. The powerful, irresistible fragrance, the tangy flavour and crunchy seeds paired with the creamy, silky cheesecake created a complex and unusual combination. Since it was also one of the easiest and quickest sweet treats I know, I predict a bright future for this wonderful match, at least until strawberries appear.

I have already shared with you my enthusiasm about the unbaked cheesecake (see below). It becomes a staple in my house, especially when the weather gets warm and light, refreshing desserts are more welcome. I haven’t written about it for quite a long time, so here is a quick explanation of the unbaked cheesecakes I prepare. My unbaked – and also baked – cheesecakes have both Polish origins, i.e. they are not made with US cream cheese, but with natural fresh cheese (called curd cheese, quark or fromage frais). In the unbaked version this cheese is very smooth and can easily be substituted with Greek yogurt, similar in both taste and texture.

Apart from the taste, the main reason why I prepare unbaked cheesecakes so often is their healthy side: contrary to the US-style cheesecakes, these are low-fat, low-calorie and, I think, can be proposed to people on a slimming diet. I also love them for their instantly recognisable, slightly tangy taste and a light texture, close to a very dense mousse. In my opinion the basic unbaked cheesecake preparation (cheese, gelatin and sugar) is an excellent basis to play with different fruits, aromatic alcohols, spices and other seasonings (some cover them with a thick layer of fruit jelly, the item I have never liked). Many people prepare also a crust, but since I don’t like it in either baked or unbaked cheesecakes, I always omit it. Thanks to this my cheesecakes are even lighter and quicker to prepare. This slightly acid passion fruit version was excellent, but if you don’t like tangy sweets (or passion fruit), you might want to try other versions instead:

strcheesepp

Strawberry

blueberrycheesep

Blueberry

 

unbakedch4pp

Vanilla

If you are a fan of passion fruit (or passionfruit), you might like this delicious cocktail:

passiond2p

Passion fruit daiquiri

TIPS: As I have mentioned the natural fresh cheese I use here can be perfectly replaced with Greek yogurt.

This cheesecake can be made in one big mould lined with plastic film, and then sliced into portions like a baked cheesecake, but I find individual portions easier to handle and much cuter when served.

You can of course prepare any baked or unbaked crust of your choice.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 g  (about 17 oz) very smooth (mixed) fresh cheese/curd cheese/quark/fromage frais or Greek yogurt 

1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)

4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

(2 tablespoons rum)

(white chocolate)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the cheese, the rum and the sugar in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Pour the cheese mixture into individual bowls or glasses and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving cut the passion fruits in two and pour the flesh over the cheesecakes (1 small or 1/2 big passion fruit per glass).

You can sprinkle them with grated white chocolate.

Light Coconut Agar Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

cocopoire

The last couple of days have been so warm and sunny, I don’t even care if they announce snow for next week. Spring is in the air and nothing will change it. The spring evoking exquisite, bright green matcha latte posted by Kelly (from Inspired Edibles) has inspired me to begin the season of refreshing, light desserts. I found some dying pears at the bottom of my fridge and instead of a cake or tart, I decided to incorporate them into the easiest and quickest light dessert I know.

Some of you might remember my discovery of a wobbly, creamy dessert based on two milks (coconut and cow milk) and agar. This discovery has changed into a real addiction and I must have already prepared dozens of batches. The basic mixture is extremely versatile, sets quickly (agar sets at room temperature) and, since I put a tiny amount of sugar or sometimes even only sweetener, it’s one of the lightest desserts I know. I have already experimented many different versions, such as chocolate, coffee or matcha (see below). Even though agar is a jelling agent, I use it in scarce amounts and obtain a slightly wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency, rather than a well-set jelly, hence the name “cream”.

My first plan was to cut up the pears and simply pour the cream over them (just like I did with canned peaches here). It seemed however a bit boring (especially visually), so I decided to grate some lime zest on top for decoration and… it was a revelation! As silly as it may sound, it was the first time I have combined pear with lime zest and I found it extraordinary. The mellow, “flat” sweetness of the pear and coconut suddenly becomes exciting with the tangy, refreshing and slightly bitter zest. I am very tempted to explore further this surprising combination, at least until summer fruits appear.

As a reminder, agar (“kanten” in Japanese) is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold powdered or (in Asian countries) in long sticks. Look for it in Asian grocery shops or in organic (health-food) shops or… in normal supermarkets (they sell it in my Swiss supermarkets). Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it. The way it sets food is different from the gelatin I have been using for years and, if you buy it powdered, only a tiny amount is required. When used in scarce amounts, agar yields a creamy, wobbly, delicate result, but when a big amount is used, it sets the food stronger than gelatin, so it’s a bit tricky when used for the first time.

If you feel like experimenting with agar, here are some ideas you might like:

wobblyrh2p

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

chocococo2p

Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream

matchacoconutp

Matcha and Coconut Cream with Agar

cococreampp

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

coffeecoconutcreamp

Coffee and Coconut Cream with Agar

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

250 ml coconut milk

250 ml cow milk 

4 flat tablespoons sugar (or less, if, like me you prefer moderately sweet desserts; I have put only 2 tablespoons)

1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder 

3 medium pears

2 – 3 limes 

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks. Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

Peel the pears and cut them up into cubes.

Distribute them equally into the bowls. (Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly).

Pour the milks’ mixture into the bowls and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold decorated with grated lime zest (you can also incorporate it into the dessert, before it sets, but it won’t have the same freshness).

Chocolate Terrine with Speculoos (Unbaked Chocolate Cake with Biscuits)

chterrinespeculoospj

Chocoholics: beware! This chocolate terrine is one of the most dangerous home desserts I know. Once you taste it, you will constantly be tempted to prepare it once more and once more and once more… When you realise that the recipe is ridiculously easy and the result guarantees admiring looks from your guests, you will understand why I praise it so highly. Katerina from Culinary Flavours is the person I hold entirely responsible for turning me into an addict to this rich, creamy, decadent chocolate delicacy. Her seducing photos wouldn’t simply get out of my mind and when I took a first bite, I found it hard to believe that such a quick and simple preparation can lead to something so sublime.

Katerina’s recipe was called “marquise”, but it could also be named “terrine” because similar desserts bear both names in French cookery books. She has used chocolate cookies; I have used Speculoos, the famous Belgian spice biscuits, which go so well with the winter season we are approaching. Whether you call it terrine or marquise, whatever biscuits and aromatic alcohol you add, you will certainly receive sincere compliments from your guests and family. Thank you, Katerina, for making me discover one of the easiest and most impressive chocolate treats. I will certainly serve it for Christmas.

I have slightly modified Katerina’s recipe and cut down the amounts by half. Since it’s very filling and rich, this mini-terrine/marquise will suffice for six people. For a bigger group or for second servings, double the amounts. Click here to see Katerina’s original recipe and to have a stroll through her wonderful blog with recipes from Greece (her home country) and all around the world.

TIPS: If you don’t melt chocolate often, this might be the only tricky part of this otherwise easy cake. There are different ways to do it, but my favourite is to melt it, broken into pieces, in a small pan, on very low heat, constantly stirring. The important thing is not to let the chocolate boil. Take the pan off the heat before the chocolate melts completely (I usually wait until 90% of chocolate melts) and keep on stirring. It will melt in the already warm melted remaining chocolate and this way you will avoid bringing chocolate to a boiling point, which makes it impossible to use. I usually melt butter this way together with chocolate.

Preparation: 20 minutes + a night in the fridge

Ingredients (serves ten-twelve, fills a 10 x 20 cm/about 4 x 8 in baking dish; at the photograph above you see a smaller half-portion):

250 g/about 9 oz good quality dark chocolate (do not use the “baking” chocolate, but good quality one, without vegetable fats and with min. 70% cocoa)

150 ml/5 fl oz liquid cream (at least 25% fat)

100 g/about 3,5 oz butter

120 g/4 oz Speculoos or other biscuits of your choice

(1 flat teaspoon instant coffee)

8 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons rum (or any aromatic alcohol that would go well with your biscuits and chocolate)

(crumbled biscuits, cocoa or confectioner’s sugar to sprinkle over the marquise before serving)

Melt the chocolate and the butter (in a pan (see TIPS), in a microwave oven or in a hot water bath).

Add the sugar, the cream, the alcohol and stir well.

Break the biscuits to small pieces (but not to powder!) and incorporate into the chocolate mixture.

Line a baking dish with plastic film (I advise to fold it in two so that it doesn’t break when you take out the cold marquise).

Pour the chocolate mixture into the dish, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve very cold, straight from the fridge, sprinkled with crumbled biscuits, cocoa or confectioner’s sugar or the way it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Moist Chocolate and Coconut Cake

cocochococakepj

Ping (Ping’s Pickings) has recently had some difficult moments and since chocolate is a well known infallible mood improver, I thought I would try to cheer her up a bit showing how I have transformed her extraordinary coconut cake recipe into an irresistible coco-choco delight. First of all, those of you who have never seen (or forgotten) Ping’s Coconut Cake, must absolutely try it. This effortless cake is one of the most unusual sweet treats I have ever tasted. The first time I baked it, I did it two days in a row, so you can imagine how good it was… Since then I have prepared it (my version is slightly modified) at least dozen times and never got tired of it. Here is a quick reminder of what my modified version looks like:

I must emphasize here that this chocolate recipe is not an improvement because the original cake is perfect unchanged. It is simply a slightly different version, specially designed for chocolate addicts. As one of them, I have a habit of adding chocolate to various desserts, guided by the thought that one cannot have too many chocolate recipes. This cake could be considered as an alternative to the cooling Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream but maybe more suited for cold seasons that we are approaching, when richer desserts are welcome.

Here once more the mixture of chocolate and coconut hasn’t let me down. Just like its pure coconut version, this cake was moist and closer to a custard or pudding than to a floury cake. Thanks to the dark chocolate it was obviously richer and slightly heavier. I think that this richer version of Ping’s cake will keep me company throughout the hated cold autumn and winter evenings. Thank you so much, Ping, for one more inspiration. I will have a big slice of this cake as a toast to your health, wishing you a prompt recovery and a quick solution of the recent problem!

Click here to see Ping’s original Coconut Cake or here to see her banana version.

TIPS: Like Ping, I like moderately sweet desserts, but if you have a very sweet tooth, add 50% more sugar.

This cake improves after a night spent in the fridge and tastes definitely better when served very cold.

Preparation: 1 hour (+ not obligatory, but strongly advised one night in the fridge)

Ingredients (10 x 20 cm baking tin):

3 heaped tablespoons (about 1/4 cup) flour

100 g (1/2 cup) sugar

70 g (1 cup) desiccated coconut (+ some more to sprinkle over the cake)

2 eggs

60 g melted butter

100 g (about 3,4 oz) bitter, dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa)

pinch of salt

125 ml (1/2 cup) coconut milk

125 ml (1/2 cup) cow cream (liquid, not crème fraîche)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (in several short stages to control the melting process and avoid overcooking) or in a hot water bath (putting a metal bowl over a pan with hot water and stirring the chocolate constantly) or simply in a pan at very low heat (this is my favourite method, but quite risky: if the chocolate is overheated it can no longer be used.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

Grease a baking tin or line it with baking paper.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for about 40-50 minutes.

The cake can be sprinkled with desiccated coconut before serving.

It can be served as soon as it cools down, but is definitely best refrigerated overnight.

Coffee and Coconut Cream with Agar

coffeecoconutcreamp

A cooling, light coconut dessert and a cup of strong coffee in one. This is probably the best description of the cream I have been enjoying during this summer’s hot weekends. I have almost forgotten to post this recipe, but first I saw MJ’s spicy Mayan Iced Coffee, then Zsuzsa’s extravagant chocolatey Iced Coffee, which both reminded me of this refreshing sweet treat.  I thought that sunny August days might be the last chance to share it with you this year.

It has been a long time since I last reported on my experiments with coconut cream set with agar (see below). This doesn’t mean however that I have stopped them. The simplicity and quickness of the basic recipe makes it ideal for infinite modifications. Such different versions as Coconut Cream with Peaches, Chocolate and Coconut Cream or Matcha and Coconut Cream all turned out amazingly good. Emboldened by coconut milk’s capacity to blend with diverse ingredients, I dared mixing it with coffee and never regretted this test. Coconut milk proved once more that, if correctly dosed, it creates an astonishing, but harmonious combination. This cream was as light as the ones I have mentioned above, but the generous amount of coffee I have included gave it an additional, energising property and made me think of a strong, cold iced coffee. Sprinkled with bitter cocoa and some dessicated coconut, it was a pure delight for the big fan of coffee I am. If I had coffee liqueur I would probably add a splash of it.

As a reminder, agar (agar agar or kanten) is a gelling agent made with seaweed. It’s available in Asian grocery shops, in organic food shops and in Switzerland also in standard supermarkets. It is not a gelatin replacement and creates a slightly different texture. Here are some other desserts where I have used agar and appreciated it:

Matcha and Coconut Cream with Agar

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

 Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Even if prepared with sugar, this dessert is light, but if you want to make it lighter, you can use a sweetener suitable for cooking.

Instant coffee can be substituted with very strong small espresso. If you decide to use the latter, make it as small as possible and reduce accordingly the amount of cow milk.

Try adding a splash of coffee liqueur if you have some. I’m sure it makes the cream more elegant and festive.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into glasses because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk

250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk 

4 flat tablespoons sugar (I used two flat tablespoons sweetener suitable for cooking)

1/3  flat teaspoon agar agar in powder

5 flat tablespoons instant coffee (I have used Nescafé Espresso)

(a splash of coffee liqueur)

(dessicated coconut and bitter cocoa to sprinkle before serving)

Combine alle the ingredients in a pan (apart from the dessicated coconut and cocoa).

Bring to boil on low heat and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

Pour the hot mixture into the individual bowls (agar sets at room temperature, so the cream’s temperature should be higher before it is poured; make sure it is not too hot and doesn’t break the bowls or glasses). Let it cool down to room temperature and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with coconut and bitter cocoa.

 

 

Light Unbaked Blueberry Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Blueberries

blueberrycheesep

I hope you are not bored with my desserts in glasses. I simply cannot help it: it’s hot and instead of cakes or biscuits, I crave fruity, light, refreshing – and most of all easy – desserts just like this one and am tempted to experiment with different seasonal fruits, hence this blueberry version of my Strawberry Cheesecake (Greek Yogurt Mousse). When writing about the Strawberry Cheesecake (Greek Yogurt Mousse) I said it was supposed to be prepared with fresh cheese (also called quark). I know now that some of you have difficulties in finding it, so I would like to emphasize here once more that such a dessert can very well be made with cream cheese used in the USA in regular cheesecakes. It will however be lighter and closer to this version if prepared with Greek yogurt, which is quite similar to fresh curd cheese/quark in both texture and taste. The result could be called “Greek yogurt mousse”.

Even though this is only a slight modification of the Strawberry Cheesecake (Greek Yogurt Mousse), thanks to the presence of blueberries, which lack the strawberry’s acidity, this dessert is not tangy and gives an impression of a much bigger creaminess both in taste and texture. I did add some lemon juice because I like to feel some tanginess, but it’s absolutely not necessary.

UPDATE & TIPS: Instead of quark/fromage blanc you an use Greek yogurt here (it’s a better option than US cream cheese).

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 3-4): 

300 g  (about 10 oz) fresh cheese (quark, fromage blanc) or Greek yogurt (or cream cheese)

1 tablespoon gelatin (if you use leaves, take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

200 g (about 7 oz) blueberries

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

(2 tablespoons lemon juice if you like to feel some tanginess in your desserts)

(mint leaves for decoration)

Put aside 50-60 blueberries for the decoration.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the cheese, the sugar, the lemon juice if using and the blueberries (apart from those left for the decoration) in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Pour the cheese mixture into individual glasses/bowls and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Decorate just before serving.

 

 

Matcha and Coconut Cream with Agar

matchacoconutp

I am thrilled whenever I discover a simple recipe which is versatile enough to be modified eternally. Savoury recipes are of course much easier to fiddle with, but sometimes I find real versatile gems among the sweet ones too and the Coconut Cream I first prepared with Canned Peaches slowly proves to be one of them. Some of you might remember it was my first successful dessert prepared with agar (also called agar-agar or kanten), a gelling agent made with seaweed. The satisfying result encouraged me to carry on with agar experiments, but I must admit I didn’t suspect that the coconut cream would be versatile. Luckily I was wrong and the Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream, based on the same recipe, turned out a pure delight. Ping’s (Ping’s Pickings) gorgeous Mango Coconut Cream is another wonderful twist on this basic combination and even though I haven’t tasted it, I can well imagine how fabulous are the flavours.

The matcha version you see above has been on my mind for many weeks, but I hesitated. Matcha (抹茶), the Japanese powdered green tea, is one of the most fascinating products, but apart from successful outcomes (see below), I have experienced at least the same number of total failures, realising this is a particularly unpredictable ingredient. I haven’t made any web research about coconut and matcha pairing, so I had no idea if my experiment was risky or not, but I gave it a go and, as you have probably guessed, it was a big success.

First of all this cream is perfect for hot summer days. It is light and extremely cooling, thanks to the matcha’s subtle bitterness. Even though matcha’s flavours dominated, coconut cream was still discernible and I found the combination harmonious. Just like the above creams, the texture of this one was closer to a thick yogurt rather than a thick jelly and the preparation was quite easy (although this time, due to matcha’s dissolving issue, the cream had to be passed through a sieve). I highly recommend this dessert, but only to the fans of matcha’s unique, slightly bitter, “grassy” flavour or of course to those who are willing to discover it.

In case you are interested in matcha experiments, here are some other matcha desserts I have posted and enjoyed:

Matcha Crème Brûlée

Light Matcha Cream

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha, White Chocolate and Oat Truffles

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into individual serving dishes because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk

250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk 

4 flat tablespoons sugar (as a fan of moderately sweet desserts I used two flat tablespoons)

1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder

2 tablespoons matcha (heaped, if you are addicted to its grassy, bitter flavour)

(more matcha or dessicated coconut for decoration)

Mix the coconut milk, the cow milk and the matcha in a food processor.

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the above mixture. Bring to boil on low heat and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

If matcha isn’t completely dissolved, pass it through a fine sieve and then bring back to boil. Boil for another minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

Pour the hot mixture into the individual bowls (agar sets at room temperature, so the cream’s temperature should be higher before it is poured; make sure it is not too hot and doesn’t break the bowls or glasses though). Let it cool down to room temperature and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with coconut or more matcha.

Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse

strawbmoussep

Light, refreshing, full of seasonal fruit, ridiculously easy and totally guiltless. In short, Strawberry and Yogurt Mousse is my kind of summer dessert. The funny thing is that I would have never discovered how extraordinary a yogurt mousse can be if I hadn’t run out of fresh cheese (also called quark), my old basis for strawberry mousse. For years I was convinced it was the lightest and the best strawberry mousse I could achieve and when the cooling desserts season arrived I would make sure the fresh cheese was in the fridge. I am glad I forgot to buy it last weekend and made this substitution. The yogurt version had a slightly lighter texture, the taste of strawberries was stronger, but otherwise the taste was similarly tangy and equally good. For the hundredth time since I started to cook I can confirm that necessity is the mother of invention! Moreover, thanks to this accidental modification I hope that this time I can recommend this mousse also to all my friends who don’t have access to fresh cheese, since yogurt seems to much more international.

TIP: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard).

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be really tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or you can use leaves, but the amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid/about 2 cups (see the TIP above)

(some strawberries for the decoration)

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water.

Mix with the strawberry mixture.

Pour the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours.

Serve very cold.

 

Clafoutis with Apricots and Almonds

apricotclafoutisp

Clafoutis (a cooked custard with fruit, pronounced “kla-foo-tee”) is one of the French cuisine classics from the Limousin region, but widely known in the whole country. Since it’s very easy to prepare, it’s a typical home cake. If not specified in the name, clafoutis contains cherries, but in more than ten years of baking it I have tried it with many different other fruits too. Last weekend was apricot’s turn. Of course, as a big apricot fan, who particularly appreciates its tanginess, I didn’t take much risk, but I must warn all those who hate tangy desserts: this version of clafoutis might not be for you. In this cake the fruit plays the main role, so no matter how much sugar is added, the apricot tartness will stay distinct.

Another novelty in this clafoutis was the use of almond milk. I have recently talked with Charles (Five Euro Food) about almond butter and  promised myself to experiment with it. In the meantime I stumbled upon almond milk and was very impatient to use it. This first experiment was highly successful, so thank you, Charles, for this excellent idea. The custard consistency was as good as ever, while the taste was subtler than when cow’s milk is used. I highly recommend this milk to all the lactose intolerant or simply curious cooks. Almond milk is surprisingly low-calorie, lactose-free of course and smells divinely, so I will keep on experimenting with it in the near future.

TIPS: Some clafoutis recipes contain cream and/or butter. This one doesn’t and I’m glad this is the first recipe I accidentally found many years ago, because since then a clafoutis means for me a light and guiltless dessert.

Clafoutis can be served tepid or cold, but I prefer it very cold straight from the fridge.

Preparation: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients (6 portions, I used a 20 cm/almost 8 inches diameter tart dish):

3 eggs

5 tablespoons sugar (or a smaller amount of sweetener)

5 tablespoons flour

100 ml/3,5 fl oz milk (I used almond milk, but cow’s milk is the traditional ingredient)

about 20 medium apricots

3 tablespoons cane sugar

sliced almonds

Preheat the oven at 180°C.

Mix the eggs and sugar with a spoon. Add the flour gradually. Pour the milk and mix well.

Grease a baking dish or line it with baking paper.

Cover the bottom with stoned halved apricots (skin side down) and pour the custard over them.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and cane sugar.

Bake around 45 minutes – 1 hour until the custard is light golden.

Serve it tepid or put into the fridge and serve it very cold.

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

 

Even though this is certainly a delightful dessert, I will be honest and admit this is not my beloved chocolate mousse. My favourite one calls for twice as much ingredients, including raw eggs, requires lots of attention and at least 12 hours in the fridge. The above mousse was prepared on the spur of the moment and at first was supposed to be a simple, improvised chocolate cream. It requires only three hours, no eggs and is incredibly easy to prepare.

My idea was to melt dark chocolate, combine it with cream, maybe add a bit of sugar and let the whole dessert set in the fridge. When I took the cream out of the fridge I had a crazy idea: whip it! I say “crazy idea” because probably, just like me, most of you have heard and read hundreds of times that only cream with minimum 30% fat content can be whipped. I swear I have whipped 25% fat cream! The consistency was not as thick, the taste was lighter, the colour less yellowish, but it was whipped! Actually, as someone who is not a fan of whipped cream, I discovered this one was much more to my taste. It didn’t have this nauseous effect the fatter cream has on my palate and didn’t feel fatty. Since whipped cream I’m used to has 36% fat content, it is not surprising that the 11% have made quite a difference. Anyway, after whipping the cream I added some confectioner’s sugar, then cooled melted chocolate, put individual portions into the fridge and discovered after only three hours that my desserts were ready and tasted better than I hoped. Of course they were particularly enjoyable served with raspberries.

TIP: Depending on the chocolate brand and your sweetness preference, either add the sugar or skip it.

Preparation: 3h30 (including refrigeration time)

Ingredients (serves four):

250 ml (about 1 cup) liquid cream (at least 25% fat) or any whipping cream of your choice

150 g (about 5 1/2 oz) good quality dark chocolate 

pinch of salt

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

(raspberries)

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a pan on a very low heat or in a water bath (stirring and watching it constantly so that it doesn’t burn) or in a microwave (if you microwave it, do it in two-three stages because once it’s “cooked”, it cannot be used).

Put aside and let it cool down.

Pour the cream into a high bowl, add the pinch of salt and whip it at medium speed.

When it’s almost ready, add the sugar and finish the whipping.

Combine delicately the chocolate with the whipped cream, adding the chocolate in two – three batches.

Make sure the mixture is homogeneous, divide into serving bowls or glasses and refrigerate for 3 hours.

Serve cold.

 

Wobbly Rhubarb Delight

wobblyrhubp

Jelly is not the only dessert that can be described as “wobbly” and the above is the best example. Even though I am not a fan of standard, well set, thick jelly, I have literally fallen in love with this light, barely set dessert I decided to call Wobbly Rhubarb Delight. Its unusual, “falling-off-the spoon” consistency was achieved thanks to a reduced amount of agar (see below), just like in my previous experiments with this gelling agent.

For those who haven’t read about my recent adventures with this product, agar (agar-agar, “kanten” in Japanese) is a gelling agent very popular in Asia, but it is not a gelatin substitute. It is prepared in a slightly different way and, most of all, gives different textures and consistencies. In Europe it is widely used in food industry and is quite popular among vegetarians, since agar is produced from seaweed (not bones, like gelatin). Apart from its gelling properties, agar has considerable health benefits. It helps digestion and is often consumed as a slimming diet booster. A Japanese friend has confirmed what I had already read about: in her country some women dissolve it in tea to help digestion and to suppress appetite (I haven’t checked if it works on my appetite though).

In short, not only this dessert is delicious, light and refreshing, but it is healthy too. To prepare it I used the Soft Rhubarb Drink I wrote about recently (see the recipe here) and then simply proceeded like with my other agar desserts, i.e. adding less agar than advised on all the packages and in all recipes in order to obtain a looser consistency. After two hours in the fridge I obtained an amazingly refreshing, elegant, tangy and sweet treat, with a subtle rhubarb aroma. Apart from ending a meal, it could be served as a palate cleanser or even a cooling drink substitute (it is an excellent thirst quencher).

The below recipe includes the Soft Rhubarb Drink preparation, so if you already have it, skip the first, rhubarb cooking, stage and simply measure 500 ml (2 cups and 2 tablespoons) to use in this recipe.

In case you are interested in other desserts using agar, until now I have written about:

-Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

-Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Since water evaporates during the first (rhubarb cooking) stage and rhubarb absorbs some water too, it is difficult to say how much liquid you will obtain. You need only 500 ml (about 2 cups) for the recipe (at least for the below amount of agar), so simply measure it and drink the rest!

I like very tangy desserts, so I have added only 1 heaped teaspoon sugar per portion, but feel free to double or triple it before the setting process, gradually tasting the result (a certain tanginess should remain, otherwise it will turn into a bland, tasteless dessert).

TIPS: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so before you start cooking it, cut off and throw away every single trace of leaves, sometimes left on the stalks.

Do not wait until the liquid becomes cold before pouring it into serving glasses because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 1 hour+2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (yields 4-5 portions):

250 g (8.8 oz) rhubarb stalks

700 ml (almost 3 cups) water

4  or more heaped teaspoons sugar (a sweetener can be used too)

1/3 teaspoon agar in powder

Cut up the rhubarb and put it into a big pan with water.

Bring to boil at medium heat and cook until the rhubarb completely softens (starts falling into pieces).

Put aside and wait until the rhubarb drink cools down.

Strain it.

Measure 500 ml (about 2 cups) of the liquid (the rest can be put into the fridge and used as a soft drink).

Add the sugar gradually, increasing its amount to suit your taste and the rhubarb’s acidity (some rhubarb varieties are less acid).

Pour it into a pan, add the agar and stir to dissolve both agar and sugar.

Bring to boil, stirring, lower the temperature and let it simmer for about 1 minute constantly stirring.
Transfer into serving glasses or bowls and when the dessert has cooled down, refrigerate for two hours.

It can be served with whipped cream if you like it.

 

 

 

 

Light Unbaked Strawberry Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Strawberries

Light Unbaked Strawberry Cheesecake in a Glass

Light, quick, easy and refreshing. I don’t know what are your preferences, but this is the description of my ideal spring or summer dessert and unbaked cheesecake meets all these conditions. Some of you might remember that my unbaked cheesecakes are made with fresh cheese (also called “quark”) and not the most popular cream cheese (see the Unbaked Vanilla Cheesecake here). They are low in fat, have a slight, refreshing tanginess I like and have a light consistency, comparable to Greek yogurt, which is a very good substitution here (much better than US cream cheese). Since I don’t like the crust in cheesecakes, I always omit it, which makes such a dessert even lighter and quicker to prepare.

Unbaked cheesecakes are  in my opinion an excellent basis to experiment with different fruits without losing their precious vitamins, nutrients and delicate aroma. If you decide to try fresh cheese, its slight tartness goes particularly well with red fruits such as strawberries. I realised it a couple of days ago when I decided to make my first strawberry dessert this year. Not only was it, quick, easy and practical (it requires only four ingredients), but most of all it enhanced and preserved all of the the strawberry flavours and its enticing aroma.

TIPS & UPDATE: If you don’t find fresh cheese (quark) the best option would be to use the Greek yogurt. If you are a cream cheese fan, this dessert can of course be prepared with cream cheese too, but the consistency will probably be less mousse-like and the taste different (I admit I haven’t made or tasted such a version).

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 3-4): 

300 g  (about 10 oz) fresh cheese/quark or Greek yogurt (or cream cheese if you don’t find quark or Greek yogurt)

1 tablespoon gelatin (or gelatin leaves, the amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above)

200 g (about 7 oz) strawberries

4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice

Put aside 4-5 strawberries for the decoration.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the cheese, the sugar and half of the strawberries in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Cut up the remaining strawberries in quarters (do not use those for the decoration!) and place them in individual glasses.

Pour the cheese mixture over the strawberries and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Decorate just before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream

This chocolate cream is my second successful experiment with agar. I have followed the Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches recipe, simply substituting fruit with dark chocolate. Just like the Cream with Peaches, this one had a light, thick yogurt texture. Dark chocolate and coconut combination proved excellent and, thanks to the cow milk content, the coconut taste was tamed down, allowing the chocolate flavours prevail. Because of the chocolate’s presence I cannot say this cream was as low-calorie as the previous one, but it certainly was the lightest chocolate dessert I have ever had and, accidentally one of the most flavoursome too.

As a reminder, agar (agar-agar, “kanten” in Japanese) is a gelling agent very popular in Asia. Contrary to what one might think, this is not a gelatin substitute. It is prepared in a slightly different way and, most of all, gives different textures and consistencies. In Europe it is widely used in food industry and is quite popular among vegetarians, since agar is produced from seaweed (not bones, like gelatin). Apart from gelling properties, agar has considerable health benefits. It helps digestion and is often consumed as a slimming diet booster. A Japanese friend has confirmed what I had already read about: in her country some women dissolve it in tea to help digestion and to suppress appetite (I haven’t checked if it works on my appetite though).

In short, this cream is not only the lightest chocolate dessert I know; it is also probably  the healthiest one. With dessicated coconut and shaved chocolate it has made me think of a light Bounty bar in a glass.

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into serving bowls or glasses because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk

250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk 

4 flat tablespoons sugar (I used two flat tablespoons because I don’t like very sweet desserts)

1/3  flat teaspoon agar agar in powder

60 g/about 2,5 oz good quality dark chocolate, min 70% cocoa

(shaved chocolate, dessicated coconut)

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks, add the chocolate broken into pieces. Bring to boil on low heat and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute. (If the chocolate isn’t completely dissolved, mix everything in a food processor and then bring back to boil).

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).

Pour the mixture into the bowls or glasses and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with coconut and shaved chocolate.

 

 

 

Light Lemon Curd

When Charles (Five Euro Food) and then A_Boleyn posted Lemon Curd recipes I thought it was high time I presented a lighter version, which might please all those, who, like me, prefer sharper and more intense lemon desserts. I must have heard of lemon curd for the first time a long time ago, but given the amazing rapidity with which I was able to empty a butter- and sugar-loaded jar, this delightful spread was one of the rarely enjoyed sweet treats. When I finally tested its low-fat version I quickly forgot this was a lightened lemon curd and have never come back to the traditional version. In fact, the drastic reduction of fat has resulted in a more intense, sharper and, I would even say, more elegant flavour. (It was a bit like discovering Alain Ducasse’s half-cream, half-milk Crème Brûlée, which has put me off the 100% fatty cream, traditional version forever).

After several batches I slightly modified the original recipe (adapted from this fantastic Polish baker’s blog). I added a small amount of butter instead of the advised oil (I missed a touch of buttery flavour) and found a foolproof and easy method of getting rid of lumps (see below). I have also made this lemon ultralight, partially substituting the sugar with a special cooking sweetener (I wouldn’t advise however substituting all the sugar with a sweetener: the texture is not the same and it simply tastes worse).

Lemon curd is fantastic on any type of sweet biscuit, on toasted bread, on a slice of yeast cake, challah, but it’s also an excellent tart, pie, cake or cookie/biscuit filling (see for example Thumbprint Almond Cookies). It is of course irresistible on its own, eaten directly from the jar.

TIP:  Start with 12 tablespoons sugar and add more, if needed, after the curd has thickened.

Preparation: 15 – 20 minutes

Ingredients (yield: one 300-350 ml jar):

juice from 3 lemons

zest from 1 lemon

12 – 15 tablespoons castor sugar (or 10 tablespoons sugar + 5 tablespoons cooking sweetener which is usually sweeter than sugar)

2 eggs

1 flat tablespoon cornstarch (or potato starch, but cornstarch gives a lighter result)

1 heaped tablespoon butter 

Mix everything in a blender, apart from the butter.

Pour into a small pan, add the butter and warm at low heat, constantly stirring, until it thickens.

Taste and add more sugar if needed. Stir well until the sugar/the sweetener dissolves.

Put into a jar, close the lid and let it cool down.

Keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Serve on toast, bread, use it as a pie or a cake filling (it is delicious in the Thumbprint Almond Cookies).

Light Coconut Cream with Canned Peaches

 

A couple of weeks ago a Japanese friend invited me for a lunch which ended with a most sensational light dessert. Actually her coconut cream was one of the lightest desserts I have ever had in my life, in terms of both calories and texture and certainly one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.  Luckily the recipe wasn’t secret! I did hesitate however before making it because it called for agar-agar, a product which brings back awful memories. Since I had been assured the preparation was simple, I gave agar-agar another chance. The cream was very easy indeed and the result was perfect at the first attempt.

Agar-agar (“kanten” in Japanese), apparently meaning “jelly” in Malay, is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold in a form of powder or (in Asian countries) in long sticks. Even though it has been used by food industry all around the world, it is rarely used in European households, gelatin being the most popular gelling agent. It has been gaining popularity probably thanks to its vegetable origins and to its health benefits. In fact agar-agar contains water soluble agents, which help digestion and are considered excellent in slimming diets. Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it.

As I have recently told Charles (Five Euro Food) in my opinion food set with agar-agar is different and someone who is used only to gelatin has to experiment a bit with it on order to obtain satisfying results. This is my first successful dish with agar agar, but certainly not the last because somehow I feel I couldn’t obtain the same results with gelatin. The cream has a very delicate consistency, close to natural yogurt . Since both coconut and cow milk are used, the coconut taste is not overwhelming. In short, an addictive, elegant and refreshing dessert.

Prepared with canned peaches and canned coconut milk, this quick cream is a perfect solution for a last-minute, pantry-based dessert served practically all year round. I find it particularly good now, since we are having very warm sunny Spring. My friend served it with fresh mango and I think any fruit (apart from raw kiwi and raw pineapple) can be used. I am impatient to test it with strawberries!

TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.

Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):

250 ml/about 1 cup coconut milk

250 ml/about 1 cup cow milk 

4 tablespoons sugar (I have put only 2 but I like moderately sweet desserts)

1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder 

4 – 5 halves of canned peaches

Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks. Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.

Put aside.

Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.

(Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!).

Cut up the peaches into cubes and distribute into the bowls (one half per bowl).

Pour the creamy mixture over the fruit pieces and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve very cold.

Light Banana Mousse with Kiwi Sauce

bananamoussepWaiting for this year’s first strawberries I still keep on buying fruits that kept me company throughout the Winter. A couple of days ago I had only bananas and kiwis, the weather was warm and sunny and I desperately wanted something refreshing. I thought I would try to make a banana mousse based on the strawberry yogurt mousse, my staple throughout the summer.

As soon as I found a way to hide the ugly colour of oxidised bananas, I was satisfied with the result. The mousse was light, low-fat, required no sugar (ripe bananas were sweet enough for me) and the kiwi sauce gave it a refreshing, slightly tangy kick with the additional pleasant crunch thanks to the seeds. In short, a perfect guiltless healthy sweet treat and definitely my favourite banana dessert. If you add some rum this dessert might be treated as a solidified version of my banana rum cocktail. 

TIPS: Most of you probably know this, but just in case, do not try to include kiwi into the mousse. Raw kiwi and raw pineapple stop every gelatin-based dessert from setting.

Every gelatin powder is different. I didn’t want this mousse to be completely set like a jelly, so I have checked the package and used a bit more than 1/2 of the amount advised to set 500 ml liquid. You might have to make two experiments with your gelatin to obtain the desired texture. It is always better to put too much gelatin than not enough.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard).

Preparation: 10 minutes + several hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

4 ripe bananas

1 natural yogurt (125 ml)

1 flat tablespoon powdered gelatin (if you use leaves, take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/about 2 cups liquid, see TIPS above)

3 – 4 kiwis

(2 tablespoons rum)

Prepare 3 or 4 individual serving dishes.

Dissolve the gelatin powder in a couple of tablespoons warm water.

(If you have leaves you have to soften them first in cold water and then dissolve in warm water).

In a blender mix the bananas, the yogurt, the rum (if using) and the dissolved gelatin for a couple of minutes.

Quickly, while the mixture is still frothy, pour it into the dishes and put them instantly into the fridge.

Refrigerate until it is set.

Serve cold.

Just before serving mix the kiwis and pour them over every portion of mousse.

Far breton, or Brittany Prune Pudding

farbretonppFar breton is one of my favourite and most frequently baked sweet dishes. It is light and low-fat, but filling, slightly sweet, but tangy, it is best served cold, but perfect even in cold seasons too. I wouldn’t only call it irresistible, but also undownputable, just like a fascinating book. Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition.

As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, many centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, and far is a Latin word meaning “wheat” or “spelt” . Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.

Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton for many years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and for its low sugar content. Its colour varies and depends on eggs. My organic Winter egg yolks were particularly small, hence the light colour.

TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).

Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)

Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):

250 g flour

70 g sugar

4 eggs

750 ml milk

1 pinch salt

a bit of salted butter to grease the dish

25 big prunes (stoned)

a bowl of hot strong black tea

50-100 ml rum

Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).

Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).

Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.

Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.

Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).

Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.

Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.

Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold, sliced.

Light Unbaked Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Vanilla

Unbaked cheesecake is the oldest of all the light desserts I know. The one I make is refreshing, has a mousse-like texture and a very pleasant slight tanginess. When two weeks ago Charles from 5 Euro Food posted a luscious Prickly Pear Cheesecake recipe, I decided that since most bloggers I know prepare no-bake cheesecakes with high-calorie cream cheese, I should write about my way of making this popular dessert.

First, I never use cream cheese in sweet dishes. My unbaked cheesecakes are always made with smooth fresh cheese, often called quark or fromage blanc (not only in French-speaking countries; thank you, Ping!), which looks like a very thick yogurt and is available almost all around the world. (It can also be made with well mixed curd cheese, but this one is much more difficult to get in many countries). Quark exists in several fat content versions, but I usually choose that one or the semi-fat (the 0% fat is a bit too tangy for sweet dishes). However, I have recently realised that even the fattest version has approximately twice less calories than regular Philadephia cream cheese. Do not think I choose fresh cheese because it is low-calorie! I simply love its taste and would never exchange it for cream cheese in my desserts. Greek yogurt is the closest substitution here and can very well be used instead of quark. Apart from that, I am not very fond of crust in cheesecakes, so I never make it (even though I love crusts in tarts).

Sugar, gelatin and fresh cheese are the basic ingredients. This time I have also added vanilla and, just before serving, I grated some dark chocolate over the cheesecake. It reminded me vaguely of stracciatella ice-cream, but in a much lighter version.

TIPS & UPDATE: This cheesecake can be prepared with Greek yogurt instead of quark.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Special equipment:

individual ramekins if you want to serve individual portions

Preparation: 40 minutes + several hours in the fridge

Calories: about 150-250 kcal per serving depending on the cheese fat content

Ingredients (serves 5):

500 g fat or low-fat smooth fresh cheese (quark) or Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons hot water or hot milk/cream

10 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar (you can make it even lighter using a sweetener or powdered stevia)

1 tablespoon gelatin (sometimes the amount depends on the brand; take the amount necessary to set 500 ml of liquid)

1 vanilla pod

(dark chocolate)

Split the vanilla pod in two lengthwise. Put into the hot water or milk or cream and leave for about 30 minutes.

Take the pod out, grate the vanilla seeds into the liquid and put the split pod aside.

Mix the cheese with the sugar and the vanilla-infused liquid.

Dissolve the gelatin in warm water, add to the cheese mixture.

Mix for a couple of minutes.

Fill individual ramekins (or one big dish) with the cheesecake mixture.

Put into the fridge (covered) for a couple of hours. Usually 3 hours are enough.

Unmoulding the cheesecakes is the only tricky part.

Run a knife around the edge and then, quickly, invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

Tap at the bottom very hard: the cheesecake should fall out.

Light Matcha Cream

matchacreamnThis refreshing, light cream is the second dish I have made with matcha, Japanese powdered green tea. It has become my staple throughout the Summer and since hot days are soon over in Europe, I thought it was high time I posted it. I based my recipe on the Joël Robuchon’s cream (in “Le meilleur etle plus simpledeRobuchon), the same one I used while preparing Light Coffee and Cardamom Cream.

As an avowed – though still inexperienced – matcha desserts fan I find this cream extraordinary. It is a distant cousin of Matcha Crème Brûlée, but without the crunch and with a bit less calories. As always, matcha adds elegant bitterness and makes the cream particularly cooling. This is most of all a dessert, but it can also be served between the meals as a palate “refreshener”, recently fashionable in many restaurants.

Beware! This recipe is far from being perfect. In spite of double straining, a part of matcha powder accumulates on the bottom of the dish, creating a darker thin line. This doesn’t alter really the taste, but is quite annoying… If anyone has an idea how to avoid it, please let me know! (Strangely I have never had this problem with Matcha Crème Brûlée).

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml (about 14 fl oz) milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 flat tablespoons matcha + some more to sprinkle on top before serving

Pour the milk into a pan.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the matcha.

Strain the warm milk into the bowl with egg yolks and mix everything with a spoon.

Wash the pan.

Pour the cream mixture into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling), constantly stirring.

Strain it and put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture once more into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that half of the creams is covered.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with sieved matcha just before serving.

Peach and Gin Mousse

Peaches and gin go hand in hand. When I made my first jar of Peach Jam with Gin I discovered peaches and gin go hand in hand. Obviously, when I started to look for an idea of a peach dessert, I immediately thought of gin addition.

I wanted a high concentration of peach taste in a light, refreshing treat for hot days and the mousse idea appealed to me at once. All the recipes I saw or knew called for cream, yogurt, cream cheese or egg whites, but I decided to stick to the basics: fruit, gin and gelatin. The result was an irresistible explosion of peach flavour, with a slightly sharp note due to the gin addition. This cooling dessert reminded me of a sorbet, but softer, neater and rather for adults.

TIP: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,   powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 300 ml/about 10 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has a more than 300 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard).

Preparation: 10 minutes+ a couple of hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4):

4 very ripe peaches (about1/2 kg)

2/3 tablespoon powdered gelatin (you can use of course leaves, the amount necessary to set 300 ml liquid; this way you will obtain a “moussy” texture, see the TIP above)

juice from 1/2 lemon

100 ml gin

Put the peaches in boiling water for two minutes. Take them away with a slotted spoon and place immediately in cold water. After a couple of minutes the peel will come off easily with fingers.

Remove the stones and mix the fruit with the gin in a food processor.

Dissolve the gelatin in a couple of tablespoons of warm water and add to the peach mixture.

Mix well for 1 minute.

Pour the still liquid mousse into individual bowls and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.

It will keep in the fridge for several days.

Light Coffee and Cardamom Cream

As an avowed coffee addict I also adore desserts containing my favourite drug. Last week I thought it was high time I tried to make one on my own. Browsing through my cookery books I was tempted to make not the easiest coffee éclairs, but finally opted for the cream recipe I found in “Le meilleur et le plus simple de Robuchon (The best and the easiest by Robuchon).

Even though he doesn’t have anything in common with coffee, Joël Robuchon is worth mentioning here for those who have never heard about him. He is the chef, who has collected the biggest number of Michelin starts in the world (26!) and whose most famous recipe was… potato purée! Several years ago Robuchon retired, travelled all around the world, especially to Asia and ended up creating a new “open kitchen” concept of restaurants. His “Ateliers” have been opened in several countries in the world. Click here if you want to learn a bit more about this extraordinary and – what is rare among the big chefs – humble and truly nice man.

Let’s go back to the cream. The recipe didn’t call for coffee, but I saw modifying it would not be a big problem. As the title promised, it was very easy indeed and I say this, conscious of the fact that many people dread the hot water bath, or “bain marie”, necessary in this recipe. I don’t know why I added cardamom, but it proved a wise decision, since it added dynamism and complexity. The coffee-cardamom combination creates a refreshing, elegant and serious dessert, particularly pleasant on hot days. As almost always I have slightly modified the basic cream recipe.

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Calories: approx. 4 x 155 kcal (if using skimmed milk and real sugar)

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 heaped tablespoons instant coffee or 2 very small and very strong espresso)

2 pods of cardamom

Pour the milk into a pan.

Crush the cardamom pods and throw them with the grains to the milk.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside and let the cardamom infuse for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the coffee (cold if using espresso).

Strain the cardamom milk into the bowl with egg yolks.

Discard the cardamom and wash the pan.

Mix everything with a spoon and pour into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling).

Put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that half of the creams is covered.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold.

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

matchacbpCrème brûlée or burnt cream is probably the most frequent dessert I make and my favourite along with chocolate mousse. It is light, it is cold and warm, soft and crunchy…  Taken from the famous French chef Alain Ducasse’s book (“Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition), my crème brûlée recipe calls for half milk and half cream, following the contemporary lightning desserts tendency I observe in the famous chefs’ or confectioners’ recipes. If you have never prepared cream and milk version, do try it.

Crème brûlée (or burnt cream, since the British and the French both claim its invention) is one of the dishes I have always preferred unaltered, only seasoned with vanilla pods. I have always regretted all the modifications. I also think the savoury starter of crème brûlée with foie gras (fat duck’s liver) is the worst thing which can be done with this expensive and wonderful product.

Crème brûlée with matcha is  however an exception. Matcha (抹茶) is the Japanese powdered green tea, used in the tea ceremony and in many desserts. Since I am a big green tea drinker, I have always had a feeling I would love it in crème brûlée. Somehow I have never had the occasion to taste it in a restaurant and I couldn’t decide on making it. One day, when I saw it in a restaurant review featured on the Shizuoka Gourmet blog, I felt the time has come to try it.

I haven’t followed any specific recipe. I have simply adapted my usual one, adding matcha. I must proudly say my crème brûlée with matcha was sensational. It was very refreshing, with a slightly bitter, herbaceous and surprisingly sophisticated taste. Even though I am now its avowed fan, I wouldn’t advice serving it to those who hate green tea and to children. (Both would certainly love the basic crème brûlée though.) However, if you like green tea and/or want to be surprised how easily a sophisticated dessert can be produced at home, give it a try!

The only thing I would change next time is straining the liquid before pouring it into the burnt cream dishes. The foam which forms during the mixing process darkens the burnt cream.

If you don’t feel like experimenting with matcha or if you are simply not a fan of this Japanese green tea, you might like the classic Light Crème Brûlée:

cremebruleep

TIPS: Do not taste this matcha version (it doesn’t concern the traditional crème brûlée) unless it has spent 12 hours in the fridge. It improves with time. It was excellent after 12 hours, but, after 48 hours in the fridge, I could only define it as fabulous.

Blowtorch is a very good investment since, at least from my experience, it’s impossible to obtain the contrasting textures and temperatures crème brûlée is famous for with an oven broiler (the cream warms up). You can use blowtorch on many other custardy desserts and sweet tarts.

Click here for a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

If you don’t have brown cane sugar, you can use caster sugar to burn, but the taste is worse.

If you travel to France and order burnt cream in an unknown restaurant, I would strongly advise asking if it’s burnt just before being served. I had several times an unpleasant surprise of soggy caramel and a uniform temperature in restaurants where the cream is burnt before the opening hours and sits for several hours in the fridge.

Special equipment: a blowtorch

Preparation: about 2 hours+ min. 12 hours in the fridge (the best is to wait 48 hours)

Calories (the whole batch, using skimmed milk and including the burnt sugar): about 1600 kcal

Ingredients (serves 4):

5 egg yolks

250 ml/8,5 fl oz/about 1 cup milk

250 ml/8,5 oz/about 1 cup liquid cream (without any thickeners; I have used cream with 25% fat content)

4 teaspoons matcha 

4 slightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar

about 50 g/about 1/4 cup cane sugar (but not the moist one!)

Put the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, put aside for 30 minutes.

Strain it.

Preheat the oven at 100°C or 120°C if it’s the old oven type .

Put the yolks, the sugar and the matcha in a blender or food processor and mix it.

Add the warm – not hot! – milk with cream and mix again for a couple of minutes.

Strain it to eliminate the foam and pour the mixture into six burnt cream dishes or other small shallow ramekins.

Bake it for approximately 45 minutes. (The custards are ready when only their centres are slightly trembling when moved).

Let them cool down. Put into the fridge for at least 12 hours (but it would be even better to leave them for 48 hours).

Just before serving take the creams out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel (water drops will appear on the surface and they will make the burning process difficult).

Sprinkle with cane sugar and caramelise it with a special blowtorch.

Serve immediately while the top is still warm and crunchy and the cream below stays very cold.