Fresh Strawberries w/ Hot Fudge Sauce

Although, this is a fruit we can buy all year-round, strawberries are synonymous with summer. In the 1960’s, the chocolate fondue was invented by Konrad Egli of the Swiss Chalet Restaurant in the USA. He came up with the idea as a way to encourage customers to buy dessert. This idea has since faded into the background of the dessert scene but doesn’t mean its not fair game for an update.

For anyone who is a chocoholic, there are just so many sweet things up can dip into chocolate sauce from fruit to chunks of cake or cookies.

Individual desserts add such a elegant, personal touch. These little ceramic, ‘amuse busch’ dishes are normally used for a small delicacy that is served to let you experience a taste of what is coming in the main course. In this case, its a little something to have after dinner.

If you are interested in getting a few of these ‘spoons’, I found them at a T&T Supermarket for about $1.85 each. So cute, inexpensive & a must have for a special occasion.

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Fresh Strawberries w/ Hot Fudge Sauce
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Instructions
  1. Place the chocolate in a medium-sized heatproof bowl & set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar & butter; place over medium heat & bring JUST to a simmer, stirring often.
  3. Remove from heat & pour immediately over chocolate. Let stand until the chocolate has melted, then stir gently until smooth.
  4. Whisk in vanilla & the liqueur (if using). Place some of the hot fudge sauce in each of the ceramic amuse busch dishes & top with a fresh strawberry.

Beggar’s Purse Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce

Today July 25th, is my dear sister Loretta’s birthday. Having an older sister is a very unique experience that not everyone can truly know about. We are all products of our environment, and even if we are completely unaware of it, having that ‘big sis, little sis’ dynamic as you grew up, was a huge influence.

I remember how much I enjoyed being with Loretta and doing things together. She always seemed to have the answer to the ‘question’ and was just so much fun to be with.

Since Loretta was the ‘older’ one, she was expected to be more responsible and set an example, leaving me more lee-way to be a bit of a ‘dreamer’ at times. I have always valued Loretta’s advice and honest opinions. I am truly grateful to have her in our lives.

Although Loretta can’t be with us today, I think she would enjoy these little seafood crepes.

Crepes, whether they are rolled or stacked, sweet or savory make such a special meal. I remember some years ago, Brion & I had the pleasure of Loretta’s company on a trip to France. One of the first foods we enjoyed in France was crepes. They definitely made a lasting memory for the three of us.

Today, I wanted to do something a bit different. Sometimes, the name of a dish is simply inspired by its appearance. Such is the case of the crepes called ‘Beggar’s Purse’. The traditional dish consists of mini crepes topped with a good serving of high quality caviar and a dollop of sour cream. The edges of the crepe are pulled up into pleats and tied with a bow of chives. The resulting little bag looked like a purse.

Since then, the dish has been cloned thousands of times and the name beggar’s purse has become a somewhat generic term applied to dishes with various toppings tied in a similar way to resemble a purse. In addition to crepes, phyllo pastry, wonton wrappers or tortillas are used.

In North America, the beggar’s purse, reportedly derived from the French ‘aumoniere‘ pastry, has gilded origins. The dish became popular in the 1980’s. Aumoniere is a type of pastry but it also a medieval term for a small purse or pouch generally used in the 13th & 14th centuries. These purses were often embroidered.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!

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Seafood Crepes w/ Gorgonzola Sauce
Instructions
Crepe Batter (yields 12-8" crepes)
  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour & salt. Add eggs, melted (cool) butter & milk; whisk to incorporate then add the water. Continue whisking until smooth then fold in chopped chives. Batter should coat the back of a spoon like heavy cream, but if it is too thick, add a bit more water or milk. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
Scallop Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms until moisture evaporates. In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce & cornstarch; add prepared scallops, ginger, garlic, green onion, cilantro & water chestnuts, mix together. Stir mixture into sauteed mushrooms & cook only until scallops are translucent. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
Gorgonzola Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add garlic & rosemary (if using); cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour & stir to make a paste. Whisk in milk & 1/2 & 1/2 cream. Stir & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thick. Add crumbled Gorgonzola, stir until smooth & season with pepper if desired.
Blanche Whole Chives
  1. Blanche chives in a small saucepan of boiling water 10 seconds. Drain & plunge into an 'ice bath'. Pat dry on paper towels.
Cooking Crepes
  1. Heat the clarified butter (oil or cooking spray) in a crepe pan or skillet. Remove crepe batter from fridge & before you use any , give it a quick tap on the counter. Place 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan & swirl to even it out & form a circle. When the edges start to pull away & the crepe looks cooked in the middle, give the crepe a quick flip & cook for just 10-20 seconds on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.
Assembly
  1. Divide scallop filling between the 12 crepes, placing a portion of mixture in the center of each crepe. Gather the sides up to enclose the filling, secure with a toothpick & tie closed with a chive. Remove the toothpick.
  2. On serving plates, ladle some Gorgonzola sauce. Place 3 'beggar's purses' (per serving plate) on top the sauce. At this point, you may want to give each plate 30 seconds of heat in the microwave.
Recipe Notes
  • These little 'purses' can be served as appetizers or a main dish of 3-4 per serving.

Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is as classic as it comes but pineapple tart or pie, not so much. The original recipe appeared in a fund-raising cookbook in the USA around 1924. Later Gold Metal Flour came out with a full page ad in a women’s magazine in 1925.

Since then, there are many variations to this classic cake. The sweet-tart flavor of pineapple works beautifully alongside a wide range of companion flavors and ingredients as well as the gentle spices of ginger, cinnamon and vanilla to enhance it just a bit more.

Because this particular fruit doesn’t ripen further after being picked, its good to look for a pineapple that is heavy for its size, with a rich, sweet fragrance.

Pineapple pie is not the number one star among pies. In the fall and winter season, its probably apple and in spring and summer, strawberry or maybe blueberry. However, I thought I’d make a ‘hybrid’ version of the old classic. This pineapple tart looks beautiful presented as one large ring, although it could easily be made into individual tarts as well. Of course, don’t hesitate to top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped topping.

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Spiced Pineapple Puff Tart
Instructions
Spiced Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter then add ginger, cinnamon & sugar; stir to dissolve. Add orange juice & bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla & allow to sit for at least 30 minutes to infuse flavors. Peel pineapple & cut into quarters. Remove the core, then slice into 1 cm chunks, then place them into a deep dish. Reheat the syrup; pour over pineapple & allow to marinate until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Roll the pastry out on a piece of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/8-inch, then trim to make a large circle. Cut out about a 2-inch circle from the center to form a ring. Cut any pastry that has been trimmed off into pieces & place on top of circle giving it a second layer. Transfer to a baking sheet & place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Strain the syrup from the pineapple into a small saucepan. Add cornstarch; place over a medium heat to thicken.
  4. Prick the pastry ring all over with a fork, then arrange the pineapple pieces in a fan around the ring.
  5. Dust the tart liberally with powdered sugar & bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is caramelized & golden brown. When ready to serve, drizzle with spiced syrup & top with a scoop of ice cream.

Raspberry Pistachio Muffins w/ Peaches

For some reason, when I was making these muffins, they made me think about when Brion & I had traveled in Europe years ago. You were offered a ‘continental breakfast’ with your hotel stay. Its all pretty common place these days, but as always, the history behind it is interesting.

A continental breakfast is defined as, ‘a light breakfast in a hotel, restaurant, etc., that includes baked goods, jam, fruit, and coffee’. All of which were shelf-stable items in portion sizes that are perfect for large groups of people.

The term continental breakfast originated in Britain in the mid-19th Century. To the British, the continent refers to the countries of mainland Europe. A continental breakfast describes the type of breakfast you’d encounter in places like France and the Mediterranean. Its a lighter, more delicate alternative to the full English or American breakfasts.

Along with being cost effective … you don’t need much staff to tend a few trays of bagels, pastries and carafes of orange juice & coffee in the lobby. Guests like the convenience of the food and the perceived value of getting something for free.

Today, the continental breakfast included in the price of the room is pretty much standard in most hotels worldwide.

Long story short, these little fruit filled muffins fit the bill perfectly!

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Raspberry Pistachio Muffins w/ Peaches
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper baking cups.
  2. In a food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground. In a medium bowl, whisk together pistachios, flour, sugar, baking powder & baking soda. Add peaches, stirring to coat them.
  3. In another bowl, whisk yogurt, butter, eggs, vanilla & orange zest. Fold in the dry ingredients making sure not to over mix. Divide batter between the 12 muffin cups. Insert 2 or 3 whole raspberries into each muffin. Sprinkle with some slivered pistachios. Push them down a bit into the batter so they don't fall out when the muffins rise.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen & golden. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish.

Strawberry Lime Cheesecake Cups

The flavor of lime has not always been one that I have enjoyed. It always seemed to have an overall harsh characteristic about it. After we spent a few holidays in the Yucatan, Brion started using lime juice in his chicken soup and really enjoyed it. From there I swapped out the lemon juice for lime in our guacamole. Now here I am putting it in cheesecake. Who knew it could be that good!

A squeeze of lime juice is vital to many classic dishes. It’s the kick in a margarita, the spark that ignites many curries and the tart foil to sweetness in a host of desserts. Conveniently, for such an indispensable ingredient, limes are available year round.

Lime pairs well with apple, berries, cherry, ginger, papaya, plum and strawberry to name a few. Today, I’m using it in a cheesecake filling. It seems like a nice little dessert to start off the month of June.

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Strawberry Lime Cheesecake Cups
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword cheesecake
Servings
Ingredients
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword cheesecake
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cheesecake Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar & lime juice & beat well. When cookie cups have completely cooled, pipe the filling in them & top with a fresh strawberry. Refrigerate until served.

Blueberry Custard Tarts w/ Candied Lemon Curls

This is a spring version of summertime fresh blueberry tarts. Even though we are a long way from blueberry season, nothing wrong with using some frozen ones. At our house we use a lot of lemons which means there are always lemon peels available. Candied lemon peel is an excellent way of using up the flavorful but not as tasty peel.

Candied or crystallized fruit, has been around since the 14th century as a method of food preservation. It seems to have started out in the Arab culture, being served at banquets. Candied fruit as a whole, would reach the west where they became the key part of some of the most well known cakes and breads of European tradition, such as Italian Panettone and German Stollen.

Candied lemon peels are a very versatile ingredient. Chopped up, they can be used in baked goods for a lemony flavor boost, whereas whole strips can be dipped in chocolate and used as an edible gift.

For my blueberry tarts, I thought some candied lemon curls would make a pretty garnish not to mention the additional flavor they give.

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Blueberry Custard Tarts w/ Candied Lemon Curls
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Custard
Shortbread Crust
Blueberries
Candied Lemon Curls (MAKE ONE DAY EARLIER)
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Custard
Shortbread Crust
Blueberries
Candied Lemon Curls (MAKE ONE DAY EARLIER)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Custard
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk sugar, eggs, yolks, & cornstarch together until smooth. When milk is simmering, whisk half of it into the egg mixture then gradually add the egg/milk mixture to the rest of the milk.
  2. Return saucepan to the heat & cook, whisking constantly until very thick. Whisk in the butter & vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate. Be sure the plastic is touching the top of the custard to prevent it from forming a film over it. When custard is cooled & you are ready to use it, whip with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.
Shortbread Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine butter & sugar; cream well. Add vanilla & combine. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Divide dough into 8 portions. Press each portion into a 4 X 3/4-inch mini tart pan. Using a fork, poke some holes in the bottom of each shell. Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & cool before filling.
Blueberries
  1. In a saucepan, whisk all ingredients together & cook over medium-high heat until thickened.
Candied Lemon Curls
  1. Cut the ends off of the lemon. Carefully cut down ONE side of the lemon. Continue the same cut through the FRUIT of the lemon, stopping at the peel. Do NOT cut through the peel.
  2. Carefully open up the lemon & make more cuts through the FRUIT so that it will lay flat; remove the fruit from the peel. Turn the peel over & trim the edges & carefully remove all of the white pith from the inside of the peel. Cut the peel into strips about 1/8-inch wide.
  3. In a small saucepan, add sugar & water & bring to a simmer. Add peels & gently simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lay peels on a cooling rack. Allow to cool slightly, then toss in a bit of granulated sugar. They will slightly curl as they cool.
Assembly
  1. Divide custard between tart shells, top with blueberries & garnish with candied lemon curls.
Recipe Notes
  • I find this recipe works the best if everything is made a day earlier than needed. That way each component has a chance to cool well before you assemble & serve.

Shrimp Quiche Casserole

Quiche has always been an incomparable, one dish meal in my opinion. It’s kind of a whole food with protein, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates. Quiche’s convenience wins hands down. After mixing the basics … eggs, milk or cream … any ingredients will work from leftovers to freshly cooked. You can use just about anything that you have in the refrigerator.

While some recipes are crust-free, most quiches have some kind of foundation. Potatoes, rice, cauliflower all make nice ‘crust’ options. Quiche makes a great choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. To keep it interesting, I’m always trying to find ways to tweak the ingredients to make it taste just a bit different each time.

Two of Brion’s favorite foods are broccoli and rice. I decided to make a rice/cheese crust, which I pre-baked so it would get a little crispy. Then, when it bakes with the filling, it holds together quite nicely. The seasoning plays a crucial part in the quiche.

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Shrimp Quiche Casserole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Rice Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend crust ingredients. Using the back of a large spoon, press into a greased 8-inch round baking dish & bake for 15-20 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter; saute garlic & mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Pour 2 cups water into skillet & bring to a simmer. Cook shrimp for about 1 minute or JUST until pink. Reserving 1 cup of the liquid, rinse shrimp under cold running water. Shell & devein shrimp; arrange over rice in baking dish.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. (If you have turned it off after pre-baking crust). In a heavy saucepan, melt remaining butter & stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, without browning; gradually whisk in reserved liquid & milk. Cook, stirring, for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, lemon zest & spices until cheese is melted. Stir into vegetable mixture & pour over shrimp in rice crust.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup cheese & bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over 'quiche'. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiche is 'set'. Cut into wedges & serve.

Irish Cream Cheesecake in Chocolate Cups

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

Although St. Patrick’s Day started out as a religious feast holiday, celebrating the life of St Patrick, it has become kind of a mixture of non-religious celebrations steeped in Irish culture, folklore and superstition.

Each year on March 17th, we break out every piece of green clothing and jewelry, dye food green etc. … not quite the way it was celebrated in the 7th century. Green wasn’t even part of the equation. The original color associated with St. Patrick’s day was actually blue. One of the reason’s green replaced blue was because of Ireland’s nickname, The Emerald Isle.

For my food tribute to acknowledge St. Patrick’s day, I’m making some Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecakes. This iconic liqueur came about when R & A Bailey found a way of bringing together the two great Irish traditions of distilling and dairy farming. Launched in 1975, Bailey’s Irish Cream can best be described as moderately sweet with roasted nut, maple sugar, spice and fig aromas. The liqueur is not only enjoyed on the rocks, in coffee or in cocktails but as a topping or baking ingredient.

These fuss-free chocolate cups work well with the unbaked Irish Cream cheesecake filling.

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Irish Cream Cheesecake in Chocolate Cups
Votes: 2
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Servings
servings
Ingredients
Chocolate Cups
Irish Cream Cheesecake Filling
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Chocolate Cups
Irish Cream Cheesecake Filling
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chocolate Cups
  1. Paper-line 8 muffin cups. In a microwave-safe bowl, place chocolate wafers. Microwave chocolate in short increments of time until chocolate is almost melted. Then stir until the chocolate is smooth.
  2. With a pastry brush, thickly & evenly coat inside pleated surface & bottom of each paper cup with melted chocolate. Refrigerate coated cups for 10 minutes or until firm. Remove from refrigerator, carefully peel paper from each cup. (Will keep for a good length of time in an airtight container in refrigerator.)
Irish Cream Cheesecake Filling
  1. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the gelatin & 1/4 cup heavy cream. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. With a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar & salt until creamy & smooth. Slowly pour in the Irish cream & remaining heavy cream. Increase the speed to medium & beat until smooth & creamy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
  3. After the gelatin has absorbed a good bit of the cream, microwave the gelatin mixture for 25 seconds to melt it. With the mixer on medium-low, slowly pour the melted gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Increase speed to medium-high & beat till fluffy & voluminous, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture into chocolate cups & refrigerate for at least one hour. These cheesecakes are fine unadorned but nothing says you can't top them with a dollop of whipped cream & a few blueberries.

Mandarin Orange Tarts

Although mandarin oranges are a traditional holiday food, they sure make a wonderful bit of sunshine for us still in the colder part of our year.

Very often when I go to make something and the recipe calls for orange or lemon zest, its not something I have on hand. I guess its all about thinking ahead and drying the citrus peels when I do have them. There is no magic secret … just time and patience. Wash and dry the fruit, lightly grate off only the top layer of peel. Transfer to a flat dish to dry then store the zest in a glass jar. When it comes time to use, crush some between your fingers before adding it to other ingredients. This will release the citrus essence and flavor.

There is no comparison between artificial flavors and real citrus zest in baked goods. These little mandarin tarts not only use it in the filling but the pastry as well.

There are various other uses for citrus zest such as in poultry marinades, baked into breads or for a splash of flavor in tea. These tarts made such a simple little refreshing dessert.

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Mandarin Orange Tarts
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, French
Servings
Ingredients
Orange Pastry
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, French
Servings
Ingredients
Orange Pastry
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Orange Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk flour, sugar & zest. Add butter & blend with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the orange juice, using enough to form a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl.
  3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using a 2 1/2-inch cutter, make 12 circles & fit into tart pan cups. Line the pastry with foil & add pastry weights. Bake about 10-15 minutes. Remove weights & foil & bake 10 minutes longer until pastry is golden.
Mandarin Orange Pastry Cream
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar & cornstarch until it turns pale yellow.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk & orange zest; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, slowly add a egg mixture a little at a time, whisking well until fully incorporated.
  3. Return mixture to heat & keep whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Stir in orange juice. Transfer to a bowl & cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream. When it comes to room temperature, refrigerate.
  4. When cooled & you are ready to use the pastry cream, whisk with an electric mixer for 15-20 seconds to a smooth & spreadable texture. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Top each with a couple of mandarin orange slices. Brush oranges with a bit of apricot jelly.
Recipe Notes
  • If pastry¬†weights are not available, reverse you tart pan & place pastry rounds over the bottoms of tart cups to bake.
  • If you use canned mandarins for decoration, drain & blot on paper towel to remove excess liquid.

Kiwi Walnut Mini Cakes w/ Strawberry Coulis

Not only does kiwi look and taste like no other fruit, its also available when some of the other fresh fruits aren’t. The month of February is a good time for this favorite duo. Ever since the 80’s, when the world first fell in love with the kiwi/strawberry flavor, the combo is in everything. I guess its because they are the perfect complement to each other’s flavor profile.

Since there are just the two of us at our house, I always like the idea of making individual desserts. Upside down cakes are so versatile, quick and uncomplicated. You can make them plain , fancy, sweet, savory, large, small …. your choice!

Today, my plan is to make some kiwi/walnut cakes with a strawberry coulis. A fruit coulis (pronounced koo-Lee) is a thick sauce made from pureed and strained fruit. They may also be made from fruit jams or preserves that are strained and diluted with water, liquor or simple syrup. Additional seasonings such as spices may be used as well as acids like lemon juice, but they are typically kept simple to avoid ‘muddying’ the flavor with too many ingredients. Coulis originally referred to the juices from cooked meats and may also be made with cooked vegetables.

Coulis can be used in many different ways such as plate decoration or just for a burst of complimentary flavor. My strawberry coulis certainly worked its magic on these little kiwi cakes.

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Kiwi Walnut Mini Cakes w/ Strawberry Coulis
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Cake
Strawberry Coulis
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Cake
Strawberry Coulis
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. lightly butter 6 custard baking cups. From parchment paper, cut circles to lay on the bottom of each. Divide melted butter between the 6 cups. Sprinkle with the brown sugar & walnuts. top with kiwi fruit slices.
Cake
  1. In a small bowl, beat together eggs & sugar until thick; gradually beat in oil. In a small dish, combine flour, baking powder, spices & salt. Stir flour mixture into egg/sugar mixture, then add orange juice & vanilla. Stir ONLY until combined.
  2. Pour the batter over fruit in custard cups, dividing it evenly between them. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Allow cakes to cool for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.
Strawberry Coulis
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar & lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat & cool for a few minutes. Transfer to blender; puree until smooth, strain & set aside until ready to serve.
Assembly
  1. Place some coulis on individual dessert plates & top with a kiwi cake. Store any leftover coulis in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.