Zucchini Roasted Tomatoes and Chèvre Rounds

I seldom consume a large meal myself. I’m more sort of a bite-size finger-food lover. And these zucchini things are among my new favorites; the simplest but yet so flavorful.

Adapted from Gale Gand.

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Roasted Pineapple Coconut and Goat Cheese Strudel

This month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge was like a dream come true. I’d been thinking about and planning to learn how to stretch real strudel dough for years. But it always seemed quite time consuming and a bit intimidating. With phyllo dough readily available as a substitute, I’d never attempted the real thing. If I had only known how easy it was! The dough recipe by Rick Rodgers from his wonderful “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” was a little miracle, an absolute pleasure to work with. I managed to stretch the dough effortlessly to the required size, without making a single hole. The whole process of rolling and pulling of the dough took me about five minutes the most. Thank you, Courtney of Coco Cooks and Linda of make life sweeter! – this month’s hosts, for choosing the wonderful recipe for the challenge. It is such a useful skill to acquire. And yes, it was worthy of clipping freshly manicured nails.

As for the strudel filling, I roasted a large pineapple in a mixture of rum, pureed caramelized bananas, ginger and chile flakes (Sherry Yard’s fabulous idea) first. Then I thinly sliced the pineapple and piled it over some toasted coconut spread over the pulled dough. I topped the pineapple with goat cheese pastry cream. The goat cheese I used was fresh, unripened and very delicately flavored, not strong or offensive at all. And for serving, I quickly whipped a fresh mango sauce. The dessert tasted pretty spectacular.

I made a savory strudel as well. There’s, unfortunately, no picture to show since it was baked for a late dinner and there was no daylight for a decent photo to take. The filling was nothing extraordinary, I just utilized every bit of leftovers sitting in my fridge (mostly spinach and baby potatoes, some feta and olives, sautéed onion and garlic, fresh herbs). I didn’t brush the stretched dough with melted butter this time. Instead, I sprayed it with extra-virgin olive oil. I also didn’t sauté fresh bread crumbs in butter as I did for the sweet strudel earlier. I substituted them for Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs. It cut calories down and substantially reduced cholesterol intake. The strudel was as flaky and crispy as the first one.

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Raspberry and Chocolate Clafouti

Son: “What’s for dessert, mum?”
Mum: “Uh… fresh raspberries, perhaps? You see, your mum has been very busy reading your Harry Potter book left so hastily right in her view…” (and now this mum is worrying if a dreadful regressing back-to-her-childhood process has already begun, since she’s found the particular book of yours quite fascinating indeed)
Son: “It won’t suffice… I was hoping for something else…” (the kid is obviously spoiled)
Mum: “Raspberry and chocolate clafouti then?”
Son: “Umm… dunno… but it sounds interesting!” (it sure does in mum’s so perfect French)
And so they’ve settled.

Clafouti is one of the easiest desserts to fix. It’s French in origin, usually made with cherries (stones within). As per my dad’s description, the clafouti is like a sweetened omelet (he wasn’t very fond of this dessert, to be honest). Well, it’s not exactly the omelet. It’s a baked custard, thickened with just a bit of flour to make it sliceable later (you will need to slice it if you bake the clafouti in a large pie pan). I think it’s rustically nice, and easy, and versatile. You can use apricots, peaches, plums, pears, any berry you like or have on hand.

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Lemon Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling and Summer Berries

I have to admit, the cake is not lacking calories. But despite this fact, it feels light, tangy and fresh; just the right thing to serve after a spicy barbecue dinner. You can’t be too generous with berries here, pile them high – it’s so worth it!

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Rose Water Almond Tea Cookies

Tender and delicate, very subtly flavored with rose water, the cookies are destined not just for tea time. They are pretty good with coffee too, as well as without any beverage whatsoever.

Adapted from Sherry Yard

This is my submission to Jugalbandi’s CLICK “Stacks” event.

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Fresh Berry and Cream Cheese Mousse Phyllo Tartlets

Opening a package of phyllo dough for one project often means another one is following soon (you do have to utilize the leftover before it dries, gets brittle and unusable). In this case, I put to use not just the remaining phyllo, but also the vanilla cheesecake trimmings (it took all my willpower not to it eat them right away).

A perfectly baked cheesecake is soft and creamy at room temperature. It can be whipped and differently flavored. I added lemon zest to the cheesecake scraps, beat them until creamy, then folded some whipped cream which turned the mixture into an airy mousse. I piped the mousse over lemon curd and wild blackberry jam-filled tiny phyllo tartlets, and topped it with the fresh berries and pistachios.

The cheesecake is a quite rich dessert where a little goes a long way. Unless it’s been served to a huge crowd, there’s always something left over, no matter how fabulous your cheesecake is (it seems everyone counts calories and worries about cholesterol content these days). So, this might be a way to turn the leftovers into a new dessert, without basically any effort at all. If you don’t have any cheesecake sitting in your fridge, but want to give these tartlets a try, you can follow this Milk Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart recipe for making a filling (no need to bake a cheesecake especially for this), just double the amount to fill all 24 shells. And, if you use different jams and curds under the mousse, it makes sense to mark the tartlets by arranging the berries differently. Otherwise, you may end up like me – poking the tartlets with a skewer in a search for the lemon curd-filled one after eating three in a row filled with the jam.

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