Coconut and Muscovado Sugar Panna Cotta with Tropical Fruit Compote

I’ll better start with some explanations. I haven’t abandoned my blogging, although it might recently seem like that. I am sort of on a maternity leave taking care of my new baby girl – a 10 week old Doberman puppy. She is a handful, but also an amazing joy. There’s almost no sleep for me nowadays. As for the puppy, she naps briefly giving me very little time just to fix simple meals for my family and no time for baking at all. I apologize profusely for my absence here lately and for a delay in replying on your e-mails and answering the questions. I’m planning to dedicate an upcoming Saturday entirely for this purpose. And once our girl is housebroken and doesn’t require constant supervision, I’ll post way more often, that’s my promise.

Obviously, the recipe below would suit fine people in the situation like mine – who don’t have much time or/and energy for lengthy dessert preparations. The recipe makes more fruit compote than needed for a topping, but it keeps for a couple of days in the fridge and tastes great over plain yogurt for breakfast or just on its own.

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Apple Strawberry Crisp with Hazelnut Whipped Cream and Giveaway

At the very bottom there is a layer of lightly spiced sautéed apples. Then goes strawberry puree, followed by Frangelico-spiked whipped cream and, finally, crispy buttery hazelnut crisp. The recipe, with some of my adaptations, is from the Top Chef cookbook.

The delicious and exceptionally easy to put together, originally served with fresh strawberries, this parfait is a perfect transitional summer-autumn dessert. But since the summer time, as well as good fresh berries, has well passed, I replaced the fresh strawberries with the puree made from the frozen ones (but picked at their most ripe). The dish was great; I think it’s very much appropriate for any season.

And now I want to return to the book mentioned earlier. This book and a Top Chef 7” Japanese style Santoku knife are for you to win. For the fans of the show, the fifth season of the Emmy-award winning series Top Chef DVD has been recently released and it includes extended interviews and some never-before-seen material.

I believe everyone knows the drill. You leave a comment on this post before midnight (PST) December 17th and I will make the draw and ask the winner to e-mail me the postal address for the goodies to ship. Good Luck!

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Cinnamon Panna Cotta with Spicy Autumn Fruit Compote

The recipe for the cinnamon panna cotta is adapted from Camilla V. Saulsbury’s “Panna Cotta” book which was brought to my attention by a publisher. Despite my skepticism towards the unmolded panna cotta in general, I have to admit that this recipe successfully achieves both – creamy texture and free-standing presentation. I didn’t serve it with a sticky toffee sauce as per author’s suggestion, but with spicy autumn fruit compote to cut down the richness a bit.

The book has a lot of interesting ideas, delicious flavor combinations and not only sweet, but savory as well. Just for the tease in light of the upcoming holidays – Chestnut Caramel, Pumpkin, Molasses, Five-Spice and Honey, Gingerbread Spice, and much more.

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Stilton Cheesecake Tarts with Rhubarb Pink Peppercorn Compote and Walnut Crumble

Before you wrinkle your nose and leave my site, let me quickly tell you that this combination is very, very good. I probably wouldn’t serve it to toddlers; I doubt they will appreciate it. But a more mature audience will be certainly pleased.

My big thanks to my dear friend Olga who provides me with fresh rhubarb from her garden every season.

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Rhubarb/Strawberry Compote Yogurt and Homemade Granola Parfait

I often call it a breakfast. That means I have an excuse to have a dessert afterwards with my morning espresso.  Yes, I believe every meal should be followed by a sweet course.

I prefer to bake rhubarb instead of cooking on a stove since it lessens the chance of overcooking. The rhubarb is such a sneaky veggie; one minute it’s raw and not even remotely done, the next moment – it’s already a puree.

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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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