Vanilla Cheesecake Mint White Chocolate Mousse and Strawberry Gelée Bites

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge, hosted by Jenny from JennyBakes, was Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake. My sincere thank you to Jenny not just for hosting, but also for not limiting us with rules and restrictions, for providing with an opportunity to create a dessert suiting everyone’s taste. We were free to choose any flavor combination as well as presentation options.

I didn’t change the original cheesecake recipe, except for omitting a graham crust (I’m not very fond of it, to be honest) and adding a tablespoon of flour to the batter (an old habit, couldn’t help myself). I scaled the recipe down, but baked the cheesecake in a required 9-inch pan, so the cake was not too tall and could be easily cut into small rounds. These cheesecake cut-outs were fit inside crispy caramelized phyllo tubes (cylinders) baked earlier. Sticky cheesecake bottoms were then dipped into coarsely ground pistachios creating some sort of a crust and preventing the dessert from adhering to a serving platter. The mint infused white chocolate mousse was piped over the cheesecake and, after the mousse was set, the strawberry gelée, cut into small cubes, was piled over the mousse layer. A little bit more of the pistachios and fresh mint leaves for garnish completed the picture.

They are easy to handle, small-portioned, one-bite (ok, maybe two-bites for some of us, always struggling with those huge sushi rolls as I am) dessert which I found satisfying enough and sufficient for serving one per person (after a good meal).

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Caramelized Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons

Caramelized Phyllo and Pumpkin Marshmallow Napoleons

A pumpkin pie that I would love is an ongoing project. I’ve tested dozens of recipes but haven’t yet found the favorite one. As soon as I hit it I’ll certainly share my discovery with you. Meanwhile, there’s a whimsy but tasty alternative. Caramelized phyllo rounds (or it can be any other shape appealing to your eye) can be made a day in advance and they would still preserve their crispiness if you store them in an airtight container away from moisture. But the whole stack shouldn’t be assembled more than 2-3 hours in advance to ensure crispy pastry. I served the napoleons with caramelized spicy-salty walnuts, candied ginger, and some maple syrup drizzled over.

Also there’s a thought worthy to be mentioned. I found that the baking of phyllo flattened under a weight is a great solution when the store bought phyllo pastry turns out to be too dry and too fragile (due to improper storage, I suspect) to be used for any other baking needs requiring rolling-shaping. Nothing has to be wasted, it still can be transformed into delicious stuff. There are thousands of possible filling variations as well as presentation options.

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Apple Strudel with Cranberry Sauce

Apple Strudel

Farmers’ markets smell like apples. It’s impossible not to buy some when you are there. What’s more difficult is to resist the temptation of buying more apples than you actually need – happens to me all the time…

The strudel is one of my favorite ways to utilize these fruits. I stuff the strudel generously with finely chopped (never grated and squeezed) apples, kirsch-soaked raisins, crushed gingersnaps, and sugar. Some chopped toasted pecans or walnuts would be a nice addition to the filling if you are lucky and none of your family members suffer from nut allergies. I never leave all the filling juices behind, but spoon them over the apples. I like my filling succulent and caramelly, soft but yet with some texture present in the apples and not dry and gummy with barely recognizable ingredients. The sauce itself is also quite memorable. If you want you can make a sour cream sauce as well (for color contrast) and plate the strudel. But we ended up by pouring more cranberry sauce over the slices, anyway; the tiny pretty dots were not enough.

The recipe is adapted from the “Bon Appétit”.

Cranberry Sauce

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Cinnamon Orange Palmiers

Cinnamon Orange Palmiers

This recipe is from “simple and easy” category, or more precisely – “simple, easy, and delicious” :) Well, it is obviously easy if you happened to make puff pastry in advance, or decided to go with a store-bought puff pastry (in this case, make sure it’s a good quality all-butter puff pastry). I’m planning to serve these palmiers along with cranberry and orange mousse. But, it will be my next post (I apologize for the delay but I do experience some lack of time recently, as well as some flu).

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Chocolate Phyllo Triangles with Cream Cheese and Nut Stuffed Dry Fruits

Chocolate Phyllo Triangles with Cream Cheese and Almonds/Pecans Stuffed Apricots/Prunes

There were some phyllo dough leftovers occupying my fridge. I needed to get rid of it and that’s how these pastries were born. They are good and easy to make, and even worthy of buying a new package of phyllo. Don’t limit yourself by using exactly the same dry fruits as I did. Follow your preferences. It can be dates, figs, different nuts, whatever you prefer. If you decide to go with dates, you might want to sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds between the dough layers for adding some Middle Eastern flair. The possibilities are endless; use your imagination!

Phyllo triangles ingredients

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Chocolate Marzipan Stuffed Figs in Chocolate Phyllo Purses

Chocolate Marzipan Stuffed Figs in Chocolate Phyllo Purses with Caramel-Chocolate-Spice Sauce

As soon as fresh figs appear at the farm markets I start buying them greedily. It seems I can’t get enough. With their season so short I rush to cook and bake what I’ve visualized in my head before. As much as I love figs fresh and unadorned I’m eager to experiment as well. Below is one of my experiments and at the same time my entry to Meeta’s “Fruit & Chocolate” event.

I stuffed the fresh Mission figs with the chocolate marzipan balls, then wrapped into the staggered thin sheets of phyllo brushed in between with a mixture of melted butter, cocoa, star anise and cinnamon, and sprinkled with ground almonds and sugar for adding some crunch and sweetness. The baked purses were served with caramel-chocolate sauce infused with star anise and cinnamon. The sauce is versatile and wonderful. You can warm and pour it over ice cream, fruits, berries or a slice of pound cake. It makes a great topping for the same figs, but unbaked, for less complicated dessert. Cut the figs in half vertically and serve them in pretty bowls. Sprinkle some nuts (perhaps, pistachios or cashews, or any other of your choice) over the sauce and serve. Nothing is simpler but both the flavor and presentation are amazing.

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