Monday, June 23, 2008

All Wrapped Up

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Most nights, "dessert" usually consists of a platter of fresh fruits, making the most of the fruits of nature we're lucky enough to enjoy during the summer months before we plunged right back into the long, cold, dark abyss of winter. However, sometimes it's nice to have something a bit more special and out-of-the-ordinary, even on a weeknight. I love the mere fact that crepes can be thrown together, with a little bit of planning ahead of time, in mere moments, but still remains to be such a classic and elegant dessert.

June is such a fantastic month, not only because it's the official start of summer and the month of my birthday, but it's the time when so many fresh produce is starting to ripen and ready to be picked and eaten. As a kid, my parents used to go strawberry picking, and we would spend and hour or two one evening in the field, picking those lush, sweet berries off the bushes. Or more like my parents picking them while I just sat around eating them right off the bush... I haven't been back strawberry picking in over a decade now, and I've been nostalgic this year in wanting to go back to pick lots of strawberry in order to make my own jam. Unfortunately, the weather has not been co-operating with me, as it has rained almost every day this month.

Luckily I still had a box of strawberries lying in the fridge. While store-bought strawberries cannot be compared to fresh picked-from-the-field ones, they will have to do for now. With the leftover mascarpone I had from last week's Tiramisu, I quickly put together some Lemon Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes, a fresh and light dessert perfect for those hot summer days, and delicious with a drizzle of chocolate on top.

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Lemon Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Serves 4 to 6

1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp canola oil
8 tsp melted unsalted butter or oil for brushing pan

For mascarpone filling
150 g mascarpone cheese
A couple drops of vanilla extract
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, separated

For strawberries
About 2 cups strawberries, sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
Scant 1 tbsp sugar

Semi-sweet or dark chocolate, for drizzle
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

For the crepes, combine milk, flour, egg, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, oil and sugar (if using) in a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, place the sliced strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a non-reactive bowl and mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to make crepes, remove the batter from the fridge and whisk the batter. Heat a crepe pan or small nonstick pan (about 6 1/2 to 7-inches in diameter) over medium-high heat. To test if it is hot enough, sprinkle a few drops of water onto the dry pan; if the water sizzles and instantly evaporates, the pan is hot enough. Reduce the heat to medium, and brush the pan with a heat-resistant brush with some of the melted butter or oil and pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the centre of the pan, tilting the pan to spread the batter to the edges evenly. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crepes is golden underneath, about 2m inutes. Using a spatula, flip the crepe over and brown the other side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the crepe to a plate, cover, and keep warm in a 200°F oven. Repeat with the remainder of the batter.

While crepes are cooking, make the mascarpone cream. In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream egg yolk with 1 tbsp sugar and vanilla extract. Add the mascarpone cheese and whisk until well combined. Add a large tablespoon of the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture, and with a spatula, gently fold into the mascarpone to loosen the cream. Scrape all the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites and gently fold to incorporate. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble, lay a crepe flat, spread with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mascarpone cream and 1 tablespoon of the sliced strawberries and fold the crepe into a triangle, a half-moon, or roll it up like a spring roll; repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. Drizzle with some melted semi-sweet or dark chocolate and dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

N.A. Don't have mascarpone on hand? This cream taste much the same as Chantilly cream, so feel free to use whipped cream in place of the mascarpone to make Chantilly cream. Or serve the crepes and strawberries with a really good vanilla ice cream, a classic combination!


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