Quick recap: last Sunday was a casserole of fail* on the cooking and crafting front. You may remember that I burned dessert. When you see how easy this dessert is, you will know just how off my game I was.
It's strawberry season here in South Carolina, and this week my son got to go to one of my favorite local farms with his class to pick strawberries. He came home with two pints of lovely, freshly picked, and minimally-smushed-by-and-eager-four-year-old strawberries. And so I set about to redeem myself from last week.
This is hardly even a recipe, and when I say it can be made three ways, I really mean it can be put together three different ways for presentation. And just about every ingredient can be swapped with something else for your taste or convenience. In this variation, the point is to highlight fresh, in-season, 5-mile-carbon-footprint strawberries. If you're lucky enough to live where cherries are local, try those.** Or later in the summer this same dessert could be made with fresh peaches and thyme. In early fall, it could be figs. You get the idea.
Strawberries and Cream Crumble
For the crumble:
1 1/2 cups almonds (ground in a mill or food processor)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
pinch of salt
5 T butter, melted
Stir together almonds, sugar, flour, and salt until well-mixed. Stir in the butter. The mixture should just barely hold together if pressed between your fingers. Press into 6 3" lightly greased tartlet shells or onto an ungreased baking sheet (a scant 1/2" thick). Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool. If "cookies" are desired, use a biscuit cutter to cut circles from the still-warm dough, but allow them to rest, undisturbed, until cool.
For the cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 T fine granular sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
Whip cream and sugar to soft peaks, fold in sour cream. Continue whipping until desired consistency is reached (this will never whip up as stiff as regular whipping cream).
For the syrup:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (nothing fancy required)
1/8 cup sugar
In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine vinegar and sugar. Cook until the mixture has reduced and has the consistency of maple syrup. Let cool.
Put it all together:
If using a tartlet shell, fill each shell with the cream mixture, using an offset spatula. Select smaller berries, or slice larger berries; toss quickly in the syrup, and arrange over the cream. Drizzle with more syrup.
If making a parfait, you can either cut "cookies" the size of your glass or sprinkle in the nut crumble in an even layer. Again, toss the berries in the syrup. Layer as follows: crumble, syrup, cream, strawberries, finishing with a strawberry layer on top.
If making a sundae, pour a little of the syrup in the bottom of the dish, drop in the cream, and top with the syrup-soaked berries and the crumble (a cookie looks nice, but I think I prefer the nut-to-strawberry ration better if it's just a heavy-handed scattering).
* Thank you, Ariel, for giving me this phrase. It is endlessly useful.
** I am very jealous during cherry season of people who live in Michigan. And then I remember that they have to live there in January and February, and I feel a little better.