Three-Layer Bliss

Let me start off by saying I named this dessert Three-Layer Bliss after the absolutely magical mixture of crumbly shortbread, puckering rhubarb, sweet strawberries, and fluffy meringue. Perfecting this recipe to be just what I wanted it to be, however, was anything but blissful.

I initially made this dessert in early June when the first beautiful red and green stalks of rhubarb appeared at my Co-Op. While the source recipe describes “the perfect springtime dessert”, the pilot attempt fell flat. I was convinced I knew what the problem was and that the solution would be a quick fix… but then this pattern continued through the second dish… and the third.

You, though, do not have to worry because I’ve figured it out! Minor issues aside, the fact that I was even able to eat this dessert three times in the span of a month goes to show how scrumptious it is! The recipe below is the final version so you can just go from there with no worries. If you’re curious how I came to this variation, look under Beezer’s Notes

Three-Layer Bliss

(adapted from Daphne West’s Rhubarb Cream Delight in the VT Make-A-Wish Cookbook)

Ingredients:

For the Crust…

1 ½   C     all-purpose flour

¾      C    butter (1 ½ sticks), chilled

3        T    sugar

For the Filling…

1         C     sugar*

4   egg yolks, beaten

2/3    C     evaporated milk

3        T     all-purpose flour

½      t       freshly grated nutmeg

2       C      chopped rhubarb

2       C      hulled and sliced strawberries

*Note: use more or less sugar depending on how sweet your berries are and according to your personal preference. I prefer a more tart filling (the source recipe calls for 2 Cups!) and my berries were fairly sweet. If using only strawberries and no rhubarb, I would suggest 2/3 C.

For the Meringue…

1       C     sugar

8    egg whites

Procedure:

  1. First prepare the crust (a basic shortbread). Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a food processor or pastry cutter combine the flour, chilled butter, and sugar until the mix resembles coarse meal. Press the dough into the bottom of a greased and floured 9 x 13″ baking dish and bake until lightly golden or about 20 minutes. Allow the crust to finish baking and set aside to cool before continuing.
  2. For the filling, combine sugar, flour, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. In another, combine egg yolks and evaporated milk. Add the wet mix to the dry and whisk until incorporated. Add the rhubarb – NOT strawberries – and toss gently until well coated. Pour the rhubarb/custard mix into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly (it can scald quickly!). Continue to cook until custard thickens and rhubarb is soft, but not mushy – about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the strawberries to the saucepan and cook for another 3-5 minutes to gently soften.
  4. Once the crust has returned to room temperature (or is at least warm and not hot), pour the filling on top of it and smooth with a spatula. Set aside.
  5. Beat egg whites on high until soft peaks form.………. Mix in sugar until glossy.
  6. ………………..……………………Pour meringue on as the final layer and smooth with a spatula. If desired, take a clean dry spoon and press the back of it gently into the meringue in neat rows, pulling up swiftly to form tiny peaks.
  7. Back the dish 5 – 10 minutes or until the meringue has lightly browned.

Beezer’s Notes:

Well, again, the fact that I could eat this large dessert three times in a single month should tell you it’s worth trying. The fact that I also ate the second and third attempts at perfecting this dish by myself should also convince you that Three-Layer Bliss is a darn good dessert, haha. I’ll confess I’ve always had a weakness for rhubarb and meringue. That said, even folks who don’t particularly like rhubarb tried it (remember those 4 helpings I mentioned in the beginning?) and were converted.

All those interested in the nitty-gritty: read on. All others, thanks for sticking with me this far – now go try this dessert! 🙂

The Adaptations: I. I reduced the sugar immediately (as per my usual with sweet recipes) and doubled the egg whites for the meringue (I really like meringue), but stayed true to the recipe for everything else the first time around. Unfortunately, the custard didn’t cook long enough and I also forgot to double the amount of sugar added to the meringue to make up for the extra egg whites. Oops. Thus, the first attempt had wonderful fruit, but a very runny center and egg-smelling top.


II. I continued to keep the sugar reduced and the meringue doubled (remembering to also double the meringue sugar this time!). I also cooked the filling three times as long (5 minutes to 15) which resulted in a wonderfully thickened custard (yay!). My mistake here was to keep the fruit in the custard for the longer cooking time – the finished dessert had a decent consistency, perfect meringue, but mushy and flavorless strawberries…


III. Sugar reduced: check. Meringue sugar doubled: check. Fruit added to the custard at the end: check. This time? Perfect crust. Perfect meringue. Perfect custard. Flavorful and juicy strawberries… and rock-hard rhubarb that made your mouth pucker. *sigh* I decided against snapping a third shot since the finished products all look the same anyway, and by this point I was fairly discouraged.

IV. But stubbornness prevails! Cook the rhubarb with the custard and add the strawberries at the end, of course! Finally, since I make mine rather tart I also like adding a small drizzle of honey over the top before serving. Mmmm, success sure is sweet…


Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥



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Strawberry Pastries

This recipe is actually a compilation between Purple Foodie’s
D.I.Y. Strawberry Pop Tarts and White on Rice Couple’s Homemade Strawberry Crossover Puff Pastries. I liked the simplicity of Purple Foodie’s tarts and the cute crossover technique White on Rice Couple employed.

The day I whipped these up began with blue skies and warm sunlight (yes sunlight!) miraculously leaking into my kitchen window. To truly appreciate how happy how happy I was, let me explain that my kitchen window – while actually fairly large in size – faces an alleyway. Across the alleyway is a giant  graffiti-spattered brick building at least twice as tall as the building I’m in. Conditions have to be absolutely perfect for unadulterated sunlight to find its way into my kitchen. This day, it did. 🙂

Strawberry Pastries (adapted from Purple Foodie & White on Rice Couple)

Ingredients:

1   box frozen puff pastry dough, thawed

1   10 oz.   jar of seedless strawberry jam*

1    lb.  strawberries; washed, hulled, and sliced

1    egg yolk

flour to prevent sticking

*Note: I prefer Polaner All Fruit Seedless Strawberry sweetened only with juice.

Procedure:

  1. Roll one sheet of puff pastry dough out onto a floured surface and roll to 1/4″ thickness. Divide into four even squares and set all but one aside. Squares should be about 6″ on each side.
  2. Take the square of dough and gently fold it over a 3/4″ dowel if available – I used the handle of my rolling pin – and line up the edges. Using a small knife, cut 6 short lines through both edges, creating 7 little tabs. Carefully unfold the square.
  3. Fill the center of the square with 2 – 3 T of strawberry jam and a generous layer of sliced strawberries.
  4. Holding the top left tab in place, gently pull the top right tab out a bit to stretch and cross it over the center of the pastry. Repeat with the top left tab, crossing it over the first, while holding the right tab in place. Continue in this manner until all tabs have been criss-crossed, covering the center of the pastry. Press down gently on the top of the pastry to secure the tabs and wash lightly with egg.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining 3 pastry squares and then, from Step 1, with the remaining sheet of pastry dough.
  7. Bake pastries for 30 minutes or until golden and puffed. See Beezer’s Notes below.
  8. Serve warm, recommended with vanilla ice cream (which I didn’t have at the time and sorely wished I did).

Beezer’s Notes:

These turned out to be pretty tasty, but were much softer than I expected. I think I could have left them in the oven for another 10 minutes or so if I had remembered White on Rice Couple’s recommendation. They suggested placing a layer of parchment paper on the pastries to keep the tops from burning as the bottoms finished cooking. Also, I didn’t bother to seal the tops which, while allowing a pretty view of the red interior, also allowed much of the jam to boil out during baking. Boo. Next time I will carefully seal both ends of the pastries, cook them for a bit longer, and make sure I have vanilla ice cream for serving!


Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥

Mango Lassi

Mango lassis are by far one of my most favorite drinks. I have happy memories of going to the small, family-owned Indian restaurant in town with my high school posse. We would share assorted naan, ripping and dipping into mild curries (did I mention I am a wimp when it comes to spice?), and each and every one of us would be sipping chilled mango lassis.

So, when I read The Purple Foodie‘s post on strawberry lassis I knew what had to be done; except that I didn’t have any strawberries at the time and, while her strawberry lassi did sound (and look!) delicious, I was really craving mango. I suppose I could have gone out and bought a fresh mango, but being the lazy bum that I am I decided to use some mango sorbet I already had in my freezer – no need to add sugar!

Mango Lassi (adapted from The Purple Foodie)

Ingredients:

½  C     mango sorbet

1    C     nonfat plain yogurt

3    C     lowfat milk, plus extra as needed

Procedure:

  1. Toss all ingredients into a blender and blend on medium until smooth. Add more milk as needed to get the right consistency (not thick like a milkshake, but smooth and light).
  2. Kick the blender speed up to high for 10 seconds or so for aeration.
  3. Indulge.

Beezer’s Notes:

The evening after making a pitcher-full of delicious mango lassi (and drinking it all. by myself. the very same night), I decided to try a strawberry version. I begged a cup of strawberry sorbet from my boyfriend and whipped up another lassi. This time, though, I was disappointed. I used the same proportions as the night before, but the strawberry flavor was overwhelmed by the dairy. I guess mango has a naturally stronger flavor than strawberry, at least in sorbet-form. If you’d like to try the strawberry lassi using sorbet, I suggest doubling the amount of sorbet and reducing the yogurt. You’ll need the milk for consistency.

Overall Enjoyment: ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

 

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