Apologies for my absence last week – I was working on a post that hasn't quite come together yet. Perhaps the brief heat wave we had was partly to blame: who wants to be inside plinking away on a computer when it's a beyond-gorgeous 90 degrees outside with nary a cloud in sight? For once, the tourists in their shorts and sandals weren't out of place, and the city was suffused – nay, drenched in a swell of sunshine that smelled of suntan lotion and ice cream instead of sea and salt and fog.
I walk across my kitchen on bare feet, luxuriating in the smooth feel of the wood, sun-warm even after the rays have long passed. Outside the window, a sunset trails its fingers of tangerine and raspberry and plum and caramel across a darkening sky. Later, when the colors have been scrubbed clean to black, we hear a familiar whistle and pop and look back outside to see fireworks blooming almost shyly from behind Coit Tower. Such a tease of summer. We pull our chairs out onto the balcony, and it's still so comfortingly warm that I think of childhood evenings in San Jose, where many a balmy summer night was spent outside riding bikes and listening to crickets. This night in San Francisco, it's so warm we can wear just tank tops and shorts, and we sit in our chairs watching fireworks glimmer in the sky in some unknown celebration but which we decide is just a spontaneous expression of the pure happiness that comes with being alive on a beautiful day.
But my mother came into town at the end of the week, and I knew she would be expecting a dessert. Something simple and not too sweet, to suit her tastes, and something that wouldn't require me to use the oven in an already-hot kitchen. Answer came in the form of the tumble of fruits on my counter – fruits and summer go together like swimsuits and swimming pools.
Strawberries and mangos – two fruits I love and my mom loves too. I thought of the fruity concoctions served at Hong Kong's Hui Lau Shan, and decided on a strawberry and mango verrine – or a parfait, if you prefer. Layering various components in a glass is one of the simplest and loveliest ways to present dessert.
The mangos were quickly pureed with a bit of lime juice (lemon juice works just as well), and the strawberries cubed and tossed with a bit of sugar. For the top layer, I wanted to do a traditional pastry cream, but I thought it might be a little heavy – most traditional Chinese desserts shy away from heavy, cloying fillings – and lightened it with some whipped cream.
The result is like the thrill of diving into the deep end of the pool; you dip your spoon in through the various layers, coming up to air with a spoonful of pleasure. As with all parfaits, this is easily adaptable to any fruit that suits your fancy: try to go for a mix of colors, tastes and textures (as I contrasted the smooth mango puree with the chunks of strawberries).
I think my mom enjoyed it, and best of all, she's around for a while longer so I get to celebrate this beautiful weather with her some more. Hope you are enjoying May as spring unfurls towards summer.
P.S. I'm just getting back into the blogging groove after finishing my book, and I barely have time to write about what I'm baking, let alone what I've been reading. In lieu of a book-review post, check out the sidebars for what's been gracing my kitchen table lately – hope you find a tome or two to tempt you!
Strawberry Mango Verrines
Makes about 4 servings
1 cup (218 g) milk
2 Tablespoons (30 g) + 3 Tablespoons (44 g) sugar
3 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons (14 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 to 5 mangos (about 600 g total)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 pint strawberries
sugar to taste
To make the pastry cream, combine 3/4 cup (172g) of the milk with 2 Tablespoons (30g) of sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on the stove over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and bubbles appear on the edge of the pan.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and 3 Tablespoons (44g) sugar in a bowl.
Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup (46g) milk in a small bowl and then add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking to combine.
Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Stir in the vanilla.
Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface, and refrigerate until needed.
When you are ready to use the pastry cream, whip the cream in a mixer to soft peaks, and then fold gently into the pastry cream to lighten.
To prepare the bottom mango layer, peel the mangos and slice away the flesh from the pit. Cut the flesh into small cubes – you will need about 300g total.
Puree about 100 g of the mango cubes with the lime juice and up to 1/4 cup of sugar to taste until smooth.
Pour the mango puree into the bottom of 4 glasses, filling about 1/3 full.
Wash and hull the strawberries, and cut into small cubes. Toss with about 1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) of sugar.
Pour the strawberries on top of the mango layer in each glass.
Spread the pastry cream on top of the strawberries in a smooth layer.
Decorate the top with sliced fruit.
Refrigerate for about a hour before serving.
Tagged with: strawberry mango verrine