A sucker for strawberries

Who knows how it started? Perhaps I enjoyed those childhood viewings of Strawberry Shortcake a little too much, or perhaps it’s the fact that a strawberry was the very first berry that I ever ate, all I can say is that I’ve always been a sucker for a strawberry, and I doubt that my love will ever fade.

The perfect strawberry is quite a thing to behold – deep red, succulent, sweet with just a hint of tartness, juicy and flavourful. And, as with all other fruits that I hold so dear to my heart, I rarely do anything with strawberries except enjoy them straight – rinsed and hulled, perhaps with a little chantilly cream or chocolate if I’m feeling particularly indulgent!

Unfortunately, the strawberries in the supermarket at the moment appear to be American imports (you can ship them that far?!), and as a result the fruit bear the mark of their journey. I bought two punnets a few weeks ago, but the selection process took about 15 minutes as I held each punnet to intense scrutiny, holding them up to the light, casting my eye over as much of each berry as possible, holding them close to my nose and sniffing with all my might to determine the ripeness.

The sniffing actually might have made this whole process a lot longer than necessary, I think more than one shopper who passed me by would’ve thought I was some crazy berry-sniffing lass getting high off the scent of strawberries from the amount of concentration I was putting into this process!

I used one punnet to decorate the top of my pavlova, but what on earth was I going to do with the second punnet? I sat at the kitchen table, the washed and hulled strawberries laid out in front of me as I contemplated what to do. Chocolate dipped strawberries, perhaps? The problem with that was that my family aren’t big chocolate fans, therefore they’d probably just take the chocolate off before enjoying the strawberries, which rendered such effort worthless. However, I still wanted to combine the strawberries with chocolate, but in a pairing that would be subtle and sweet without either flavour overwhelming the other?

What was I to do?

I thought that perhaps another layered dessert might be nice, especially since my 3 layered mousse had been so well received by the family, but how was I going to work this with strawberry? I pondered this for a few days, but even flipping through my cookbooks provided no inspiration. In fact, it wasn’t till this month’s issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller arrived that an idea arose! Flipping through it’s pages, I saw a most beautifully presentation of quince jelly with mascarpone mousse, each set at an angle to provide a gorgeous contrast of colour and texture. I had neither quinces nor mascarpone, but I did have strawberries and white chocolate!

Having no recipe for strawberry jelly, I managed to find one here that worked pretty well, and using the same white chocolate mousse recipe that I did for the 3 layered mousses, I combined them to form these white choc mousse and strawberry jelly cups. The white chocolate is mild enough so that it’s lightness compliments the summery freshness of the strawberry jelly, and the stark contrast in colours impressed the whole family!

White Choc Mousse & Strawberry Jelly Cups
(Makes 6 large cups)

Ingredients

White Choc Mousse (from Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet”)
225 grams white chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Strawberry Jelly (from Waitrose.com)
1kg ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons Cointreau
55g caster sugar
3 tsp powdered gelatine

Equipment
Saucepan
Mixing bowl
Jug for measuring liquid
6 large flat-bottomed glasses
A large roasting tray filled with rice (alternatively, use a casserole dish)

1. Place the sliced strawberries in a nonreactive heatproof metal bowl, then cover with clingfilm. Fill a saucepan with water till it is about 5-6cm deep, then bring it to a very low simmer. Once it is simmering, place the bowl of strawberries on top and leave for about 45 minutes to sweat the juice out, giving it a stir every 5 minutes.

2. Pour most of the juice out into a seperate jug (the strawberries should still mostly be whole), then pour the remaining juice and strawberries into a muslin/cheesecloth bag and suspend over the top of the jug to gather the remaining juice. Meanwhile, bloom the gelatine in 2 tbsp of cold water.

3. Discard the remaining fruit pulp and measure the juice. Add the lemon juice and Cointreau, then add enough water to make sure you have exactly 520mL of liquid (you shouldn’t need very much water at all).

5. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and slowly heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar (this should not be brought to a simmer or boil, you are just heating it), then add the bloomed gelatine and continue to stir till it is completely mixed through.

6. Set the glasses into the baking tray filled with rice, making sure they’re sitting at a nice angle and fairly stable, then carefully spoon in the jelly into each glass. Carefully transfer the tray into the fridge and leave overnight to set.

7. Place the chocolate and water into a medium heatproof bowl. Place about water in a saucepan till 5cm deep, the bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, wait for a few seconds then set the bowl on the water and stir vigorously till the chocolate is melted and smooth.

8. Whip the cream till it is thickened and just beginning to hold shape (when you tilt the bowl, it should slowly flow to one side, fluffy but still pourable and not stiff). Check the temperature of the chocolate – it should be around 25 – 30 degrees C, if it’s any cooler then heat it slightly over some hot water. If the chocolate has the right temperature, then scrape the cream into the chocolate and quickly but carefully fold the two together. Don’t worry if it seems far too liquidy and soft – it will set and firm up later.

9. Remove the set jelly cups from the fridge and take them out of the baking tray. Set them upright on your benchtop and carefully fill each one with mousse so that it sits level with the top of the jelly, and smooth the surface. Place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hrs.

10. Before serving, slice up some strawberries and (if you feel inclined) some chocolate curls and arrange on top :) Enjoy!

[tags] dessert, sweets, chocolate, strawberries, jelly, mousse, food, recipes[/tags]

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