Strawberries and Cream with Chocolate Walnut Crunch Dessert Recipe
Strawberries and Cream - A Real Taste of Summer
Strawberries are a fruit so inextricably associated with summer. Strawberries look good, they taste good and they are incredibly versatile in the number of other food ingredients with which they can be combined. Have you ever tried strawberries with cold smoked salmon? Cold smoked salmon, fresh strawberries, squeeze of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper - try it with super fresh and warm crusty bread. Delicious! Of all food items used to complement strawberries, however, surely fresh cream is the overwhelming favourite. Strawberries and cream is an incredibly simple combination, hugely associated with the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships here in the UK - even though the British weather in July often has overseas visitors longing more for a bowl of hot chicken soup!
Dessert recipes incorporating strawberries and cream exist in their tens if not hundreds of thousands, in family recipe books, traditional cookbooks and particularly in modern times, on the Web. So how do we go about creating an original strawberries and cream dessert recipe?.
If I Can Do It, You Can Do It... Heard that One Before?
Platitudes like the one above usually turn people's attention right off and have them saying, "Yeah - right!" In this instance, however, you are likely to have a huge advantage over me...
That is simply because I don't like desserts! It's true - I really don't have a sweet tooth in my mouth and never have had all my life. I don't even like chocolate (unless it's very high cocoa content chocolate made in to a sauce for wild game...) Give me a freshly caught fish and I'll clean it, fillet or otherwise prepare it and enjoy coming up with an original and tasty way to cook and serve it. Similarly, I will happily bone and prepare a piece of red meat or game before getting equally creative. Ask me to devise and prepare even the simplest of desserts and I quite literally cringe.
What I did in this instance was to consider what would be likely to go well with strawberries and cream in the mind of the average dessert lover. Chocolate seemed a pretty obvious answer. I then considered how I could vary the chocolate element of the dessert and nuts sprang to mind. Hazelnuts are probably the obvious option but in an attempt to be a little different, I instead used walnuts. I then gave a little thought to preparation and presentation, with the results being what follows. It really was as simple as that and the finished dish was (I was assured) delicious.
How Are you Going to Serve your Dessert? - Never neglect the importance of presentation and first impressions
When you go to the bother of devising and preparing an imaginative dessert, it is important that you present it attractively. Glass dessert bowls are an excellent way of doing this, showing off the different component parts of your dessert to perfection. The set of 6 glass dessert bowls featured below are from Italy (home of so many famous desserts) and are quite literally perfect for showcasing strawberries and cream desserts of all types.
Preparing the Chocolate and Walnut Crunch
Ingredients (Makes Two Servings)
4oz milk cooking chocolate (plain/dark chocolate works equally well if that is your preference)
2 tbsp walnut pieces
Generous pinch of dried ground ginger
I deliberately bought walnut pieces rather than whole walnuts when I was shopping for the ingredients for this recipe but when I opened the pack, I found the pieces were still a bit bigger than I wanted. I therefore crushed them slightly in a pestle and mortar. Alternatively, you could wrap the walnuts in a clean tea towel and gently bash them on a chopping board with a rolling pin. However you crush them, just be careful not to overdo it - you want crushed walnuts, not walnut powder!
Add about one inch of water to a small saucepan and bring it to the very gentlest of simmers.
Break the chocolate in to a large, heatproof glass bowl. Sit the bowl over the pot, making absolutely sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. This is called a bain marie and if the water touches the bowl, the chocolate will be likely to split rather than melt evenly and smoothly.
Stir the chocolate occasionally as it melts with a wooden spoon. As soon as the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the heat to a chopping board or other heatproof surface.
Add the crushed walnuts and the pinch of ginger to the chocolate and stir until you have a thick, crumbly mix.
Line a small to medium plastic food storing dish with clingfilm/plastic wrap. This makes it much easier to lift the set crunch out of the dish - it also makes the washing up easier!
Spoon the chocolate and walnut mix in to the dish. Spread it out evenly to a thickness of around a quarter inch. Put the dish in to the fridge for at least an hour until the chocolate is set.
Assembling the Strawberries and Cream with Chocolate Walnut Crunch
8 large ripe strawberries - 6 for main dish and 2 to garnish
1 small tub (6 fl oz) double (heavy) cream
Set chocolate and walnut combination prepared earlier
Wash the strawberries and carefully dry with kitchen paper. Trim off the stalks and tops of the six to be used in the main part of the dish and cut in to quarters.
Pour the cream in to a large bowl and beat just until it forms soft peaks. Add the chopped strawberries and stir with a careful folding motion to evenly combine.
Spoon the combined strawberries and cream in to two serving dishes. If you wish, you could smooth them out on top but here they were left with peaks. The finished effect when the chocolate is added is almost like snow-capped mountains in reverse.
Take the chocolate and walnuts from the fridge and simply lift the clingfilm out of the dish. Put the set combination in to the centre of a clean tea towel and carefully wrap.
Bash the covered chocolate lump on a chopping board with a rolling pin until crushed but not to the extent of being powdered.
Evenly scatter the chocolate crumble over the strawberries and cream. The easiest way to do this by far is by hand.
Slice a piece off each of the remaining strawberries at an angle and near the base. This allows them to be sat on top of the dishes and look as though they are in fact partly submerged.
Sit a garnishing strawberry on top of each portion. The dish can now be served immediately or returned to the fridge until required.
A Gin and Tonic with an Iced Strawberry
My reward for preparing this dessert
I always have a plastic tub of lemon wedges and one of lime wedges in my deep freeze. I use them for the dual purpose of flavouring and chilling drinks like gin and tonic. Think about it: why add lemon and ice to a drink? The ice only melts and waters down your drink. Freeze the lemon and it chills your drink, releasing only lemon flavour as it melts.
I tried freezing a strawberry as an experiment when I bought them to prepare this recipe and used it in the same way. It wasn't as good as lemon or lime - but I enjoyed it and drank every drop...