(This recipe appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
I grew up surrounded by Italian cooking, but had a peculiar dislike for tomatoes, and this dessert grew from my desire to replace them with ripe strawberries, using some of my favorite savory flavors in a familiar, yet new, way. The herbaceous and luscious ice cream along with the surprising pop of nutty and salty cheese in the cake, paired with juicy, sweet strawberries is an instant palate-pleaser. Finishing it with rich pine nuts and fragrant date nectar is like gilding the lily in this dramatic dessert.
Yield: 6 servings
Pecorino Romano Cake
- 115 g unsalted butter
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 60 g cream cheese
- 3 large eggs
- 140 g all-purpose flour
- 85 g grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 4 g salt
- 6 g baking powder
- 240 g heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until fully combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, Pecorino, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture and blend until just combined. Stream in the heavy cream, mixing until you have a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the sheet pan and smooth with an offset spatula until level. Bake until puffed and golden, 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
Basil Ice Cream
- 15 g fresh basil leaves
- 132 g granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 227 g milk
- 454 g heavy cream
- 1 g salt
- Clean and thoroughly dry the basil. Combine the leaves with the sugar and grind in a food processor until the basil is finely chopped and the sugar turns green.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the egg yolks and basil sugar until pale and fluffy.
- In a saucepot, bring the milk, cream and salt to a simmer; liaison the whipped egg yolk mixture into the hot cream mixture. Return to medium heat and cook to nappé stage, without allowing it to boil.
- Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into an ice bath. Chill thoroughly overnight, then churn according to ice cream machine manufacturer’s instructions.
Candied Pine Nuts
- 400 g water
- 400 g granulated sugar
- 100 g pine nuts
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil; reduce to a simmer once the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the pine nuts, then simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, until translucent.
- Strain the nuts, then deep fry at 350˚F for 45 seconds, until golden brown.
- 24 strawberries
- 200 g honey*
- Clean, dry and hull the strawberries.
- Combine the strawberries with the honey in a small hotel pan, tossing gently to coat. Bake for 15 minutes at 375˚F, until the strawberries are glossy and softened. Remove from oven, swirl pan to fully coat the strawberries, then allow to cool to room temperature. Reserve the delicious honey for another use.
*Note: The honey flavor will permeate the strawberries, so I prefer to use a high quality mono-floral honey, if possible.
- 200 g granulated sugar
- 200 g water
- 8 strawberries
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil; reduce to a simmer once the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Hull, then very thinly slice the strawberries on a mandolin. Add the strawberries to the syrup and simmer on low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon, then arrange them in a single layer on a dehydrator mat. Dehydrate at 115˚F for about 24 hours, until the strawberries are clear and crisp. To check doneness, peel s slice off the mat and lay it on a cool metal surface – it should firm up within 30 seconds. Store the cooled strawberries in an airtight container.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
- 100 g heavy cream
- 50 g confectioners’ sugar
- 50 g mascarpone cheese
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream to soft peaks, gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar.
- Add the mascarpone cheese and whip just until incorporated. Allow the cream to set in the refrigerator.
- 200 g dried dates, roughly chopped
- 400 g water
- Simmer the roughly chopped dates in water for about 2 hours. Cool completely.
- Strain the date juice through two layers of cheesecloth, squeezing the liquid out well. It should yield about 2 cups.
- Gently simmer the date juice for about 45-60 minutes, until reduced by half. The syrup should coat the back of a spoon when finished.
Diced fresh strawberries
- Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before scooping.
- Cut the cake into half moons using a round cutter. Drizzle the Date Nectar on a plate and arrange the cake pieces on it. Top an egg-shaped cake piece with a rocher of Basil Ice Cream. Add rochers of Mascarpone Whipped Cream. Add some Honeyed Strawberries and garnish with Glass Strawberries and diced fresh strawberries. Serve immediately.
Photos courtesy of HOTEL DU PONT