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CREMOSAS - I don't have the biggest sweet tooth in the world, but every so often I "have" to have a "cremosa". Luscious, light, and creamy, this pretty dessert is everything I want at the end of a meal.
When I first began making this light dessert, I liked it so much I treated myself to one at the end of every workday. People sometimes complain about the long hours a restaurant requires, but I liked that time of day when the last patron had gone home, the kitchen was sparkling clean once again, and I'd get to have one perfect dessert all to myself. I'd sip my coffee and eat my "cremosa" and feel lucky to be part of a restaurant that I loved.
You can make these custards with a graham cracker base, but I'm a fan of crushed biscotti for my "cremosas". In summer, I serve this with fresh berries, and through the fall and winter I add a dried fruit conserve or confit.
Champagne brings out the flavor of the strawberries. You can cook with an inexpensive vintage, but I prefer to use a champagne that I'd drink. Invest in a champagne recorker so you can cook with your champagne and also enjoy it the next day when you serve these "cremosas".
If you already have fancy dessert molds, by all means use them. At my restaurant I make "cremosas" in 3-inch PVC pipes, bought and cut into 1"1/2"-inch-high rounds for us at the hardware store, then run through the dishwasher. You'll need eight molds or PVC pipe pieces for this recipe.
Make your "cremosas" at least twenty-four hours before serving so the custard has time to chill properly.
|2||Cup||Strawberries (hulled and halved)|
|2||Cup||Leftover Biscotti (broken into chunks)|
|½||Cup||Unsalted Butter (melted)|
|2½||Teaspoon||Unflavored Powdered Gelatin|
To make the topping, put the strawberries in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, a pinch of salt, the champagne, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Process to a smooth purée. Refrigerate overnight, then taste the purée just before using. It should have a sharp flavor, softened slightly by the vanilla. Add additional sugar, salt, and vanilla as needed.
To make the crust, combine the biscotti, hazelnuts, and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground. Slowly add the melted butter; the mixture should come together into a dense crust.
Place eight 3-by-1 1/2-inch ring molds on a parchment paper-lined tray or baking sheet that will fit in your refrigerator. Press 3 tablespoons of the crust mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of each mold. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling.
To make the filling, bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a large saucepan. When choosing a bowl for the cream mixture, make sure it sits comfortably and snugly in this pan without resting the water.
Combine the mascarpone, sour cream, heavy cream, and 2/3 cup sugar in a large stainless-steel mixing bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. With a paring knife, cut a slit down the center of the vanilla bean. With the edge of the knife, force the seam of the bean open, and scrape out the pulp with the tip. Add the vanilla pulp to the cream mixture and mix well.
Place the bowl with the cream mixture over the simmering water. Stir the cream mixture occasionally as the mixture heats. When the cream reaches 150°F on an instant-read thermometer (see note), take the bowl off the water and set aside. Leave the water simmering.
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and cold water.
Put 1/4 cup of cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let soften for 2 minutes. Hold the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water used for the cream to melt the gelatin. It should melt in less than a minute. Add the liquified gelatin to the cream, whisking vigorously. Nestle the bowl with the cream mixture in the cold water bath. Let stand, whisking gently every 10 minutes or so, until the mixture is thickened and cool to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. It may be necessary to change the ice and water if all the ice melts.
Remove the tray with the biscotti bases from the refrigerator. Ladle approximately 1/2 cup of the cream mixture into each mold. When all of the molds are full, carefully return the tray to the refrigerator. Allow the molds to chill for at least 6 hours, but preferably overnight, until the cream mixture is firmly set.
To unmold, gently run the edge of a small paring knife around the top and bottom inside edges of the mold, releasing the crust and the custard. Hold a plate over the mold and tip it upside down. If the molded custard does not come out easily, rinse a small towel with very hot water (as hot as you touch without burning yourself) and wring dry. Wrap the cloth around the outside of the mold to help loosen the custard.
When all your "cremosas" are unmolded, transfer to individual plates and top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the strawberry sauce. Serve immediately.