Chef in disguise turned two last week it has been a wonderful journey! Fun, challenging, full of surprises, more pleasant than not. Sure it has been time consuming and it has turned into a mini (or major) obsession (depending on who you ask!) but above all, the things I learned, the places I have seen through my blogger friends’ eyes, the experiences shared, the people I “met” have made my life richer for sure and for that I am deeply grateful.
Unlike my one year of blogging celebration post, this time around I don’t have any words of wisdom, numbers and stats or advice to share. Just a heart-felt thank you to every one of you for sharing the journey with me. Without your visits, comments,and emails I am sure I would not have made it this far.
I wanted to share a sweet recipe to celebrate the occasion but deciding what to share was not easy. I wanted it to be something easy yet interesting and I wanted it to have a middle eastern twist.
How about using a middle eastern ingredient and incorporating it into one of my favorite desserts?
I have shared my recipe for knafe ( one of the popular desserts in the levant) and back then I told you that the knafe dough is really versatile and can be used in many recipes, both savory and sweet. Your creativity and imagination are the only limitation.
Enter knafe cups
I know many people have problems with pie crusts. I was one of them! Knafe cups are a great way around making a pie crust. They are quicker, easier, they taste great and the texture is a interesting plus.These knafe cups are fun edible containers that you can fill with anything you want, a fruit salad, pudding or dip along side some sliced fruit. Skip the sugar and you can make a savoury version.
The rest of the dessert is a no brainer. My kids have a love affair with pastry cream and I have to admit, I do too. It is so easy to eat this stuff by the spoonful and forget about making the desert. It is velvety and smooth, rich without being overly so. The perfect complement to any dessert.
Last but definitely not least, the strawberries. Luscious, red and arranged in a flower petal pattern, they are the perfect way to fight the end of winter gloom.
Strawberry knafe tarts
To make the knafe cups
Makes 8 mini tarts
1/2 kg vermicelli pastry (knafe dough or shredded Phylo dough)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter , melted
1/2 cup of sugar
The night before you plan to make Knafeh, take the Phylo dough out of the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost overnight.
The next day start shredding the dough or pastry in a bowl.
Drizzle it with the melted butter and sprinkle the powdered sugar and toss the Phylo dough until it completely absorbs the butter.
Place 1/4 cup of dough (or the amount needed to fill your tartlet pans) and press it into the sides and the bottom of the pan with your finger tips. Make sure you press it well or else your knafe cups won’t hold shape (they will be crumbly)
Bake in a preheated oven (200 C) on the lowest rack of the oven till the edges are golden brown (10-15 minutes) then turn on the broiler only for a couple of minutes to get the tops golden brown
Allow the knafeh cups to cool for 15 minutes before removing them from the pan and placing them on a wire rack to continue cooling.
Pastry Cream / Crème Pâtissière:
2 and 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoon corn flour/cornstarch
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk the eggs and egg yolks
Add the cornstarch and the flour and whisk untill combined
Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan with the sugar, dissolving the sugar and bringing the milk to the boil. Remove from heat.
Add the hot milk little by little to the egg mixture while whisking (You want to slowly heat the egg mixture). Make sure you stir constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Place the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat while whisking (don’t stop or it’ll solidify) till the mixture starts to thicken.
Continue to whisk till the mix bubbles
Remove the saucepan from the heat and thoroughly whisk the pastry cream. At this stage the pastry cream can look slightly lumpy, but a good whisking soon makes it smoother. (N.B. If you’re worried about the pastry cream continuing to cook off the heat, you can transfer it to a stainless steel/ceramic bowl.)
Add the vanilla and whisk until fully incorporated.
If you haven’t already, pour the pastry cream into a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, and then place clingfilm over the surface to stop a skin forming.
Refrigerate overnight to give the pastry cream time to further thicken. (you need the over night chilling for the cream to set completely, if you use it sooner it will be somewhat runny)
Assembling the tarts
Fill the tarts with pastry cream, you can pipe the pastry cream if you like.
Slice the strawberries and arrange them on top of your tarts.
I usually assemble these tarts right before serving, that way the crust remains crunchy and the fruit fresh and shiny
If you are tight on time and have to prepare the tarts ahead of time, you can brush the strawberry slices with gelatine (1 tablespoon gelatine dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water then allowed to cool). This will make the strawberries look shiny and keep them from wilting too quickly