No Bake | Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries … lighter & gluten free | dessert for someone you l♥v

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

 Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic StrawberriesButtermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries … dessert for someone you l♥v, or dessert for someone who loves dessert! Panna cotta, or cooked cream, is one of the quickest Italian desserts you can make. Minimum fuss, quick to make, do ahead and divinely delicious, a winner every single time.

Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries The tempting option of going a teeny bit healthy on a cream dessert, yet keeping it indulgent, is perhaps worth the bait! I’ve done a Berries & Buttermilk Puddng in the past, so the idea of a buttermilk panna cotta was going to be worth every delicious spoonful! Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries 5 Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries Delightful tangy undertones, a gentle wobbly set cream, smooth vanilla overtures…what more can you ask for? Pretty darned good as it is, you can take it a step higher with luscious red strawberries as topping. Use any seasonal berries for that matter, or fruit like figs too. A salted butter caramel sauce would be really nice as well.

strawberriesIf you have the time, gently simmer strawberries to make a balsamic strawberry topping. And if time is not your friend that day, simply macerate the berries in castor sugar and a dash of lime juice, or maybe just toss them in honey. It adds a nice sweet touch to the fruit while making it shiny and attractive to top the panna cotta.

Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries The colour contrast weaves a magic spell. What’s not to love about red and white? And what’s not to love about strawberries and cream. AND what’s not to love about make ahead, fuss free dessert? Go on, take the plunge! Spoil those you love on V Day with this gorgeous Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries.

Buttermilk Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries Oh yes, and make sure you get them to do the dishes! Share some love!!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking| Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans … ♥Happy V Day♥

“Gastronomy is and always has been connected with its sister…
…art of love.”

M.F.K. Fisher

Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans14th morning is always an action replay of the days gone by. He will come and announce {without fail} that we first met on the 13th of Feb many years ago. 21 years!! Can’t believe it’s been that long. Mr PAB has a memory that astounds me,  and in many ways is my personal journal – birthdays, anniversaries, who died when etc, each day with marked by an event significant to the time elapsed. He offers me time-lines whether I want it or not, often a balm to my cluttered mind. I do the more mundane practical stuff –  insurances, bank work, bills, payday for Man Friday, the gardener etc!Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansRed is the colour of passion or so they say. IMHO, V Day is much over-hyped and a commercial oversell for new lovers! Me? Give me the vibrant colours of nature and I’m inspired. Roasted red bell pepper sauce, a fiery yet sweet Sriracha {finally made it and it’s yum!}, strawberries … all colour my world. {Daughters red painting too!}redI am far from a mushy V Day person, yet there’s something magnetic about all the red one sees around this time of the year. It tends to get to me, making me obsess about a Valentine Day special, for PAB though. Blogs are resplendent with sweetheart desserts, one more charming than the other,  often more amazing than any you’ve ever seen, and they egg me on to post some love on V Day too.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansI fell for the trap of this love filled or rather love-fueled day. More red & more lv after the heart shaped Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake. The bazaar is still flooded with the most gorgeous red strawberries, the second annual wave in India every year. The fruit & veggie vendor, or fruitwala, is a persuasive fellow, charming me with the shiny red berry. Knocks off a fraction of the price. ‘Specially for you,‘ he says. In my heart I know he says this to many regulars, but I get talked into it and come back in a gleeful mood.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansWhat shall I make is the eternal question? Waffles are really on top of my list since I saw El’s gorgeous Belgian Waffles post, but after a headless chicken dance on soccer Saturday, a Sunday morning waffle exercise falls flat. By the time we get our act together, it’s almost time for lunch. The teen has been up doing art work since 5am and at 8am decides its time for nap number 2. Wild horses can’t drag the dieting diva out of bed … so dessert it has to be!Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansRough puff pastry in the freezer is a bad thing, possibly worse than I ever thought it would be. Do you think so too? It has hypnotizing powers and is the easiest thing to have in the freezer. Did me in for World Nutella Day when I made Nutella Strawberry Puff Pastry Hearts. It threw me a line of temptation yesterday too. Quick check of the fridge revealed low fat cream, home made easy lemon curd, strawberries and of course rough puff pastry! Time for mille fueille, the classic French dessert which holds endless charm, and one I’ve never baked before. Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansIf you have puff pastry on hand, this is an indulgent dessert on fast track. I used whipped lemon curd cream instead of pastry cream, the latter I think is quintessential to the classic version. Also cut out a few hearts on top to go with the V Day theme, gave the tops a brushing of egg yolk, and sprinkled some vanilla sugar on top {which you can see got caramelised}. I suppose regular puff pastry would yield a more layered Napoleon vis-a-vis rough puff pastry, but the later is simpler to make at home and is fine with me.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans

The Napoleon is a pastry made of many layers of puff pastry with filling alternating the layers. It can be eaten as a dessert, or even as a decadent meal. As a French pastry it is called mille-feuilles, or thousand leaves, and it is usually filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, and fruit preserves – most often raspberry jam. The topping may be simply powdered sugar, or a layer of fondant, often with strings of chocolate drawn into a chevron design. In Italy, where the pastry is thought to have originated in Naples, it is called mille foglie (again, thousand leaves), and contains a similar layering like the mille-feuilles of cream, pastry cream, and fruit preserves. A traditional napoleon is filled with plain pastry cream but if desired you may add a thin layer of fruit preserves such as seedless raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves to the filling.

Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd NapoleansStrawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans
200ml low fat cream
200gms strawberries, sliced
1 egg yolk lightly whisked with a fork for glaze

Vanilla sugar for sprinkling {optional}

Roll out the puff pastry to a 1/4″ height, trim the edges, and cut into 9 equal rectangles. Cut out hearts in 3 of them if you like, and place rectangles and cut out hearts on a baking tray.
Place tray in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 225C.
Brush the pastry with the glaze, sprinkle with vanilla sugar if using, and bake for 20-25 minutes till puffy and golden.
Cool on racks, and then carefully split each horizontally into 2 with a sharp knife. or the tines of a fork. {You can get 3 layers if you use regular and not rough puff pastry}
Whip the cream to medium peak, and then gently but thoroughly fold in the lemon curd. The cream should thicken quite well now. {You won’t need to add sugar as the lemon curd is quite sweet on it’s own.}
Reserve the heart cut out layers for the pastry tops. {I used the tops and bottoms to give me ♥ cut out tops}
Spread about 1 1/2 tbsp of the whipped lemon curd cream on the bottom layer, and layer with strawberry slices. Top with a middle layer of pastry. Repeat and finally top with remaining pastry layers. Garnish with sliced strawberries if you like. Chill up to 1 hour.Strawberry & Whipped Lemon Curd Napoleans

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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Baking| Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake … Forever Nigella and Not Quite too!!

“Comedy just pokes at problems, rarely confronts them squarely. Drama is like a plate of meat and potatoes, comedy is rather the dessert, a bit like meringue.”
Woody Allen

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeIf you saw this post at Not Quite Nigella, one Lorraine posted ever so long ago, you’d fall at her feet and tell her to carry on with her heart shaped baking obsession forever. Forever NQN! I’ve been thinking of going a little red what with the Chinese New Year almost here and V Day round the corner. Nothing like some food for thought for the good folk out there who might be thinking of turning out something special for the day of love!

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake & CNYKung Hei Fat ChoyHappy CNY. Today begins the Year of the Rabbit. Hope it brings good luck for all of you!

I return to NQN from time to time, turning virtual pages, getting inspired on many levels, and this time I stopped at this page yet again. Missed making it last year around Valentines because I had found myself obsessed with a Red Velvet Cake Roll , or a RVC Roulade which I made with strawberries and ricotta. This year I had Lorraines heart firmly in my plans.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake‘We haven’t had dessert for 3 days’, he whined, ‘how is it possible that you haven’t made anything sweet for so many days?’ The teen isn’t asking because she is on a self proclaimed diet. I did notice her scraping an extra pat of butter on her bread yesterday, but my ‘eye’ turned blind. Teens will be teens. She also sneaked a truffle from the fridge after much self restraint 2 days ago.  As far as she isn’t starving herself, I’m good. Happy too that junk food is out,  and so are the fizzy drinks. Well almost, for now at least.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeWith the whining ringing in my head, a batch of home made quark to help the teen on a diet, I pushed the red date forward. It was time to get ‘Seduced by Chocolate‘ by both Nigella, as well as the Not Quite gal! I missed the first episode of Forever Nigella, and attempted to catch #2. The theme is ‘Seduced by Chocolate‘, so changes were introduced. This cake had connections, or rather, many cross connections.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeA strawberry meringue layer cake with a chocolate twist to Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Not Quite Nigella, the cake headed for Forever Nigella on Maison Cupcake. Bit of a tongue twister eh?  Some more ‘connect’… I used the last bit of  Valrhona from the lovely Shayma @ TheSpice Spoon in this gorgeous cake, and topped it off with slivered almonds from the sweet Madhulika in Nasik. All this love shared for St Valentine!I baked the cakes in a heart shaped Tefal baking tin, one that I had bought years and years ago at a ridiculously high price. It’s a non stick pan, and have learnt over the years that good quality lasts long, and gives great results. I didn’t line the sides with baking parchment, and expected to scrape the meringue off the sides, but JOY… the good tin let the meringue and the chocolate cake come free with minimal fuss!Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeI had to slave harder than lucky Lorraine though. She had more than 1 heart tin for sure {which possibly explains her heart shaped baking obsession at the time}, but I had only one! That meant 2 cakes baked separately, more washing, more whining … but wonderful baking therapy the minute the first one came loose. More changes … I didn’t add slivered almonds to the bottom layer. I substituted the cornflour in Nigella’s recipe with cocoa powder. I also added an extra tbsp of milk to the cake batter after reading comments on Lorraine’s blog that the cake was a tad dry. Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeIn addition, I gave the cakes a brushing of sugar strawberry syrup to keep it all moist. The filling of course had to be low fat keeping in mind the teen and her diet, so I used a combination of low fat cream and home made quark. The result was delicious, seductive and comparatively guilt free. In retrospect, I might have tried using oil instead of butter. I absolutely love  the charm meringue cakes offer. Made something very similar in the past, Chocolate Meringue Strawberry Cream Slice , and yet another –  Chocolate Coffee-Almond-Meringue Layer Cake {in the latter, the meringue was sandwiched within the cake}.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeVisually very appealing, the colours contrasting beautifully, and delicious in every bite. It took me a couple of hours to make both sponges & get the cake together, but you can do it quicker if you have 2 similar sized tins. The original recipe used round spring-form tins. I set my quark curd 2 days in advance, so it was ready for use the morning I baked the cakes. If you want, you can make the quark cheese, otherwise there’s always the indulgent alternative – whipping cream!Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeThe cake batter is quite thick and needs to be pushed around to spread. Also, my meringue balooned up unevenly while baking, but that happened to me the last few times as well. Not sure it it’s the way it should be, but it deflated pretty soon and evened out after I took it out of the oven. It wasn’t a crisp meringue, but a pleasantly soft, chewy one, with wonderfully toasted almonds on top.

{Note to self: Must ask Lorraine about the meringue, as hers looks rather firm and crisp in her pictures}

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from Not Quite Nigella
125g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g very soft unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk
25g flaked almonds
200ml low fat cream
2-3 tbsps powdered sugar (adjust according to sweeteness of strawberries}
200gm quark,
200g strawberries, chopped
Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake
For the meringue cake:
Preheat oven to 200C. Line, butter and flour two 22cm spring-form tins, or heart tins. {I lined the bottoms}|
Weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl.
Cream the butter and 100g of the caster sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy.
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter and sugar, saving the whites to whisk later. Gently fold in the weighed-out dry ingredients, add the vanilla, then sir in the milk to thin the batter. Divide the mixture between the two prepared springform tins.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining 200g caster sugar. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin and sprinkle the almonds evenly over.
Bake for 30-35 mins, by which time the top of the almond-scattered meringues will be a dark gold. (I turned down the temperate to 180C as my oven is fan forced and the top was a little too cooked so perhaps turning it down even further would be better)
Whip the cream with sugar to soft/medium peaks. Reserve.
Beat the quark until creamy and smooth. Fold the whipped cream through it.
Paint a sugar syrup to the chocolate sides of the sponge if desired. Lay one cake on the serving platter, chocolate side up, top with the quark filling. Sprinkle over with chopped strawberries, and top with the other cake, chocolate side down. Chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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