A healthy Easter fruit based dessert
Growing up I have always loved Easter. First of all because of the great food appearing in the markets, juicy strawberries, asparagus, fava beans, agretti. Then, because of the expectation of the great Easter meals and Easter Monday picnic.
For Easter we would sit at a multicourse meal during which we would enjoy the best of two worlds: Easter cheese bread with plates of fantastic salumi from the Umbrian side of the family, artichoke sformato, baked meat rolls and marzipan sweets from the Sicilian side of the family. Of course we also enjoyed all the usual suspects of our large family gatherings, mouthwatering lasagna, roast lamb and piles of colomba, a dove shaped sweet bread similar to panettone.
The next day, if the weather allowed, all leftovers would be packed. Cars loaded with food and blankets, we would drive to a countryside picnic site to bask in the sun and hunt for wild asparagus, the greatest delicacy of this time of the year.
The crema diplomatica, also called Italian Chantilly, is not a traditional Easter dessert. However, in the present times it’s perfect for a small party and in fact it’s been very popular at my online cooking classes in the last few weeks. As a bonus this version of the crema is mixed with ricotta instead of whipped cream so it’s light, not overly sweet and makes good use of the glut of strawberries just arrived at the market. You can obviously serve the crema diplomatica with fresh or poached fruit for the whole year. In addition, if you make the custard in the microwave you will have the crema ready in no time.
For extra wonderful flavor, prepare the prosecco strawberries at least half a day ahead.
for the custard (pastry cream):
- 250 ml ( 1 cup) milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon maizena (corn starch)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1/2 organic lemon
- 125 g (4 and 1/2 oz) ricotta
- 3 tablespoon organic brown sugar or 6 tablespoon caramel
- light cookies or crumbled puff pastry
- fresh or poached fruit (see prosecco strawberries below)
Make the custard in the microwave:
Using a tall glass container, heat the milk and the lemon zest in the microwave until hot to the touch, about 2 min. In a separate microwavable tall container, whisk the egg, sugar and starch until smooth. Continue whisking the egg mixture while adding the hot milk, first one tablespoon at the time until smooth and then all the remaining milk and the zest at once.
Microwave the mixture for one minute on high heat. Quickly stir, then microwave for one more minute or until the mixture is almost at boiling point. Whisk again. At this point the custard should be thick and smooth. Set aside to cool completely.
Stir the ricotta into the custard until smooth and completely incorporated. Refrigerate until needed.
For the prosecco strawberries:
- 250 ml (1 cup) Prosecco, Vin Santo, Moscato or a dessert wine of your choice.
- 2-3 tablespoons of light brown sugar juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or zest of half a lemon or orange
- 500 g (1 lb) strawberries, washed and sliced
Mix the wine and brown sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the strawberries, and set aside for 10-15 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract or citrus zest and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to a day.
In Italy, we serve fruit and fruit salads as a dessert, unadorned, except may be with a small amount of whipped cream. If the strawberries are ripe, their flavor will shine through the lovely marinade.
However, at the beginning of the season this recipe is perfect as a “sauce” for another dessert like the crema diplomatica.
Decorate with a sprinkle of brown sugar, a drizzle of caramel or crumbled amaretti cookies if you like.
Happy Easter and Happy Spring to you all!