Mascarpone cream and strawberry sauce
A week ago when we left Tuscany, the fridge was full of strawberries. Ripe, perfumed spring strawberries, so red, pretty and tempting that we couldn’t help it – we kept buying punnets whenever we saw them. Needless to say, there were quite a few strawberries to consume before heading back to Melbourne’s autumn.
I’ve always appreciated how simple Tuscan desserts really are. Rustic, not necessarily pretty, and full of tradition, the sort of thing that people have ingrained in their memories thanks to their nonna serving it to them as a child. Hard, jaw breaking cookies like cantuccini, or holiday desserts for Easter or christmas are just some examples of those traditional Tuscan ‘sweets’, which are in fact not so sweet, but made more so by the obligatory accompaniment of a glass of vin santo.
These days, most trattorie will have a short list of standard, simple desserts ‘borrowed’ from other places – cheesecake with berry sauce, a dense slice of chocolate cake and tiramisu, are regulars on any menu, along with the simplest ending to a meal of all, fresh fruit such as pineapple (apparently to help that all important Italian obsession, your digestion) and anything in season (I just came across this little beauty, wild strawberries dusted in sugar and red wine), but they still serve cantuccini and vin santo, of course.
Much like the rest of the menu, the desserts never go too far astray from this list of favourites and this barely changes as you move from trattoria to restaurant to osteria. As they say, squadra che vince non si cambia – the Italian version of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Going back to my fridge full of strawberries. I decided salsa di fragola, strawberry sauce, was in order – simply put, a fresh strawberry puree that could be used for a few different things. It was poured over plain yoghurt for breakfast, mixed with sliced strawberries to fill some bignè, I even dipped savoiardi biscuits into it for a strawberry tiramisu (I should perhaps mention that we had a huge number of relatives coming over for lunch, I didn’t eat this all by myself though I could have been tempted to).
While waiting for the tiramisu to set and the biscuits to become lovely and spongy, I sat down with a little pot of mascarpone cream and salsa di fragola and as I ate swirling spoonfuls of it, decided that it was so delicious that it could be a dessert in its own right. And why not? It’s simple, extremely fresh and can be fatto espresso – whipped up in seconds to be served straight away.
Crema di mascarpone con salsa di fragole
Mascarpone cream with strawberry sauce
The simple rule here is to use the freshest ingredients you can – very fresh eggs are a must, if you know someone who keeps chickens, promise them some of this dessert in exchange for 3 eggs, you’ll never taste mascarpone cream like this again. Perfectly ripe strawberries are also a must for a successful strawberry sauce – make sure they are free of bruises and have bright green, healthy tops, not dry or wilted brown ones. It’s such a simple sauce that there is no way to hide any flaws. Use the white sugar “to taste”, depending on how sweet your strawberries naturally are.
- 3 very fresh, organic eggs
- 150 gr of white sugar
- 500 gr of mascarpone
- 1 punnet of perfectly ripe strawberries
- A few tablespoons of white sugar
- A squeeze of blood orange juice or lemon juice and/or zest
To make the mascarpone cream, separate the yolks and the whites into two medium to large sized bowls. Whip the yolks with the sugar until you have a dense, creamy and pale mixture. Add the mascarpone until combined. Whip the whites (make sure you use a very clean bowl, glass or metal is best, and very clean beaters to quickly get beautifully stiff whites) until you have stiff peaks that hold their shape even when you turn the bowl upside down. Fold the whites into the mascarpone mixture. Set aside, and if not using straight away, store covered in the fridge.
To make the strawberry sauce, cut the green tops off the strawberries and have a taste or two to judge how much sugar you may need. Place them in a blender with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Blend until smooth. Taste again for sweetness and adjust as necessary. Add a squeeze of citrus such as lemon juice or blood orange juice and the fruit’s zest.
Spoon the mascarpone cream into small cups, ramekins or pots. Top with the strawberry sauce and serve immediately.
If you want to make a tiramisu out of these same ingredients, simply add the savoiardi biscuits, dipping them into the strawberry sauce and covering with a layer of the mascarpone cream, layering until you use up all the cream. Allow to set in the fridge for 3-4 hours at least or up to a day and before serving, top with freshly sliced strawberries.
As these ingredients are best tasted freshly made, they do not keep well for very long and are best used on the day. Store in the fridge, covered, if not using straight away.