First taste of summer – Strawberry and lemon spelt sablée mignardises

Describing these treats as mignardises is a tad pretentious, but seems more appropriate than calling them petit fours as in the traditional sense, since they don’t conform to the typical descriptions being neither glacé nor sec. In fact, they are an altogether more rustic, less refined affair than the delicate one bite offerings one may anticipate at the close of a fine dining experience.

Whatever one might call them, be it mignardises, mignonardise, petit fours, amuse-bouches sucrés or friandise, it’s all a bit irrelevant, it’s how they taste that matters – and everyone knows how incredible the first home-grown strawberry of summer tastes. The scent and sweet flavour explosion are imprinted on the memory from first experience. This year, as ever, the sensation has not disappointed.

My strawberries are grown in planters in the polytunnel and started producing ripe fruit about 10 days ago, first in ones and twos which, of course, did not make it out of the tunnel as I munched them as soon as they were ready, revelling in their luscious warm ripeness. Now, the plants are more prolific and I have allowed a punnet to survive long enough to get to the house.

My first strawberry of 2013

My first strawberry of 2013 – Marshmellow

I wanted to celebrate the deliciousness of my first strawberries of the season without smothering or overwhelming them with cream, glaze or meringue, so I delicately nestled them on a cushion of cool vanilla crème Chantilly, with a smidgen of passion fruit curd in the hulled strawberry top, all resting on a lemon spelt sablée biscuit. A summer flavour explosion ensued.

Lemon spelt sablée biscuits

I chose these delicately short and light biscuits from Annie Bell’s baking bible.  The recipe suggests refined spelt, but I used wholegrain for a deeper colour and flavour. The recipe is very simple and quick to make and the dough logs are rolled in a thin coating of Demerara sugar which gives them a shimmering, jewel-encrusted edge. The biscuits are not too sweet which is important as the strawberries don’t need shedloads of additional sugar – they are already exceptionally sweet.

Ingredients

115g lightly salted butter

50g caster sugar

150g wholegrain spelt flour

60g ground almonds

finely grated zest of 2 lemons

a sprinkle of Demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C

Method

  • Put all the ingredients into a food processor, blitz until a soft ball of dough forms.
  • Divide the mix into 3 and roll into logs about 3 – 4 cm in diameter. Roll the logs in some Demerara sugar sprinkled on the surface, wrap each in clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Slice the logs to form biscuits each about 1 cm thick, place on a baking sheet, spaced out a bit then place in the oven for 30 minutes until colouring slightly.
  • When out of the oven, loosen each biscuit with a palate knife and leave them to cool.

Strawberry petit fours 033

Passion fruit curd

iPhone 2 June 2013 065

I happened to have made a jar of this curd a couple of weeks ago when we were still in the depths of winter (there was no spring this year that I noticed) and I needed a ray of culinary sunshine and a reminder of how summer tastes courtesy of one of my favourite fruits.  The curd is very soft set.  For a firmer set, reduce the volume of passion fruit to about 150 ml.

Ingredients

200 ml passion fruit contents (about 9 fruit)

3 large egg yolks

70g caster sugar

60g unsalted butter, softened

Method

  • Blitz the passion fruit contents in a blender to break down the seeds then sieve to extract maximum flavour.
  • Place the strained passion fruits, egg yolks and sugar in a bain marie over barely simmering water. Stir continuously until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
  • Place in a sterilised jar.
  • For the mignardises, place a small amount of curd in the space where the strawberry was hulled:

Strawberry petit fours 058

Vanilla crème Chantilly

This is simply whipping cream (1 large tub , 300ml), whipped with the contents of one vanilla pod and with a sprinkle of sieved icing sugar gently folded in, to taste.  I purposefully did not add very much sugar (about 2 tsp) as I did not want the crème to have any more than a hint of sweetness. The cream should be lightly whipped, just holding its shape and not quite be able to bear the weight of the strawberry.

Strawberry and lemon spelt sablée mignardises

To assemble, place a teaspoon of crème Chantilly on the biscuit, place a small blob of curd inside the hulled strawberry and sit the strawberry on the crème cushion. Eat immediately as the curd starts to ooze out over the crème.  It is over in one (large) mouthful, but oh so very much worth the effort.

Strawberry petit fours 086 Strawberry petit fours 072

All to be enjoyed with tonight’s sunset, one of many spectacular sunsets we have enjoyed in the last week. The view of the bay, this time with the tide out, taken from the bottom of the garden at 2215 hours.

Sunset 3 june 2013

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59 thoughts on “First taste of summer – Strawberry and lemon spelt sablée mignardises

  1. Let me understand this – the two of you are eating passion fruit curd-stuffed strawberries atop whipped cream and sablé cookies while watching that sunset? Just how great is your life? It all looks so wonderful. Ken
    P.S. If you had any morals at all you’d send me a jar of that curd in recompense.

  2. Wonderful post as always, Tracy. While reading your post, I realized I had no idea what the difference between petits fours and mignardises was, and being such a linguistic freak, I just spent half an hour searching through all my dictionaries.
    I love your combination of passion fruit curd and strawberries, it must be so delicious!
    I do have another linguistic question: is Demerara sugar the same as Turbinado sugar (in France we have “brown bane sugar”, I think it is similar to Turbinado)? 🙂

    • Thanks you Darya, as always for your thoughts. I wasn’t sure what to call them myself, but note increasing trend of using the generic term mignardises for small sweet treats in the UK, so I’m open to suggestions if you have any other ideas (and my French isn’t the best!). Turbinado – other than knowing it is a raw sugar with some molasses (like Demerara and Muscovado which I use regularly, unlike Turbinado which I have not used), I had to look up for detailed description, apparently like Demerara but to do with processing and crystal size (bigger crystals in Demerara). I found a helpful summary: http://bakingbites.com/2008/01/what-are-demerara-turbinado-and-muscovado-sugars/ You learn something everyday! Thanks, Tracey.

      • Thank you, Tracy! I might still not be able to get Demerara sugar in France, but at least now I know the difference!
        As to the use of mignardises, I think it works quite well here, definitely better than “petits fours”. You could also say “bouchée sucrée”, but it sounds very posh! 🙂

  3. Your lemon biscuits sound good – I’ve only used spelt flour in bread up until now, this will be a good recipe to try it in something else! It will be a while before I have strawberries to go with the biscuits though – just flowers so far. And I’m still envious of your beautiful sunsets over the sea, it’s one thing I really miss now that I live on the east side of the country.

    • Thanks Sarah, I’m really keen on spelt biscuits, and was reminded by trying these I should make more, but love it for loaves too. The sunsets have been particularly amazing this week. I know what you mean about the east. I lived in the Cairngorms for a bit, loved the mountains and trees but really missed the sea. Now I miss trees. Cake and eat it come to mind. Will stay where I am for now 🙂

  4. I have been ‘off’ strawberries for years, since they generally stooped tasting of anything. However, your treats look delicious, and I could be persuaded…X Regards from (a sunnier) Norfolk. Pete.,

    • Hi Pete, you are right, most commercially available strawberries are not worth eating (I think refrigerating them for the supermarket does added damage – it’s all about yield and keeping quality above flavour). A local farm shop or pick your own might be an option? I couldn’t do without them in June now I grow my own! Thanks.

  5. How summery and how delicious! I have polytunnel and sunset envy too. A few weeks until I have home-grown strawberries, can’t wait for that taste sensation of freshly picked, ripe berries.

    • Thank you Andrea. They were very tasty, although there is always a bit of a quandary about whether growing them outside a bit more slowly in the full rays of the sun does intensify the flavour, worth mulling over while you anticipate them ripening. No option for outdoors here though, they would not get round to fruiting so the tunnel is essential (for all sorts of things – can’t hope to overwinter many herbs here, let alone grow tomatoes outdoors)

  6. Wow, a spectacular sunset, and so late in the evening! At our end of the world, it’s getting dark – and impossible to take photos etc – by 5pm.

    Sweet home grown strawberries sound so good, and love the look of the sables.

    • Thanks, it doesn’t really get properly dark in June/beginning of July. Sunset at midsummer is about 22:35 hrs, sunrise at 04:20 hrs Of course, winter has its revenge – 5 1/2 hours daylight on the shortest days and seems dark all day if the cloud is low. By that time, you’ll be enjoying long days!. I know what you mean about photos. Mine are bad enough in the natural daylight of summer 🙂

  7. I bet those strawberries taste heaven. It would never have occurred to me to add the passion fruit curd. I would have stopped to the vanilla cream. Such a brilliant addition, Tracy! Sometime it is a little addition that make a good recipe great. 😉

  8. I cannot believe you have strawberries already. I too wonder what to do with the first batch of fruit. We end up eating them on the way back to the kitchen! Lovely view to eat them by I don’t think you can beat watching that sunset whilst eating the perfect combination.

    • Yes, it seems really early, with the sun and warmth over the last week, they have gone mad, as have the tomatoes which are setting their first truss. Weird weather, winter to summer in 10 days and everything has been poised to spring to life, including weeds 😦

  9. Work, yes, but I’m sure worth every bit of it! These are adorable. Now, if you wouldn’t mind express mailing some of those perfect, little, sweet British strawberries to us here in Michigan?? Pretty please? Ours are not in season just yet, and even at their best, I am convinced there is something special about your berries 🙂

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