I’ve been on a strawberry bender. They are impossible to ignore. Strawberries are in season now in California, and it’s too easy to simply gobble up a pint or two (or four) from the farmers market with each visit. Like all fruit and vegetables that reign supreme during their seasonal heyday, strawberries are the life of the party while they last. But even a good thing can become redundant, and that’s when our duty as a cook takes over. It is up to us, like gracious hosts, to showcase our seasonal gifts in fresh and flattering ways, so that we never (God forbid) grow tired of them.
This recipe brings a little phyllo dough to the mix, literally elevating the strawberry in a dramatically stacked presentation between layers of sugary phyllo and mascarpone cream. While they take some prep time, the phyllo sheets can be made in advance. The outcome is a light and luscious dessert, elegant yet simple, showcasing the lovely and ever-appealing strawberry.
Strawberry Phyllo Stacks (Napoleons)
Makes about 12
1 package frozen phyllo sheets, defrosted overnight in refrigerator
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced 1/4-inch thick, plus 6 large strawberries, stems intact, halved lengthwise.
Sifted confectioners sugar for dusting
Prepare the phyllo squares:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Unroll the phyllo dough and place one sheet on a work surface. Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.
3. Lightly brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter. Sprinkle a light layer of sugar over the butter. Place a second phyllo sheet over the dough. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with 2 more sheets.
4. With a sharp chef’s knife cut the stacked phyllo sheets into 12 squares (4 across the sheets’ long side x 3 across the short side). With a spatula, transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the oven until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on racks.
5. Repeat this process until you have used all of the phyllo dough – you will have about 36 squares. (The phyllo squares may be prepared up to one day in advance. Place in an airtight container and separate each layer with parchment paper. Store at room temperature.)
Prepare the napoleons:
1. Beat the filling ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment until stiff peaks form.
2. Arrange one phyllo square on a work surface. Spread one tablespoon of the filling over the square. Arrange 2 to 3 strawberry slices on the cream. Smear a little cream over the strawberries, then place another phyllo square on top and gently press to adhere Repeat the layering process one more time and finish with a phyllo square. Place a small dollop of cream in the center of the phyllo and top with a strawberry half, cut-side down. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
3. Dust with the napoleons with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.