Show me one person who doesn’t like strawberries and cream. Ok, maybe there is one out there but not in this household. Spring in Cyprus is like strawberry bliss. They are red, sweet and juicy, an absolute dream. I wanted to honour this delicious fruit with something more than just a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, but something equally easy to prepare; a foolproof dessert you can whip up a few hours before your friends come to dinner.
Sweetened condensed milk is my adult life’s guilty pleasure. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to buy a can, hide in a dark corner and eat it. I will also not tell you how many times I really did! Condensed milk gives this dessert unbelievable creaminess. Lemon zest, juice and vanilla give it amazing flavour and the addition of cream and cream cheese balances the sweetness. It’s like a fluffy and airy cheesecake, only better.
I layered the strawberries using shortbread cookies as they are more buttery and flavourful than digestive biscuits or graham crackers. The cookies absorb all the juices from the strawberries and become even more delicious. A final sprinkling of pistachios is all you need to make this dessert look and taste spectacular.
I will rename this dessert “OMG”. I mean look at it; wouldn’t you like to dive into that?
Ingredients for the cream
- 1 tsp unflavoured gelatine
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 x 397grams can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 200 grams “Philadelphia” type cream cheese
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For assembling the dessert
- 3 cups strawberries, chopped
- 2 Tbs granulated sugar
- about 6 shortbread cookies (I used “walkers” shortbread)
- 2 Tbs unsalted pistachios, chopped
In a small saucepan add 2 tablespoons of water and sprinkle over the gelatine. Place over low heat and stir until gelatine is dissolved. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside until needed.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the condensed milk, cream, cream cheese and vanilla. Whisk until mixture thickens slightly and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Don’t over beat otherwise it will become buttery. Pour in the lemon juice/gelatin mixture and the lemon zest. Beat until combined. Mixture will thicken more.
Transfer cream into a piping bag or a zip lock plastic bag. This is the easiest way to pipe the cream into the glasses. Some people panic with the thought of piping but believe me, there is nothing to it. If you don’t like the thought then use a spoon to fill the glasses.
Assemble the dessert. Place 8 wine glasses on a tray (see note). Put the shortbread cookies in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until crushed. Mix strawberries with the sugar. Put 1 tablespoon of crushed biscuits in each glass. Top with 2 tablespoons of strawberries. Pipe or spoon some of the cream. Continue with ½ tablespoon of crushed biscuits, topped with 1 heaped tablespoon of strawberries. Finish with the remaining cream. Sprinkle pistachios on all glasses.
You can dive in right away but this dessert is better if refrigerated for 3-4 hours. It keeps in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Note: This dessert is equally impressive if assembled in martini glasses. Use one layer of biscuits, strawberries and cream. Mix in 1 tablespoon of brandy with the strawberries and you have a black-tie dessert.