Apparently, dessert croutons are a thing, lately. There are places that sell toasted cubes of cake to eat as snacks or use in desserts or salads. The LA Times recently published a recipe by Nancy Silverton which featured bread croutons as a garnish for a rich chocolate dessert (Bittersweet Chocolate Tartufo with Olive Oil Gelato and Olive Oil Fried Croutons). And there are recipes featuring fruit, ice cream or some other creamy mixture, and sweet croutons (see here and here).
Anyway, I was thinking about a recipe from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts called Top Secret Topping. It is nothing more than plain or lightly sweetened cottage cheese, which is somehow transformed by being pureed in the food processor into a luscious creamy smooth topping for fresh fruit. Maida said she swooned when she first tried it over strawberries, and her friends couldn’t guess what it was (yogurt? sour cream? creme fraiche? cream?) (here is her original description, reprinted in Maida’s Heatter’s Pies and Tarts).
She says you can use 1% or 2%, but you really need to use 4% to get the full effect. The extra fat in the 4% makes it possible for the mixture to whip up and increase in volume. The increased airiness as well as the smoothness of the pureed cottage cheese creates the impression of creme fraiche or whipped cream.
I decided to add cinnamon challah croutons to Maida’s combination of strawberries and top secret topping. The result: a taste I can only describe as deconstructed cheese blintz. I also tried the croutons on strawberry spinach salad with my fat-free orange dressing. It was nice, but I liked the combination of creamy cheese, berries and cinnamon croutons a bit more.
The cinnamon challah croutons remind me a bit of those mock blintzes made from toast stuffed with cream cheese. Made with coconut oil, they are pareve, but taste dairy, almost buttery.
Cinnamon Challah Croutons
12 ounces challah, cut into 1/2″ cubes
2 Tbl. coconut oil (I used unrefined coconut oil, which tastes like coconut, unlike refined, which tastes neutral)
3 Tbl. sugar1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Melt the coconut oil, toss the challah cubes to evenly coat them with oil. If the cubes of challah are not evenly coated with oil, give them a light spritz with cooking spray. Toss the coated challah cubes with cinnamon sugar. Place the challah cubes on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.
Maida Heatter’s Top Secret Cream
2 cups 4 % cottage cheese (can use 1% or 2%, but 4% is much, much better)
1/2 tsp. honey, optional
1 tsp. vanilla, optional
Puree the cottage cheese for a full minute in the food processor. It must be a full minute. Add the honey and vanilla, if desired. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving (although you can serve it right away also–it is just thicker after refrigeration).
If you use 4% cottage cheese (as you should), the cream in the cottage cheese will whip up, incorporating air and increasing in volume. You won’t be able to put the pureed cottage cheese back into its original container. I processed a 24 ounce container (3 cups) and ended up with 4 1/2 cups of pureed cottage cheese. The texture ended up being something like whipped cream or creme fraiche.
If you use 2%, the volume will stay more or less the same, and the flavor will not be as evocative of whipped cream or creme fraiche.
Note: cottage cheese is salty, so the Top Secret Cream will be saltier than you would expect from a dessert topping. You might want to add more honey.
Cinnamon Challah Crouton with Berries and Maida Heatter’s Top Secret Cream
Top Secret Cream
Cinnamon Challah Croutons
Layer berries, cream and croutons.
This is not so sweet, so it can be a light lunch or first course as much as a dessert. For dessert, I might be inclined to add some sugar to the berries and maybe a bit more honey to the cream.
The Kosher Connection, an informal group of creative kosher food bloggers from all around the world, proudly present our monthly kosher recipe challenge. Each month we will present you with recipes on a different theme from all the kosher food bloggers.
This month is Croutons! Click on the blue frog to see what other bloggers have done with croutons.