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We don't usually associate sweets with Japanese cuisine. But being constantly impressed with the food and cooking of Asia, the idea of creating a Japanese-style dessert was a marvelous challenge. The result -- Individual Grapefruit Terrines with Green Tea Sauce accompanied by delicate cookies shaped like fresh tea leaves.
In keeping with the Japanese lifestyle, both the flavors and the presentation of the dessert are beautiful in their simplicity. Pink and white grapefruit sections are weighted in small ramekins to extract some of the fruits' juices and mold the fruits together. The clean, not-too-sweet grapefruit harmonizes perfectly with the herbaceous-tasting tea.
To give the dessert a western touch, garnish it with delicate leaf-shaped cookies. Here's a way to make a reusable template for easily shaping the tea leaf cookie batter uniformly, quickly and efficiently. With a pencil or felt pen, trace free-form a long narrow leaf that tapers at both ends, about 4-inches long and about 1 1/2 inches wide at its widest on the surface of a thin plastic lid from a storage container similar to those used to cover cottage cheese or cocoa. Use a utility knife to cut out the shape you traced. Trim the raised outside edge from the lid. To use the stencil, drop a teaspoon of batter inside it and using a small offset metal spatula, spread the batter across it. Lift the stencil and continue shaping cookies on baking sheet as recipe specifies. When you're finished shaping a batch of cookies, simply wash and dry the stencil.
Grapefruit Terrines with Green Tea Sauce and Leaf-Shaped Cookies
makes 8 servings
4 pink-fleshed grapefruits, such as Indian River, each about 1 pound
4 white-fleshed grapefruits, each about 1 pound
4 teaspoons sugar
Green Tea Sauce:
2 tablespoons Japanese green tea
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water
Green Tea Leaf Cookies:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups unsifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup (about 4) egg whites, room temperature
12 tablespoons flour
Using a serrated knife, cut a slice off the stem end of the grapefruit and cut zest, pith and skin away from fruit in one piece, following the fruit's curve. Cut out the grapefruit sections, keeping the knife as close to the separating membranes as possible. Discard any seeds. One grapefruit should yield about 2/3 cup sectioned fruit. In a bowl, combine the sections with the 4 teaspoons sugar.
Divide the sections equally between eight 6-ounce (3/4 cup) ramekins (set on a large tray), filling each to within 1/2-inch of the top. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely on top of the fruit; then place a jar or can (like a 10-ounce jam jar) on the plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
To make the tea sauce: Pour the hot water over the tea leaves and allow to steep 5 minutes. Add the 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Strain the tea into a small saucepan. In a small bowl, mix the water into the cornstarch and stir into the tea. Bring the tea to the boil and stir just until mixture thickens slightly.
To make the cookies: Adjust rack to lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap an end of a chilled stick of unsalted butter and rub it over two large cool non-stick baking sheets to apply a very thin film of fat.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until it is creamy and has the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until each addition of sugar is absorbed by the butter before you add more. Whip until light and fluffy.
Maintaining the same speed, gradually add the whites. Wait for eah portion of whites to be incorporated before adding the next. Lastly, add the vanilla. Don't worry if the mixture appears curdled at this point. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour in two or three installments until smooth. Drop the batter by the teaspoonful in 3 or 4 places onto baking sheet, using a small inverted spatula spread it paper-thin inside the handmade leaf stencil. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale gold. Remove from oven, and remove leaves with a small metal spatula to a metal cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Store in an airtight metal container at room temperature up to a week.
To assemble the desserts: Remove jars and plastic wrap. Carefully pour off any liquid that has accumulated (it makes a great drink). Invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Surround the grapefruit mound with tea sauce. Garnish each plate with five leaf-shaped cookies.
Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.