Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Each month as I decide what foods to write about, I take into consideration what is fresh and appealing, and also what might fit into whatever holidays or other events are happening that month. July is, of course, a month of all things patriotic. It would seem that Mother Nature herself likes the stars and stripes, since berries of all kinds are at their peak flavor and ripeness just about now, in the perfect colors for Independence Day. I found beautiful strawberries and blueberries and decided to create the “white” component of the dessert by making a decadent white chocolate whipped cream to layer in among the berries. This concoction was delicious and sweet and easy to eat. I realized, however, that I had taken foods that were optimally healthy and created something that was decidedly higher in calories and fat than many readers might prefer. It’s a conundrum I face a lot, given that seasonal food tends to be celebratory in nature, so I decided to tackle the problem head on.
A simple solution, of course, would be to just serve the berries without any kind of topping. There is nothing at all wrong with that, and I think most people looking to adopt a healthy lifestyle would agree that unadorned berries for dessert are a tasty and virtuous choice. For someone looking to go just a bit sweeter, and few tablespoons of lime juice whisked with a few teaspoons of honey and drizzled over the berries before serving will amp up the sweetness of the berries. Still, this treatment means there’s nothing white in the dessert, which seems like a crucial missing piece (though I suppose you could serve mixed berries in a white bowl).
The other drawback to serving mixed berries on their own is that they seem to lack a certain holiday flare. The creamy layer in a berry parfait makes it feel a little different and a bit more festive, so I went in search of a substitution for my creamy white chocolate whipped cream and found an acceptable substitute in this decade’s “it” ingredient: coconut. Chilling a can of full-fat coconut cream overnight separates the solids from the liquids and creates a substance capable of being whipped like cream.
There are a few things you should know about the coconut substitution. First, if you’re watching calories and fat, whipped coconut cream isn’t substantially different from regular whipped cream. However, it is naturally sweet, so just a pinch of sugar or a tiny drizzle of honey will do the trick, so if you’re watching added sugar, this may be a better choice. Coconut cream is also vegan and Paleo friendly, so if that’s the way you roll, this might be just the ticket. Whipped coconut cream doesn’t produce the same stable whip structure as whipped cream, so it works perfectly in a layered dessert like this where a bit of “deflation” won’t matter. Its subtle coconut flavor lends an interesting twist to a familiar combination of flavors.
In honesty, I still love the more conventional whipped cream version of this dessert, particularly since the white chocolate produces a whipped cream that seems almost like mousse. However, I do like the coconut version, and there are periods of time in my dietary life that this would be just the perfect thing to satisfy my sweet tooth. No matter how you dress up these red and blue berries, they’ll make a festive addition to your holiday buffet.
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, stems removed and chopped
1 pound blueberries, rinsed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ounce (about one tablespoon) white chocolate (from a high-quality chocolate bar or white chocolate chips); if you want a more pronounced chocolate flavor, additional chocolate can be used
Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until smooth. Allow chocolate to cool slightly. Using chilled beaters and a chilled bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form, then add melted chocolate and whip until stiff peaks form.
One can (14 ounces) full-fat coconut cream, chilled overnight in the fridge
Honey, to taste (optional)
Carefully open the can of coconut cream and drain off the liquid that has separated from the solids (save this liquid for use in smoothies or other uses.) Place solids in a chilled mixing bowl and whip with chilled beaters until soft peaks form. Add honey, if desired, to taste.
Layer strawberries, blueberries and either kind of “cream” in individual parfait cups. Keep parfaits chilled until serving.