Mulled Strawberries and Cream Pancakes

About a month ago I made a trip up to the bustling metropolis of Auckland, and anytime I'm in the area I always make a particular effort to visit the Little Bird Unbakery in Ponsonby. For those of you who aren't familiar with New Zealand's healthy eatery scene, Little Bird is a raw (hence the name 'unbakery') vegan establishment that specialises in botanical cuisine. I am a lunch regular, so this time we decided to change it up a little and go for dinner. I certainly wasn't disappointed! As per usual everything was absolutely divine, but the real stand out for me was my dessert - the coconut panna cotta with mulled strawberries. It was literally like eating creamy angel fluff in a cup - I fell in love! The way the tart, spicy strawberries balanced out the mellow, melty panna cotta; it really was a match made in heaven.  Naturally, I set out on a little culinary expedition (to make my own version of the heavenly dessert) and alas, the best pancakes I ever did make were born. This strawberries and cream stack pays homage to the glorious seasonal summer fruits that are in abundance during the warmer months, with a little spicy kick that makes it appropriate for any time of the year.

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A generous single-serving of rich vanilla bean, coconut, and almond milk creme patissiere sandwiched between fluffy snow-white 'angel' cakes, topped with warm mulled strawberries spiked with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, with pomegranate jewels and fresh strawberries to serve.

INGREDIENTS

MULLED STRAWBERRIES
1 punnet of ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons of spring water
2 teaspoons of coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom

CHEAT'S CREME PATISSIERE
1 cup of almond and coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of cornflour
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon of natural maple syrup

VANILLA BEAN PANCAKES
1/2 of a large, ripe banana
1 cup of gluten-free flour (I use Edmond's)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
1 cup of unsweetened plant milk
2 teaspoons of natural maple syrup

TOPPINGS (OPTIONAL)
pomegranate gems
fresh strawberries

METHOD

  1. In a small saucepan gently warm the strawberries, spring water, and coconut sugar over a low heat until you can feel the heat emanating from the mixture. Add the spices and allow to bubble for around five minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of the almond and coconut milk into a small jar, followed by the cornflour. Shake vigorously until the mixture is silky. In a medium-sized saucepan gently warm the leftover 3/4 cup of the almond and coconut milk over a low heat, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. When almost at a low simmer, add the cornflour mixture and stir vigorously. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the vanilla bean paste and maple syrup, and continue to warm until a desired consistency is reached (it should be thick enough to run your finger along the back of the spoon and leave a line). Take off the heat, press a layer of cling film over the top to prevent a skin from forming, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl (preferably with a pourer), mash the banana repetitively with a fork or a masher until there are no lumps left. You could also do this in a food processor. Sift in the flour and baking powder, followed by the vanilla bean paste, unsweetened plant milk, and natural maple syrup. Stir until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps remaining.
  4. Heat a good quality non-stick frying pan over a low heat, until the base is too hot to touch (you will be able to feel a slight warmth when holding your hand over it). You could also use a regular frying pan, but ensure that you adequately oil it or the pancake batter will stick and break up. Dollop around 2 tablespoons of batter into the centre of the pan and spread out into a circle with the back of a dessert spoon - it should be around 10cm wide and 5mm thick. Allow to cook for approximately 45 seconds, or until small bubbles form around the outer ring of the pancake (be careful - this batter doesn't bubble very much so you may burn the underside if you're not careful). Flip with a large spatula, cook the other side until beige, and flip onto a cooling rack. Repeat until you have used all of your batter.
  5. One the pancakes are cool enough for your liking, begin assembly. I like to top each pancake prior to stacking them, as I find that it reduces 'squish-age' and minimises the mess that you'll have to clean up at the end. In the image, I layered each pancake with the cheat's creme patissiere, then topped the pancakes with the mulled strawberries, but it's entirely up to you. Make sure you drizzle lots of the spiced syrup over the pancakes to give them a more intense flavour. Bejewel with little pomegranate gems, and serve alongside fresh strawberries and additional syrup.
FOOD, SWEET MEALSAshlee Adams