strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

An admission: maybe I don’t really like gardening. I do love the idea of it and so I like to pretend it’s a hobby of mine, despite that I’ve been avoiding any gardening work for ages. The realization that perhaps I am not as much of a garden fan as I had thought/wistfully dreamed happened while I was doing some weeding this weekend and was forced to come to face with the fact that I am very floppy and useless from spending all day inside.

Of course maybe I’m just sulking because right now gardening is 90% weeding with minimal harvest. But as for what we are harvesting: that is primarily rhubarb! Not to mention that the rhubarb is pretty simple, self-reliant and hardy (all the better to balance my floppiness and uselessness with).

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars
strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

This has been one of my favourite recent rhubarb bakes: thick, creamy cheesecake squares dotted with strawberries and rhubarb and a brown sugar and oat crumble.

These bars were inspired by a recipe from Ed Kimber and my mum’s strawberry rhubarb crumble. It took a few tries to get them to where I wanted them: switching the base and crumble to an adapted version of my mum’s crumble recipe, thickening the layer of cheesecake and adding additional fruit. I did try flavouring one version with rosewater, but that was quickly discarded in favour of going full force with my mum’s crumble flavours: cinnamon in the crumble and just vanilla in the cheesecake.

For another strawberry rhubarb crumble inspired bake, there is also this ice cream. And if you’re feeling hung up on the rosewater, I do love the pairing in these cream puffs!

strawberry rhubarb crumble cheesecake bars

strawberry rhubarb cheesecake bars

  • Servings: 16-25 squares
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Crumble based on my mum’s recipe, while the cheesecake filling and overall bar concept and structure is from these raspberry cheesecake bars by The Boy Who Bakes (and is also a recipe from his book, One Tin Bakes!).

base & crumble

  • 112g butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 43g brown sugar (1/3 cup, lightly packed)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 125g whole wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 33g rolled oats (1/3 cup)
  • 33g quick oats (1/3 cup)

cheesecake layer

  • 420g block cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 70g greek yoghurt
  • 20g heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

fruit

  • 115g chopped rhubarb
  • 115g chopped strawberries
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch

for the base, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square baking tray and line with a parchment sling.

Cream the butter with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, then mix in the flour and oats until combined and the mixture holds together in clumps. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture for the top crumble. Take the remaining 2/3 of the mixture (about 220g), break it into clumps, and evenly distribute them into the bottom of the prepared tray. Use your fingers or the bottom of a glass (lightly floured if needed to prevent sticking) to firmly pack it down into an even layer. This makes for a thin layer so if needed, you can add a bit more.

Prick the base all over with a fork and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm and chill. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the bottom crust begins to lightly brown. Set aside to cool slightly.

While the base bakes, begin on the cheesecake layer. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Mix in the yoghurt, cream and vanilla extract. Mix in the eggs. Lastly, sift the cornstarch overtop and mix until combined.

Pour the cheesecake layer over the partially baked crust and spread into an even layer.

Next, prepare the fruit. Stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and tapioca starch. Spoon evenly overtop of the cheesecake.

Finish with the crumble and bake. You’ll have 1/3 of the crumble mixture left. Break this up into small crumbs and scatter overtop of the fruit.

Return the pan to the 350F oven and bake for another 30-35 minutes or so, or until the crumble is browned, and the cheesecake layer is mostly set (it’s okay if the middle still has a bit of a jiggle).

Let cool, then refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Run a knife along the two edges baked directly against the pan to loosen the bars first before removing. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake

ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake
ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake
ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake

This mousse cake is made of mango yoghurt mousse with an insert of mango jelly and caramelized white chocolate fennel cremeux over a fennel seed joconde. Ataulfo mango and fragrant fennel seed make for a refreshing combination!

Continue reading “ataulfo mango & fennel seed mousse cake”

peach houjicha mousse cake

peach houjicha mousse cake

Earlier in the spring The Alley, a Taiwanese tea chain, (I get too many ideas from bubble tea places) had a houjicha and peach series; my roommate and I longingly stared at the sign in the window as we walked by on our way to the store to stock up on rice and instant ramen. I ended up never trying any of the drinks as the pandemic came into full force soon after, but I’ve been keeping the flavour combination in mind.

Continue reading “peach houjicha mousse cake”

rhubarb, coconut & rooibos mousse cakes (& tentimestea turns 6)

rhubarb, coconut, rooibos mousse cake

rooibos, coconut & rhubarb mousse cakes

It didn’t feel all that long ago that the blog had hit the five year mark. Now apparently it’s six!

Last year I effusively pledged my undying love for baking. Previous years, in awe that my blog was somehow still around, I expounded on all that I had learned (blog-wise, that is) and constructed ambitious plans for the future (blog-wise as well, that is). But having crossed the five year mark last year, I think I’ve reached the age at which individual years no longer feel as significant. It’s a rather comfortable state to be in, actually.

At this point, blogging has taken on a routine and easy familiarity. While I may not always have time in my life for the recipe testing/photographing/editing/writing that goes into it, by now I’ve learned (after a number of nearly year-long casual hiatuses) that that’s fine. While sometimes not much may change here, it’s hardly going anywhere. (And I still have 70+ drafts lolling about in various stages of completion so there’s usually some content I can dredge up even when I don’t have time for baking).

Continue reading “rhubarb, coconut & rooibos mousse cakes (& tentimestea turns 6)”

golden beet & cardamom cheesecake tart

golden beet and cardamom cheesecake tart

I recently attended Here are the Fragments, an immersive, self-directed theatre experience at the Theatre Centre about Dr Chauvet, a black immigrant psychiatrist who is diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life. It tackles topics of intersecting identities, as a racialized minority, as a psychiatrist and as a patient, all while bringing attention to the underlying impacts that colonialism and racism can have on health and the treatment patients receive in the health care system.

Continue reading “golden beet & cardamom cheesecake tart”

white peach, strawberry & pistachio mousse cake

strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes

Arriving at a party three hours late (two-thirds of which was semi-intentional, one third of which was a surprise – though given the entire trip was relatively unplanned, why it was a surprise, or upon what the putative ETA was based, was unclear), the main hurdle had been locating the bus terminal. In a mixed transit hub, transformed into a maze by virtue of add-on’s and the white canvas-tented construction-impeded walkways, we tried following the path indicated by two dimensional and directionally ambiguous arrows (it always takes me a bit of a figurative leap to understand that an up arrow means forwards). Eventually we arrived at the apparent endpoint– a singular, lonely arrow pointing directly into a construction site.

Wandering back to look for help, we were informed that there must be a way and to try again. Surely people still took the buses after all. We located a second set of arrows – this time passing up a twisting ramp – convolutedly promising until we returned to the same, stark arrow.

Continue reading “white peach, strawberry & pistachio mousse cake”

jasmine lychee coconut mousse cake

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

Much delayed, my flight arrived around 4:30 am, and in a blearily bedraggled state I succumbed to the convenient but costly allure of a taxi – a rare occasion considering the state of my net worth. At that hour the wide-multilane roadways leading into the city were dimly lit and only sparsely populated.

Sitting in cars often induces a trance-like state for me, but I couldn’t help but notice that the road seemed to be going past exceptionally quickly. As the taxi driver turned up the volume of his choral music to be heard over the grind of the taxi and the air came to be perfused with a smell quite reminiscent of burning plastic, I got to experience living life very speedily – in a very literal sense. Glancing at the speedometer, we were persistently 10km/h over the speed limit, coasting entirely unhindered down a nearly empty road.

My sleepiness was replaced with a healthy rise in blood pressure.

It was only as we approached vehicles ahead that we gently slowed, though just as we did so, a white taxi soared by in the adjacent lane. The driver’s discordant humming halted. He began to switch from one to another, weaving between the modestly spaced vehicles as though they were pylons. My healthy rise in blood pressure was not feeling quite so healthy anymore.

The two taxis switched positions – the white car darting ahead of us until it was blocked by a more law-abiding driver in front of them and vice versa — until, while driving neck-to-neck, the other taxi began to slow, a gesture of submission perhaps, or condescension. I was half-certain that this whole “race” was actually a product of coincidences and my overactive imagination until the taxi driver scoffed and flapped his hand grumpily through his window. And thankfully, now lacking an opponent, the taxi driver seemed to lose his passion for racing.

This experience most certainly confirmed that a slow life is most certainly the type of life for me.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes
lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

Note: I began writing this post as one of those mildly interesting encounters that you expand upon with a generous slew of adjectives and from which to derive some (bland, I admit) entertainment. After all, when I had recounted my taxi ride to a few people the next day, they nodded in the way that you do when you hear something familiar. It seemed like the just right amount of relatable.

But I felt guilty that I didn’t ask the driver to slow down – while it was unlikely (it was about as empty as the streets could get, on a large roadway without pedestrians,  minimizing the risk), I couldn’t help but worry about the possibility his speed could contribute to an accident. However, at the time, I was concerned that my request might come across as questioning his competency and perhaps even make the taxi driver push the speed some more. Or, it could also be insensitive as likely taxi drivers face many pressures to reach a destination as fast as possible – whether for customer satisfaction or to have time to pick up another customer to be able to make a living.

I wasn’t planning to put pen to that, until it struck me how quickly I brushed the act of speeding off after speaking to others – it seems that the concept of driving over the speed limit is normalized to us. I then worried that my brushing it off was also brushing off the reality of motor vehicle accidents (MVA).

But after reading a bit more about MVAs, I realized there was a bit more to it than worrying about someone speeding. It’s a multifactorial issue where built environments can play just as much — if not more — of a role as individual behaviours on the road.

In particular, I found the concept of MVAs as a public health problem a very helpful way of thinking about it. While accidents certainly affect enough people to qualify as a health problem, it’s not a concept that has fully imbued our day-to-day view of them. And the thing is that “[w]ord choices matter: By framing preventable traffic deaths and injuries as “accidents,” society engages in a collective shrug, concluding it is not a public health priority.” And this can be particularly frustrating when there are known ways to reduce MVA rates.

Importantly, when conceptualized as a public health problem, this also means shifting our focus from individual action to the systemic and environmental factors that contribute to the potential for accidents. Rather than blaming those that jaywalk (i.e. most of us), it can be more effective to ask why that is happening, and then target the factors that lead to those reckless behaviours (such as the absence of a convenient crosswalk).

As such, one of the most successful policies to reduce MVAs has been the Sweden-initiated Vision Zero, an ambitious approach focused on modifying the environment because “in every situation a person might fail. The road system should not.” The most pragmatic approach it seems is not to depend on everyone on the road to be perfect – while there is a role for enforcement and environments that encourage law-abidingness, perfection is impossible – but to work on the broader environment to help us all stay as safe as possible.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes
lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

This went terribly off track! But at least mousse cakes are most certainly on the slower side of things – and I’m starting to realise there is something calming and methodical about the staggered, multi-day pace, enforced through the need to freeze or chill almost all of the components before the next step.

This time around I was excited to put a silicone dome mold to use. I kept the cake quite simple with three components: a coconut financier, a lychee jelly insert, and a jasmine tea mousse. The original recipe has been updated as I’ve gotten more familiar with mousse cake techniques and I love this newest version of the cake! A mild, creamy jasmine mousse, sweet lychee jelly and toasty coconut financier.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

jasmine lychee coconut mousse cake

  • Servings: five 8cm dome mousse cakes
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special equipment:

  • 8-cm diameter half sphere silicone molds (5 cavities)
  • 6-cm rings (5)
  • 8-9 cm rings (5)

assembly

  • jasmine mousse – just made
  • frozen lychee jelly insert
  • mirror glaze
  • financier rounds
  • shredded coconut and lychees for garnich

Fill five 8cm silicone dome molds with jasmine mousse, filling them about halfway full. Put the lychee jelly inserts on top. Add more mousse to cover the jelly. The molds will be close to filled but not quite if they are the same size of mine. Freeze completely.

When ready to glaze, have your mirror glaze at the appropriate temperature (94-97C). Remove the cakes and pop out of the mold onto a wire rack. Set the rack over a try to catch excess glaze. Pour the glaze over each cake until covered. Pick up cakes by sliding one (or two – if you have, two makes it a bit easier to move) small offset spatulas below the cakes. It is best to do this before they thaw and while it is still easy to move them. Transfer the cakes to the rounds of coconut financier. To cover up the more ragged edges, pat a bit of shredded coconut along the edges. You can also top with a lychee half as additional garnish. Let thaw completely before serving.

lychee jelly

Makes five 6cm diameter discs of jelly.

  • 100g strained lychee puree (from about 140g drained canned lychees)
  • 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin bloomed in 1 tbsp water

Prepare five 6cm diameter rings. For this, I find it easiest to stretch a small piece of plastic until taut over the bottom of each ring to create a mold (alternatively, you may find it easier to increase the quantity, pour it into a tin, and cut out rounds of jelly instead.)

Melt the bloomed gelatin in the microwave – several seconds is often enough. Whisk into the lychee puree and distribute amongst the rings. Freeze.

To remove from the rings, soak a dish towel in hot water and wrap around a ring for about 10 seconds. Then push out the frozen jelly. Keep the jelly inserts in the freezer until ready to use.

coconut financier

Makes five financier bases. Instead of baking financier bases in individual rings, you can also bake a 1.5X recipe in an 8″/20cm square tin and cut out circles of financier.

  • 100g butter
  • 90g granulated sugar
  • 40g all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 60g finely ground desiccated coconut
  • 100g egg whites

Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter the inside of five 8 or 9cm diameter rings (the financiers will shrink a bit in diameter so either size should be fine).

Place the butter in a small pan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the solids toast. Once the solids are a golden brown and the butter is fragrant, remove from the heat.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and ground coconut in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg whites. Whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Add the warm browned butter in three additions, whisking in each.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 350F. Bake until browned and an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, use a long serrated knife to level off the top of the financier. Cut out 5 rounds using an 8-cm ring. Place the rounds in an airtight container until ready to assemble the mousse cake.

jasmine mousse

Based on a standard Bavarian cream ratio

  • 150mL milk
  • 20 jasmine tea pearls
  • 150mL whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 1/2 tbsp water

Warm the milk until almost boiling, then add 10 of the jasmine tea pearls. Cover, let cool, then put in the fridge to continue steeping overnight. In a separate container, combine the cream (still cold) and the remaining 10 jasmine tea pearls. Place this in the fridge to infuse overnight as well.

The next day, strain the milk into a glass bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook gently, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and holds a line drawn in it. Bloom the gelatin in 1 tbsp water, then heat in the microwave until melted. Whisk the bloomed gelatin into the custard. Cover and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Once the custard has cooled, Strain the cold-infused cream. Whip the cream until stiff. Whisk a dollop of cream into the custard, then fold in the remainder gently. Use soon.

mirror glaze

Adapted from Chef Iso.

  • 9g powdered gelatin + 6 tbsp water to bloom
  • 150g sugar
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 75g water
  • 125g white chocolate, chopped

Bloom gelatin. Boil the sugar, condensed milk and 75g water together, then take off the heat and stir in the gelatin until dissolved. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps, then pour over the white chocolate, allowing it to sit and melt. Then, puree with a fully-immersed immersion blender until smooth – this will avoid the introduction of bubbles.

Let cool until it reaches 90-94F, at which point it is ready to be poured.

Transfer the remaining glaze to a plastic bag, squeeze out all the air and seal tightly. Freeze until you next need it – in the future you just need to reheat it to 90-94C.

Update notes: Updated Dec 2021.

pistachio, yuzu & raspberry cheesecake

pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake

I had a terrible history with Kijiji. It began during the naivety of being a first year in university. Opening up my course outlines ahead of time (ahead of time!) I divined that “required textbooks” were required (when in fact it is very course-dependent), and also that I was actually meant to buy them. They were horrifically expensive, as textbooks are apt to be, but at least by sourcing them from the used bookstore and Kijiji, they were only terribly expensive – one step down from horrific.

I put the most effort into the recreation of a three book set for my chemistry course – a textbook, a workbook, and an addition book called Chemistry for Engineers, and all of which had to be the current updated editions. Why I would need Chemistry for Engineers when I was not in engineering escaped me, but I knew the booklist didn’t lie. It said “required” after all.

I bought Chemistry for Engineers off of Kijiji from an upper year student. As we stood in a quiet campus hallway near the foodcourt, she kindly asked whether I was taking engineering.

“No, it’s just required for my chemistry course,” I told her. She looked confused. I refused to doubt myself.

By the time I managed to track the three components down from different sources, the total sum amounted to marginally less than the cost of new books – with travel costs in public transit tickets included, I just about broke even.

I never opened Chemistry for Engineers and to this day still do not know what engineers should know about chemistry. The last time I checked, it lingers, melancholic and unsold, on the shelves of the university consignment store … though I’m being a bit hard on Chemistry for Engineers as I also never opened up the general chemistry textbook, nor the workbook.

pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake

The next time I had the bravado (or rather, desperation) to peruse Kijiji happened in a frantic rush when my laptop keyboard broke – I had a cord-tailed mouse to plug in but without being able to use any of keys, I was finding it a bit difficult to get any work done. After asking a laptop shop, they told me to come back after performing a certain type of reboot – a reboot which required a certain combination of keys, none of which were functional.

I bought a $5 keyboard from someone who was selling a boxful and had very nice glasses. I can’t blame anyone but myself for not having the insight – or common sense – to check that the keyboard worked before leaving with it.

“Were they cute?” was the first thing my friend, who was waiting to pick me up outside, asked when I got back in the car, now with a keyboard in tow because apparently finding dates through the twisted strings of Kijiji-drawn fate is a thing – and I suppose we did have a mutual interest in keyboards.

As was foreshadowed (being written in hindsight), only half of the keys on the keyboard worked – this wouldn’t have been a problem except that I just happened to be missing most of the keys needed for the reboot. The computer shop was much more sympathetic when I returned, broken keyboard and desperate eyes in tow.

Of course, there have been some bright points – cheap furniture and even a rental apartment.

Now I get to find myself on the other side as I try to sell some of my grandma’s printer ink (not for the purposes of swindling my grandma but because she got a new printer). Hopefully others have better experiences at my hand. I’ll be sure to ask: are you sure this is the type of ink you need?

pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake
pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake

This cheesecake has a wonderful salty/sweet/sour combination. The pistachio cheesecake, made with salted pistachio butter, is a bit salty and satisfyingly slightly savoury, a theme continued in the buckwheat shortbread base. A thin layer of yuzu posset is on top, which is tart and quite sweet, and finally topped with fresh raspberries.

Part of the reason I wanted to keep the cheesecake fairly savoury was that it lay below the yuzu posset, which by necessity, contains quite a bit of sugar. As sugar is important to the posset’s structure, I didn’t cut down on it at all, which left the posset very rich and creamy, acidic, but also very sweet. The intensity makes posset work quite well as a smaller component/garnish instead of the main focus.

pistachio yuzu raspberry cheesecake

pistachio, yuzu & raspberry cheesecake

  • Servings: one 12cm cheesecake which can be cut into 6 small but rich servings
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Base based on a standard shortbread ratio. Cheesecake adapted from Daily Delicious’s rare matcha cheesecake, though through a few renditions it no longer so much resembles the original – particularly I found I preferred mine with only the barest amount of gelatin just to keep its shape. Be sure to use greek yoghurt and block cream cheese or the cheesecake may be too soft and not set! Yuzu posset adapted from Food52 lime posset.

special equipment: 12cm diameter ring, 4.5cm tall (or 4 3/4″ diameter, 1 3/4″ tall)

buckwheat base 

  • 20g butter at room temperature
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 10g granulated sugar
  • 10g dark buckwheat flour
  • 20g whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder

pistachio yogurt cheesecake

  • 1/4 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 tsp water
  • 100g cream cheese
  • pinch salt
  • 25g granulated sugar
  • 40g salted pistachio butter
  • 65g greek yoghurt
  • 65g heavy cream, whipped

yuzu posset

  • 96g heavy cream
  • 25g sugar
  • 1 tbsp yuzu juice

assembly

  • raspberries
  • chopped pistachios

For the base:  Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a small baking tray with parchment and place the 12cm metal ring on top.

Cream the butter with the sugar and salt. Add the flours and baking powder and mix until combined and quite crumbly. Dump the crumbs into the ring and use the bottom of a glass to pack the crumbs into an even layer. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill.

Bake about 10-12 minutes or until firmed. Let cool completely.

For the cheesecake: Bloom the gelatin in the water and set aside.

Cream the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and cream until incorporated, then add the pistachio butter and cream until smooth. Lastly, mix in the yoghurt until smooth. Microwave the gelatin to melt it and whisk into the cream cheese mixture. Finally, fold in the whipped cream.

Top the base (still in the metal ring) with the cheesecake mixture. Tap the tray on counter firmly several times to help the mixture settle without any bubbles and spread into a smooth layer. There should still be another cm or so of height left in the ring. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the yuzu layer.

For the yuzu posset: Boil the cream and sugar for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the yuzu juice, whisking until incorporated. Pour over the cheesecake and tap to settle the posset in an even layer. Posset sets up quite quickly, so use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer if needed. Place the cheesecake in the freezer and freeze at least 1 hour to firm up the posset before unmolding.

To serve: unmold the cake by wrapping the outside of the ring with a dishtowel soaked in hot water or using a blow dryer to blow some hot air on the outside of the ring – either method will loosen the ring and allow it to slide off the cake. Top the cake with raspberries and chopped pistachios. (If the cake is fully frozen, put it into the fridge and let it thaw before serving.)

Update notes: Recipe and photographs updated September 2021.