A winter's dessert


When planning dinner parties during the winter, I find that choosing a dessert is often more of a challenge because fresh fruit is not as abundant.

Recently, however, I created a confection using dried fruit that made a perfect finale for a small dinner served to good friends on a chilly evening.

I made phyllo baskets by cutting phyllo sheets into squares, molding them into muffin tins, and then baking them to a rich, golden brown.

The baskets and the filling can be made two days ahead. At serving time, quickly reheat the baskets in the oven and the filling on top of the stove before assembling the dessert.

Phyllo Baskets with Wine-Glazed Fruits and Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 6

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

1 cup dry red wine

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (yellow portion of rind)

1 cup dried apricots, halved

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup golden raisins

3 sheets phyllo dough, about 14-by-18 inches, defrosted

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 quart best-quality vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt

6 (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon sticks

Fresh mint sprigs

Place water, sugar, wine, cinnamon and lemon zest in large, heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer. Add apricots. Reduce heat so that liquid remains at simmer and cook apricots 5 minutes. Add cherries and raisins and cook until all fruit is plumped and softened, about 5 minutes more.

Remove fruit with slotted spoon to side dish. Increase heat and cook until liquid becomes syrupy, 10 to 12 minutes more. (Fruits can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool fruit, cover and refrigerate with reduced liquid. At serving time, reheat fruit. Place in pan with reduced liquid over low heat and stir until warm.)

To prepare phyllo baskets, place 1 phyllo sheet with long side in front of you on work surface. (Cover remaining phyllo sheets with moistened kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.) Brush sheet lightly with melted butter. Place second sheet on top and brush with butter. Repeat with third sheet, brushing with butter. Using sharp knife or scissors, cut stack of phyllo sheets into 3 equal strips along the long side in front of you. Cut each of these strips in half so you have 6 squares.

Using standard-size muffin tin with 12 cups, gently tuck 6 squares into alternating molds, pushing down in center of each stack so that it resembles a basket.

Bake on lower rack at 375 degrees about 5 minutes, until phyllo dough is rich golden color and crisp. Watch carefully. Remove from oven and lift out of molds. (Phyllo baskets can be made 2 days ahead. Cool and place in airtight container and store at room temperature. Reheat in oven at 350 degrees 4 to 5 minutes to warm and crisp. Watch carefully so they do not get too brown.)

To serve, use slotted spoon and ladle fruit into prepared baskets. Top each with small scoop of ice cream and drizzle with syrup. Garnish each serving with cinnamon stick and mint sprig. Arrange each basket on dessert plate and serve immediately while warm.

Pub Date: 02/28/99

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