It’s amazing how ingredients that are in season at the same time go so well together. Mint and strawberries are a natural pairing and this pretty dessert highlights both flavours, particularly with the vanilla accent. Weighing down the puff pastry when baking prevents it from puffing too much and creates a crispy base. It is nice to present a whole dessert, but because of the crisp pastry, this one is best cut into slices on a cutting board and presented on individual serving plates. Serve it with a knife and fork for easier eating. Double the recipe for more servings but be sure to bake the pastry bases separately for even browning.
½ pkg (397 g or 454 g) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup (175 mL) whipping cream
2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp (25 mL) icing sugar, sifted
1½ tsp (7 mL) vanilla extract or ¾ tsp (4 mL) vanilla paste
1½ cups (375 mL) thinly sliced strawberries
4 fresh mint leaves
1. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch (30-cm) square. Fold in half. Roll out to a 13 x 8-inch (33 x 20-cm) rectangle. Trim long edges to straighten. Cut 2 strips, each about ½-inch (1-cm) wide, from each long side. Pinch 1 end of 2 strips together and twist strips into a 2-strand rope. Repeat with remaining 2 strips.
2. Place rectangle on large parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Brush long edges with egg. Place 1 rope on top of egg along each long side, pressing to adhere to create a decorative border. Cut across short ends to trim ends of ropes straighten edges. Prick all over rectangle with a fork, avoiding border. Freeze on baking sheet for 15 to 30 minutes or until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
4. Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of pastry and place another baking sheet on top of paper. Place a large glass baking dish on baking sheet centered on top of pastry to weigh it down. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove baking dish, top baking sheet and parchment paper. Brush rope border with egg. Return to oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer or until pastry is golden brown. Let cool completely. Cooled pastry can be wrapped in foil and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
5. Combine cream and chopped mint in a straight-sided bowl. Cover and chill for 1 to 4 hours or until mint flavour is infused. Add icing sugar and 1 tsp (5 mL) of the vanilla (or ½ tsp / 2 mL paste) to cream mixture and whip until firm peaks form. Spread evenly on cooled pastry inside border. Cover loosely and chill for at least 1 hour or for up to 8 hours.
6. About half an hour before serving, combine strawberries and remaining vanilla in a bowl. Let stand at room temperature.
7. To serve, stack mint leaves on a cutting board. Thinly slice crosswise into a fine chiffonade. Place pastry on a cutting board. Arrange strawberries on top of cream randomly or neatly in overlapping rows. Sprinkle with mint. Cut crosswise into slices.