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Phyllo Fantasies

The components for this dessert are “fused” into breathtaking fantasies!  Make it a day or two in advance and assemble shortly before serving.

Preparation time: 1 hour (can be done in advance!)
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Phyllo squares
4 sheets phyllo pastry (will make 64 small squares)
125 ml (1/2 cup / ± 100 g) melted butter

Poached meringue
3 cups (750 ml) milk
3 egg whites
pinch cream of tartar (optional to stabilise the meringue)
1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar

Custard
3 large egg yolks
2 whole large eggs
75 ml sugar
50 ml cornflour
pinch salt
75 ml milk
5 ml vanilla essence
1 ml almond essence (optional)

Caramel and nut syrup
30 ml oil
250 ml/100 g flaked almonds, toasted
125 ml sugar
75 ml water
15 ml honey or syrup
2,5 ml vanilla essence

To assemble and serve
125 – 250 ml cream, whipped
125 – 250 ml flaked almonds, toasted

  1. Fold 4 sheets of phyllo pastry simultaneously in half lengthwise, press down lightly, unfold, cut through fold line with a sharp knife and stack the 8 wide strips. Fold in half and cut in the same way to obtain 16 strips. Stack all the strips.
  2. Fold the strips simultaneously in half lengthwise, unfold, press down lightly and cut in half on the fold line. Stack the shorter strips and fold and cut once more in the same way to obtain 64 squares. Stack the squares, cover with a cloth or seal airtight and refrigerate if not baked soon after cutting.
  3. Line two baking trays with foil or baking paper and brush with melted butter. Place as many squares as will fit onto the baking tray and brush lightly with butter. Cover each one with a second square, brush and add a third square. Continue until all the triple-layered squares are made (the best ones will be used for the recipe!)
  4. Bake at 180ºC for 4 – 5 minutes or until pale golden (biscuit colour). Watch carefully to make sure that the squares do not brown too much for it will spoil the taste and appearance. Cool and set aside to use or pack carefully in an airtight container until required.
  5. To make the poached meringue and custard filling, pour the milk into a large shallow saucepan and heat gently to just below boiling point.
  6. Beat egg white and cream of tartar until firm and gradually beat in sugar to obtain a stiff meringue.
  7. Dip an oval shaped tablespoon into the hot milk, scoop out neat rounded spoonfuls of the meringue and place into the hot milk.
  8. Take care that the milk does not come to boil at any stage for the meringues will separate and curdle into the milk.
  9. Poach the meringues about 2 minutes on a side or until each floating meringue sets and expands in the hot milk.
  10. Turn over and poach gently for 2 minutes more. Lift out the poached meringues with a perforated spoon and place into a colander to drain. If the poached meringues are not used within a short time, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for a day or two. Return the drained milk to the saucepan with the milk to make the custard.
  11. Beat together the egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar, cornflour, salt, 1/3 cup (75 ml) milk and flavouring and add a little of the hot milk to the mixture.
  12. Return to the saucepan and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Turn down the heat and cook 2 – 3 minutes more or until thick and bubbly.
  13. Pour into a bowl, cover with a cloth and cool until required or refrigerate for a day or two until ready to assemble.
  14. Prepare the caramel and nut syrup. Place the oil and nuts into a saucepan and heat to moderately hot, stirring continually until the nuts turn pale golden.
  15. Add the sugar and cook about 3 minutes, stirring until the sugar starts to melt and caramelise.
  16. Remove from heat as soon as the caramel is golden brown and add the water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and add the honey or syrup and flavouring.
  17. Bring to boil, simmer 2-3 minutes to become syrupy and set aside until ready to use or seal and store for a day or two.
  18. When ready to serve, place one triple layeredphyllo square onto each individual plate or place 10 of the baked squares onto a large serving platter. Divide the custard between the squares and spoon the poached meringue on top. Cover the filling with another baked double layer of fried phyllo and place a spoonful of cream on top. Drizzle caramel and nut syrup decoratively over each assembled fantasy!

10 servings.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking page 795.