What to bring? What to bring? Believe it or not I often find myself in this dilemma. Do you? Ideas are needed the most when party season is in full swing.
The annual neighbourhood Christmas party was around the corner and I was stuck on what to make. The evening and table is a mingling of sweet desserts and savoury appetizers in a show-stopper studded event. It is a foodie’s dream of sampling fine nibbles made my the hosts and guests alike.
Pre-made and processed is not within the theme at all. If you did happen to bring the likes of such it had better be from a food shoppe or guaranteed it will stand out like a sore thumb among the delectable delights. Even if I was struck down sick on my death bed I would whip something up or at the very least throw fistfuls of cash at my local cheese boutique to arrange a board of epic portions.
I say this not to be vain or anything, but I know first hand how much effort, care and attention my neighbours put into their party. Anything short of bringing something spectacular would make me feel like I have let them down. It is their labour of love to put on the party and have everyone together to share the joy of the Christmas season. It is incentive to bring your appetizer/dessert “A Game” for them and their guests.
Last year I brought an angel crockenbush with spun sugar wings and halo. The pastry was flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon and the filling was cranberry buttercream. It was epic! The hosts loved it and the guests were in awe. No one wanted to be the first one to dismantle it despite the encouragement from me to dig in. Finally someone did when the warmth inside of the house finally heated the sugar enough for a wing to fall.
After last years dessert offerings I was so happy. Making the crockenbush was on my ‘To Make’ wish list for a while and it turned out really nice. So I was shocked with the task to top it come this December. “Hey, What did I do?! I brought a freakin’ Golden Angel Crockenbush custom made for Christmas last year. What the heck am I am going to make this year?” Reality was setting in. I should have made that on my last ever neighbourhood Christmas on the chance I ever move out of the city, the province or even the country. How do I follow that? Really? How the heck do I follow that.
To quote my Hubby, “Good luck with that”. It was then followed by some laughter and a squeaked out, ” You are screwed.” as he headed up the stairs. Thanks Honey! What a brave man I tell you.
After a few days he managed to ask if I found a solution on what to bring. I told you he was brave. “Maybe I will just bring dip!” I exclaimed. And then it hit me. I would bring dip. But not any run of the mill kind- peppery, sweet and a hint of savoury all in one. I was not kidding. Dip it would be.
I came up with the base of cream cheese and goat cheese with a hint of fresh cracked pepper. Whipping the cheese together to make it creamy gave me the idea of piping it on the serving platter. No smeary messy base would do.
The date and fig jam I have made many times before and pureeing it to a smooth consistency still allows for it to hold it’s shape when it is piped on top. I do highly recommend still using a wider opening tip so the jam does not get stuck if there are some moderate sized pieces after pureeing.
To top things off is festive pan fried fresh rosemary leaves. they add a crunch and the process makes for a mellow flavouring that is an otherwise pungent herb. Some toasted pine nuts in the same butter add a rich nutty addition.
So there you have it. Dip! So simply deceivingly wonderful that is can follow suit to a crochenbush.
This is not your ordinary appetizer dip! Peppery, savoury & sweet all on one stunning serving plate.
- 1 cup pitted dried dates chopped
- 1 cup dried figs chopped
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 2 cups cream cheese softened
- 1 cup goat cheese
- 1 tbsp cracked fresh pepper
In a medium saucepan combine the dates, figs, brown sugar & water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, stir & simmer for approximately 15 minutes until the jam has developed & the dried fruit is re-hydrated. Remove from heat a let cool slightly.
If the jam is too thick, add some additional water to thin it. Pour the contents into a blender or food processor & puree until there are no chunky pieces. The consistency should be enough to hold shape, but still be able to use in piping bags. Set aside & let cool completely before filling in a piping bag with wide opening decorating tip to later add on top of the cheese base.
Remove the rosemary leaves from the sprigs having some in sections & some loose on their own. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium high heat & saute the rosemary until crisp. Remove the rosemary & place on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any additional oils.
Using the same pan, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden brown & place on a separate plate lined with paper towel to absorb any additional oils.
Using a stand mixer combine the cream cheese & goat cheese until smooth. Add in the cracked pepper & mix it all in. Place the mixture in a prepared icing bag with large decorating tip. Pipe the cheese base to make a layer on the bottom of the serving dish.
Once the base is completed, use the date & fig prepared piping bag to fill in between the piped cheese base patterns. Ensure that there is plenty of jam that guests will have a bit of both when served. Sprinkle on the rosemary & toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately or keep covered in the refrigerator until a 1/2 hour before serving. Serve at slightly cooler than room temperature.