Exotic Fruit Platter

Exotic Fruit Platter

Thankfully not everything on our Ghostbusters cart requires pastry-making skills or a sweet tooth, the former of which I don’t claim to have at all. In addition to being the most visually impressive item on the cart, it’s also the easiest thing to put together. We’re lucky in Toronto to have such a bustling Chinatown with many fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, although nowadays you can also find a small selection of more exotic fruits at well-stocked grocery stores. If all you have is your local grocery store to work with, you can still create something fun for Halloween using more readily available items and some inventive cutting.

To achieve the visual effect, we left some of the fruits listed below whole, with their seeds in and peels intact. If you want to be kinder to your guests, prepare the fruit to be more easily plucked and eaten from the platter, saving some of the trim for an inedible garnish.

This is what’s on our exotic fruit platter:

3 Limes
1 Orange
4-5 Mangosteens
1 Dragon Fruit
4-5 Rambutans
1 Custard Apple
1 Papaya
1 small bunch Black Seedless Grapes
1 Red Mango
1 small Cantaloupe
10 Strawberries
1 large Cortland Apple
Lemon Verbena or Mint, for garnish

Limes: Transform the limes into completely cheesy-looking lime flowers first by slicing off the top and bottom of each lime. One lime creates one lime flower. Going from end-to-end, cut two slices as thinly as possible without going through to the very bottom of the skin so that you have to two thin slices of lime joined together by a connecting piece of skin. The process is similar to creating a hasselback potato but instead of leaving the lime whole, you’re only aiming to get two slices per piece. Repeat the process for the entire lime. Spread each segment of lime flat, creating two petals that are joined at the base by the skin. Layer the other slices of lime on top in opposite directions to create a sort of lime flower. Using a sturdy toothpick or small skewer, pierce the pieces from the bottom to hold them all together, leaving a portion of the skewer coming through the top of the flower. Place a rambutan, strawberry or grape on the tip of the skewer to act as the centre of the flower.

Orange: Repeat the process above for creating lime flowers.

Mangosteens: These look their best when the fruit is peaking out from its fibrous, deep purple shell. With a sharp knife carefully cut around the centre, cutting through the shell but not through to the segments of fruit inside. Remove the bottom end of the shell, leaving the exposed fruit cradled inside the top-end where the stem is.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Dragon Fruit: Cut the lower half of the fruit off, leaving the top half available to act as the towering 55 Central Park West top of the platter. Either slice the bottom half into pieces or use a melon baller to scoop out the flesh. To get the most out of the fruit, use a melon baller to carefully remove the flesh from the top half of your centre piece, leaving behind an ornate empty shell.

Rambutans: Either cut them in half as you have for the mangosteens or peel them completely, leaving just the pale white orb of fruit behind. Be sure to leave a few whole so you and your guests can enjoy the spidery effects of their skins

Custard Apple: Using your hands, gently split the fruit into a few jagged pieces. Let your guests grab at the seeds with their fingers or give them a small spoon to take bits as they will be a bit difficult to access once covered in lime slime.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Papaya: Slice segments lengthwise, leaving the seeds in for optimum visual effect.

Black Seedless Grapes: Using scissors, clip a few small clusters from the bunch and arrange on the platter.

Red Mango: Slice on either side of the pit, giving yourself two equal fleshy pieces. Using a small knife score the fruit, slicing down to the skin but not through it, creating a diamond pattern. Invert the pieces so that the flesh now pops up into a porcupine-esque shape.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Cantaloupe: Slice into thin whole rounds, removing the seeds if you wish.

Strawberries: Slice some but leave most of them whole to garnish the platter.

Cortland Apple: Slice into pieces and brush with citric acid solution (I used Bernardin’s Fruit Fresh) to keep from browning.


Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Profiteroles are always a crowd pleaser but I’ll admit, I’ve never understood the fuss. The pastry is not particularly delicious on its own – just a little puff of nothing and the words “pastry cream” have never described anything that brings culinary delight to my mind. For our profiteroles, I’ve enriched the pâte à choux with a little extra milk and a bit of sugar and then filled them instead with a rich strawberry mascarpone cream, which has the added bonus of not needing to be cooked. Stacked high on a plate, drenched in white chocolate, and then drenched again in lime slime, well at least now we’ve got something.

This is a messy dessert to pick from. If you want to recreate this for a crowd, I’d suggest maybe arranging them on an elongated plate, at most stacked two profiteroles high to keep yourself safe from any disastrous tumbles. Typically when speaking of a stack of profiteroles, we’re talking about croquembouche, which has the benefit of being held together with hard caramel and spun sugar. For our dessert the profiteroles are glued together with white chocolate then quickly stashed in the fridge so the chocolate has a chance to firm up before everything falls apart. Take pleasure in the sloppy look of this dessert – a pile of profiteroles looking as if Slimer has already had his way with them.

Profiteroles Filled with Strawberry Mascarpone Cream

Makes approximately 60 profiteroles

For the Strawberry Mascarpone Cream:
2 x 475g tubs mascarpone
750ml sour cream
225g icing sugar
18g freeze dried strawberries (available from MEC)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Profiteroles:
400ml cold water
350ml whole milk (3.8% M.F.)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
large pinch of fine sea salt
300g unsalted butter, cubed
425g unbleached all-purpose flour
8 large eggs, beaten

For the White Chocolate:
450g good quality white chocolate

Start by making the mascarpone cream. Pulverize the strawberries in a coffee or spice grinder until they are turned into a fine powder. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine the mascarpone and sour cream and mix until smooth. Add in the icing sugar, strawberry powder, and vanilla extract. Mix until thickened and chill until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the profiteroles, combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter into a large pot. Heat gently until the butter melts then bring the mixture up to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and dump in the flour. Using a wooden spoon, beat the flour in the pot. Return the pot to the heat and continue to stir the mix until it thickens and the paste stops sticking to the sides of the pot. At this point – to save your forearms – if you have a stand mixer put it to use and transfer the paste into the mixer. If you feel like you have something to prove, go ahead and continue in the same pot. Slowly beat in the eggs, being sure each addition of egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. By the end the mix should be smooth and shiny.

Fill a piping bag with the paste. On several parchment-lined baking trays, use a 1″ round piping nozzle and pipe the paste into roughly 1 1/4″ balls. Use a wet finger to smooth out the top of each profiterole and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown. While hot, transfer the profiteroles to a cooling rack and pierce each with a toothpick to release the steam inside.

When ready to assemble, make a small hole in the bottom of each profiterole. Using a piping bag that’s been fitted with a small round piping nozzle, fill each profiterole with the strawberry mascarpone cream. In a bowl, add the white chocolate and melt in the microwave on high power for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between each time until the chocolate is smooth and just melted. With a small spoon, paint the bottom of each profiterole and stick to a large platter, forming a large circle – this will be the base of the tower. Use any misshapen profiteroles to fill the inside of the circle. Continue up the tower, painting a small amount of the chocolate on the bottom of each profiterole to help stick them together. As you continue up, you may find the structure unstable – a quick stash in the fridge will help solidify the chocolate and keep everything in its place. Once completed, drizzle the tower in the remaining chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve. Douse in lime slime when your guests are watching.

Ginger Ice Cream

Ginger Ice Cream

The sourness from the lime slime oozes into the spicy ginger and boozy-sweet apple in this ice cream, making for a superb dessert tribute for a bunch of 80s children to enjoy on Halloween as they rewatch Ghostbusters for the hundredth time and cry about how how old they are.

A lot of times home made ice cream freezes too solid and requires some time out of the freezer before it can be scooped. For those uninitiated to home made ice cream, it’s a hard first lesson to take. One of the reasons this happens is because most home ice cream makers aren’t able to churn enough air into the mix before running out of space in the machine. A trick learned from the genius Nigella Lawson is to take the extra step to whip the cream before adding it to the cooled custard in order to incorporate extra air into the ice cream before freezing it. Fat, sugar, and alcohol also help to keep ice cream from freezing solid after it’s frozen in the freezer. This recipe does have a higher portion of fat but it’s worth it and it’s not too sweet, allowing the spiciness of the ginger to come through. The Calvados is optional, though apart from being delicious, the alcohol will help to create a softer texture.

Ginger Ice Cream Recipe

Makes approximately 1 1/2 litres

100g fresh ginger, unpeeled and thinly sliced
500ml whole milk (3.8% M.F.)
6 large egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
200ml whipping cream (35% M.F.)
1-2 tablespoons Calvados (optional)

In a medium pot boil the ginger in water for 2 minutes then drain, discarding the ginger water. This will kill the enzymes in the ginger that could potentially curdle the custard – a crucial bit of information taken from ice cream master David Lebovitz.

In the same pot as the drained ginger, add the milk and heat to just steaming, before it reaches the boiling point. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to steep, covered for 30 minutes to an hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow and thick ribbons fall back onto themselves when you hold the whisk above the bowl. Slowly whisk in the warm ginger-infused milk then strain the custard mixture back into the original pan, reserving the ginger. On low heat cook the custard, stirring constantly for approximately 10 minutes until thickened and just starting to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain the custard back into the bowl and return the ginger pieces to the mix. Leave to cool slightly before covering and refrigerating to cool completely. If you’re impatient you can place the bowl of custard in a second bowl filled with ice, stirring the custard until it’s completely chilled.

Once the custard is cold, discard the ginger and gently whip the cream to thicken it to the same consistency of the custard. Add the thickened cream and the Calvados (if using) to the custard and freeze in your ice cream maker.

Cheesecake with a Coconut Crumb Crust

Cheesecake with a Coconut Crumb Crust

This cheesecake is perfect without any topping. That said, there are some people out there that can’t have cheesecake without a topping. They might look at a plain cheesecake as naked and unfinished, having never reached its full potential. In this instance they’ll be wrong but to avoid tears over cheesecake at the table, serve this cheesecake with the lime slime on the side. On Halloween of course, the slime is mandatory for everybody.

This cheesecake recipe was so close to being gluten-free from the start that it only made sense to make it 100% gluten-free. This was completely to my benefit, not because I’m gluten intolerant but because Jen is and there was no way I was going to have to take home a cheesecake to eat by myself after a shoot full of desserts, some of which Jen couldn’t eat. Two days after the shoot she sent me an email to say that she’d eaten three quarters of my “STUPID DUMB CHEESECAKE”. Making someone else fat, is in my books, a success.

Cheesecake Recipe with a Coconut Crumb Crust

Makes one 8″ round cheesecake, serves 1-8

For the crust crumb**:
40g coconut flour
25g runny honey
35g unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the cheesecake:
unsalted butter (for greasing)
3 x 250g packages cream cheese at room temperature
zest from half a small lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
210g granulated sugar
125ml whipping cream (35% M.F.)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
50ml half and half (10% M.F.)

In a frying pan, add the coconut flour and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly for approximately 5-10 minutes, until the flour is a medium golden brown, reminiscent of graham crackers. Do not over toast. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the toasted flour into a small mixing bowl. Add the rest of the crumb ingredients to the bowl and combine using a fork, until thoroughly mixed through.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment, so that the paper reaches just above the rim of the base. Now butter the top of the parchment layer. Next wrap the outside of the pan with two layers of aluminum foil so that the layers reach the top of the pan. At this point you should have all the assurance you need that the filling will not seep out and the water bath will not seep in. Sprinkle the inside of the prepared pan with the crumb, creating an even layer of crumb along the bottom and sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and whipping cream and continue to beat until just incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to incorporate each egg fully before adding the next. Beat in the half and half. The goal is to incorporate as little air as possible into the mix, eliminating much chance of the cake rising during baking and falling during cooling.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the filled pan into a larger pan (a 9 x 13 inch pan works well) and fill the larger pan with boiling water, enough so the water reaches just under the half way mark on the outside of the 8-inch pan. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the centre of the cake is just set. Take the pan from the water bath and place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before unmolding. Allow to cool completely before serving.

*If you’re not in the mood to make gluten-free crumbs for the crust, you can substitute about 40g of store-bought graham cracker crumbs.

*If you want a more traditional bottom layer crust, double the crumb quantities and add an additional 80g of unsalted butter (for a total of 150g). Press this crumb into the bottom of the prepared pan and proceed.

Lime Slime

Halloween dessert cart covered in edible lime slime

The idea for lime slime came from the immensely weird and out-there Bompas & Parr. In their first release from Bompas & Parr Editions, Tutti Frutti, they detailed their experience of creating 55,000 litres of slime to surround the SS Great Britain.

As it turns out, lime slime is the perfect recipe to kick off Crustcrumbs. We hope to bring you images and recipes that show food in the most appropriate settings. No reclaimed wood surfaces – unless called for. With that in mind, there aren’t many other occasions to fully enjoy the strange sour, goopy-slick sensation of lime slime than on Halloween. Even better, we recreated a scene from Ghostbusters where Slimer gorges himself on a hotel cart full of food, leaving behind a trail of ectoplasm.

This lime slime is essentially limeade that’s been dyed green and thickened into a viscous dessert sauce. When coming up with dishes to accompany it, just imagine anything that pairs well with the sourness of lime.

For the dessert cart the slime was paired with an exotic fruit platter, ginger ice cream, concord grape tarts with Stay Pufted marshmallow tops, cheesecake with a coconut crumb crust, and profiteroles drenched in white chocolate and filled with strawberry mascarpone cream. After all of that, we couldn’t resist knocking back a few lime slime gin & tonics. We’ll be sharing all of the recipes in upcoming posts. For now, let’s get on with the lime slime.

Halloween dessert cart covered in edible lime slime

Lime Slime Recipe

Makes enough to slime an entire dessert cart – just over 1 litre*

500ml freshly squeezed lime juice, about 10 limes
125g granulated sugar
500ml cold water
green food dye gel (we used Wilton’s Leaf Green)
35g sodium alginate (available from Powder for Texture)

Combine the lime juice, sugar, and water in a bowl that’s large enough to hold everything with room to spare. Using an immersion blender, blend the sugar into the liquids. You could also use a blender with the plug at the top removed or a food processor, so long as it’s large enough.

With the tip of a knife or spoon, add a minuscule amount of the food dye. You’re going for a fairly concentrated green slime but it’s better to add the dye gradually to best control the final shade of Slimer green. While the blender is running, begin adding the sodium alginate a teaspoon at a time, as it has a tendency to clump together. Continue to add the food dye and sodium alginate until you’re happy with the texture and colour. If it helps, envision this scene from Ghostbusters as you go along. It should feel funky when you dip your finger in the slime, which I highly recommend you do, while screaming like Bill Murray.

*When disposing of leftover slime, remember it doesn’t dissolve well into water – it’s best to flush this one down the toilet.