Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cranberry Phyllo Baskets

A friend hosted a bonfire on balmy July evening and requested we bring items to pass. I'm not typically one to make finger foods (though I adore sampling them), as they tend to be fussy and time consuming. However, once in a blue moon something as elegant and deceptively simple as these cranberry phyllo baskets are a nice change of pace.

adpated from The Italian Dish blog post

makes 24 baskets

The Ingredients:
Phyllo Baskets

8 sheets phyllo dough
1 stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
(or use premade frozen phyllo baskets)

Cranberry Topping
6 ounces fresh cranberries (1/2 bag)
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup sugar

Cream Cheese Filling
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons powdered confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped toasted husked hazelnuts*

You will need a miniature muffin pan for this recipe, if you are making your own phyllo baskets.

The Process:

For baskets: Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface. (Cover remaining sheets with damp towel to prevent drying). Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with some breadcrumbs. Repeat with 3 more sheets - do not sprinkle breadcrumbs on fourth sheet. Repeat entire process 1 more time for total of 2 stacks of 4 sheets each. Mark off twelve 3-inch squares on each stack using ruler. Cut into squares using pizza cutter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush 24 miniature muffin cups with remaining butter. Press 1 stacked phyllo square into each muffin cup, forming basket. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Transfer baskets to a rack and cool to room temperature (can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Store at room temperature).

For Topping: Cook cranberries, sugar and water in small medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves, swirling pan occasionally. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook until berries pop, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate until cool. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead).

For filling: Blend cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add zest and juice and blend.

To assemble: Divide cream cheese filling among the phyllo baskets. Spoon a little cranberry topping over filling. Sprinkle with hazelnuts. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving).

* To toast hazelnuts, spread whole hazelnuts on a baking pan and toast in a 425 F. oven for about 4-5 minutes. Immediately wrap them in a clean towel and roll them around in the towel vigorously - this will remove most of the skins

My Modifications:
I doubled the recipe to cater to a large mid-July gathering. I found that one stick of butter more than sufficed for 48 phyllo cups, plus a few extra. And I suspect my oven may be running a touch hot as well, as I only needed to bake the baskets for about 7 minutes.

To ease the filling of the baskets I spooned the cream cheese into a sandwich bag, snipped up off the corner and piped the filling into the baskets. Not only was this less messy and more convenient; the technique made for a prettier presentation.

The Review:
Thanksgiving in a little basket! These were a touch time consuming to create, lest you opt to use pre-made phyllo cups. The amount of flavors and textures in such a tiny package is what makes these true gems. Tart, sweet, fruity, nutty and tangy. Crispy, crunchy and creamy.

Here's hoping tonight's crowd is as big a fan of them as I was!

*update* This evening these were dubbed little f*ers by the general public for their addictive quality. I would call that a major success.

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