Passito di Pantelleria Peaches & Cream with Pistachios in Phyllo Baskets and the Dolomites

When you have kids, it's almost impossible not to have pets of any kind at home.  We had an 11-year old dog who just died a few months ago and to make up for our loss, we adopted two kinds of pets for our kids who still suffer from our dog's death.  A couple of goldfish (one died a few days ago) and a couple of white winter dwarf hamsters. 

Every summer, we take the long drive to the Dolomites to breathe the fresh alpine air.  This is the first year our dog was not joining us.  Our car felt empty without him excitedly moving at the back of the car. I felt sad that this year, his traveling bag remained empty and was left at home.  

What filled up his absence however, was our new pets. Since it is practically impossible to find a petsitter for these kinds of animals, we had to take them with us too.  The fish was packed in the car. The hamsters went too...along with their ten 2-week old babies. The babies cannot be detached from the mother yet until their 1st month of life.  

Our Motley crew of 2 kids, goldfish, Mom & Dad hamsters and 10 baby hamsters were packed in the car and we traveled the night.  I guess we are the family you would gawk at when we unload the car.  Aquarium, two hamster cages and a whole load of luggage.  That's us alright. A tight knit family who stays together and travels together.  

I came up with this recipe to rescue the phyllo sheets that I have been long postponing to use in cooking. Finally, it caught up with me. Its last chance arrived. A day before leaving, when I was scanning the very last contents of my fridge, I finally took the phyllo pack and decided against throwing it. 

Thrown together with the excess peaches, eggs and milk, I came up with this dessert.  What made it special is adding the Passito di Pantelleria to the crema pasticcera (custard cream) and cooking the peaches with the same straw wine.   

I did two presentations of the dessert, with and without the phyllo baskets. One reason was that using the phyllo baskets, they have to be eaten immediately after preparation.  The phyllo sheets absorbed the custard cream and made them soft after about 10 minutes.  So compose them only when you are about to serve. The other one doesn't require any phyllo sheets. If you have  mono-dose spoons or small bowls, then you can compose this dessert in them, in place of the phyllo baskets. This is much simpler and easier but I think the baskets are more beautiful.   

As I wrote in my last post, I was going to post some pictures of the Dolomites.  Being our first sunny day here, we opted for a relaxed day in a rifugio (mountain shelter).  Rifugio Alpe di Senes, in San Vito di Cadore, is a favorite among families with kids.  At 1,214 meters high, it can be reached by car or by walking.   Most  go with cars but today four people put everyone to shame. A couple grandparents with their two young granddaughters went for the hard way, walking up.

This rifugio specializes in a traditional pasta dish called casunzei, ravioli with beets & potatoes, sprinkled with poppy seeds.   And to finalize the lunch of meat & polenta, there is the gelato alla vaniglia con frutti di bosco (vanilla ice cream with berries).   It's just a simple composition of fresh frutti di bosco with vanilla ice cream but I always wait to have them here.  It's more delicious.  I don't know why.   For that reason, I had two bowls today.


Passito di Pantelleria Peaches & Cream with Pistachios in Phyllo Baskets

Makes 12 Baskets
  • 1/2 pack phyllo pastry (3 big sheets)
  • 500 grams peaches, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup Passito di Pantelleria (can be substituted with Marsala, Port, or any similar straw wine)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • ground pistachios
  • cinnamon powder
  • extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • 250 grams *crema pasticcera (custard cream): 25 grams flour, 250 ml. milk, 3 egg yolks, 1 vanilla pod (or vanilla essence or vanilla powder), 75 grams sugar 
  1. Spread out the phyllo sheets on your work table.  
  2. Brush the extra virgin olive oil or butter on one side of a sheet.  Make sure you brush also the edges.  Do the same to the other sheets.  Pile them one on top of the other when done.
  3. Slice or cut the piled sheets in the middle.  Then cut halved sheets again into two.  Now you should have 4 portions.  In every portion, divide them equally to three and slice.  That leaves you with 12 equal squares.
  4. Put every square in a muffin mold, pushing them carefully down in the middle to make a basket.  
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 190 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes or less if you see that they are becoming too dark.  Let them cool.
  6. *To make the crema pasticcera (custard cream), boil the milk (leaving 1/4 glass for later) with the vanilla pod in a small saucepan.  Once it boils, take it away from the fire and let it infuse for 10 minutes.  In a bowl, mix the yolks with the sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture becomes creamy and frothy.  Pour the segregated milk, then the flour, little by little.  Continue mixing with the electric mixer.  Take away the vanilla pod.  Pour the mixture little by little to the milk in the saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Whisk continuously to prevent formation of lumps.  Simmer on low heat until it becomes thick.  Turn off the fire and let it cool.   
  7.  Pour the honey in a saucepan (light colored preferably).  Let it cook until the color changes to golden brown.  Make sure it doesn't burn.  
  8. When the honey changes color, add the peach slices.  Coat the peaches well with honey. 
  9. Pour the Passito di Pantelleria.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Turn off the fire and let it cool for a while. 
  10. Compose the baskets.  When they are prepared, they should be prepared immediately, not more than 10 - 15 minutes or the baskets will open because the crema pasticcera will soften the phyllo.  Spoon a couple of tablespoons of crema pasticcera in the phyllo basket.  Put some peach slices.  Sprinkle pistachios & cinnamon.  Garnish with mint leaves.  Serve within 10 minutes.
  11. If you will prepare this without the phyllo baskets, like what I did with the second batch, just spoon some crema pasticcera in your serving bowl, arrange peaches on top and sprinkle pistachios & cinnamon.  Garnish with mint leaves.