This recipe came about in a somewhat convoluted manner. I couldn't decide how I wanted to serve some fresh strawberries -- macerated with sugar and balsamic and topped with whipped mascarpone cream or macerated with sugar and topped with sabayon. I decided to see if I could combine the ideas and make a reduced balsamic sabayon. Long story short, the answer was no. The final result was more like a curd in texture and just a bit too vinegary in flavor. Like many kitchen mishaps, it gave me another idea: could I make a strawberry-balsamic curd? This time I was met with success. I sort of combined the recipes for Strawberry Purée and Sauce and Lemon Curd from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible (which coincidentally are consecutive recipes in the book). The result was purely delicious -- reminiscent of lemon curd, but with a bright strawberry flavor kissed with the tang of balsamic.
(Note: you'll have some leftover egg whites, so consider using the curd, fresh macerated strawberries, and lightly sweetened whipped cream to make Schaum Torte, a German version of pavlovas.)
Test Kitchen Notes
This is genius…and delicious! The strawberries and vinegar complement one another well, and the butter and eggs provide a really decadent texture. I could eat bowls of this on its own, but I think it would also make a lovely base for a tart or as the filling in strawberry shortcake. It takes a little time for the strawberries to thaw, but the rest of the recipe moves quite quickly. I must admit that I have never reduced a sauce in the microwave before -- and learned a very valuable lesson about having a large measuring cup to avoid the liquid from boiling over -- but it actually worked out just fine. I also used frozen strawberries, because I wanted to see what they would be like. It turned out just splendidly. I think I'll try fresh next time just to compare, but I know I will make this time and again. —figgypudding
- Makes about 2 cups
whole strawberries, frozen (without sugar)*
commercial-grade balsamic vinegar or white/golden balsamic vinegar**
plus 1 teaspoon sugar
unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- *If it is strawberry season and you have access to good local berries, you may freeze fresh strawberries to use. Freezing causes the cell membranes in the berries to rupture, and they will release more juice, so don't be tempted to skip this step!
- **I prefer the flavor of curd made with the regular balsamic, but you may prefer the pinker color of the curd made with white/golden balsamic instead.
- Combine strawberries, balsamic, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl. Allow berries to thaw completely, stirring once or twice. This will take several hours.
- Transfer the berries and liquid to a mesh strainer set over a 4-cup glass measure. Scrape the bowl with a silicone spatula to get as much liquid as possible. Press the berries to mash them a bit and extract more juice. Allow to strain at least 15 minutes. There should be about a cup of strawberry-balsamic liquid in the measure.
- Transfer the strained berries to a food processor, and process to a smooth purée. Set aside.
- Microwave the liquid on high until reduced to 1/3 to 3/8 cup. Set the microwave for 4 or 5 minutes to start, then microwave in 1 to 2 minute bursts, allowing the boiling to subside to check the liquid's volume between bursts. It will likely take a total of 8 to 9 minutes, but will vary based on your microwave. The vinegar seems to prevent the bubbling from going over the 3 cup mark, but keep a relatively close eye on the process nonetheless.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the reduced strawberry-balsamic liquid, then add the butter, salt, and 1/4 cup of the strawberry purée. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom continuously with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Once the mixture starts to steam, begin checking the temperature. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 170º F. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the remaining strawberry purée. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 30 seconds, stirring continuously.
- Pass curd through a strainer -- fine mesh if you don't want strawberry seeds in the final mixure, or medium-fine mesh if you do want the seeds -- into a bowl or storage container. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to press the mixture through the strainer, so only the coarse bits remain. Cool, then cover and chill. Serve as desired with fresh berries, on ice cream or yogurt, slathered on toasted pound cake, or whatever creative use you think up!