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Sand Dollars and Beach Glass, an Elegant Seaside Dessert
We have served this dessert amid much pomp at our annual fall wine dinner.
Stage One (The "Beach Glass")
This can be made ahead and stored in a tightly closed container. If you've never made peanut brittle or other clear sugar- and water-based candy using a candy thermometer, read the description in a good basic cookbook first. Technique and procedure are important, but once you've done it, it's easy and fun. You'll use a similar technique to prepare the "ocean swirls" below.
Oil lightly a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator until you need it.
Using a long wooden spoon, stir all ingredients in heavy pan and heat on medium-high. When the mixture starts to boil and clear, add small amounts of coloring to make the desired color. Your own King Neptune's touch will dictate the amount of green and blue you add to make a pale turquoise "glass" or the amount of green and red you add to make the brown "glass" like we did. You won't need much.
Stir carefully so crystals of sugar do not form around the edges of the pan. Frequently brush the insides of the pan with warm water to wash any crystals that form back into the pan. Continue to heat to 300 to 310 degrees -- the "hard crack stage" on your candy thermometer. This is important because you want the "beach glass" to be brittle, not rubbery, but sugar will start to caramelize at a temperature higher than 310 degrees, changing color and flavor.
Pour the mixture into the cold sheet pan, rocking the pan to make the syrup spread to glassy thickness. It's hot and will make the entire pan hot. Cool in the refrigerator. Break it into pieces to create pieces of "beach glass."
Stage Two (Blueberry compote filling)
Put blueberries and sugar into a medium saucepan; heat until it boils and reduces somewhat without breaking all the berry skins. Let cool. The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Stage Three ("Sand Dollar" -- basic sweet pastry)
Measure dry ingredients into large bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is gravelly in texture. Add water slowly, mixing carefully not to make it too sticky, just enough to hold together without crumbling.
Roll out on lightly floured surface. Two different sizes of circle cutters are needed. I use a coffee pot lid and the outside ring of a donut cutter (which is about a half-inch smaller than the pot lid in diameter). Cut pastry circles. Put a tablespoon of filling on a smaller circle. Moisten the edges of a larger circle, place over the bottom, and seal by folding the top edges under slightly. Brush the tops with an egg wash. Cut (with pointed scissors is pretty easy) the "sand dollar" signature 5-armed star shapes in the top crust
Bake at 400 degrees until lightly golden brown. Let cool and dust lightly with confectioners sugar.
Stage Four (Presentation-The Plate Design)
Mix granulated sugar and water in small saucepan. Add small amounts of green and blue food coloring to make an ocean wave color. Heat until the syrup boils and clears. It won't take long and you don't need a candy thermometer. While warm, drizzle with a spoon around the plate or brush it on. Place a "sand dollar" on the plate. Sprinkle with "beach sand" (Sugar in the Raw). Place a few pieces of "beach glass" around the plate.
TOOTS AND CHEERS!
A ball of vanilla ice cream (we like to make our own if time allows) under the "sand dollar" will give height and an added yummy component for this elegant and fanciful desert.
Serves: 8 to 10
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