Strawberry-Almond Shortbread Napoleon with Basil and Balsamico

Strawberry-Almond Shortbread Napoleon with Basil and Balsamico

From: Chef Charlie Trotter, Chicago.

Yield: 6 servings.

1 cup butter
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup whole toasted almonds, skin on
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, skin on, lightly toasted
2 cups strawberries, cut in wedges
1/4 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)
1 tsp. lime zest
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/4 cups heavy cream pulp of
1/2 vanilla bean
2 Tbsp. Lucini Gran Riserva Balsamico Vinegar
basil syrup (recipe follows)
2 Tbsp. tiny fresh basil leaves

To make shortbread: Cream butter and 6 Tbsp. sugar until light, fluffy and almost white. In food processor with metal blade, purèe whole almonds for 2 minutes until very fine. Add to butter mixture, along with flour and a pinch of salt. Mix until just blended.

Roll out dough between two sheets of plastic wrap about 1/8" thick. Lay shortcake dough, still covered in plastic wrap, on sheet pan and refrigerate 30 minutes. Remove plastic wrap, place dough on cutting board and cut into at least 18 3" x 2" rectangles. Place on parchment-lined sheet pan and lightly press 4 or 5 almond slices into each rectangle. Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

For simple syrup: Bring 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Cool. Note: Use leftover syrup to make mixed drinks or sauce for plain cake, custard, or fresh fruit mixture.

For basil syrup: (Yields a scant 1/4 cup.) Submerge 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves in boiling water 10 seconds. Remove from pan and plunge immediately into ice water. Squeeze any excess water from leaves and chop coarsely. In food processor, purèe with 1/4 cup simple syrup for 3 minutes, until color is bright green. Strain through a fine (mesh) sieve. Store in refrigerator.

To make Napoleon: Toss strawberry wedges with simple syrup and lime zest. Set aside. Whisk creme fraiche, heavy cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with vanilla pulp until soft peaks form.

To assemble: Place a small dollop of vanilla cream in center of each of six dessert plates. Place a piece of almond shortbread over cream. Spoon a large dollop of vanilla cream on top and cover with a second piece of shortbread. Continue the process to make three shortbread layers. Spoon some strawberries around napolean. Drizzle Balsamico and basil syrup around strawberries and spirnkle with basil.