There is nothing Italian about this dessert that I made for us on Valentine’s Day. The Neapolitan in the name of the dish refers to Neapolitan ice cream. When I was young, my dad would buy half-gallons of Neapolitan ice cream. This was a brick of ice cream divided into three stripes of flavor. On the left was chocolate, on the right vanilla, and in the middle strawberry.
I never understood why this was particularly Neapolitan. My father asserted it was because the ice cream resembled the flag of Naples. I bought it, not wondering why a region would have a brown, pink, and white flag until later when I found out the flag of Naples is half yellow, half red. I think the presence of layers is the important bit, not the actual flavors or colors. I’d still love to know the origins of the name and how Neapolitan came to embody a carton of three flavored ice cream with the chocolate all dugout (that’s how it worked in my house).
In any case, here’s a simple dessert that’s both romantic and delicious. You can prepare a tray of these strawberries ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. If you keep them in plastic bags, the berries will start to leak a bit. I think this is a consequence of their exposure to heat from the chocolate.
- 16-20 large strawberries
- 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 3 tablespoons sugar (adjust to suit your sweet tooth)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon dark rum
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 bar semi-sweet chocolate (2 oz.)
- 1 bar bittersweet chocolate (2 oz.)
- Remove the tops from the strawberries and with a small sharp paring knife cut out the whiter centers from the berries. Leave each strawberry with a significant v-shaped cavity, but be careful not to cut through the bottom of the strawberry.
- Mix cheese, sugar, rum, and vanilla together in a bowl with a fork. Mix together with a fork until the graininess of the sugar is gone and the mix is smooth.
- Using a small spoon, stuff each berry with the creamy mascarpone mixture. Put berries on a sheet pan in the freezer for five minutes before the next step. While waiting, place some parchment paper on another sheet pan.
- In a double boiler over medium heat melt the semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate, stirring the chocolates together. If you don’t have an actual double boiler, place a metal bowl over a saucepan filled with boiling water, but not so much water that the bowl touches it. The steam from the boiling water will heat the bottom of the bowl evenly so you can melt the chocolate without burning it.
- Take the strawberries out of the freezer. Using tongs, dip each berry in the chocolate and roll the bottom of the berry until it is well coated. Remove to the parchment-covered sheet pan and repeat with the next berry. Although you could certainly dip the strawberries using your hand, I do not recommend it. Chocolate is filled with fat and sugar and loves to cling to things like unprotected fingers, causing bad burns.
- As the reservoir of chocolate is used up, your berries may become more difficult to coat. You also may need to rinse the tongs off from time to time as they get inevitably crusted with chocolate.
- When the strawberries have all been dipped, place the tray in the refrigerator for at least ten minutes to give the chocolate a chance to firm up on the berry. Serve with port wine or a glass of champagne.
- Leftover strawberries should last until someone realizes they’re in there.
- Leftover mascarpone and chocolate can be mixed together for a quick and easy dessert.