Some of my favorite travel experiences happen when I get to share a meal with old friends or new – in a foreign land. The myriad flavors and textures of cuisines that you are not familiar with become layers of memory. Smells and flavors take me back to specific locations or places in time. From childhood to travel, these scents and flavors become a way to travel without leaving the house. In this time of pandemic and restriction, I find myself becoming antsy. I want to travel, to get outside my comfort zone, to experience the sights and smells of the sea or the sounds and flavors of the city. After more than two months of isolation, even with all of my blessings, I find myself longing for some time on the road.
Since I can’t actually travel, I am creating some recipes with the flavors and ingredients I have picked up along the way. Today I am using ingredients from my travels to the Caribbean. Vanilla, cocoa, and cane sugar will add depth and flavor to these Chocolate Cherry Vanilla Cream Cheese Rolls.
1 lb fresh or frozen cherries
1 cup Splenda or sugar
2 T. Mexican vanilla
3 T. raw sugar
2 T. melted butter
1 can crescent rolls
1 container whipped cream cheese
I am using ingredients I have on hand for this particular recipe, and any sturdy fruit will do – apples, pears, and blueberries are all good choices for this type of filling.
After thawing a quart of fresh cherries (put up from last year), I began to cook them down with some Mexican Vanilla (I picked this up in Belize. Check out my posts on Belize here!) – about 2 Tablespoons. I also added about 1 cup of Splenda – though sugar would likely work to create a thicker syrup if you are not sugar restricted. Cook the cherries down until they are soft and coming apart a bit, and the liquid has thickened to syrup consistency.
While your cherries are cooking down, roll out your crescent rolls and spread with whipped cream cheese. I like the lighter, fluffier texture for spreading of the whipped variety for this purpose, but regular is just fine as well. Cut the perforations for each crescent as you finish your spreading.
When the cherries reach the desired consistency, remove three cherries from the pot for each crescent and roll them up in the pastry. Place on a baking sheet lined with a nonstick cooking mat.
Baste the top of each roll with melted butter, then sprinkle with course sanding sugar. I keep brown large grain cane sugar in my pantry from Belize (check out some of the distinctive flavors of Western Belize here). There is a deeper, more complex flavor to this sugar, so I use in recipes that need a stronger base of flavor than regular refined white sugar. For the final touch, I sprinkled some cacao powder that I grated from a pod of 100% unsweetened cacao I picked up in Trinidad check out some of the distinctive flavors in this post). Check out my posts on Trinidad here!
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes and drizzle with the cherry syrup to finish. These are certainly best while still warm.
Using the ingredients from Belize (highlights from Belize City here!) and Trinidad and Tobago took me back to sandy shores, crystal blue water, and nights spent with friends after a long day of work. In a small way, it helped me escape the constraints of my current travel free life and look forward to spending time with friends in the future.
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