Monday, May 30, 2011

Coconut~Pistachio Cake with Lemon Curd & Fresh Berries

I bet you're saying..."Whoaaaaaaaa!"  How many flavors can one dessert have?  Well, feeling a little like Marie Curie this morning, I decided to push the envelope, so to speak.  The first thing I spied to bake a cake in, was one of my favorite summer pans--the Maryann Cake Pan.  It has a concave center that you can fill with a plethora of creamy fillings and/or fruit.
After deciding on the perfect pan, I went to the pantry and thought, "what flavor should I make the cake?"  I pulled out some coconut milk powder, which I had discovered from King Arthur, but before I closed the pantry door, I saw the pistachio flour that I had just ordered, and knew that would not take away from the coconut flavor, but rather give a great texture to the cake.
You might be asking right now, "what prompted the Lemon Curd?"  Well, after making macarons last week, I had eight egg yolks in the refrigerator that I knew I wouldn't let go to waste.  I could have made a really rich ice cream, or pastry cream, but while trying to imagine what my mother would make, the idea for lemon curd came to me.  After all, I had just been to the market and bought a bag of lemons and beautiful berries to top it all off.
So, sometimes it's by necessity that I come up with an idea for a dessert and then, there's just plain luck!  Starting off with the pan and the ingredients and I came up with a really delicious, refreshing, and full of flavor dessert to top off our indoor Memorial Day picnic.  I just wish the kids were here!
Coconut~Pistachio Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk powder
1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups King Arthur All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Pistachio Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 recipe of Lemon Curd
Pint of strawberries & blueberries or your favorite
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Spray the Maryann Cake Pan with a nonstick baking spray and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy.  Add the sugar and coconut milk powder and beat for 5 minutes.  Add the coconut flavoring and the vanilla (bean or extract) and mix together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine the dry ingredients and mix alternatively with the buttermilk until full incorporated.  Turn the mixer to medium and beat one minute more.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly from the center.  Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then, invert onto a serving plate.
While the cake is baking, begin to make the Lemon Curd.  Of course, I realize you could buy a jar of lemon curd; there are some really good ones in the market, but making your own is so easy and is so versatile.  In addition to using it in this recipe, try spreading it on toast, an English muffin, or even a scone.  Also, you can use the curd to fill the centers of cupcakes and muffins.  This recipe will keep two weeks in the refrigerator, so I know you can come up with some really good ideas to use it on.

Lemon Curd
8 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large lemons--you should get about 3/4 cup of juice and about a 1/4 cup of zest
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubes and kept cold

Start by zesting the lemons.
 Next, cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice from them.
If you don't get 3/4 cup of juice, add enough cold water to make the measurement.  Set the zest and juice aside.
In a metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar, about 5 minutes to incorporate the sugar well..
 Place the bowl over a sauce pan, with about 1 1/2-inches of water that you've brought to a simmer.
Add the juice and zest and stir together.  Continue stirring over the simmering pan of water for about 8 minutes.  The back of a wooden spoon or spatula should be coated with the mixture and the color will definitely be lighter.
 Remove the bowl from the sauce pan and start adding the cold butter, one cube at a time.
 Make sure the butter has melted and been completely incorporated into the curd before adding more.  When you've added all the butter and the mixture is smooth, transfer to a glass bowl and cover the top of the curd with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

I happened to have about one cup of whipped cream left over from making strawberry shortcake, but if you don't, quickly whip some heavy cream.
Gently, fold in half of the lemon curd into the whipped cream,

 Once the curd is fully incorporated, pour into the center of the cake.  Decorate with fresh berries and serve.
 Having grown up in a military family, I know full well the immense pride I feel for the men and women (and four-legged animals) that serve our country and protect the freedoms we hold dear.  I especially know what it takes for their loved ones to be separated from them on holidays, special occasions, and everyday family events.  Thank you, XOXO.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake 101

Memorial Day picnic was always at my maternal grandparents, who happen to live about 200 yards in front of my parent's home.  In fact, the land that my parents built their final home was part of the farm my grandfather had bought after he retired (the first time) from the Marine Corps.  I fell in love with cream soda at this picnic and looked forward to making desserts that would be devoured after hamburgers, hotdogs, cold salads, and yes, fried chicken.

One of my favorite desserts of the summer is Strawberry Shortcake and once I saw these beautiful berries in the store, I knew I'd make my mother's shortcake to accompany them.  Her biscuits recipe is simple, but seems to showcase so well the sweet, red strawberries that are showing up in your local grocery store.  These are still coming from California, but I noticed the deeper red and just one bite, I could taste pure sunshine!

Strawberry Shortcake is one of those desserts that just puts a smile on your face.  I like the biscuit-like shortcake, but you could also use pound cake or even angel food cake.  However, to me those wouldn't evoke the memories that this did today.

Strawberry Shortcake 101
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T + 2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
3 T granulated sugar
8 T (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
3/4 to 1 cup cold buttermilk*
1 egg to brush the top of the biscuits with

*the amount of buttermilk maybe determined by the humidity in the air--when the dough comes together, you've added enough.

2 pints Strawberries

1-2 cups heavy cream 
1-2 T confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla paste or extract

For the Shortcake:
Preheat oven to 425F-degrees.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix all the dry ingredients to combine.  Add the cold butter pieces and on med/low speed mix until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Add the cold buttermilk, slowly and when the mixture comes together...stop mixing.  Turn out onto a dough board and knead lightly just until the dough comes together.
Roll dough to 3/4-inch and use a 3 or 4-inch round cutter, dipped in flour, to press into the dough.  Lift up and if the dough remains in the cutter, bring it over to a parchment lined baking sheet and push out.  Repeat with remaining dough, bringing the scrapes together once more to cut more biscuits.
 I cut 5 large biscuits, but if your cutter is smaller, you could get 6-8.  Place all biscuits on the baking sheet with about 1 inch in between.  Brush the tops with the beaten egg.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan once.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, stem and slice the strawberries.  Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the berries to macerate, 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

To assemble, whip the heavy cream with a whisk attachment.  I was excited to use the copper bowl that my daughter, Erin, gave me for Mother's Day.  It takes a little arm strength, but it can be a good workout.  Once the heavy cream has reached the consistency, add the confectioners' sugar and then, the vanilla paste or extract.
Use a serrated knife to slice the shortcakes in half.  Spoon the strawberries over the bottom of the biscuit, then, place the top over them.
Lastly, be generous in spooning the whipped cream on top of the shortcake.  Grab a fork and dig's that easy.

Our grandson, Ari is doing his first camping out this weekend and Madison is going to a petting zoo.  Our picnics are in the past and we're just hoping it doesn't rain tomorrow here in the Pacific Northwest.  What's important, is remembering all the men and women who have served this country in the military.  Especially in our family, my great grandfather, both grandfathers, my Dad, three brothers and two nephews.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tea Time Blueberry Scones & A Special Give-Away

In the Summer of 1989, we took a family trip to "the Gold country" through Northern California and I planned the whole trip with B & B's that were listed in a cookbook I had just bought--The American Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Kitty and Lucian Maynard.  Our first stop was a little town called Murphys and Dunbar House, 1880 B & B.  It appealed to me because it was where the television series, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" was filmed and since that was my husband's favorite movie, it seemed a perfect place to begin.

However, it was at our second location, Jameson's: A Bed and Breakfast Inn in Sonora, California that my love of tea cups began.  Each morning and afternoon, tea was served in their antique collection of tea cups and learning what to look for in collecting these endearing samples of history was shared.  I bought my first tea cup at an antique store in the town.  My collection has grown to sixteen through the years, with my eyes still on the lookout for the unusual, but valuable tea cups.  The collection needed a place to display them and I found a lovely Victorian bow-front cabinet (a little more expensive than the tea cups :-D) that is the center of my dining room.

This morning, I created a blueberry scone to go along with a cup of tea, especially when you have a dear friend or sister visiting, although, my grandson Ari, would also love these anytime!  I thought it would be perfect to show off a "Bonus Apron Give-Away" for May with tea-cups as the main fabric and an array of desserts for the contrast.
There's just a few days left in May to post, but I will put in all the names that have commented this month in the drawing.  Good Luck!

Tea Time Blueberry Scones
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 T + 1tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
10 T cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
3T heavy cream
1-6oz carton of plain Greek yogurt
3/4 to 1 cup dried blueberries

2 cups confectioners' sugar
5 to 7 T hot water
1 vanilla bean, split and scrape (or 1 tsp. Vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp. Almond extract

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees.  Place dried blueberries in a 2-cup glass measure and cover with water.  Microwave for 1 minute and let set while you prepare the dough.

In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, measure the dry ingredients.  Cube the cold butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the dry ingredients.
Mix on med/low speed until the butter is incorporated. You should still see some small pieces of butter.
Whisk the egg in a glass measure and add 3 (or more) tablespoons of heavy cream to equal one-half cup of liquid.  Add the egg mixture and the carton of yogurt to your dough and mix just until it comes together.  Drain well the blueberries and add to the dough.
Turn dough out onto a wooden board which has been lightly floured.  

Being careful not to overwork the dough, bring it together, then, roll it to approximately a 9-inch circle that is 3/4 to 1-inch thick.  At this point, you can cut it into 8 pie-shaped wedges, or roll into a rectangle and cut into squares, then, triangles, or use a biscuit cutter to cut circles.
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, with about an inch spacing between the scones.  Use a wooden skewer to poke holes into the scones before brushing with an addition 1-2 T heavy cream.
Bake in the preheated oven 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once during baking.  Let cool about 5 minutes (while you mix up the glaze.)

The glaze should be thin enough to brush on and cover the sides.  I sprinkled some sliced almonds on top, but you can omit that or add your favorite topping.

That week in Northern California was one of our favorite trips.  No television, fun times exploring, and lots of great food.  Memories remembered.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Decadent Peanut Butter~Brownie Bites

Growing up, my mother baked cookies for us as a homemade dessert in our lunches and as an after school snack.  Her repertoire consisted of--chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal/raisin, snickerdoodles and brownies.  I can make her recipes by heart, but through the years, "marching to a different drum," I've loved to come up with my own combinations, taking what I learned from her, but giving it an unexpected twist.

This morning, awakened at 4:00 a.m. by my very demanding cat, Bailey for his breakfast, I sat quietly on the sofa after he ate and the memory of my mother baking got my creative "juices" flowing.  I've done lots of recipes with chocolate and peanut butter, but the purchase of a new mini-muffin pan by Sur La Table, led me to think of another way to pair this made-for combination.  It's my take on a peanut butter cup in a cookie with the twist being that the chocolate is in the filling and the peanut butter makes up the base.

Reese's Peanut Butter cups, which were created in 1928, turned 83 years old this year.  The product has a wonderful web site to visit with all sorts of interesting facts and I'll share just a few.  Did you know??--Two of our Presidents have been peanut farmers: Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter;  May 18th is "I Love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Day";  In 1930, this treat cost 1-cent;  November is National Peanut Butter Month (no wonder I love this product LOL!); The furthermost distance a peanut has traveled is to the Moon; and Mr. Ed was given peanut butter to get his mouth to move like he was talking.  That one I found very interesting : )

This time of year holds so many celebrations--graduations and weddings, to name a few, and these Peanut Butter~Brownie Bites would be perfect to set out for family and friends.  The recipe makes six dozen and once they're baked, can be frozen ahead to save time. 

Decadent Peanut Butter~Brownie Bites
Peanut Butter Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy, but smooth works too)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in the peanut butter, vanilla and the large egg and mix thoroughly.  

Add the dry ingredients and mix, just until combined.  Bring the dough together and place in plastic wrap.  Chill the dough while you make up the brownie center.

Brownie Filling:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted
5 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
In a 3-quart sauce pan melt on Med/Low.  Let cool.

1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
8 oz. pkg. Heath English Toffee Bits

Mini muffin pan

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees. 
Whisk the sugar into the melted chocolate/butter mixture.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly.  When the last egg is added, whisk an additional 3-5 minutes until the mixture has a "shine" to it.  Fold in the dry ingredients and the toffee bits.

Take the peanut butter dough out of the refrigerator.  Make 1-inch balls and place into the mini muffin pan.  Use the wooden tart dough tamper to create the "cup." 

Fill the peanut butter cups with the brownie mixture, about 1 tablespoon full.  Bake in preheated oven 18-20 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.  Makes 6 dozen.

I was so excited how these little bites turned out that I telephoned my sister to share my enthusiasm.  We both love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and anytime I can bake something that mirrors the combination is a A+ in our recipe files.  Enjoy!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Key Lime Macarons & a class at King Arthur Flour Baking School

Key Lime Pie Macarons
I was lucky enough to sign up quickly for a class held at The King Arthur Baking Center in Norwich, Vermont, with Gesine Bullock-Prada a few weeks ago.

The class was designed to coincide with the launch of her second book, Sugar Baby~Confections, Candies, Cakes & other Delicious Recipes for Cooking with Sugar.

In addition to a wonderful demonstration with "Hot Sugar" the evening before, I also signed up to do the "hands-on" workshop that included such confections as her famous Macarons (yes, that's how it's spelled!), Pate Choux, Pastry Cream, and Caramel.

The macarons were really my main interest, as of lately, my attempts had not come out to perfection and I was hoping Gesine could unlock the mystery.  Being the brilliant master baker that she is, she did.  I have been storing my almond flour in the refrigerator, thinking I was saving it from going rancid, but what I was doing was adding moisture and as she says, "moisture is the macarons enemy!"  Mystery solve, I delved into making a macaron in the flavor of one of my girls' favorite pies--Key Lime.  I think they came out pretty good and the only thing I would change when I make these again, was to add more color to the macaron shell.  Once they baked, the green came out very light, but I made up for that lack of color in the filling--a rich Italian butter cream (recipe is also in the book) with a tart, lime flavor.

The book is organized very well; from the Thread stage to Hard Crack and the recipes that go along with these sugar stages are so inviting that I can't wait to try others in the collection.

If you ever get a chance, the King Arthur Baking School has wonderful hands-on classes and Vermont in the Spring was beautiful. The accommodations at The Norwich Inn made for a memorable get away and I can't wait to go back. Enjoy!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Life is a Bowl of Cherries Pound Cake

"Life is a Bowl of Cherries" is a phrase I've heard since I was little.  After some research, I discovered the phrase came out during the depression, something my parents grew up in, and came to signify how you could look at life.  Of all the songs that have this phrase in it, I have chosen the one by Doris Day, who is one of my favorite singer/actresses for you to listen to.  (Admittedly, I have watched "The Man Who Knew Too Much" about a million times and never tire of her or Jimmy favorite actor.)

When I was in the market yesterday, I saw, what I relate to as Spring is here in the Pacific Northwest--CHERRIES!  Oh, we've have daffodils bloom in early March, deciduous trees have their leaves, and I hear the geese on our pond, nesting, but it's the sight of this gorgeous red fruit that lets me know we can finally say goodbye to Winter.

It will be a few more weeks before the crops are abundant enough to lower prices (for jams and freezing) but I couldn't help myself with creating one of my favorite desserts...Pound Cake.  I added in some bittersweet chocolate chips for all of you who especially, like my friend Addie, loves Black Forest Cake.  They're optional, but I think you will enjoy the combination.  I also added in the vanilla paste from two whole beans and some orange zest.  Thanks to my daughter Erin, I have a new gadget she gave me for Mother's Day to zest with that I couldn't wait to try.
Erin & Maddie on Mother's Day!
This fruit, this phrase, and even this song, is my view on life and what I make of it.  It's been a sad year after losing Kelly, but to let that loss change my whole attitude would be a disservice to her memory.  I've had so many people, over the last few days remind me of her incredible big heart and loving ways, and the fact that her last words were, "I'm Happy," will enforce my outlook on what I need to accomplish and yes, with a smile on my face.

Life is a Bowl of Cherries Pound Cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar ( I use Baker's Sugar which is superfine)
6 large eggs
2 Vanilla Beans, split and scraped
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1/2 tsp. Washington Cherry Flavoring
zest of 1 orange
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
3 cups King Arthur All-purpose Flour
1 cup sour cream (not light)
1 1/2 cups chopped cherries (measure after chopping)
1 cup Bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup Toasted pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with a non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar, 1 cup at time, beating well to incorporate after each addition.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste, almond extract, cherry flavoring, and zest.
a new little zester from Erin that captures the zest perfectly!

Beat well.  Add the dry ingredients, alternating them with the sour cream.  Beat for 1 minute to thoroughly combine.  

Fold in the chopped cherries, bittersweet chips, and nuts, if using.  Spoon batter, evenly into the prepared Bundt pan.

Bake in the slow oven for  75 minutes or until a toothpick, poked in the center of the cake, comes out cleanly.  Let cool about 7-10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving dish.
Glaze: I mixed up 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon light Karo syrup, and 2-3 tablespoons of very hot water.  Pour over the cake. 
You can also, just sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or mix up a Chocolate Glaze: 1/2 cup heavy cream, heated just until it boils, then, pour over 3/4 cups bittersweet chocolate.

As humans, we have choices--glass half full or glass half empty.  In "Life is a Bowl of Cherries" you could look at it sarcastically, as some did during the depression, or joyfully when you experience a win fall.  Cherish the everyday events of your life that make it a bowl full of cherries.  It's these memories that make me happy. Enjoy!