Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

You know it’s springtime when the Rhubarb starts showing up in the grocery stores.  I like to think that Rhubarb Pie is one of those southern staples that everyone’s grandma made for them when they were a kid, but apparently that is not the case.  Or maybe those kids just weren’t paying attention to the stuff their grandmas were putting in the pie, because I witnessed a surprising number of people who seemed to have no idea what it was.  When I walked into my Publix the other day, the rhubarb was in the cold counter right in front of the door where they usually display the “Great Deal!” meat (ie, the meat that is going to expire about 45 minutes after you buy it) and the seasonal fruits and veggies that are on special.  The kind folks at Publix had obligingly cut the stalks into small lengths and packaged them up in 1 pound increments, but they had forgotten to tell people what it was.  The packages just read “Publix Produce Department” and a price, and I watched several people pick it up and put it back down again with that facial expression that says “I should probably recognize this, but I don’t, and I don’t want to ask someone at the risk of sounding clueless.  Oh look!  These steaks are only $4.99, and they’re only a little green!”  So home I went with my rhubarb, gleefully planning my pie (and possibly some jam? We’ll see.) and thanking the kind folks at Green Giant for not finding a way to package it in a can, making it instantly recognizable to the masses, and thus securing me a steady supply for the length of the season.  Don’t judge me. The good produce goes quick around here, and if I’m the only one who knows what it is, then there’s no danger of them selling out before I’ve had my way with it (insert evil laugh here).

Anyway, everyone (or maybe just me.  See above.) knows that rhubarb and strawberries were made for each other.  I mean, they’re like soul mates.  So it was destiny that strawberries were on sale too, and from Florida no less (yes, I’m aware that’s not technically local, but really it’s only a few hours from here, and that’s much closer than California or Mexico, so again, don’t judge me.  A girl’s just gotta buy non-local, out of season strawberries sometimes.) so I stocked up on them too and ran right home to begin construction on my piece de resistance.  Except I had a pie crust Fail.  Such a large Fail, in fact, that I didn’t even photograph the soggy, wet, sticks to everything in a 2 foot radius, pie crust that I first made.  I have a basic pie crust recipe that pretty much always works for me, so I usually just ignore the ones that come standard with most pie recipes.  This time however, in a spate of rhubarb inspired excitement, I decided to set aside my time-tested favorite in favor of a new kid in town.  In my defense, it was pretty close to my standard one, with just a few changes.  For instance, I’ve never seen vanilla extract added to a pie dough before.  It also wanted like 11 tablespoons of butter, which seemed a little excessive to me for just a single crust recipe, but who am I to argue? I mean, someone obviously tested this recipe and it worked right? Since it is from a well respected publication, right?  Um, no.  Don’t be fooled.  If you think 11 tablespoons of butter is too much for a single-crust pie dough, you’re right.  It is.  It will only make a shaggy, sticky mess, and not a pie dough that can be rolled out (Fail), placed in a pie pan (Fail) and made to resemble something similar to a golden and flaky crust (Major Fail).  Do I sound a little bitter about it?  It’s just that I was so excited about the shining example of a pie that was soon to be issuing forth from my oven, and this stupid crust fiasco forced me to make another dough which needed to chill for a couple of hours and by this point it was like 11:30 pm and I had to wait until the next day to bake my masterpiece.  But I’m totally over it.

Long story short, I made my standard pie crust, it turned out beautifully (duh), and the pie was just as wonderful as I had hoped. It was tangy, but sweet, the strawberries and the rhubarb perfectly complimenting each other, and since I used a crumb topping, the tendency of strawberries and rhubarb to be soft and runny was perfectly balanced out by the crunchy oats and brown sugar on top.  It was just what I needed to make this early spring we’re having around here (74 degrees outside while I made the pie.  In March.) even more perfect.  So go.  If you see an unidentified pinkish, stalky thing in your produce department, buy it.  Make a pie.  And tell someone next to you what it is so they can make one too.

Pate Brisee

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces

4-6 tablespoons ice water

1 beaten egg (for glaze)

2 tablespoons rolled oats

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.
  2. With machine running, add 4-5 tablespoons ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
  4. Roll dough out into a 10-11 inch round ( I know that’s a broad range, but it really depends on how deep your pie pan is and how much overhang you want for crimping your edges.  I usually just roll it out until it looks like it will fit.)  I do this on a lightly floured countertop, but you can do it between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to eliminate some mess.  Place dough into 9 inch pie plate and trim overhang.  Crimp edges decoratively if you desire.
  5. Refrigerate dough for 30 or so minutes, preheating oven to 350° while dough is chilling.  Line crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake in center of oven for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and weights.  Brush bottom and sides (not edges) with beaten egg, and sprinkle with the oats.  Bake until crust is golden, about 20 more minutes.  Cool completely on rack.  (I hardly ever let my crust cool completely.  I’m usually too impatient.  I’ve never noticed any detrimental effects, but if you have the time it’s probably not a bad idea.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping

Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

Topping:

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Filling:

3/4 pound rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick on sharp diagonal (3 1/2 to 4 cups)

2 1-pint baskets strawberries, hulled, halved

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

  1. For topping, combine 2/3 cup oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in processor. Add butter and cut in until crumbly. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oats.  Set aside.  I didn’t bother with the processor for this, I just used a pastry cutter, which worked fine, and also eliminated all those dishes.
  2. For filling, mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in heavy large saucepan. Let stand 30 minutes. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover with topping. Bake 20-30 minutes (I baked mine for 27) until topping is golden and juices bubble.  Cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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Blood Orange Cake

This cake is awesome.  Awesome I tell you.  It’s perfectly moist, the oranges and olive oil work exceedingly well together giving it a fruity, just-the-tiniest-bit bitter flavor, and I didn’t take a single photo of it.  You’ll just have to settle for my glowing recommendations, because I was literally standing by the oven waiting to snatch it out and dash to my car (running in the driveway) to be on my way.  I was bringing this to a lunch date (Hi Mama!) I had  last week and as per usual I was just on the edge of being late. I did take some lovely action shots while I was baking though, so hopefully you can all forgive me for not showing you the finished product.


Actually, as seems to happen to me so often, I came upon this cake because I was trying to use up some random fruit I had laying around.  My husband bought a bag of blood oranges and then ate only two of them before going out of town and leaving me with like 47 of them to find something to do with. Well, maybe not 47, but several anyway. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which is one of my favorite sites, and I must say, for being a combination of ingredients that I wouldn’t have put together it has turned out to be a really good cake.  And versatile, too, since I imagine that it would quite easy to substitute the blood oranges for any other fruit you have laying around for much the same result.

It came together pretty easily, and I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about the olive oil, being an all-butter advocate myself, but I really enjoyed the flavor in the finished product – it is pretty mild with just a hint of fruitiness, but it really makes for a moist cake that holds up well for a couple of days.  So run along and make your own.  You know you want to.

In other news, it’s only February and I already have daffodils.  I’m not sure, but I think winter is having an identity crisis.  Happy Spring!  Or whatever!

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 blood oranges
1 cup (200 grams or 7 ounces) sugar
Scant 1/2 cup (118 ml) buttermilk or plain yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup (156 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups (219 grams or 7 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Grate zest from 2 oranges and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until orange zest is evenly distributed in sugar (My sugar was all pretty and pale orange!).

Supreme an orange: Cut off bottom and top so fruit is exposed and orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Cut away peel and pith, following curve of fruit with your knife. Cut orange segments out of their connective membranes and let them fall into a bowl. Repeat with another orange. Break up segments with your fingers to about 1/4-inch pieces.

Halve remaining orange and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; hopefully you’ll have about 1/4 cup but however much it is, don’t sweat it because you’re going to  add buttermilk or yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.  My batter was a lovely shade of pink at this point, which gave me high hopes for a pink cake, but alas.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Fold in pieces of orange segments. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.

Lemon Meringue FAIL

Happy New Years!  I’ve missed you!  I have taken a break from blogging, but am determined to be back full force in 2012.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to share with you…quite the opposite.  I’ve been very busy in the kitchen the past few months, I just haven’t been sure of what to write about.  I am a very organized person (some *cough*, Jacob, might say OCD), and I’ve been having a hard time organizing this blog into something that suits me.  I considered for a while focusing on baking, but then I found myself doing mostly cooking, at which point I decided it didn’t matter, and I should just write about whatever I wanted, then I went away on vacation and didn’t write anything at all…anyway, it’s been a little up in the air around here. But enough of that.  I am done trying to categorize, organize, and label everything (well maybe not everything, but the blog at least), and I am just going to share with you whatever it is I happen to be doing whenever I feel like doing it. So there. 

And once I made my resolution, like everyone else after New Years I ran out to fullfill it immediately.  Which is how I come to the story of my Lemon Meringue Pie Failure.  You see, in my little corner of middle-of-nowhere we never get Meyer lemons in the grocery store.  So when my Walmart, of all places, got them in I, of course, bought a bag immediately to whip up into something wonderful.  Also, not two weeks before this I had made something  that required me to use 8 egg yolks (don’t ask what, because for the life of me I can’t remember.  Strange, since anything that uses 8 egg yolks should be pretty memorable.), and since I can’t bear to waste anything, I froze those 8 egg whites for future use.  So here I am with a bag full of Meyer lemons and an abundance of egg whites – what else was there to do but make lemon meringue pie? I went to the Bon Appetit Dessert book, which to this date has never failed me, and found the Classic Lemon Meringue pie.  I followed the recipe to the letter (I say that, but it wouldn’t be a failure, would it, if I had done everything right, so I’ve really no idea what happened) and still my lemon curd never thickend up.  You cook lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, a little cornstarch, and lemon zest over medium heat “until it thickens and boils, about 10 minutes”.  I must have whisked that crap around for close to 20, but no thickening occurred.  By that point I was pretty fed up with the whole thing, so I figured, with misplaced optimism, that if I poured it in the pie crust and let it cool while I made the meringue, it might firm up.  Um no.  It did not.  I did make the meringue.  I even spread it around beautifully atop that murky yellow slush that was supposed to be the yummy essence of Meyer lemons.  I even put it in the oven and baked it up into a lovely looking, golden meringue-crowned, beauty of a pie.  Nope.  Once you cut into it, it was an oozing, soggy-crusted, sorry-looking pie, with a beautiful (and quite tasty) meringue top.  And that, my friends, is how we celebrate New Years day around here.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I’ve been away for a while, but I have been doing quite a bit of baking in my absence, and I have lots to show you!  I chose these to start with since anything my husband declares “…are the best cookies I’ve ever eaten” must be shared. He just doesn’t do desserts, and he really doesn’t like raisins, so I figured these must be the mother of all oatmeal raisin cookies to get that sort of reaction from him.  This is the simplest recipe, but the results are the sort of cookie that makes you want to curl up in your comfy spot with a good book or a marathon of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (that last may just be me though…).  These are rustic, homey, not very pretty cookies – sort of lumpy and not-very-impressive-looking – but no one is going to notice how they look when they’re shoving them into their mouths as fast as possible.

I got this recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook (one of my favorites that I picked up at TJ Maxx for like $15…Who loves that store?!).  They were listed as Oatmeal cookies with the  note to add raisins or chocolate chips if desired, but really I don’t think they’d be nearly as good if they were just oatmeal – I think that would be too much “healthy” for me. I’ve also made them with both raisins and chocolate chips and let me tell you, that takes them to a whole new level (really, what doesn’t chocolate improve?).

These really are the easiest cookies to make: you just cream the butter and sugar (really well!  Light and fluffy is the goal here!), add the egg and a little vanilla, then dump in all your dry ingredients.  I used a medium cookie scoop – it’s 1 1/2 tbsp – and that made just the right size cookie for me.

So, in conclusion, you should all rush home and make these immediately.  You won’t regret it.  You might even want to do it when no one else is home so that you don’t have to share, but that’s your call – I won’t tell if you do though.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook

makes aprox 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  •  3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1 1/2 cups raisins, or chocolate chips, or both – to taste; I like lots so I use more like 1 1/2 cups of raisins, and if I use both I do about 3/4 cups of each.
  1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line two large baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. Mix first 5 ingredients, plus the raisins or chocolate chips, in a bowl.
  3. Cream butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy – several minutes. Add the egg and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Add oat mixture and beat until just combined.
  5. Drop heaping tablespoons (my 1 1/2 tbsp scoop was perfect) of dough about 2 inches apart onto the lined baking sheets. Gently flatten the dough drops with slightly moistened fingers – this helps them not mound up in the center.
  6. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just golden for chewy cookies.  You can let them crisp up for another minute or two if you like them that way, but beware of the bottoms getting too brown.
Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Aren’t those adorable?  They taste pretty good too, if I do say so myself.  I made them for my niece’s second birthday, but they were so good, I made a second batch later in the week to share with my coworkers.  The batter is so light – almost frothy looking – and it bakes up into the fluffiest cupcakes you can imagine.  The crumb was so tender, and with the hint of vanilla, these are the perfect light dessert.  Light, you say?  But isn’t that cream cheese frosting? Why yes it is…and if you beat it long enough, it too can become fairly fluffy.  Now when I say light, I’m not talking calories, because you really can’t have cream cheese frosting and low cal – it’s oxymoronic. But you can make the frosting light in texture, and you can see I went fairly easy on the amounts – which you can get away with if your frosting is as full flavored as this one is.  I also dressed it up a bit with the strawberries, which turned out to be a really good thing – the little bit of fruity-ness cut right through the sweetness of the frosting and really helped balance everything out.

This is a very straightforward recipe, and it comes together in a snap.  Cream your butter and sugar – make sure you do this thoroughly! It should be pale in color and light in texture when it’s ready.  Don’t just mix it together like I used to do…this step is what makes your crumb so light.  Also, if you have the time, you should really  beat each of the eggs before adding them – this will make them incorporate better, but if you don’t want to dirty up another dish I quite understand. Add your dry and wet ingredients alternately, and then mix until it looks light and smooth. When I was at this point, my batter looked almost like a mousse, it was so light.  I couldn’t resist tasting a bit – maybe more than a bit if I’m being honest – and it was just perfect.  Sweet, but not cloying, vanilla-y and rich – perfect.

A note on the vanilla also:  this recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, and if you can get it you really should.  I use this that I order from Amazon, since out here in the middle of nowhere all you can get is pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla (can I just say Yuck!?), but you can probably get it at Whole Foods, or other similar stores.  The cool thing about vanilla bean paste is that is actually has those tiny little seeds in it, so if you don’t mention it to anyone, they’ll think you went and used a real vanilla bean.  It really does add another little dimension to your baked goods.  You can use it interchangeably with vanilla extract, and I’m not convinced there’s a huge taste difference, but it sure does look nice.

Once your batter is ready, just fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Once they’re done, just let them cool on a wire rack while you get the frosting ready.

Cream cheese frosting is very simple to make, and goes with all sorts of things.  It’s also not hard to flavor with things like chocolate or extracts like vanilla, almond, etc.  (I keep seeing Root Beer extract in the baking aisle, and I’m fairly sure that would make an awesome frosting…) Just  beat the cream cheese, butter, cream, etc, until it’s well mixed, then add your flavorings and confectioner’s sugar and you’ve pretty much got it.  See my note on the sugar below.

I found this recipe through a google search that led me to another blog. I am most thankful to Courtney’s Sweets for providing the recipe.

As you can see, the birthday girl thoroughly enjoyed her (second) cupcake.

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 

Adapted from a recipe at Courtney’s Sweets

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 pint strawberries; for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, several minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl, and the milk and vanilla paste and extract in another.
  5. While mixing on low speed alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.  This is a very important step!  Don’t just dump it all in and mix it to death – take your time.
  6. Fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  I actually had more like 28 cupcakes, so if you have extra, you can do a second batch, or just add another pan – I used my small 6-cup muffin pan so I could bake mine all at once, but it’s up to you. The batter is fine to sit for a few minutes – just don’t wait all day. Also, if you don’t end up filling all of your cups with batter, make sure you add a little water to the empty ones or Bad Things will happen.
  7. Bake  15-20 minutes, or until tester inserted into middle comes out clean.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
8 Ounces white chocolate
12 oz cream cheese, softened – I only use Philadelphia; it holds up the best.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. In the top of a double boiler (or you can certainly use the microwave) melt the white chocolate.  Once melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool.
  2. In clean mixer, beat together cream cheese, heavy cream and butter. Mix until it is one homogenous mixture with few lumps. You may need to scrape the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl to get all the cream cheese mixed in.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, powdered sugar and cooled chocolate and mix until the frosting is the consistency you prefer.

I like my frosting light and fluffy, so I beat mine for several minutes, but if you like yours more dense and creamy, then you may not want to beat it as long.   Also, not everyone likes their frosting the same sweetness.  I like mine to not taste so cheesy and be lightly sweetened.  You can adjust the powdered sugar according to your taste, just be aware that it will change the texture of your frosting depending on how much – or how little you add. Just taste as  you go and don’t be afraid to adjust!

Summer Fruit Crisp

Oh, how I’ve missed my little blog!  What with surprise out of town visitors (twice in one month, no less), a visit to the lake, a very scary but thankfully minor illness for one very special little Bassett Hound, and myriad other last minute activities, I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get enough sleep that I haven’t had time to tell you about all of the wonderful things I’ve been making.  I just couldn’t bear it any longer though, especially with this wonderful little summer dessert to share with you.  Although, if I’m honest with you, I’ll admit that I ate a little of this for breakfast a few times, and also as a snack – it’s really very versatile, and so good that you’ll want to take a spoonful every time you open the fridge and remember it’s in there.  I’m really very proud of this dish for another reason as well – I made it up all on my own without using a recipe!  It is a crisp, and so simple to make that if you’ve made one before you can probably make one again without any help, but that doesn’t make me feel any less accomplished.  It turned out beautifully, and I hope some of you will attempt to make something “free-style” and enjoy the results as much as I did.

This dish came about because, as so often happens at my house, I had bought some fruit and then promptly forgotten about it.  Actually, I bought Rainier Cherries for the first time on the recommendation of a friend and did not eat them quickly enough – although I have no idea why since they are so delicious.  Not at all like other cherry varieties, most of which I don’t care much for.  They were sort of sweet and tangy, but with a mild flavor.  I loved them, and will definitely buy them again next summer when they are back in season. Also, I had picked blueberries from my Mama’s bushes that needed to be used (or frozen, but really it seems like such a waste to freeze something that tastes so darn good fresh), and I had bought more peaches that were sitting on the counter waiting to be used.  Since I had all of this fruit laying around I decided to dump it all together and make a crisp…really it was the only thing I could think of that would allow me combine all my fruit and still taste good.  I peeled my peaches and sliced them, and pitted my cherries, then mixed them with the blueberries in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons of flour and about half a cup of sugar – but you can certainly adjust the sugar depending on the sweetness of your fruit, and how sweet you like your crisps to be.  I let that sit for a minute while I buttered my baking dish then I poured it all in and let it cook in a 350° for about 45 minutes.

I stirred it a couple of times while it was baking, and when it was all bubbly (and mine was very purple from all the blueberries) I pulled it out to put the topping on.  I made a topping that I’m very familiar with – it’s based on the one that my mama puts on her sweet potato souffle at Thanksgiving – I just adjusted the amounts to get what I wanted to cover my fruit.  I started with equal amounts of flour and brown sugar, but I’ll admit that I added a little extra sugar because I like the topping so much. I also added rolled oats, for a little crunch, and some cinnamon and ginger because I wanted to.  Then you drizzle the lot with melted butter, mix thoroughly, and pour evenly over the top of your crisp.  Bake the whole thing again for 18-20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown, and Voila! Summer Fruit Crisp.   I was really pleased with the flavor of mine – It was not too sweet, just a little tart, and altogether perfect.  The cherries stayed somewhat firm after being cooked, so they added texture as well as flavor to the dish, and I think that was my favorite part.  The peaches were soft and sweet, the blueberries tart, and the cherries just brought everything together by being the middle ground between the other two.

As I mentioned earlier, crisps are really very basic and are one of the most easily adaptable recipes out there.  You can use just about any fruit to make one, and it is completely appropriate to eat at almost any time of day – warm with ice cream for dessert, or cold for breakfast, etc.  This particular crisp is going to be a favorite of mine, I can already tell.  Since it contains peaches, which I consider to be the very essence of summertime, and my new favorite fruit, Rainier Cherries, I think I will probably be making it for many summers to come. Enjoy!

Summer Fruit Crisp

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices
  • 1 pint Rainier Cherries, pitted and halved
  • aprox 2 cups blueberries *
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
For the Topping:
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar *
  • 3/4 – 1 cup rolled oats *
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6-8 tbsp melted butter *
  1. preheat oven to 350°
  2. Toss fruit, sugar and 2 tbsp flour in large bowl to combine.  Butter an 8×8 square baking dish. Transfer fruit to dish and bake for aprox 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is bubbly. Remove fruit from oven and increase temp to 400°.
  3. While fruit is cooking, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, ginger, and salt together.  Drizzle with the melted butter and mix.
  4. Pour topping evenly over fruit and return to oven for 18-20 more minutes, or until topping is golden brown.  Cool slightly and serve.
* For these ingredients I used approximate values because I really just used whatever I though was appropriate and didn’t measure as exactly as I should.  For the blueberries, I just had a bag and poured most of them in.  For the brown sugar, I started with that amount, but added a little (I probably had about a cup total). I like the oats, because they make the topping crunchy, but you can omit them if you want, or add more to your taste.  For the melted butter I used enough to moisten the other ingredients and make them a little sticky, but not enough for them all to make one big clump.
Play around with it.  Use other fruits if you have them, or change the seasonings in the topping to suit you…that’s what I enjoyed most about it.  And by all means, if you do change it, please let me know how it turns out!

1-2-3-4 Cake and 7 Minute Frosting

Are those the strangest looking cupcakes you’ve ever seen??  I’ll admit the frosting job is a little wonky…but that all becomes meaningless once you taste them.  This is by far the best cake I’ve ever made, and we have a 14 hour long road trip to visit my in-laws to thank for that.  You see, I bought The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet before the trip, and I read my way through it on our trip over the 4th of July holiday.  While the book contains some truly wonderful recipes, the best part for me was the explanations.  Before each chapter there was a fairly extensive look into the “hows” and “whys” of baking, and I find that invaluable.  I’ve always learned better when I understood how something works, and while I’m sure there are many other cookbooks out there that provide that sort of knowledge, this happened to be the one I found.  I learned so much!  And simple things too, like the importance of creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly…most recipes tell you to do it for several minutes or so, but I usually just  beat it until it looks, well, creamy, and call it done.  OK, let’s just overlook the fact that in the past I may not have followed my recipes exactly – that’s beside the point.  According to my new Baking Wisdom Book, for cakes that use the creaming method, the rise comes from the air bubbles that you create when you cream the sugar and butter.  Amazing.  So I did just that – I beat the sugar and butter (which should be still a little cool, not all completely soft, otherwise the bubbles will collapse.  Who knew?) until it was light and very pale.  I cannot describe to you how perfect my batter looked.  It was so light and almost puffy.  It made the most gorgeous little cupcakes – which I know you can’t appreciate since I hid them under those frosting blobs.  But they tasted wonderful.  Wonderful, I tell you.

Now the story on the frosting.  It tasted fine, it was just a little hard to work with, thus the unrefined decorating of my miniature masterpieces.  It was about the same consistency as marshmallow fluff, so it was very sticky and sort of thick.  It was very simple to make, however.   You just throw all the ingredients into a double boiler and whip them for 7 minutes, or until you get big billowy peaks, and then you frost…whatever.  My problem came from the fact that I was out of light corn syrup and the recipe I used said I could substitute honey instead, which I did.  And while my frosting looked very pretty, it had a very strong honey flavor that I just didn’t care for.  Don’t get  me wrong, it wasn’t bad, and I highly doubt any of those cupcakes will get thrown out, but I will definitely not be using honey for this recipe again.  It just seemed strange to have honey flavored frosting.

So, the moral of this story is:  Follow your recipes!  They’re written that way for a reason, and all those strange little instructions really do matter.

1-2-3-4 Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.

If you make cupcakes you’ll get about 24 of them.

Seven-Minute Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

I found out through another recipe that you can also use 1/4 cream of tartar instead of the corn syrup as well.

Both of these recipes were adapted from Paula Deen.


blackberry upside down cake

For such a plain little cake, this was quite delicious.  Not too sweet, not really very cakey…the crumb was very light and the berries perfectly juicy and tangy.  This actually made an awesome breakfast, and if served as a dessert would need a little something to dress it up – like vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

As cakes go it was pretty simple too.  I kept the dirty dishes to a minimum, and it baked up in no time.  You just lay the blackberries out in the bottom of a lined cake pan, and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Then mix up the batter, pour on top, and  bake for about thirty minutes.

I brought this to work for my coworkers, and they sure seemed to like it – I only had one little slice left to bring home to Jacob.  I plan to make this cake several more times, especially once I can start getting fresh picked blackberries – it’s a perfect summer treat since it bakes so quickly.

blackberry upside down cake

from epicurious.  I didn’t change a thing.

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • Accompaniment: vanilla ice cream
  • Special equipment: parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line bottom of a buttered 8- by 2-inch round cake pan with 2 rounds of parchment paper, then butter parchment. Dust pan with some flour, knocking out excess.

Arrange blackberries in 1 layer in cake pan. Sprinkle berries with 11/2 tablespoons sugar and shake pan to help distribute sugar.

Whisk together 1 cup flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix at low speed until just incorporated. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 batches, mixing at low speed until just incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly over berries, smoothing top, and bake in middle of oven until top is golden and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of pan, then invert a large plate over pan and, using pot holders to hold plate and pan together tightly, flip cake onto plate. Peel off parchment and serve cake with ice cream.