Definitely, roasted fruit is one of my favorite summer desserts. It becomes so intense when its been sizzling and caramelizing at a high temperature. Roasted strawberries are one fruit that can take any dish to the next level. Along with the fact that it will stain even the palest berries to a ruby red, the subtle use of aromatic ingredients like lemon, vanilla or rose water can breathe new life into your bland unripe berries. Another added bonus is that the seeds add a little crunch to the tender, supple structure of a roasted strawberry.
I wanted to make something quick and easy for dessert today. I just happened to have some strawberries on hand why not roast them. A while back I saw an idea on youtube.com with strawberries and of all things, the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, ‘Nutella’.I have to be honest, I have maybe only tasted it once or twice but what the heck! Of course, you guessed it, I would first want to read up on its history. You maybe know all this but—– It seems it all started with the same Italian family that gave us the glorious ‘Ferrero Rocher’ chocolates. Nutella was invented during WWII when the war had created a chocolate shortage.
In 1925, Italian chocolatier, Pietro Ferrero, perfected the so-called ‘pastone’ (pastry mesh) of chocolate and hazelnuts. The Piedmont region of Italy, which his family called home, is famed for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. In 1946, he created pasta giandja (or giandujot) which was made in a small hard loaf or bar, wrapped in aluminum foil and could be sold at a cheaper price. This chocolate could be cut into slices to eat on bread which formed a big part of the diet at the time. In 1949, a spreadable version called supercrema gianduja was intoduced,which was later renamed ‘Nutella’ in 1964. The name gave the product international appeal. It said ‘nuts’ and it also said Italy — ‘ella’ being a common affectionate ending in Italian such as in mozzarella cheese, tagliatella (a form of pasta) or caramella (a sweet).
Fifty years on, the company is the number one user of hazelnuts worldwide. Interesting! OK, now on with the pastries.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice off blossoms; leave small & medium berries whole, cutting largest ones in half. In a glass baking dish, toss with sugar, salt & lemon juice.
Roast, stirring once or twice, for about 30-40 minutes, long enough for the berry juices to thicken but not burn. Remove from oven; add vanilla & rose water. Set aside until ready to use.
On parchment paper, lay out sheet of puff pastry. At one end of the pastry, spread hazelnut cream& top with cooled roasted strawberry 'jam'. Below the chocolate/strawberry mixture make 5 slices so you end up with six strips. Starting at top where the filling is, roll up pastry & join the two ends together to make a wreath.
Adjust oven to 400 F. Brush with egg wash , sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Lift wreath ON the parchment paper to baking sheet & bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Many cultures have embraced the ‘apple pie’ and put their own spin on it, so why is it known as the quintessential ‘American’ dessert. If your someone who hates making pie crust …. this pie is for you. Swedish Apple Pie is more like cake than a pie and very similar to a cobbler. You layer your apples in a buttered pie dish, whip up the batter, spread it over the apples and bake it. As it bakes, the batter fills in the spaces between the apples, creating cakey goodness for each bite.
This pie reminds me of an experience that seems quite comical when I think of it now. Before I had ever studied in the commercial food industry or made any amount of pies, a friend gave me a recipe for a ‘Swiss’ apple pie. Her instructions were to place the apple slices in a pastry lined pie pan. Next, pour vanilla pudding over the apples and bake. It sounded great! I purchased a box of Jell-O brand vanilla pudding & pie filling, made a crust and filled it with apple slices. I assumed you were supposed to cook the pudding before covering the apples with it for some reason. Wrong! What resulted was apples baked in a pastry shell with a ‘rubber top’. I guess we all have to start somewhere right?!
Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy this easy way to make an apple pie.
Peel, core & slice apples. Place in buttered pie plate. Sprinkle apples with 1 Tbsp sugar & cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, combine cooled, melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, salt, egg, flour, extract & walnuts. Mix well. Gently spread batter over apples. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
Not a pie at all, traditional whoopie pies are two thin chocolate cakes sandwiched around a white frosting. The origin of the whoopie pie is somewhat controversial. Some people say they were invented in Medieval Germany and brought to the USA by immigrants. Women would bake cakes and use leftover batter and icing to make these special treats. The little cake sandwiches were placed in children’s lunch boxes, where upon discovering them, cries of ‘whoopie’ were shouted. From the basic chocolate and vanilla formula of the past, a whole host of varieties have since taken the stage.
I love the pastel shades of Spring and try to incorporate them into anything I can. When I was shopping the other day, I happened to see some little colorful French Macaron cookies in a bakery window. As great as they look, I personally have never cared for the ‘meringue’ type cookie. Nevertheless, it gave me some inspiration for some ‘spring’ whoopie pies. Adding a few new flavors to the chocolate and vanilla batters along with some flavored Mascarpone fillings takes whoopie pies (cookies) to a whole new level.
Preheat oven 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar & vanilla until light & fluffy. Beat in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk.
In separate small bowls, divide vanilla batter into 4 equal portions. Leave one plain, to the second dish add pistachio nuts & a tiny bit of green food color gel. To the third dish add 2-3 Tbsp Chambord liqueur & red food coloring. To the fourth add lemon zest & yellow food color.
FOR CHOCOLATE BATTER: Follow directions in the first paragraph, adding cocoa along with flour mixture. Using a small scoop or heaped tablespoon, spoon mixtures onto baking sheet. Allow room for spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & transfer to wire rack.
While whoopies are baking prepare Mascarpone fillings. For every 60 grams of Mascarpone use 2-3 Tbsp of one of the preserve flavors.
When the whoopies are cold, match each with whoopie half with its closest partner size. Spread with a knife or use a piping bag to cover the flat side of one whoopie half of each pair generously with filling. Top each with its matching half, flat side down & gently press together.
Another flavor you might enjoy is lemon curd which can be purchased in the preserve section of the grocery store.
For chocolate filling, add a little cocoa powder & powdered sugar to some Mascarpone.
For some of the vanilla whoopies, I made a Rosewater flavored filling with 1 tsp margarine, 60 gm Mascarpone, 3 Tbsp powdered sugar & 3/4 tsp rosewater.
Mug cakes have been around for a while. We seem to like eating food out of mugs. Whether it’s a mug full of chili or just some cereal and milk, we like being able to hold our whole meal in our hands and enjoy it by the spoonful. Mug cakes have gained popularity not only because they are delicious, but because you can make them in five minutes. The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss in the ingredients. It then goes into the microwave; as the butter in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that will cause the cake to quickly rise. The problem is that microwave baking is tricky and not every ‘cake-in-a-mug’ recipe you come across will work well.
I’ve tried a few with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, they are a great way to satisfy an emergency homemade treat craving without even turning on the oven.
In a small bowl, combine apple with sugar & butter. Divide between 2 mugs. Cover each with plastic film & pierce several times. Cook in microwave for 1 minute at 800 watts or 50 seconds at 1000 watts. Add dried fruit & nuts & stir.
In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour & salt with your fingertips. Crumble on top of fruit in each mug. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes at 800 watts or 1 minute 10 seconds at 1000 watts. Remove mugs from microwave & sprinkle with sliced almonds.
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add milk & oil; whisk together until smooth. Divide between 2 mugs & microwave on high for about 70 seconds. Remove from microwave. Cool a bit before eating.
Be aware that success will depend on knowing how to adjust the cooking time according to YOUR microwave strength (watts). Be careful not to overcook your mug cakes.
The puddingbrezel is a special kind of pretzel. Made with buttery ‘danish pastry’, filled with a smooth, sweet vanilla pudding. The term danish is connected to a strike among Danish bakers in the 19th century. When bakers from neighboring countries, especially Austria, were invited to work, they brought with them a new kind of dough. As soon as the strike ended, the Danish bakers started to experiment with this new dough adapting it to their needs.
This dough technique was called lamination. Although the dough is prepared with yeast, it is processed with cold ingredients. After kneading, it is folded and rolled out again multiple times to achieve the desired fluffy and flaky texture. For successful danish pastry, butter is needed as it works to separate the various layers of the dough as they bake.
To put it simply, we have an Austrian pastry that was adapted by the Danes, which is used to make a German delicacy. How is that for ‘interculinary’.
Dissolve sugar into lukewarm water & sprinkle with the yeast. Allow to stand 15 minutes. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar & salt; pulse in cold butter cubes. Mixture should resemble pea sized chunks. Remove mixture from food processor & transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together eggs & whipping cream. Stir in yeast mixture & pour over the flour mixture. Toss together with a wooden spoon, just enough to make dough form. Divide into two portions. Each portion makes about 8-10 pastries so if you don't need it all right away, double wrap one portion in plastic wrap & freeze for later. Refrigerate dough for several hours or overnight.
In a small dish, combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup milk & beat until completely smooth. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise & scrape out the seeds. Cut the remaining pod in half crosswise.
In a saucepan, add remaining 2 3/4 cups milk, sugar, salt, vanilla pulp & pod. Place on stove over high heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, remove from heat & add cornstarch mixture stirring constantly. Return saucepan to stove, continue cooking ONLY until bubbly & thickened. Remove from heat & take out vanilla pod. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin as it cools.
To make PUDDINGBREZELS: Roll a portion of the dough into a 12 x 18-inch rectangle. Cut strips on the long side of the rectangle, about just over 1/2" wide. Twirl two of the strips together & form into pretzels. Transfer carefully to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, with some room in between to expand during baking. Let rise 30 minutes before filling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Using a pastry bag, pipe cooled vanilla pudding into the two holes of each pretzel. Brush each pastry with an egg wash consisting of 1 egg whisked together with 2 Tbsp water. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.Timing depends upon the size you chose to make your puddingbrezels.
I know it sounds quite ordinary but we are not just talking about just any plum cake. Variations of the German specialty, ‘zwetschgenkuchen’, exist where some versions are made with a shortbread pastry verses a yeast dough, some have streusel – some do not – some are round, other’s are rectangular. One thing for sure is that they all use the plump, sweet, juicy European plums also known as Italian Prune Plums or Empress Plums. This variety is ideal for cooking not only because of their texture but also because their flavor becomes more complex through cooking.
Fruit and yeast-based cakes are a German hallmark with this cake being a perfect example. Its not overly sweet, has a touch of tartness to it, a small hint of cinnamon and that tender yeast dough.
When I was growing up and my mother used Italian Prune Plums in her canning or baking, I just thought it was because they were available at the time. I had no idea that they played such a special part in German baking until I was older.
I realize this is probably not the kind of thing you feel like making on a hot summer day. I suggest putting it on hold for a rainy day because it is well worth the effort. Just to encourage you further, I’ve added an alternate yogurt dough you could use instead of the yeasted one which would speed things up.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm milk & allow to become frothy, about 5-10 minutes. With an electric hand mixer, beat together sugar, salt, warm melted butter, egg & vanilla. When yeast is ready, Combine with egg mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition; dough should become smooth & elastic. It will not be firm enough to knead into a ball, more like thick batter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Using fingertips, rub mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
'ALTERNATE' Yogurt Dough
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. In small bowl, beat together yogurt, milk, oil & vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add wet mixture & combine until dough forms a ball.
To make Plum Cake Tarts
Generously butter eight - 4 x 3/4" mini tart pans or press out a rectangle of dough about 8 x 10" size on a baking sheet or a jelly-roll pan could be used. For tart pans, divide dough into 8 pieces & press dough out over bottom & up sides. For the rectangle shape, dough could be rolled out on parchment paper & laid directly on pan.
Lay plums close together in rows, covering the entire dough. If using YEAST DOUGH, set pan in a warm place & let rise rise an hour. Sprinkle the streusel over the top & bake at 350 F. for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden. If using YOGURT DOUGH, evenly sprinkle farina over dough before placing the plums on the pastry ( it helps to keep the pastry from becoming soggy). Arrange plums on pastry; distribute streusel over cake. Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes or streusel is light golden.
A ‘galette’ (French) or ‘crostata’ (Italian) was an early way to form a pie crust in the absence of pie pans. The dough was rolled flat, the filling placed in the middle with the edges turned up to contain the filling.
The origin of the pie (pye) has been traced to Egypt where savory fillings were baked, using woven reeds as the baking vessel. The concept was brought to Greece and then to Rome. It is believed the ancient Greeks created pie pastry and the trade of ‘pastry chef’ was then distinguished from that of a baker. The use of lard and butter in northern Europe led to a dough that could be rolled out and molded into what has become our modern pie crust. Before the emergence of tin or ceramic pie pans, the ancient practice of using the bottom of the oven or fireplace was used to bake this rustic tart.
Galettes can be made in any size, as well as sweet or savory, using only a simple baking sheet. No technique to create an even, fluted crust is necessary. Rusticity is its charm! No worries about tearing the dough or if the final result is perfectly round or rectangular.
The crust of this galette is made with the addition of a small amount of cornmeal to give it a bit of crunch and is equally as good with a sweet or savory filling.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a bowl, toss together the fruit, all but 1 Tbsp of the sugar, salt, lemon juice & zest & cornstarch.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough into a circle & set on baking sheet. Place the fruit filling in the middle, leaving a border of 1 1/2 to 2-inches. Gently fold pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Brush pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle the reserved 1 Tbsp sugar over the crust.
Bake 35-45 minutes until the filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Best served warm or at room temperature.
Strawberries — loved for their sweet taste and heart shape, have symbolized purity, perfection, love and passion throughout the ages. It is very common for us to give little thought to where our food comes from and the back breaking labor that it took to get it to our various parts of the country.
Travel can always be filed under the category ‘learning experience’. I find it so important to set oneself outside our ‘bubble’ to fully understand and not become complacent about the many things we take for granted.
Over the years, Brion and I have spent many holiday hours travelling along the Big Sur coast of California, USA. While there we would use Monterrey as our ‘home base’ and make little day trips to the surrounding area. Just inland from Monterrey is the agricultural jewel known as the Salinas Valley. This is one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions of California. Having a unique coastal environment with its western ocean exposure (less than 10 miles away) provides moderate temperatures year round. Warm sunny days and cool foggy nights are the perfect combination for growing strawberries.
I find myself going back to those years I was raised on the farm when we drive along looking at the fields of produce. I have often felt much appreciation and compassion for the farm workers standing, bent over in the heat of the blazing sun for hours tending these crops.
I have many memories of my own parents working long, hard hours to provide for us on our family farm. I am grateful to have learned to appreciate the efforts of others that make life good.
This STRAWBERRY ROSE with DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING celebrates those wonderful Driscoll strawberries as well as satisfying the chocolate lover.
Melt chocolate. Whisk together 1/2 cup milk & cornstarch. In a small saucepan, bring remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar, cocoa & salt just to a simmer over medium heat. Add cornstarch/milk mixture; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat & stir in melted chocolate & vanilla. Spoon into serving glasses. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Chill.
Before serving, hull 16 strawberries by removing the green stem. Take 4 strawberries & cut the top of the strawberries off. These will be used as the center for the roses. For remaining strawberries, slice into 1/8" slices to use for the rose petals.
Begin arranging the sliced strawberries around the pudding making sure the ends of the slices are facing out & extend slightly beyond the rim of the glass. After the first circle of strawberries is placed, begin making a second circle of strawberries but position slightly more forward toward the center of the glass. Continue with a third layer. Once finished, add the cut strawberry to the center & garnish with mint leaves.
Now comes the time to use up all those remaining tidbits of holiday baking still in the freezer. For those who haven’t tried it, sweet bread pudding is perhaps the ultimate comfort food. It’s simple to make, requires no special equipment and uses basic ingredients. It’s not even particularly beautiful on the plate, but it sure tastes good.
Just about every culture that makes bread has it’s own version of bread pudding. An open textured loaf with lots of holes become little pockets of custard. If you choose a bread that is quite ‘airy’ but has good chewiness, your pudding will strike a satisfying balance between lightness and body. In contrast, a loaf with a tight crumb makes a compact pudding with a dense texture.
The custard is what binds the bread together and creates the pudding’s lusciousness. Milk, eggs, sugar and flavoring are the basic elements but of course, other variations can be layered in as well.
Bread pudding was definitely a dessert my mother made since she baked bread every week. At that time it was pretty basic but nevertheless homey and good.
Today, January 22, our family celebrates the birthday of my sister, Marilyn. Birthdays were always made to be special as we were growing up. Not so much as to gifts but in regards to the family acknowledgement of ‘your’ day. My mother loved having a reason to use her cake decorating skills, so your birthday cake was always very unique.
For something special to mark the occasion, I have prepared STOLLEN BREAD PUDDING with SPICED ORANGE SAUCE on my blog.
Arrange stollen cubes to fit compactly into a buttered 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Do not compress to tightly; set aside any leftover cubes. Whisk together eggs & 1 cup powdered sugar until the sugar is dissolved & the mixture becomes light yellow in color. Add cream, vanilla & Grand Marnier; whisk to combine. Stir in a pinch of salt, nutmeg, lemon & orange zest.
Pour mixture over stollen cubes. Cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove bread from refrigerator, uncover & dot the top of the pudding with butter & sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar.
Set baking dish into a shallow roasting pan, larger that baking dish. Set them onto the center rack of the oven. Pour hot water into larger pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the pudding dish. Bake until fully set & a knife inserted into center comes out clean, 60-75 minutes. Carefully remove the pudding from the water bath & cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Spiced Orange Sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar, Grand Marnier, water, cardamom & salt. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is fully dissolved & the liquid is heated through. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg until well beaten. While whisking egg, slowly pour 2 Tbsp. of the hot mixture into bowl with the egg. Then, while whisking the mixture vigorously, slowly pour the warmed egg mixture back into the sauce.
Place the saucepan back over low heat, gently stirring the sauce, raising the temperature slowly to medium. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Spoon over pudding & serve immediately.
THUMBPRINT or THIMBLE COOKIES – are such a great little cookie with so many variations that they remain among the holiday favorites. Of course it’s not hard to figure out the meaning behind their name. Similar to filled cookies, you can either fill the divot you make in them either before or after you bake them.
Here is a good example of the phrase ‘the same only different’. Four varieties of thumbprint cookies you might want to add to your office cookie exchange list, if they are not already on it.
In a medium bowl, combine butter with brown & white sugar. Add egg, pumpkin, flour, spices & salt; mixing until a thick dough forms. Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop balls (about 2 tsp size), 1-inch apart from each other. Using your thumb or a sewing thimble, make a divot in the center of each ball. Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly brown. Remove cookies from oven; while hot, deepen any of the divots if needed. Place on cooling rack.
In a small bow, combine cream cheese filling ingredients, mixing well. When cookies are completely cool, spoon a small amount of filling into each of the divots. Top each with a bit of crystallized ginger.
Lemon Blueberry or Raspberry Anise Thumbprint Cookies
In a medium bowl, cream butter & sugar well. Beat in egg yolks & extract. Stir in lemon zest, then fold in flour & salt until fully incorporated & a soft dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap & chill about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into 1-inch balls; roll in hazelnuts & place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Using your thumb or a sewing thimble, make a divot in the center of each ball. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove cookies from oven; while hot, deepen any divots if needed. Place on cooling rack & cool completely before filling centers with preserves.
Fig & Flax Thumbprint Cookies
In a medium bowl, beat butter & 1/4 cup brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg yolk & vanilla; beat until combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, cream of tartar, spices & salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the batter & beat on low until just combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, place the egg white. In a small dish, combine 1/4 remaining brown sugar with 1/4 ground flax seeds. Roll slightly rounded teaspoons of dough into balls. Dip one ball at a time into the egg white & then roll in the sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet; press divots in each ball. Bake about 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from oven; check if divots need to be deepened. Place on cooling rack & cool completely.
With the Blueberry, Raspberry & Fig recipes, you can bake the cookies for about 15 minutes then add the preserves & bake another 3-4 minutes. I find it easier to store or freeze the cookies if I put the preserve in at serving time -- personal preference only.
I rolled my spiced pumpkin cookies in gingersnap crumbs just for a little added flavor.
Apricot preserves are another good choice for the flax thumbprints and probably easier to find depending where you live.