Black Forest Desserts

While the origins of the black forest cake aren’t all that clear, some historians believe that its origins can be traced back to the Black Forest Region of Germany. This part of Germany is well known for its sour cherries and ‘Kirschwasser‘ … a clear cherry brandy.

This iconic creation is a layered confection of a liqueur ‘soaked’ chocolate cake with rich whipped cream and sour cherries between its layers. The liqueur and cherries give the cake an intense and unique fruity flavor. It’s these sour cherries which gave it its German name: Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.

There are many origin stories about the cake. Some sources claim that the name of the cake is inspired by the traditional custom of the women of the Black Forest region, with a characteristic hat with big red pom-poms on top called a ‘Bollenhut’. The earliest published written record of black forest cake was in 1934, by a German confectioner. Today, the cake is well known worldwide and probably one of the most popular cakes in Germany.

Since we just happen to have a nice little sour cherry tree growing in our garden, why not put some of them to good use in these cakes?!

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Black Forest Desserts
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Course dessert
Cuisine German
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Course dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
  4. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and cherry brandy until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with brandy whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Kirschwasser is German for 'Cherry Water', and while it may be as clear as water, it packs quite a punch.  This double distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries is, more often than not, simply referred to a Kirsch. This 'not too sweet with a subtle cherry/almond flavored' liqueur is a vitally necessary ingredient to make a traditional Black Forest Cake; for that is where both the cake and Kirschwasser hail from...  The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, in southwestern Germany.  

Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls

Chicken balls aren’t authentic Chinese food but they were probably inspired by Chinese sweet and sour pork. The pork is replaced with chicken, it’s battered instead of breaded and the sauce is sweeter but its in the same ball park. These sweet and sour pineapple chicken balls are a type of modern Chinese food served in Canada, Ireland, United States and the UK as a staple of Chinese take-out. Due to their vast popularity among the masses, they have become linked unwilling to Chinese cuisine, for better or worse. They are largely unheard of in China, depending on the recipe and referred name.

Here in Canada, in our province of Alberta, many of the Chinese dishes that are served in small-town Chinese restaurants have a distinctly Canadian twist. Chinese Canadian food evolved over the decades and has developed into a its own unique cuisine. Some dishes that are unique to Canada and Alberta include ginger beef, cabbage chow mein & sweet and sour chicken balls. Across Canada, Chinese Canadian food has evolved from recipes that were created using the ingredients that were available to the restauranteurs decades ago.

The chicken balls we prefer are dipped in a light batter then baked in the oven as opposed to deep frying them. Brion & I enjoy them served over rice with the tangy pineapple sauce.

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Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls
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Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
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Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, chop chicken meat with seasoning, JUST until it is a roughly ground texture. Divide into 12-16 portions. Wet hands & roll into balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven & cool slightly on paper towels until batter is ready.
Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch. Stir in pineapple with juice, Zesty Italian dressing, (soy sauce), & minced garlic. Cook & stir over low heat until thickened. Set aside & keep warm.
Batter
  1. In a bowl, combine all batter ingredients; beat until smooth. Add chicken balls; stir until covered well with batter.
Baking or Frying
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & place a wire cooling rack over it. Lift chicken balls out of batter with a fork & place on wire rack. Bake at 400 F. for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven to a serving plate. Alternately, you could cook battered chicken on a griddle with oil or deep fry it in a pot of oil.
Serving
  1. When chicken balls are cooked in your preferred choice; pour pineapple sauce over them & serve with steamed rice.

Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart

Strawberry-rhubarb … raspberry-peach … blackberry-plum … the possibilities for combining summer fruit in amazing ways are truly endless. I’ve recently became aware of the apricot, strawberry & rhubarb combination. This combo had never occurred to me, superseded as it is by the mighty strawberry/rhubarb duo.

Fruit tarts are stunning desserts that look like they should be in a French bakery window, but the truth is they can easily made at home. This super simple, mixed fruit tart with an oat pastry really celebrates the flavors of the season.

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Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart
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Oat Pastry
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Oat Pastry
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Instructions
Oat Pastry
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, spices & salt. Add melted butter & vanilla; stir to combine. Press 2/3 of mixture onto the bottom & up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; set aside.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Prepare fruit & place in a mixing bowl; add the orange juice, vanilla, sugar & spices. Stir to coat & set aside.
  3. Pour the fruit over crumble mixture; sprinkle the rest of the crumble around the outside of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust turns golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Amaretto Nectarine Cakes

Summer fruit = no fuss. It doesn’t need any amazing kitchen magic. Summer fruit thrives on simplicity and doing its own thing. Its such a natural beauty.

What’s not to love about nectarines? They have all the sweet juiciness of peaches without the fuzz. Buying stone fruit is an investment in the future. You must have faith that the fruit you have just bought will ripen, even though it currently has all the softness of a billiard ball. Maybe it won’t ripen tomorrow or the next day, but eventually, you hope.

Nectarines are usually picked before they’re fully ripe to make for smooth transportation. It’s important to know how to pick out the perfect, closest-to-ripe-but-not-over-ripe nectarine. Strangely enough, the skin color is not a sign of its ripeness, unlike many other fruits. Nectarines shouldn’t have any dark markings and depending on the variety, they should have a slight give when pressed. But, the best way to tell if a nectarine is ripe and high quality is the smell … the more aromatic, the richer in flavor.

Perfectly ripe stone fruits of any kind are very special if you can find them. The remaining fruits that stubbornly refuse to ripen can be rescued to great effect by roasting them in the oven.

Baked amaretto nectarine cakes are great at anytime, but these summer cakes are an especially good way to use up under ripe fruit. The natural sugars in the fruit add a fragrant sweetness that makes it so delicious.

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Amaretto Nectarine Cakes
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Nectarines
Cake Batter
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Nectarines
Cake Batter
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Instructions
Nectarines
  1. Slice nectarines into thin slices, discard stones & place in a bowl with amaretto & sugar. Toss to combine. Divide nectarines between 6 mini flan pans or custard cups.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over nectarines in the baking dishes. Place dishes on baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cake has risen & is firm to the touch in center.
  3. Remove from oven & allow desserts to cool in pans/cups for a few minutes then carefully invert on serving plates.

Mexicali Quiche w/ Avocado & Roasted Tomatoes

There are so many great things to make with tortillas. You can load up burritos for breakfast, stuff some quesadillas with shrimp or make tortilla chips and cover them with cheese, guacamole and spicy salsa.

A tortilla quiche combines a classic breakfast quiche and a tortilla tart without having the traditional pastry crust.

Breakfast for supper is always good with Brion & I. Making this meal a day ahead of serving it allows the flavors to become exceptional.

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Mexicali Quiche w/ Avocado & Roasted Tomatoes
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, cook ground pork, onion, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until meat is brown & crumbly & moisture has mostly evaporated from the mushrooms. Stir in corn, beans, chili powder & cumin. Remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. In a bowl combine eggs, milk, green chili peppers (if using), salt & pepper. Grate cheese.
  4. Lightly butter bottom of an 8-inch baking dish. Place one of the tortillas on the bottom of dish; sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese & top with half of the pork mixture. Tear other tortilla into pieces & place on top then sprinkle with a bit more cheese & remaining pork mixture.
  5. Carefully pour milk mixture over quiche then top with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set.
  6. While the quiche is baking, place cherry tomatoes in a foil lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil & roast until skins pop.
  7. On a plate, mash avocados; add salt, garlic & lime juice. When quiche is ready, top with avocado mixture & roasted tomatoes. Serve.

Chicken & Leek Calzones

Like their Italian cousin pizza, calzones originated in Naples, Italy during the 18th century. The calzone’s original purpose was to serve as a ‘walk around pizza‘ that were not meant to be eaten with utensils. This Italian style turnover is created by folding a pizza in half. When correctly prepared, the calzone’s outer crust is baked to crispy perfection while the inside filling contains a warm, gooey blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses along side an assortment of hearty meats and vegetables. The crust of calzones, traditionally made with yeast, olive oil, water, flour, and salt, makes them extremely portable. Calzones, are always baked.  The original calzones of Naples, were most likely much smaller than the modern calzones seen in North American restaurants today, because the pizzas created in 18th century Italy were for a single person to enjoy.

Calzones are similar to stromboli and the two are sometimes confused. Unlike calzones, which are always stuffed and folded into a crescent shape, a stromboli is typically rolled and folded into a cylinder. Both are pizza derivatives. They utilize the same ingredients to achieve different versions of a sealed, portable meal. Calzones are traditionally stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, and marinara. But much like the pizza, any sort of toppings can be added inside the calzone.

Today, I wanted to put a bit of a different spin on the calzone idea. I’m making a potato/leek yeast dough, filling them with chicken & mushrooms & adding a bit of pizazz to the shape. What’s old is new again!

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Chicken & Leek Calzones
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
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Instructions
Leeks
  1. Rinse & slice leek. In a skillet, place oil, sliced leek, sage leaves, garlic, salt & pepper. When the garlic is fragrant & the leek is tender, turn off heat & transfer to a dish to cool.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water; allow to stand for a few minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, sour cream, cooked, mashed potato & 1/2 of the leek mixture. Beat together well.
  2. When yeast is ready, add it to the wet mixture. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is blended, turn onto a lightly buttered work surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. While dough is rising prepare filling.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Transfer to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings to sauté mushrooms in. When mushrooms have cooked & released most of their moisture, remove from heat.
  2. In a bowl, combine remaining other half of cooked leek mixture, bacon, cooked chicken (or turkey), & mushrooms. Add Ranch dressing & salt to taste. Set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly greased work surface, divide risen dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball into an OVAL shape, about 7 x 6-inch size. Divide filling into 8 portions. On each oval, place a portion of the filling in a straight line on the middle of the dough.
  2. Keep one side free & cut the other side of the dough into thin strips using a knife. Fold the uncut side over the filling first, then continue rolling over the cut side.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & place the 'calzones' on it, curving them into a C shape. (Place the side with the 'strips' curving to the outside). Brush calzones lightly with egg wash; cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Bake calzones for 40 minutes until a golden brown. Serve hot or room temperature.

Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes

Shortcake is such a classic dessert that is perfect for spring and summer. True shortcake has history, even pedigree, but there is some confusion as to its name. ‘Short’ is an English word that means crisp. Or, more specifically, something made crisp with the addition of either butter or shortening.

Another issue with shortcake is whether it should be cake-like or biscuit-like. Some culinary researchers claim that’s a regional preference. Even though the name has English origins, most sources agree that shortcake was a North American invention. Being so versatile, this simple, elegant dessert can be made with any number of fruits and served warm or cold.

I am using some of the LorAnn company’s Blueberry Emulsion today, to add a real pop of flavor to the glazed blueberries. These should be so good!

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Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes
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Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
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Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
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Instructions
Shortcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray mini Bundt pans with baking spray. Then, add some all-purpose flour to each cavity, shake it around, and discard the excess.
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Then add the vanilla, softened butter, milk, and egg. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cavities in mini Bundt pans. Each cavity should be about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before attempting to remove them. Gently loosen each cake with your fingers then invert the pan to release the cakes onto a wire cooling rack.
Glazed Blueberry Topping
  1. Place 1 cup of the blueberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, sugar & cornstarch. Bring to a boil & simmer until juicy & thick. Place the remaining berries & blueberry emulsion in a bowl; add glaze mixture & toss to coat.
Lemon Drizzle
  1. In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2-3 tablespoons milk. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired consistency.
To Serve
  1. Place shortcakes on individual serving plates. Drizzle with lemon glaze & top each cake with some glazed blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest.
Recipe Notes
  • LorAnn's Blueberry Emulsion tastes like fresh ripe berries.
  • Add instead of using blueberries or in addition to the fruit to add a punch of blueberry flavor and color. Use in any recipe as you would an extract - and experience better results. 1 teaspoon baking extract = 1 teaspoon emulsion

Strawberry Custard Tarts w/ Lemon Curd

The irresistible combination of strawberry and lemon is a taste most of us love to savor. This sweet and tart pairing isn’t reserved for strawberry lemonade served in a cup either. The flavor combination works wonders in cupcakes, sophisticated crepe cake, custard tarts, etc. etc. With the fact that we can readily buy strawberries year round, doesn’t make them any less special.

I’m not sure if you recall that fabulous glazed fresh strawberry pie from years ago …. so addicting! It consisted of a crisp crust filled only with fresh strawberries held together by a thickened fruit juice glaze. It was the quintessential summer dessert back in the day. A lady by the name of Claire Moore created this pie in 1954 in the USA. She shared the recipe with her husband, former ‘Eat’n Park‘ CEO Bob Moore, and the rest is history! This regional diner chain began during the days of the 1950’s car hops when everyone thought it was real cool to park and eat right in their hot rods. Today they’re a family restaurant and coffee shop chain still serving their signature fresh glazed strawberry pie.

To make a long story short, it was the memory of that dessert that made me think of doing these strawberry custard tarts for today’s blog.

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Strawberry Custard Tarts w/ Lemon Curd
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Crust
Filling
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Crust
Filling
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Instructions
Lemon Curd
  1. In a medium sauce pan over low heat, whisk together butter, sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt until combined. Add eggs one at a time, whisking until fully mixed each time. Cook over low heat about 8-9 minutes, whisking frequently, until somewhat thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt until fully combined. Add the cubed butter, and using either a pastry blender or two forks, cut the butter into the mixture until the pieces are around the size of a pea. Pour in the vanilla extract, and cold water. Stir until the dough clumps together.
  3. Move the dough to a floured surface and fold the dough into itself until the flour is incorporated (if it is too sticky, add some more flour to the surface or your hands) and forms a ball. Divide the dough into quarters and pat each one down into four discs, about ½ inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to an hour.
  4. Remove the dough from fridge. Roll it out into 5-inch circles on a lightly floured surface and use to line four 4-inch tart pans. Crimp the edges as desired.
  5. Prick the bottoms with a fork. Line the chilled dough crusts with parchment paper and fill each with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Remove from heat and let them cool completely.
Filling & Assembly
  1. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract together and then stir in the honey yogurt. Place the strawberries on top of the cooled crusts. Pour the filling over the strawberries.
Baking
  1. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden and custard filling is set. Cool for 5 minutes, drizzle with lemon curd, and serve.
Recipe Notes
  • There are numerous good quality lemon curds on the market if you would rather not make it from scratch since it is only used for drizzling.

Mandarin Butterfly Cookie Bites

Its probably a bit too early for butterflies in our part of the country but these spring cookies are so special. Who could resist them when they’re naturally flavored with orange juice and zest and decorated with mandarin orange segments?

I have always loved cookies of all shapes, sizes and flavors. Today there are hundreds of cookie recipes throughout the world. Often geographic development was reflected in popular cookie recipes. It gave homemakers access to items not available previously. Around the turn of the century, the Kellogg brothers in the USA, invented cornflakes and cookies were made with cereal products. In the 1930’s, with the advent of electric refrigerators, icebox cookie recipes reached new heights of popularity. I’m sure that no one book could ever hold the recipes for all the various types of cookies that have been created.

These little filled cookies might seem quite basic but the flavor is amazing!

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Mandarin Butterfly Cookie Bites
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Filling
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Ingredients
Filling
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine filling ingredients. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened and translucent, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Cool completely. Set aside.
Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, combine butter & powdered sugar. Beat until light & fluffy. Add flour, orange zest & salt. Beat on low until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill 1-2 hours or until firm.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls & place on lined baking sheet 2-inches apart. Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass; dipping glass in granulated sugar to prevent sticking. Using a fork, prick top of each cookie making 3 rows.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool completely.
Fill & Decorate
  1. Spread about 1/2 tsp filling on bottoms of half of the cookies. Gently press bottoms of remaining cookies against filling to for 'sandwiches'. On the top of each sandwich put a drop of remaining filling. Carefully lay two (towel dried) mandarin orange segments on it to form a butterfly.
Recipe Notes
  • We found these just got better after a few days.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken

According to writer Mark Twain, ‘cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education’. This uniquely versatile veggie has graduated above its many cousins, …. broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi to become the sophisticate darling of the species. Delicious raw, fried, grilled, pickled, riced, roasted, steamed or sautéed.

Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or sauté and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts, or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower makes an interesting pizza crust. A different texture than the traditional bread dough crust but loaded with flavor. It’s sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I had tried this idea some years ago and we quite liked it so why not try it with a different topping and have it again!

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken
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Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. In food processor or blender, pulse cauliflower until it reaches consistency of coarse crumbs.
  2. Place cauliflower and 3 tbsp water in microwaveable dish and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one edge lifted. Microwave on high, stirring once or twice during cooking time, until cauliflower is tender, 5 to 7 minutes; let cool. Drain cauliflower in colander lined with cheesecloth or thin, clean tea towel. Wrap cauliflower in cheesecloth and twist while pressing to remove all liquid (this step is essential).
  3. Place pizza pan or baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
  4. In bowl, combine cauliflower, egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, transfer cauliflower mixture to piece of parchment paper and press into 12-inch circle. Slide parchment paper with cauliflower crust onto hot baking sheet from preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes.
Toppings
  1. In a saucepan, sauté red onion & mushrooms until tender and moisture has evaporated.
  2. Evenly spread half of the barbecue sauce over baked cauliflower crust, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese & all of the onion & mushrooms . In bowl, toss chicken with remaining barbecue sauce; evenly arrange over crust and top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onion.