(Not) Gooseberry (but Strawberry Rhubarb Cherry) Crisp

I have to admit to some jealousy of people who live in “berryland”. Places like the Pacific Northwest, where I hear about the abundance of different berries. Marionberries, boysenberries, black raspberries, gold raspberries, maybe even gooseberries.

draining-fruit

I couldn’t find gooseberries around here. I even went to the farmer’s market. Nope. Blueberries? Oh yeah! Even local peaches, even though we had a spring frost and it killed the peach flowers at local orchards. But no gooseberries.

cooking-juices

Not a problem. I had some frozen local strawberries, some rhubarb, and some frozen cherries. That would give some nice juice, great color, and tart flavor to this not-gooseberry crisp.

fruit-added-to-juices

Instead of cooking the fruit, I thawed it in a strainer and got a lot of juice just from that.

fruit-in-dish

I cooked the juice with the sugar, lemon and salt separately from the drained fruit.

 

crisp-started

I probably could have cooked the juice down longer, but I was baking on Tuesday morning before work and didn’t really have that much time.

 

crisp-add-butter

I tossed the fruit with a tablespoon of the cornstarch, tossed it in the pan with the juice, then put it in a casserole dish.

finished-crisp

I made the crisp part while the juice was cooking. Topped the fruit with the crust and put it in the oven.

finished-crisp-closeup

It cooked up really nicely, and the juices were bubbling away. I pulled it out of the oven and off went to work. I would have brought it to work, but we already had muffins from Monday and I was making brownies on Wednesday for my co-worker’s birthday.

2-servings

We had some on Tuesday night. It was pretty good but it was runny. I dished up some more tonight, adding whipped cream. It was a lot less runny.

serving-closeup

The verdict? Pretty good! Cool and tasty, sweet but with a tart edge. I personally would have liked more crisp on top. I would double the crisp if I made this again. And I will, even if I never see a gooseberry.

blueberry-coffeecake

SUMMARY – don’t wait for a party to make this cake. Perfect for breakfast, dessert or le weekend. Great flavor and lots of crumb topping.

crumb-topping

When I was a kid, Freihofer’s (a regional bakery) used to make a Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Ring. It was a yeast coffee cake with a cinnamon swirl, topped with a confectioners sugar glaze and crusted with pecan pieces. When we had this as a Sunday after church brunch treat, us kids would fight over the nuts on the bottom of the box.

nut-filling

Sadly, after they were bought out by Entenmann’s, the recipe changed and the nuts got scant. I don’t think they make it anymore.

mixing-the-batter

But this coffee cake, even though it’s a cake base and not a yeast dough base, is a cake that my siblings and I would have fought over.

adding-the-egg-mixture

A couple of things about this cake.

add-the-fruit

I didn’t quite have enough sour cream, so I supplemented it with heavy cream.

finished-cake

I also didn’t have enough blueberries. So I cut up some rhubarb, sugared it and let it macerate and mixed it into the crumb topping.

cut-up-cake

I kept poking it with an instant-read thermometer and it wasn’t at the listed temperature. I ended up adding a half hour to the baking time! And, since I didn’t wrap the pan with strips, it got a little dark. Now I know to ignore the temperature and just go with baking time.

corner-cut

This coffee cake was so good! Everyone liked it a lot. And it was good that this was a big cake, since everyone had multiple pieces of it.

slice-closeup

I even brought some into work to share. One of my co-workers, who doesn’t like coffee cake, and she really liked it!

piece-of-cake

I will be making this again. But I might make it into muffins instead of a whole cake.

Cherry Sweetie Pie

SUMMARY – plum puree gives this cherry pie a little something extra. The filling stays in the crust and is not runny, even when warm.

frozen-butter-cubes
The great thing about pies is that you have to make separate components for them – the crust and the filling. Then you have to assemble it, bake it, and cool it.

butter-into-processor
Which is awesome if you aren’t in a hurry for a pie. Annoying if you want homemade pie immediately.

plum-puree
Thankfully, I was not in a hurry for pie.

fruit-ready-to-cook
I worked on the crust Sunday, made the filling Monday, assembled the pie on Tuesday morning, baked it when I got home from work, and ate some Tuesday night with ice cream. Perfect!

ready-to-roll
Of course, I have observations about this pie.

crust-rolled-on-cloth
I liked the idea of adding plum puree to this for some extra tartness. The plums I got were reasonably soft, juicy and peeled easily. But they lacked flavor.

bottom-ready-for-dish
They were not farmers market plums, the ones you have to eat outside because they are so juicy.

filling-into-waiting-dish
If I made this pie again, I would probably cheat and buy some organic plum baby food. Because the plums in it would probably be better than supermarket plums, the pureeing is already done for you, and I don’t have to remember to hit the farmers market.

cut-lattice-strips
I used frozen cherries, too. Because, well, pitting. It was a bag of mixed sweet and tart cherries. Not exactly what this recipe called for. Actually looked pretty good; the cherries weren’t all icky-looking like Marie’s canned sour cherries.

lattice-completed

I also wanted to try a fancy lattice top. There’s one with thick and thin dough strips that looked really cool. But I couldn’t find a ruler to use as a cutting guide. Plus my crust dough was rather stiff. I didn’t want to risk messing it up. And, this is the second lattice-topped pie that I have made in my life. I went with the regular non-fancy lattice top. And the strips still broke.

pie-with-ice-cream
Considering the presence of tart cherries and lackluster plums, this pie was a success. I did get feedback that it was a little tart. I liked the tart flavor. And … there is now pie left.

pie-a-la-mode
Ah, the power of pie.

last-piece-of-pie

Rum Raisin French Toast
SUMMARY – better than any store-bought bagged raisin bread. Great texture and crumb made the raisins really shine.

bubbly-dough
Like Marie, I only made the bread.

partly-mixed-dough
Why?

first-rise
Because you have to use stale bread for the best French toast. You could use fresh bread, but it doesn’t soak up the egg custard as nicely.

start-the-shaping
Which means that you have to leave bread around for a few days.

filling-spread
This raisin bread was probably the best raisin bread I have had. And I have eaten a lot of bread with raisins in it over the years. (Raisin bread is one of the few ways I will eat raisins in baked goods by the way.) Paska, challah, store-bought in a bag, I’ve eaten it and even made it. Hands down, this was either the best ever or at least the best in recent memory.

loaf-shaped
I was not the only person in the house that really loved the raisin bread. Everyone loved it and had buttered slices for dessert!

loaf-cooling
I ask you, what sane person or household would leave home-baked, yummy raisin bread around long enough that it got stale enough to make it into French toast?

sliced-loaf
The last piece was devoured about a half hour ago. No, French toast will not happen with this particular raisin bread. Unless I make 2 loaves and hide one. Hmmm.

loaf-closeup

Blueberry Buckle
It’s Sunday, Mother’s Day. I’m up and in the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. Working on blueberry buckle for Mother’s Day breakfast.

fruit-lemon-sugar
Why? Because I created a Mother’s Day breakfast tradition a few years ago, when I had no money. Me and my siblings converge on her house and make her Mother’s Day breakfast. And it has to be super-early, because she has to be to church on time. And church is a half-hour drive.

added-peaches
I used to make breakfast in bed for my mother when I was a kid. I don’t recall much of my efforts, but I probably made a huge mess for her to clean up. Even back then, I would rather cook than clean up.

cake-mise
These days she somewhat more flexible about getting to church on time. She played church “hooky” and went with my dad and other siblings and their spouses to see Captain America: Civil War. I went home and back to bed, since I was up too early, and my MS symptoms were acting up.

dry-moistened
Back to the blueberry buckle. It ended up being a strawberry-blueberry-peach buckle. I did not have enough blueberries. But since I also made my mother strawberry-rhubarb-honey preserves (in an effort to use up last years’ fruit before this years’ fruit starts coming in) the day before as her present, and I had leftover strawberries. It morphed into a berry buckle. Mom really likes peaches, too. And I had some left, after I made one of the girls at the corner store a peach galette for her mother for Mother’s Day!

building-cake-structure
I mixed up the fruit and made the batter at my house. Packet it up and brought it over with eggs and some other groceries to make shashuka (eggs poached in pepper/tomato sauce) for her breakfast, too.

ready-for-packing
Just my opinion, I don’t know that I would consider this recipe Q&E for the general public. For us Alpha Bakers, yeah it is pretty quick. Because we are baking super heroes. Or mutants. Or something. But for normal mortals, not so much. Because the cake part involved egg separation and a stand mixer.

fruit-in-dish
I get to Mom and Dad’s and put together breakfast. I finish up the buckle and put it in the oven. My sister and brother and their spouses came over with scones, bacon, sausage and real orange juice.

batter-topped
We have a great breakfast and Mom tries to scoop out the buckle. And …. it is way undercooked. Crap. I put it back in the oven.

not-done
It finally finished cooking, but at that point it was too hot to eat. Instead of waiting longer, everyone left for movies or bed. I figured they would have it when they got home.

finally-finished
Needless to say, I didn’t get to have any of it. I did call Mom and ask her how it was. She said it was really good, and that both Dad and my brother, not big dessert eaters, had second helpings.

Can’t get a better endorsement than that!

Rugelach

SUMMARY – crunchy, sweet, buttery, nutty, sticky. Spirals of goodness that call out for a doubled recipe.

adding-butter

One of the great things about growing up in and still living in update NY is a unique level of ethnic diversity. By diversity, I mean, I was surrounded by (mostly European) immigrants. In my family and neighborhood, and within my circle of friends, there were Poles, Italians, Quebecois, Ukrainians, Greeks, Scots, French, Irish, English, East Asians, Chinese. Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists. First, second, third generation immigrants.

adding-vanilla

A lot of this diversity came out in food. I know exactly what rugelach are, even though my family never made them.

finished-dough

In comparison, my roommate Bill is from Missouri, with a short layover in San Diego (from his dad’s Navy deployment). By his own admission, he knows Mexican food and Kansas City BBQ. He does not know what a rugelach is.

different-fillings

He knows what they are now, though! 😉

rolled-dough

These reminded me a little of the Cookie Strudel we made a few months back. Make a simple dough and top with fruit, nuts and a sticky filling. Roll it up.

dough-portioned

I made the dough in the food processor. A quick observation – don’t use frozen butter. Let it soften up a bit first.

portioned-cookie-dough

I made two different batches of these. One was apricot, raisin (currants are technically Zante raisins) and walnut sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. The other was mini chocolate chips, almonds and strawberry jam sprinkled with turbinado sugar.

topped-cookie

I portioned the apricot batch out as a 12-cut. But I had some cuts that were bigger than others. Don’t you hate it when your pizza has skinny and fat pieces?

into-the-fridge

To make it easier, I portioned the strawberry batch out as a 16-cut. They were smaller, but the sizes were more consistent.

into-the-oven

I rolled them up, put them in the fridge, brushed them with milk, and coated them with either the cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar. Put them on the foil and into the oven.

baked-rugelach

And … I had the same problem that Marie had. Sticky jelly on foil = super glue. This was similar to the problem with the birch twigs on a Silplat.

foil-aftermath

I did manage to get most of the cookies off the foil. I had a lot of bakers treats from them, that’s for sure.

cooling-rack

Even with that problem I would make these again. I brought some into work and they went over big!

rugelach-closeupjpg

I would try the Silplat. No egg white!

Meringue Birch Twigs
SUMMARY – light and tasty. Gluten-free! Easy to assemble, harder to execute. Prettier than grisini.

beating-wggwhites
I always seem to have extra egg parts. Either I need a bunch of yolks or a bunch of whites. Never at the same time, of course. BTW egg parts freeze well, in case you can’t use up your extras within a reasonable time frame. Luckily I had a mason jar in the freezer full of extra egg whites. No need to create more extra yolks!

soft-peak
FYI – I learned this fact at a Paleo baking class I took last week. Eggs are not dairy. That is all.

almosr-glossy
Making the meringue was the easy part. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar? Check!

Add sugar slowly? Check!

adding-flavor
Add flavoring? I used coconut. Beat some more? Check!

finished-meringue
Put meringue in pastry bag? Check! Line baking sheets, one with parchment and one with my solo Silplat. Check!

piped-twigs
Surprisingly, piping was easy, too! Put them in the oven, bake, cool. I also let them sit overnight. Why? Because trying to move them off the sheets broke them. Yikes.

into-the-oven
The next day, I gingerly loosened them off the parchment paper and put them between the twigs on the Silplat to drizzle the chocolate.

chocolate-added
More problems. I seriously couldn’t get them off the sheet without breaking. Don’t use a Silplat with these. Use parchment.

birch-kindling
Needless to say, my twigs look a more like kindling than branches. They are still super cute and taste really good, but they are certainly not tall enough to display in a vase. Sad face.

birch-kindling2
With that in mind, I would use a larger tip. They wouldn’t be as thin but I could get them off the sheets!

“The Dutch” Pecan Sandies Banner
SUMMARY – an unassuming cookie that is tender, buttery, nutty, crunchy and cinnamony all at once. This recipe proves your freezer is a baking tool.

browned-butter

When I first looked at this recipe, I checked out the picture of it. OK, it’s a round sugar cookie with sugar sprinkled on it. Been there, done that.

browned-butter-strained

As a kid I was a big fan of pecan sandies that the elves baked in their tree. They were also one of the very few packaged cookies that my mom would buy, probably because my dad liked them, too. Only if she had a tripled coupon, though.

butter-bits

There had to be something to these cookies, though. I saw plastic wrap, cooling and resting in the freezer these called for. Looks like a 2-day project, if only not to fill the kitchen sink with dirty dishes.

sugars-cooled-butter

I browned the butter first. Which took a while to do, since I didn’t want to scorch the last bit of the good Irish butter. I did that and worked on dinner (and played Farmville o.O).

creaming-butter-sugar

As an added bonus, I was heating up chicken cassoulet for dinner. Yes, this is leftovers in my house, the other half of the big batch I made a few weeks ago. After I strained the browned butter, I scooped out the solids and put them on the cassoulet breadcrumb topping. Butter on top of crunchy chicken skin and butter? Not thinking this is bad. Of course, my cholesterol numbers may disagree.

dry-ingredients

I measured the butter out (a little more than the recipe needed but it’s butter!) and put it in the refrigerator to cool during dinner.

dry-to-wet-ingredients

After the dinner dishes were corralled I started on the rest of the dough. It’s a good thing I heated up leftovers instead of dirtying a cutting board, knives and pans, since I had to break out the mixer and food processor for the dough.

kneaded-dough

Cream together the butter and sugars? Check. Grind the pecans with the flour and dry ingredients? Check. Great idea here to prevent over-processing the nuts. This would probably be even better in a recipe with toasted nuts. Toasting the pecans for this recipe might be interesting, as it would reinforce the nuttiness of the browned butter. I’ll file this idea away.

divided-dough

Scoop out the dough and knead it? Yeah … ugh … plastic wrap is involved.

rolled-dough

I hate plastic wrap. It doesn’t stick to what you want it to stick to, only itself. The stupid cutter thing on the box never works right. I think Rose uses top-secret special plastic wrap. Wrap that is nice and wide, sticks what you want it to stick to, and cuts nicely. Navy Seal Team “Cookie” brings it to her. Shhhh.

cookies-cut-freezer

I managed to get the dough divided and into the refrigerator without too much incident.

cookies-sugared-panned

The next night, after dinner, and after letting the cold dough warm up, I finished up the cookies. Again, with my off the shelf plastic wrap. Sigh.

cookies-cooling-overhead

I finally used my hexagonal cutters (a Christmas present from last year), so there wasn’t much re-rolling. The last batch I cut had only a little bit of dough left. There was no sense in re-rolling it, we ate it. Yum!

cookies-cooling-closeup

Because of the freezer rest time, the cookies took longer than a drop cookie. But the results I think were worth it. Tender and crunchy, nutty and buttery, cinnamon and pecan, so good.

cookies-plated

As I was eating one, I thought that this dough would make really good pie crust for a pumpkin pie. Or for the pumpkin-pecan pie we made last year. Ooooo …. another idea to file away!

Breadcrumbs

Vegan / Vegetarian

roasted-yams-and-chickpeas-with-yogurt

Chickpea “Tuna” Salad is Not Tuna, But No One is Mad via Food52
Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats from The Kitchn
roasted yams and chickpeas with yogurt from Smitten Kitchen
10-Hour Slow-Cooker Chana Masala from The Kitchn

Baking

halva-brownies

The Easiest Buttercream You’ll Ever Make (+ Meringue 101) from Food52
Yung, Wild and Free: Crucial baking advice from a Michelin-starred pastry chef from Tasting Table
You Deserve an Entire Cake All for Yourself from Bon Appétit
Classic Smith Island Cake from Saveur
Claire Ptak’s recipes for halva brownies and cookies from The Guardian

Techniques / Equipment / Etc.

cast-iron-myth-1

6 Things You Should Do to Take Care of Your Knives from Food52
The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away from Serious Eats
The Temperature Rule to Follow When Converting a Dutch Oven Recipe to a Slow Cooker from The Kitchn
Chained to the Stove: What It’s Really Like to Write a Cookbook from Serious Eats

Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Silk Meringue Buttercream

SUMMARY – not-to-sweet and subtle coconut cupcakes. Creamy light buttercream topped with toasted coconut shreds. Like a pina colada in a paper wrapper.

coconut-collection

These were some really good cupcakes. Like cupcakes that would win Cupcake Wars. Or a blue ribbon at the fair.

batter-mixing

It took a couple of stops to find real coconut extract. At the local grocery coop, I found this Aussie concentrated paste in a tube that was all natural, and not that fake stuff I kept finding in the spice section in the market. Thankfully I didn’t have to drive to another county to get it.

finished-batter

The cupcakes themselves were simple, although not one-bowl simple. More like 4 bowls for the separated eggs, the measuring bowl from my digital scale, then the mixer bowl.

cupcake-papers

I love the idea of using coconut milk in these. I was thinking that you could make these paleo if you used coconut flour and coconut sugar. Switch the butter with coconut oil, and you could make them vegan if you had an idea about egg substitution. Which, unfortunately, I don’t.

creme-anglais-start

I also decided to make the buttercream instead of the ganache. I found a new way to make buttercream from Food52 here. It’s a way to make meringue buttercream using a swiss meringue technique.

creme-anglais-done

Instead of making sugar syrup and pouring it over beaten egg whites, you heat the egg whites and beat them hot.

heating-eggwhites-sugar

The texture of the beaten meringue was like marshmallow fluff. But I think that’s because I only used 1 egg white from this frosting recipe instead of the 4 egg whites.

finished-frosting

Since there wasn’t a lot of volume of meringue, there wasn’t a lot of frosting. There was enough to put frosting on all the cupcakes, but the frosting to cupcake ratio was a little low.

trayed-cupcakes

And the frosting was so good that I wanted more of it!

3-cupcakes-in-a-row

I brought some to work. I have a co-worker that is not a cake fan. She is all about ice cream. She liked these!

3-overhead-cupcakes

And … there are no more left. We ate the last of them for dessert tonight. I call that recipe success.