Thursday, July 26, 2012

I was going to talk about apricots.

I have a lot of fruit. A lot. Baskets, pints, and flats of fruit. Well maybe one basket, a half-flat, and several pints, but still that's a lot of fruit. And a lot of perfectly ripe and perfectly in season fruit.  I was going to talk about apricots, which is where this whole gathering of fruit started, but instead I am starting with the berries.

Yesterday I was feeling a little indulgent after my yoga class so I decided to treat myself to an insanely delicious and exorbitantly expensive raw coconut water and the latest issue of Lucky Peach. Somehow between setting my selections down on the register and paying, I picked up a half flat of fresh berries. I am still not sure how it happened, but it did.

After staring at my spoils and debating between cake or pie for a while, I decided on well- both.  The raspberries and blackberries for pie and the blueberries for cake. Coffee cake to be exact. 

As much as I love cookbooks and magazines, there is something to be said about the Internet and instant gratification.  Or rather, virtually stumbling across just the thing you want to eat next.  In this case a recipe for Huckleberry Maple Coffee Cake from 101 Cookbooks.   It looked good enough to fall in love with: not too sweet, not too decadent, and perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Really, the best cakes for me are cakes that you can eat at 8am and at 4pm and maybe even again sometime in between.  

This is one of those cakes. 

I substituted regular pastry flour for the whole wheat pastry flour that the recipe calls for and traded out the huckleberries for the blueberries from my box o' berries, but any berry would do. Honestly, I think that it would have been best with the blackberries, but I am saving those for pie. 

I love a lot of things about this cake. I love that the outside gets crunchy and the inside stays juicy and soft from the berries. I love that its not very sweet. I love that it goes with coffee, or I suspect nicely with some whipped cream. I love that it makes my house smell like baked berries. But mostly I love that it reminds me of home. 

A perfect New England breakfast reminiscent of bead and breakfasts and summer mornings.  My only wish is that I had east coast berries. I'll give the pacific northwest the crown when it comes to blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries- but New England takes blueberries. You will never change my mind. 

Lets really talk about blueberries. As a kid we had giant blueberry bushes in our back yard, at least four or five big bushes that every year produced fists full of berries that my sisters and I would eat straight from the bush. We also lived just up the road from a pick-your-own blueberry farm, so we were never without fresh blueberries in the summer and frozen in the winter. One of my favorite treats growing up was frozen berries straight from the  gallon zip-lock bag. Handful after handful until our hands were frozen and stained a deep purple. If only I had more patience, I could have made a lot of blueberry maple coffee cakes.... 

I'm hoping my sister, who lives in vermont, will take note and make a lot of these in the very near future.  

Blueberry Maple Coffee Cake 
Mostly the same as here from 101 Cookbooks 

1 cup  pastry flour
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/3 cups fresh blueberries, or other berries 
For the Crumble 
1/2 cup t pastry flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup granulated maple sugar (or brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a loaf pan. Whisk together flour, oats, salt, powder, and soda together and set aside. Beat butter until fluffy. Add in maple syrup and egg. Beat again. Add in lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until just combined.  Add in half flour and some buttermilk. Stir. Add in the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk and stir until just combined.  Mix in 1 cup of berries.  Pour batter into loaf fan. 
Prepare crumble by using pulsing ingredients in food processor quickly 20-30 times. Pour over batter and and the rest of the fresh blueberries. Bake 40-50 minutes. 

Let cool. Serve with coffee, whipped cream, or just a fork and a grin. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

for someone else's birthday.

I made these cookies. They were really tasty. That's all.

They don't look all that insane, but they were pretty tasty and very simple. Meet my peanut butter cookie recipe plus one part oats and one part chocolate. 

Together you get Milk Chocolate Salted Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies. A mouthful, but a delicious one at that.

Here's a close up. 

Sadly,  I fear this is the end of birthday celebrations for a while.  I'm willing to celebrate half birthdays though. Yours, mine, or a complete strangers- that's how much I love them. 

Happy birthday! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

couldn't have asked for more.

Two days ago I turned twenty-four. I ate a lot of desserts. A lot.

It was wonderful. I couldn't have asked for more. I also ate a lot of other delicious food and went to a lot of my favorite places. In fact, three out of four of them. I am one lucky girl with some awesome and indulgent friends.  You know who you are!

First up. Three desserts and homemade fernet at Delancey. Yes three of them, all of which followed two different pizzas (one with fennel kimchi which was out of this world and my favorite of all time crimini mushroom pizza), goat cheese with more grilled fennel, and a salad with pickled rhubarb.  But before moving on to dessert- all of them- I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that I've decided I really don't like tomato sauce all that much.  In fact, I think it just gets in the way of all that cheese, grilled scapes, crimini, or fennel kimchi. I suppose however I've never had their tomato sauce, and if its anything like everything thing else I've had there, I am almost positive I could fall in love with it.

But moving on. As soon as we sat down I knew we would be getting all of the desserts.  Each of the three was perfect in their own right, I had my favorite, but whose really counting when they were all so delicious. Plus, we sat at the counter and had the most lovely service that is only possible on the west coast, but made me feel very much at home.

First. Almond cake with brandied cherries and lemon.

To be fair this was my least favorite out of my two day dessert eating extravaganza. Between the light almond flavor and the cherry, it was a bit too ameretto like for me- not the cakes fault, but rather my own taste preferences. But, there was some stiff competition and this cake against any other everyday desserts would have blown all other contenders out of the water. 

Second, and possibly my favorite because it is perfect in every which way-   Raspberry Pavlova with fresh Billy's strawberries and whipped cream. Often Pavlova can turn out chalky and fairly unappetizing, but done right it's chewy, crunchy, and pillowy all at the same time. 

Dessert Heaven. Literally a melt in your mouth, airy, summery, wonderful bite of cloud. With berries. 

Finally we ended the night with one of Molly's famous bittersweet salted chocolate chip cookies.  A minegarde, if you will, except gigantic and gooey and served in a to-go bag.  I love the cookies I make, not to be biased they are some of the best, but her's? These cookies are unreal. 

Maybe it was the liquid courage from the homemade fernet, but I found out their cookie secret. It blew my mind. I'm not going to share it though, until I test it out, but it may just change my life. 

Needless to say there wasn't a single morsel or drop left over. It couldn't have been more perfect and I couldn't have asked for more.  But then, it kept going. 

Welcome day two of birthday dessert tasting- Sitka and Spruce, which has been my ideal restaurant in Seattle and maybe anywhere for as long as I've known about it.  I mostly love it because it is exactly the type of food I want to eat all of the time, anytime, at home or out. Also, it's airy, rustic, farmy, light atmosphere is always exactly where I want to be most of the time- dining or otherwise.  They also have my all time favorite cake on the menu most of the time, so I figured the odds where in our favor. 

Gateau Basque. 

Somewhere between cake and pie, dessert and breakfast, it's the perfect combination of lots of things I love.  After having gateau basque at Sitka last fall I attempted to make my own.  It was fairly disastrous. My crust was too thick and I over cooked my pastry cream- something I still struggle with, but getting better. Still, it looked delicious and after re-trying Sitka's superior version, I think I am ready to give it another go sometime soon. 

We also sampled this. 

Homemade yogurt with pistachios and berries. Definitely less sweet, but a good final bite too a great meal.

I really do have lovely friends. Friends who will share five desserts and not blink an eye when I asked to walk to Molly Moon's to get ice cream too.

Really, I couldn't have asked for more.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

what a ways

For better or worse, I've come a long way.  It was around this time last year, when I was visiting friends and family in New York, that I decided to start this blog.  I decided to start at the top, with what I still think is the best thing I've ever tasted.

Strawberry Shortcake.

It was a disaster. My biscuits were neither fluffy, nor sweet, and my whipped cream was not as much creamy as it was milky.  Despite it all, I was off on a mission to bake and write my way through my 23rd year, and here I am about to be 24 and making strawberry shortcake with less than ideal results yet again.

So even though shortcake biscuits appear to be my baking nemesis, I can safely say I've come a long way. As with any amount of passing time, one hopes to get wiser and achieve some sense of heightened clarity. I am none of those things, but I am dorkier, more adventurous, and even more than ever a lover of sweets.

A quote I stumbled across a long time ago, and one that has stuck with me as I feel it speaks to life in a larger more metaphorical way,  refers to strawberry shortcake in its most perfect (or not so perfect) form.  James Beard once said, "There can be no dessert better, only fancier."

And so, while it wasn't that long ago that that sight of a hard boiled, or any kind of cooked or uncooked egg yolk would have sent me running for the door- I took the masters advice and boiled and peeled, pressed and scrapped yolks into my biscuit batter. And someday I'll get it, really get it, and until then I'll keep trying... 

It was good. I promise it was good. Just not as good as his. They were not fluffy, and somehow despite the recipes promise that it was impossible to overwork this dough- I did it anyway.  Then I pressed it out too thin and made slightly overdone shortbread cookies.

I am probably being to hard on myself, because afterall there is still no better dessert I can think of, only fancier, and in the case of my version- a lot fancier.

As much as I love Seattle, there is something about the 4th of July, summer, and my upcoming birthday that makes me miss the East Coast just a bit. So in the spirit of America, birthdays, home, and growing up- lets all eat shortcake.

James Beard Strawberry Short Cake
from Food52

2 cups AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soda
6 tablespoons butter (chilled and cubed).
2 hard boiled egg yolks (pressed through a micro strainer)
3/4 cup cream

Whisk together flour, sugar, and powder.  Add in butter, working it into the dough with fingers or pastry cutter.  Add in yolks, stir.  Fold in cream and mix until just combined. Chill. Press out into 1.5 inch thick rounds and cut into circles. Paint with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar (I used maple sugar). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool.

For the strawberries: 
Wash and cut strawberries into halves or quarters.  Place into glass bowl with a squeeze of lemon and sugar.

For the cream: 
Whip 1 quarte of heavy whipping cream with about 1/4 cup sugar.

Monday, July 2, 2012

practice makes perfect.

I've expressed my devotion to grapefruit, love of lemon, and secret hatred of orange, but what about lime?

Other than when it's garnishing my margaritta, or when I'm reaching over them to buy lemons in the grocery store, limes and I rarely cross paths. Until now.

Now, with a little practice I plan on adding these to my repitoire...

Here's a fun fact about limes. The British Military were late to the game in scurvy prevention, relying on limes rather than the lemons many of their Caribbian Colonies had already realized provided 4 times as much vitamin C, earning themselves the nickname limey.  History lesson of the day. 

But back to lime bars. I prefer the edge pieces because the shortbread crust acts like a little spoon, on which to more easily consume the deliciously tart, seriously tart, lime custard filling.  

Here's the thing about limes though.

They are really very tart. Much more sour in fact, than lemons.  So while I followed the same recipe I use to make lemon or grapefruit bars- I think next time I will add a little more sugar.

Sweet, tart, scurvy preventing or otherwise- I think practice is going to make perfect in this case.