Blueberry Lemon Crumble

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been kind of holding out on you guys just a little bit, and the guilt is too much for me to take anymore.  You see, the last time my mom came to visit, she brought with her the most prodigious amount of peaches and blueberries from my favorite orchard back in CT.

I completely swooned over this mountain of produce, and immediately started divvying up the goods: some for eating, some for baking, some for cooking…and then the race was on between me and the heat of my kitchen ripening the fruit.  Who would win?

Well I did, and I just can’t keep the results to myself anymore.  The first thing I knew I wanted to make was a crumble or crisp of some kind.  Something simple that would let the natural sweetness and flavor of the berries really shine.

I also wanted a hint of tang, so I decided on a blueberry lemon crumble, baked in ramekins.  I really should bake things in ramekins more often, individual desserts are so much fun.

Anyway, this crumble fit the bill exactly and really hit the spot.  The lemon complemented the blueberries perfectly, and the crumble topping added texture and just a touch more sugar.  And butter.  But you can never have too much of that, right?

Blueberry Lemon Crumble

Adapted from The Pastry Affair

Makes 4 individual servings

¼ cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
¼ cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 ½ cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, rolled oats, and brown sugar. Add the cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, mush the butter into the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse sand and holds together when squeezed. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and blueberries and toss.

Divide blueberries equally between four ramekins.  Sprinkle the oatmeal topping evenly over each. Place ramekins on a baking sheet in case the crumbles overflow and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until topping is browned and the crumbles are bubbly and fragrant. Let cool for ten minutes before serving (the fruit will be very hot). The crumbles may also be enjoyed at room temperature or chilled (or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream).

 

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Chocolate Cherry Crisp

Yesterday my mom and stepdad came to see the house.  It’s been fun showing off our house to the various people that come to visit, hopefully we’ll have a continuous stream of friends coming through our door in the weekends to come.

We walked to the subway station and took the train into Boston to Chinatown for dinner.  We wanted to go to a dumpling house, but even at 5pm there was a 40 minute wait.  Sad face.  So we went to a Korean/Japanese restaurant across the street.  I got ja jang myun, a noodle bowl with pork, cucumbers and potatoes smothered in a dark sauce.  It was quite tasty, and the portion was huge.  We had to chase down the waitress to wrap it up for me to take home.  Luke tried to wave her over after our bill was paid, but she just thought he was being friendly and waved back.  So my stepdad had to go over to the waitress corner and ask for a take-out container.

After dinner we went to three different bakeries in search of egg tarts, but sadly they seemed to all be sold out.  So I drowned my sorrows in a big cup of chocolate milk tea.  The last stop was C-Mart, were I got sesame paste filled buns, scallions, garlic and incredibly cheap cherries.

Even though my mom brought me a mound of peaches and blueberries from my favorite orchard back in CT.  The cherries were so beautiful with their deep red skins; I just had to get them.  Some I’ll freeze, and some will become chocolate cherry crisp.

That I will eat while Diego and I watch kinda bad sci fi movies where the plot is incredibly predictable and the script is well…somewhat lacking in originality.  But that’s how we do it up on a Saturday night.

But in all seriousness, this crisp is great.  Sweet, juicy cherries are paired with dark chocolate and covered by an oat-y buttery crumb topping.  Add some vanilla ice cream, and you’ve got a perfect summer dessert.

Chocolate Cherry Crisp

Adapted from White on Rice Couple

Makes about 6-8 servings

For the crumble topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

½ tsp salt

8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

For the filling:

2 lbs fresh cherries, pitted and halved

1 cup dark chocolate chips

¼ cup sugar

3 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Pinch butter into flour, using your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add oats, and use your hands to toss and squeeze the mixture until large, moist clumps form. Transfer to freezer to chill while you prepare the filling.

(If desired, set aside a handful of cherries to decorate the top of the crisp.) In another large bowl, toss cherries with chocolate chips, sugar and flour. Transfer to a shallow 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with topping mixture. Place reserved cherries to decorate top of crisp. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden and bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.  (I also sprinkled extra crumb topping from this recipe on top.  Couldn’t just throw it out now could I?)

 


Eclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream

Pastries.  Let the word wash over you and conjure images of a small patisserie in some tiny alley in Paris.  Pastries are fabulously delicate, while possessing a luxuriousness that can be hard for other desserts to rival.

Did I mention you can make them in your own kitchen?  By the end of today, you could be eating an éclair that you made with your own two hands.  Mind-blowing, I know.

I will admit that the thought of making my own pastries intimidated me at first.  It still does.  Luke is waiting for me to get up the courage to attempt making croissants, but I keep telling him that in order for it to even have the remotest chance of happening, he has to buy me the extra pound of butter it’ll take on his own.  And so he shuts up.

Éclairs do not require a pound of butter to make.  They do take a little time more time and effort than the average baked good, but I’m telling you, the effort is soooo worthwhile.  When I first bit into one of these scrumptious little delicacies, I could not believe it had come from my kitchen.  I simply stared at it in disbelief, chewing slowing, savoring the moment.

Normally I would hoard a dessert this good, neglect to tell Luke I made it, shove it in a back corner of the fridge and have a secret rendezvous with it while Luke was at work.  But no, not this time.  This time I shared.  Mostly it was to declare to my friends and family, “Check it out!  I made a freaking pastry on my own!!!!”  Join that party, give these a try.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Éclairs with Mocha Pastry Cream

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Makes 8-12 eclairs, depending on size

For the mocha pastry cream:
1½ cups half-and-half
6 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar, divided
pinch of salt
1½ tsp espresso powder
3 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp vanilla extract

For the pâte à choux:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 Tbsp whole milk
6 Tbsp water
1½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup all-purpose flour

For the glaze:
3 Tbsp half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

First make the pastry cream.  Heat the half-and-half, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Once the mixture is warm, whisk in the espresso powder.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Next make the pâte à choux.  Whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup.  You should have ½ cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.  Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.  When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.)

Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds.  With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream.  When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

Adjust an oven rack to middle position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip.  Fill the pastry bag with the pâte à choux.  Pipe the paste into eight to twelve 5 x 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Use the bake of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface.

Bake 15 minutes without opening the oven door, then lower the oven temperature to 375˚ F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each éclair to release steam.  Return the pan to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon if it doesn’t stay open on its own.  Dry the éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist and crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam.  Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth.  (I used leftover glaze from this recipe.)

To assemble the éclairs, add the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.  Pipe the pastry cream through the slit in the side of each éclair to fill it completely.  (I found this difficult, so I hollowed out each éclair with a chopstick and piped the pastry cream in there.)  Dip the top of each éclair in the chocolate glaze.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.  These are best served within several hours, but they will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge in an air-tight container.


Dirt Cake

This is a nice spring themed dessert that goes wayyy back for me.  When I asked Luke if he knew what dirt cake was, he replied, oh you mean worms and dirt?

Crickets.  Sure?  I guess?  Yes, it turns out dirt cake and worms & dirt are one in the same.  I happen to like my title better.  I don’t know how keen I’d be on eating a dessert with worms in the title.  Even if they are the gummy kind.

My mom used to make this dessert when I was growing up.  If she made if during the spring, she’d clean out a flower pot and put it in there for added effect.  I would have put it in one too, only all my pots are currently occupied by herbs.

But I should back up.  What is dirt cake?  It’s layers of Oreo cookie crumbs and a cream cheese/pudding/whipped cream mixture all stacked together parfait style.

Sometimes there are gummy worms dispersed throughout.  Sadly, I didn’t have any on hand, so I couldn’t include them.  When they are in the cake, I tend to eat the cake part first and hoard all the gummies for later.

The original recipe that I got from my mom calls for Cool Whip, but I couldn’t find any at my grocery store, so I subbed homemade whipped cream for it.  I think it tasted better, but that’s just because homemade whipped cream is amazing.  And only adds to the amazingness that is dirt cake.

Dirt Cake

Recipe from my mom

Makes about 12 servings

1 package Oreo cookies (the regular kind, not Double Stuffed)

½ stick unsalted butter

8oz cream cheese

¾ cup powdered sugar

two 3.4oz packages instant vanilla pudding

2 ¾ cups milk

12 oz Cool Whip (or homemade whipped cream)

gummy worms (optional)

In a food processor, crumble the cookies until finely ground and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar.  In another large bowl mix the instant pudding powder with the milk to create your pudding.  Add the pudding into the cream cheese mixture and stir to combine.  Fold in Cool Whip or whipped cream.  In a serving bowl (mine was a 2.75 quart Pyrex dish but I made a half recipe) layer cookie crumbs and pudding mixture, beginning and ending with cookie crumbs.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before servings, then store leftovers in the fridge.  If using gummy worms, add them just before serving, as they will get very hard if refrigerated.


Green Tea Financiers

I have something to confess.  I have a green tea powder (matcha) addiction.  I love the silky stuff and its earthy scent.  I love it in a teacup by itself, or in a plastic mug accompanied by tapioca pearls.  I love it in puddings, cakes, cookies; you name it, I’ve probably had it or would be very willing to try.

While I was in Japan, I had the pleasure of eating a green tea white chocolate bagel.  Note to self: figure out how to replicate it.  Unlike some sweets I burned myself out on while in Asia, like red bean paste or mochi, my love for green tea flavored baked goods has never wavered.

Maybe it’s because I invested in a one-pound bag of the powdery stuff, or maybe it’s because it is a timeless flavor that transcends cultural divides and is making its way into mainstream American baking culture.  At least, I think it is.

When I saw this recipe in Ready for Dessert, I was elated.  I am always hunting for more green tea recipes, more ways to incorporate that magic powder into my life and stomach.  Sadly, Luke is not really a green tea fan, so I have to limit myself.

These little cakes are perfect with tea, or as an afternoon snack or light dessert.  Or breakfast.  Or anytime really.

Green Tea Financiers

Adapted from Ready for Dessert

Makes 24 mini muffin sized cakes

2 teaspoons sesame seeds (white, or a mix of black and white)

1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt

2/3 cup sliced almonds

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons green tea powder (matcha)

¼ teaspoon baking powder

big pinch of salt

grated zest of ½ lemon

4 large egg whites

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 24-cup mini muffin tin.

In a small bowl, mix together the first two ingredients and sprinkle the muffin cups with two-thirds of the mixture.  Set the rest aside.

Pulverize the almonds, sugar, 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, the flour, green tea, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground.  Add the egg whites and butter and pulse until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed to ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared mini muffin tin, then sprinkle the tops with the remaining sesame salt mixture.  Rap the muffin tin on the counter once or twice to release any air pockets and level the batter.  Bake just until the financiers feel firm when gently pressed with a finger, about 12 minutes.

Let cool completely, then remove the financiers from the tin and enjoy!

 


Nutella Marshmallow Puffs

I probably jumped the gun in announcing the arrival of Izzy’s football apparel.  The minute I had the package in my hands, I was tearing it open and in her pen coaxing her over to inspect her new outfit.  She was surprisingly mellow and accommodating for an animal unaccustomed to regular clothing wear.

You’re probably wondering where all the pictures are.  Hey man, patience is a virtue.  While the shirt is amazingly adorable on her, I need to bust out my dusty sewing kit and do a few alterations.  Dog clothing is measure by length of back, and while Izzy and a Chihuahua might have the same size back…rabbit anatomy is a little different from a dog’s.

While dogs have more proportional front and hind legs to support their loping stride, rabbits don’t.  They hop, so they have little T-Rex like front legs compared to their massive kicking back legs.  We forgot about that.  Her tiny arms kinda got lost in the sleeves and ended up coming out all sorts of strange places, or getting stuck inside the shirt.  So I’m going to sew the sleeves up and make the shirt more or less sleeveless.  6th grade Home Ec don’t fail me now.

Moving on to the foods.  I bought a package of puff pastry on a whim one day, and had no idea what to do with it until I saw this recipe.  Apparently you can make it from scratch, but I am so not ready to handle that much butter at once.  Maybe some day.

Until then, I’ll keep buying it when I notice it’s on sale and wait for recipe inspiration like this.

Nutella Marshmallow Puffs

Adapted from Picky Palate

Makes 16 puffs

1 package puff pastry, 2 pastry sheets thawed

1 cup Nutella

1 cup mini marshmallows

1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water

turbinado sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut each square of pastry into 4 equal size pieces, then halve each piece diagonally.  You should end up with 16 triangle shaped pieces.  Spread a couple tablespoons of Nutella spread onto the center of each pastry leaving 1/2 inch border around edges.  Top each with about 6 or 7 mini marshmallows and fold over to form a littler triangle.  Crimp edges firmly with the tines of a fork.  Brush with egg white wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 22-25 minutes or until pastry just turns golden.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.


Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Last Monday marked my third office birthday.  This time I worked off of a request from the birthday girl: strawberry shortcake, but with chocolate shortcakes replacing the traditional vanilla.

Since I have 20+ sweet teeth to tickle, my first thoughts jumped to a layer cake similar to the black forest cake I made, except with strawberries instead of cherries.

But that seemed too repetitive.  So I went the shortcake route instead.  Strawberry shortcake is an extremely versatile dessert.  The cake base can be pound cake, angelfood cake, sponge cake, the list goes on.  I wanted something lighter than pound cake, but I didn’t want it to float away either.

 I ended up making sweet chocolate biscuits, filled with strawberry whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  It was worth it, even though I felt a twinge of guilt buying strawberries at the end of November.

It went over well I think….since they disappeared before the birthday celebration dispersed.  Normally there are some leftovers for people to pick at for the rest of the afternoon, but these shortcakes were gone.  I managed to snag a bite from Luke’s portion.  And they were good.  Adding mini chocolate chips was definitely the way to go.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes 8 shortcakes

For the Shortcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1-½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cups cold butter (half a stick), cubed

1 ounce semi sweet chocolate, cut into chunks*

⅔ cups cold milk

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

*I weighed out 1 oz of mini chocolate chips.  Regular size chips would work too.  If you don’t have a kitchen scale, I small handful will do.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper/silicon mat and set aside. In a large bowl, stir all dry ingredients together. Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your fingers!), break up butter until a coarse texture forms and there are little chunks of butter throughout. Stir in chocolate chunks and milk. Drop by the spoonful onto the prepared pan. Bake 10-14 minutes. Cool completely before topping with strawberries and cream.  I added another half to this recipe and got 14 shortcakes.

 For the Strawberry Whipped Cream:

Adapted from Naturally Ella

1 1/2 cups diced strawberries

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Whisk the heavy cream and sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until it thickens.  Fold in the strawberry puree, being careful not to flatten the whipped cream.  I doubled this recipe to account for all the desserts I was making.

Cut chocolate biscuits in half horizontally and fill with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.