Gooseberry Jam

July 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Posted in breakfast things, jams & preserves, sweet things | 7 Comments
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gooseberry jam

In honour of the Royal Baby, I’ve whipped up something that I think of as very British– gooseberry jam.  Gooseberries are high in pectin, so they’re ideal for jamming.  Also, when my CSA gave them to me last weekend, I really couldn’t think of anything else to do with them.

I had just two half-pints of gooseberries, so I weighed what I had and scaled down the recipe below accordingly.  Even though I had a mix of red and green berries, the jam took on a brilliant rosy color as it bubbled away.  My little batch cooked quickly, and gave me a pint of jam plus a smidge extra (that’s what’s left in the pot).  A raw gooseberry packs a tart punch, but this jam has a great sweet-tart balance and just a hint of vanilla.  Maybe I’ll fold it into whipped cream for a fool or a trifle.  That is, if we don’t eat it all on our morning crumpets.

Did you know that “gooseberry” is British slang for what we call “third wheel”?  Interesting.

Gooseberry Jam– makes about four 1/2-pint jars
adapted from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant

Steph’s Notes:  This is a pretty small batch of jam– small enough that I personally would just store the jars in the fridge and not bother to water bath process them.  You can certainly process them to extend shelf life, though, if you choose.  New boxes of Ball jars come with instructions on how to do this, or you can find great tutorials online (like this one).

If you have trouble telling if your jam is done, you can pop a small plate into the freezer to chill.  Spoon a teaspoon of the  fruit mixture onto the cold plate and allow to set for 30 seconds. Tip the plate 45 degrees to one side; jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly.  If mixture is liquid and runs quickly down the plate, return the jam to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, 2-5 minutes longer; then repeat the test.

907 g (about 6 cups) whole gooseberries, topped and tailed
282 g (about 1 2/3 cups) sugar
14 g (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) lemon juice
1 vanilla bean (seeds only)

-In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the gooseberries, sugar and lemon juice.  Cover with the lid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Remove the lid once the mixture is simmering and stir in the vanilla bean seeds.  Continue to cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, for about 15 minutes.  Skim off any scum that rises to the surface of the jam during the cooking process.

-You’ll notice some changes in the fruit mixture as it reaches gelling stage.  These changes are subtle, but as the jam starts to set, you’ll feel your spoon “drag” on the bottom of the pot when you stir, and the boiling bubbles will slow (similar to candy making).   Also, when you hold your spoon up, the liquid will run off the side of it in thick, heavy drops.  If you are uncertain, use the cold plate test described in the above notes.

-Spoon or funnel the jam into four clean 1/2-pint jars (even though I don’t water-bath process small batches of jam, I still like to carefully pour boiling water over the jars, lids, funnel and metal spoon before using them, or have them fresh from the dishwasher), leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top.  Close the jars and let the jam cool to room temperature.  Store the jam in the refrigerator for several months.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Baked Yogurt Tart

July 2, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments
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baked yogurt tart

Leslie Mackie ‘s Baked Yogurt Tart was one that I was rooting for in this month’s recipe nominations.  The combination of fruit and yogurt in a pie crust sounded pretty good to me!

Instead of using berries for my tart, I pitted some of the sweet cherries I got from my CSA.  I see now that I could have squeezed lots more cherries in there…I’ll keep that in mind when I make this again (which may be for this weekend’s BBQ with the in-laws).  Also, I left the chopped almonds off my tart and added in a little almond extract instead.

The recipe says to bake it till brown on top.  Mine took the full baking time but was nowhere near golden brown afterwards.  I didn’t want to overbake it and since I could tell the custard was set, I just went ahead and took it out.  When cut, this tart held its shape and reminded me of a cheesecake.  I actually thought the filling could be a tad softer– I’m not sure if it was the thick Greek yogurt I used, or if the amount of flour used to thicken the filling could be reduced a bit (3/4 cup is a lot of flour!).  I may fiddle with a couple of things next time I make this, but, all in all, it’s a tasty spin on a summer fruit tart.

baked yogurt tart

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here, and there’s a video, too).   Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Roasted Strawberries

June 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Posted in jams & preserves, other sweet, sweet things | 13 Comments
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roasted strawberries

I’m not too crazy about strawberries in baked goods.  Baked strawberries turn pale and sad.  Roasted strawberries, on the other hand, are vibrant and intense.  We’ve been roasting strawberries at work over the last couple weeks (it’s actually a great way to save berries that are on the verge, so to speak, or were never that great to begin with), and I thought I’d take the concept home with me.

This is a super easy process that you can multiply or fiddle with.  Strawberries and a sprinkle sugar are all that’s needed, but I added a dash of cassis to mine as well.  A fairly hot oven does its magic, and in about half an hour you have a tray of deep red, syrup coated jewels.

Stir these into your morning yogurt or use them as a topping for ice cream (buttermilk ice cream would be even more amazing topped with these, as would vanilla malted).  And mixed in with fresh strawberries in a shortcake–forget about it.

roasted strawberries

Roasted Strawberries

Steph’s Note:  This is more of a process than a recipe.  Adjust amounts depending on your quantity of berries.  Although I probably wouldn’t bother to fire up the oven on a hot day for less than a quart of strawberries, this will multiply no problem.   

a quart of strawberries (bigger ones halved or quartered, tiny ones left whole)
a couple spoons of sugar (white, raw or vanilla are all good)
 optional splash of flavoring (like vanilla, balsamic vinegar, cassis or Grand Marnier)

-Preheat your oven to 400°F.

-Put the strawberries on a sheet tray, or in a cake pan or a small metal roaster.  Use something where they fit in a single layer, but don’t have too much extra empty space where juices will just burn.  Sprinkle over the sugar…you only need enough to lightly coat them, as the sweetness will intensify as they roast.

-Roast for about 15 minutes, and then give the berries a gentle stir to coat them with the liquid they’ve released.  Continue to roast until the strawberries are deeply red and the juice is syrupy, almost beginning to caramelize.  This will probably take another 15-20 minutes.  Add in your splash of flavoring.  Done….you can store them in the fridge for a several days.

Buttermilk Ice Cream

June 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Posted in ice creams & frozen, sweet things | 13 Comments
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buttermilk ice cream

We’re in the summer swing here, and I’m starting to see some good-looking fruit at the farmers’ markets.  The first nice strawberries had me digging through my cookbook collection (I’m not a gardener) the other week for some fresh fruit inspiration.  Who wants to turn on the oven, especially in a house with no A/C?  What wound up catching my eye didn’t actually involve fresh fruit, but was something to go with it…Buttermilk Ice Cream.  It had been a while since I’d made ice cream at home and I happened to have some extra-special “real” buttermilk that I thought I’d paid too much for to hide in a baked good.  The gentle sweet tang of this ice cream is the prefect partner for simply sliced berries or peaches.  Don’t get me wrong, it’ll also be *stellar* with strawberry-rhubarb double crisp or  blueberry-nectarine pie.  Oh, and a strawberry-buttermilk milkshake…try that out, too.

I like to store my homemade ice cream in a restaurant-style 1/6 pan with a snap-on lid.  Freeze the empty stainless steel container while the ice cream is churning, and you’ll be good to go!

buttermilk ice cream

Buttermilk Ice Cream (makes about a quart)
adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

1 1/2 heavy cream 
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 
 5 large egg yolks (you could use up to 9 yolks- the more the richer)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or half a vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch of salt
about 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (optional; helps keep ice cream scoopable)

-In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar (and the vanilla bean seeds and pod, if using) and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

-In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  You want it to look lightened.

-Remove the cream mixture from the heat and slowly drizzle about half the warm liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

-Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (if you are using a thermometer, this should be about 175-180°F).  Vigorously whisk in the xanthan gum, if using.  Strain the mixture and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla extract (if not using a bean), and salt.

-Cool completely over an ice bath. Then refrigerate several hours or overnight before churning in an ice cream machine according manufacturer’s directions.  Transfer to a container for freezer storage.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

May 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments
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fresh rhubarb upside-down cake

Ummm…hello?  It’s been radio silent here on this blog for almost a month.  How embarrassing, but I just haven’t been baking much lately.  We went to the beach (and didn’t want to come back).  Then when we did come back, I was given what I can only assume was a punishment schedule at work for having taken vacation time.  But, now I’m back in the game, and with rhubarb no less!

I tried really hard to find local rhubarb to make Johanne Killeen’s Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake.  I feel like it should be around these parts by now, but after striking out at three different farmers’ markets, I stopped wasting my time (and MetroCard swipes) and just got a few stalks from the grocery.

This recipe is intended to make several little baby cakes, but I just baked it off as one big mama in a cast iron skillet.  It wasn’t super goopy so it wasn’t too scary to flip out of the skillet.  Dark brown sugar gives this upside-down topping real character, and crème fraiche makes the cake batter extra tender.  I threw a splash of vanilla into the batter, too, which maybe wasn’t totally necessary since it wasn’t called for in the recipe…and since I had vanilla ice cream with it anyway…but whatevs.

I can see this also being a tasty base recipe for stone fruit or even mango upside-down cake.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Erin’s When in Doubt…Leave it at 350.  It’s also here.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Banana Layer Cake (with your favorite frosting)

April 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 12 Comments
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banana layer cake

I am a master procrastinator.  I should be spring cleaning my disaster of a closet right now.  Instead, I am blogging about cake…a cake that I made two days ago, when I was also off work and also should have been spring cleaning my closet.  Housekeeping gives me the blues, but cake makes me happy!

I always buy too many bananas at once, so I have this perpetual stash of them in my freezer, waiting to be turned into smoothies or baked with.  Although I want to make every single thing in the book Vintage Cakes, I figured I’d start with a cake that would put some of those bananas to use.  I’ve made one, no two, banana layer cakes here before, so forgive me if I seem like I’m repeating myself.  They’re all good….moist, and most definitely cake and not banana bread.

I think banana cake is a good match for lots of frostings…cream cheese, chocolate, peanut butter.  I didn’t use the coffee walnut buttercream that is paired with this cake in the book.  Instead I frosted it with some leftover chocolate frosting that I brought home from work a couple months ago and stuck in the freezer.  It’s actually too sweet for my tastes, and isn’t a recipe I’d make at home (which is why I’m not providing it below), so I had to temper that sweetness a bit by rewhipping it with a little cream cheese and some instant espresso.  OMG, wait–I used bananas and frosting from the freezer…doesn’t that mean I did some spring cleaning after all?

Banana Layer Cake- makes an 8″ three-layer cake, serving 8-12
adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Steph’s Note:  I halved the recipe to make 6″ rounds.  They took a little less time to bake, about 24 minutes.  Frost it with your favorite frosting.

2½ cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup (8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature

-Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease three 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment circles.

-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda, then whisk them together.  In a small bowl or a measuring cup, combine the banana with the buttermilk.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together on high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and the paddle with a rubber spatula.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the four.  After each addition scrape the bowl well.  Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula.

-Divide the thick batter equally among the prepared pans, and tap the pans on the counter to settle.

-Bake until the centers spring back when lightly touched, 28 – 30 minutes.

-Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Flip them out and let them continue to cool on the rack, top side up, until they reach room temperature.  Leave the parchment paper on until you assemble the cake.

-Fill and frost with your favorite frosting.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

March 19, 2013 at 1:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 20 Comments
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mocha chocolate chip cookies

I don’t think Rick Katz’s Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies are meant to be a before bed treat.  These are zippy!  Two to three tablespoons of instant coffee and a pound of chocolate may just keep you wired.  Too be honest, you could back off a bit on either of those and you’d still have a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

My dough looks dark compared to some others I saw online.  Maybe it’s because I used instant espresso instead of coffee, or because I used Billington’s molasses sugar (which is a bit stronger than regular dark brown sugar).  Anyway, I liked these a lot.  Pre-scooping the dough and then baking them straight from the fridge or freezer helps keep the cookies from spreading too much.  While I left out the suggested apricots, I used a mix of dark, milk and white chocolates because I’m crazy like that.  Also, ice cream–well, you can see what I did there.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Peggy’s Galettista Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Croissants (& Pains au Chocolat)

March 5, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, general pastry, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 27 Comments
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croissants (& pains au chocolat)

TWD’s crossing a biggie off the list this week– Esther McManus’s Croissants.  This probably qualifies as the most technically complicated recipe we’ve made so far.  Like puff pastry and Danish, croissants are made from a butter-laminated, or layered, dough.  This means a block of butter is encased in dough and repeatedly rolled and folded to create layers that puff in the oven (and flake in your mouth!).  Once you get over butter-shock, it’s really fun to make this kind of dough, and if you give someone a homemade croissant they will be seriously impressed by your talents.  Cool weather helps when making the dough, and so does leaving yourself plenty of time to let it rest in between rolls and folds.

I could not resist turning half my dough into pains-au-chocolat.  Dangerously good–now I remember why I don’t allow myself to buy them!  Next time I make croissant dough (that’ll be awhile since I still have like fifteen p-au-c formed in the freezer), I’ll definitely prep almond-filled ones.  Would have done it this time, but as usual I procrastinated and didn’t get it together to make the filling.  Also, I’ll cut my croissant triangles a bit bigger.  I wound up with ones that were only slightly larger than minis and I associate mini croissants with conference room party platters.  Although these were much better (and flakier) than any office-croissants I’ve ever had, and here’s proof…

croissants (& pains au chocolat)

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Amanda’s Girl+Food=Love. There’s even a video of Esther and Julia making the tart together).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

P.S.: For something totally unrelated, enter my BOOK GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a copy of Breakfast for Dinner.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Boca Negra

February 19, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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boca negra

This Boca Negra isn’t the first super chocolaty cake I’ve made courtesy of Lora Brody.  Really though, this one is more like baked pudding than cake– it’s almost flourless, so it doesn’t really have a crumb.  It’s silky smooth, dense and at room temperature just barely holds shape (seriously, I destroyed the first piece I tried to lift up).  And has a good amount of booze to boot…the recipe calls for bourbon, but I used dark rum.

I made this in the food processor, rather than by hand.  It took barely any effort, and even less time, to make the batter.  I decided to cut back on the butter by a couple of ounces, figuring that it had enough chocolate, sugar, liquor and eggs to still be ultra luxe.  Along those same lines, I skipped the white chocolate cream that goes along with this one and just used plain, unsweetened whipped cream instead.  It helped cut the richness just a bit.  While the recipe recommends enjoying this at room temp, we really liked it about 15 minutes out of the refrigerator, when each piece was like a slice of the most decadent fudge.

I’ll make this again as an easy answer to a special occasion.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or read Cathy’s A Frederick Food Garden.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake

February 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 11 Comments
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Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  A perfect excuse to make something sweet and pink, not that I really need one.  I never need an excuse to make a Bundt either– I just love them!  This Cranberry Crème Fraîche Bundt Cake seemed like just the right treat to make this year.  I know that cranberry season is gone, but if you’re like me, you bought a couple of extra bags during the holidays and threw them in the freezer.  When there’s not a lot of good fruit around, this comes in handy.

This cake uses a lush ingredient–crème fraîche.  You can make your own, but I just buy it.  It’s pretty easy to find now, even at TJ’s.   The crème fraîche gives the cake great structure and texture.  It also helps make it a great keeper.  The pockets and swirls of tasty cranberry sauce inside the cake ensure that each slice just as pretty as the uncut Bundt.  I liked the little bit of almond flavoring in the cake as well, but I’m sure it would be great without if you don’t have the extract or you avoid nuts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  xoxo

Don’t want cake, try coeur à la crème.

Cranberry crème fraîche bundt cake

Cranberry Crème Fraîche- makes 10 to 12 servings
adapted from Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil by Christie Matheson

Steph’s Note:  I buy my crème fraîche at the grocery store, but you can certainly make your own.  To do this, you’ll want to start at least a day before making this cake, and you’ll need 2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk.  Combine the heavy cream with the buttermilk, cover tightly, and let sit at room temperature (in a warm room) for at least 8 hours. Stir the mixture– if it hasn’t thickened completely, cover the mixture again and let it sit in a warm place for another 2 to 3 hours and check it again. When it has a nice, thick consistency, it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus melted butter for greasing the pan
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup (240 ml) crème fraîche
Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce (recipe follows) or 2 cups (450 g) canned whole berry-cranberry sauce
Cranberry Glaze (recipe follows)
1/2 cup (45 g) chopped toasted almonds or toasted almond slivers

-Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/gas 4). Brush the inside of a 10-cup (2.4 L) Bundt pan with the melted butter and dust it lightly with flour and tap out the excess.

-Whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

-With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture (in three increments) alternately with the crème fraîche (in two increments), beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until just combined.

-Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Swirl half the cranberry sauce over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the cranberry sauce, and then swirl the remaining cranberry sauce over the batter.  I tried my best to more or less keep the sauce from touching the sides of the pan and tube, just so there wouldn’t be any sticking. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out free of wet batter.

-Swiftly rap the pan on the counter once or twice right after pulling it from the oven…this will help the cake settle and release.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let it cool completely. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the almonds over the top.  The cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Whole Berry-Cranberry Sauce (you can use 2 cups of a nice, canned whole cranberry sauce instead if you’d like)

12 ounces (340 g) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup (180 ml) water 
3/4-1 cup (150-200 g) granulated sugar, depending on sweetness preference 
1/4 teaspoon salt

-In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries with the water, sugar, and salt and cook for about 15 minutes (after about 10 minutes, remove about 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the cranberry glaze), or until the sauce has thickened and most of the liquid has reduced. Let the sauce cool completely before using it in the cake (you will need about 2 cups of sauce for the cake, so you may have a bit extra). The sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cranberry Glaze 

1 cup (93 g) confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (reserved from making the cranberry sauce)

-Mix the confectioners’ sugar and 1-2 tablespoons cranberry juice (depending on your desired thickness) in a small bowl until smooth.

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