May 29, 2021

Sour Cherry Pie


For the past few years it's been a family tradition to go cherry-picking in the month of May.  My parents literally live down the road from a u-pick farm which primarily grows the Coral Champagne and Tulare varieties.  There's nothing better than hand selecting the sweetest and firmest fruits right off the tree branches.  While the sweet cherries grown locally are perfect for snacking, when it comes to baked goods I prefer the sour variety.
At a springtime luncheon I hosted a few months ago a friend brought along a Sour Cherry Pie for dessert that was utterly delicious.  Unfortunately it's difficult to find fresh or fresh frozen sour cherries  in California and when I looked into having the frozen ones shipped from the Midwest or Washington state the costs were too exorbitant. 

Then I remembered seeing canned sour cherries at the supermarket, in the same location where the pie fillings were located.   I particularly like this brand because the fruit is packed in just water, no added sugar or other preservatives.  Using a Stella Parks filling recipe I added in sugar, tapioca starch, lemon juice and salt to the cherries.  When it came to the crusts of course I used my favorite one with vodka which guarantees the flakiest crust. 

I brought the pie to a recent Memorial Day barbecue and it got rave review from my family which aren't easy to come by.  Honestly, I wasn't sure how it would be received since I'd never made a sour cherry pie before but I was very happy with how much my family loved it.  Now that I know I can make cherry pie any time of the year this definitely will NOT be just a summertime dessert.

May 26, 2021

Strawberry Shortcake

Recently Kitchn did a taste test of four Strawberry Shortcake recipes and the winner came from culinary icon James Beard.  The recipe was actually his mother's and uses finely crumbled hard-boiled egg yolks to give the shortcake a rich and tender crumb.  I had a few baskets of freshly picked berries from my hometown in the San Joaquin Valley that were itching to be consumed.  No better time than the present to see if these shortcakes lived up to the hype.  
While the recipe calls for making the dough by hand I always find it's easiest to let a food processor do the hard work.  In my opinion the less you handle biscuit or pie dough the better.   As I was making the shortcakes I was reminded of British style scones.  The ingredients and techniques were actually quite similar, except the shortcakes used heavy cream instead of whole milk as the liquid.

One thing I could have done without was the hour long chill in the fridge once the dough rounds were cut.  I'm an impatient baker and would have preferred putting them in the oven straightaway.  [Maybe I'll try that next time.]  After fifteen minutes in a very hot oven the shortcakes came out beautifully golden brown.  Once cooled I split one open to have a taste.  I have to admit they did live up to their reputation.   The shortcake was rich in flavor and tender in texture.  I generous spoonful of lightly sweetened strawberry slices and a dollop of whipped cream was all that was needed for a delightful summertime dessert.

May 21, 2021

Blueberry Buckle


When it comes to sweet breakfast/brunch baked goods I usually make a traditional coffee cake, but I recently saw a picture of Blueberry Buckle and decided to give it the fruit-filled version a try.  I'd never made it before and the blueberries looked so inviting along with the streusel topping.  For the recipe I turned to my tried and true experts, Cook's Illustrated.  

Since there was no liquid ingredient like milk or buttermilk I was a bit concerned that the cake would turn out dense.  Boy, was I wrong.  While the batter is extremely thick the cake somehow turns out super light and moist.  Absolutely delicious!  In fact, I had two squares as soon as the buckle was cooled.  Yes, it's that good!  This will definitely be going into my breakfast and brunch repertoire. 

May 9, 2021

Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Cake


Strawberry season is finally here and I am loving it!  There's a farm stand up the road from where my parents live in the San Joaquin Valley that sells, in my opinion, the best strawberries. The ruby red, sweet fruit is picked fresh daily and sold to eagerly awaiting customers.  On a recent trip home I picked up a few baskets with the intent of making this Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Cake.  I'd seen it featured on King Arthur's website a while ago and bookmarked it to make when strawberries were in season. 

In appearance the cake looks very similar to the French fraisier.  What I particularly liked about this version was the use of sour cream in the cake batter and mascarpone cream in the whipped cream filling.  The slight tang from both these ingredients is a nice counterbalance to the sweetness from the strawberries.  

 The next time you have access to sweet berries I highly recommend you make this cake.  It's absolutely delicious!


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