Archive for June, 2010

summer berry shortcakes

This week we are on the road, exploring the coasts of southern Oregon and northern California.  I’ll post some pictures when I have some.

In the meantime, here’s this post about the most delicious little berry shortcakes I made last week after finding incredible boxes of raspberries and blackberries at Zupan’s.

A quick search through my baking cookbooks led me to this lovely book, Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, and a recipe for Buckwheat Shortcakes.  I couldn’t resist (and just happened to have some organic buckwheat flour in the pantry).  The cakes turned out perfectly — light and not the least bit chewy — and were the perfect complement for the tart berries.

Here’s the recipe.

buckwheat berry shortcakes
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert)

prepare the shortcakes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz) all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1.7 oz) buckwheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder (sift it if it is lumpy)
3/8 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
a little extra cream (the dregs from the bottom of the measuring cup are fine)
2 tablespoons coarse granulated sugar (or turbinado sugar)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with two layers of parchment paper (to protect the bottoms of the shortcakes from browning too fast).

In a large bowl thoroughly whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Make a well in the center and pour in the cream (reserve the measuring cup).  Use a rubber spatula to gently mix the dry ingredients into the cream, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough looks rough and shaggy.  Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently against the sides of the bowl five or so times until it just holds together and the bowl is fairly clean.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat it into a 6 inch square about ¾ of an inch thick.  Trim the edges, using a sharp knife and quick stokes so as not to compress the dough, for the best rise.  Cut the dough into nine squares.  Place biscuits at least one inch apart on the baking sheet.  Brush tops with the cream remaining in the measuring cup and sprinkle with the coarse granulated sugar.

Bake until the biscuit tops are golden brown, 12 – 15 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

prepare the filling
1 cup heavy whipping cream
sugar to taste
2 -2 ½ pints fresh ripe berries

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl, sweetening lightly to taste.

Sweeten berries with sugar to taste (if using strawberries, slice them first).

assemble the shortcakes
Slice each cake horizontally in half.  Place the bottom halves on serving plates and top each with  scoop of berries and a dollop of whipped cream.  Cover with the cake tops.  Serve!


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Now that berries are finally here I find myself coming home from the farmer’s market loaded down with more fruit than even I can eat.  The solution?  Make jam, and make it right away, before those berries get overripe.

How do I find the time to make jam?  I use my handy dandy bread machine!  Yes, my bread machine (an older version of this one) has a jam setting that makes jam-making easy and fun.

So far I’ve made two batches — strawberry (with amazing Hood strawberries, a particularly flavorful small berry that is only around for a few short weeks in the early part of the strawberry season) and raspberry.  Both were amazing, though if I had to choose, I’d give the raspberry a slight (very slight) edge.

The recipe is really easy and quick (one note — this only works in bread machines with a “jam” cycle).

Bread Machine Berry Jam
(adapted from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensberger)

3 cups fresh strawberries or raspberries
1 cup sugar
¾ package of Sure-Jell (or other powdered pectin)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (use more or less to taste)

If using strawberries, crush the berries roughly before adding them to the bread machine.  This step can be skipped with raspberries.

Put all of the ingredients into the pan of the bread machine and let them sit for about 15 minutes or until the the sugar begins to dissolve.

Set the Bread Machine on the JAM setting, push start, and let the machine do the work.

When the jam is ready, spoon it into canning jars, cover and refrigerate.  Your jam may be a bit runny at first; it will thicken as it cools.

These jams will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  You can also spoon jam into plastic bags and freeze if you want to keep it longer.

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Olive oil citrus cake

Several years ago I found a recipe for an Italian olive oil cake that became a regular dessert in our house.  It was a simple recipe that started with eggs, sugar, flour, orange juice and olive oil and ended as a dense, moist flavorful cake.  I used to serve it topped with whatever berries were in season.

Right now, at last, the strawberries are in season here (after a very long cool, wet spring) and I wanted to make another cake that would highlight the incredible taste of these little juicy berries.  So I searched for, and found, another olive oil cake recipe.

This one, from the same Rustic Fruit Desserts cookbook I wrote about here, is much lighter than the cake I used to make, but at least as good.  Instead of using orange juice, this recipe calls for the zest of a lemon, an orange and a grapefruit, and the only juice you add is in the glaze.

The cake is light and fresh tasting, and a perfect match for fresh berries, slightly macerated with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar.

Olive Oil Citrus Cake
(from Rustic Fruit Desserts)

1 ¼ cup unsifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon plus ¾ cup granulated sugar
zest of:  1 grapefruit, 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a paper towel, coat a 9-inch by 2-inch round baking pan with olive oil, then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together TWICE.

Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and zests on high speed for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are thickened and lighter in color.

Add the vanilla.  Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed and drizzle the olive oil into the batter, pouring slowly along the edge of the bowl.

Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden and slightly domed in the center.  Cool to room temperature.

¾ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (I used orange, the original recipe called for grapefruit)

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl.  Add the juice and whisk to combine.  Pour over the cooled cake.

This cake will keep, well-wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2-3 days.

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