dessert

Fresh Raspberry Crumb Cake

Raspberry Crumb Cake

I picked up some beautiful local raspberries the other day. I love just eating them fresh, but I also wanted to do something more with them. I decided to bake this crumb cake.

The cake is delicate and not too sweet. The crumb topping really makes it special. It stands on its own, but is also good served with a drizzle of melted chocolate, some extra berries, or a scoop of ice cream. This cake always makes me think of the raspberries I grew up with.

When I was a kid, we had a patch of raspberries in the back of the yard. It was always a special treat to go out on a summer day and harvest raspberries, warm from the sun. We did lose berries to birds and squirrels and it became my Father’s mission to save as many berries as he could. When we got a new dog, my Dad was sure berry theft would go down. Oddly, we seemed to be getting even fewer berries. One day, my Mom caught the dog eating raspberries right off the plants. Mystery solved.

I have made this cake with frozen berries, too. Either works, but I give the cake a few extra minutes to bake when I use frozen berries.

Raspberry Crumb Cake

For cake batter:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ stick (¼ cup) butter, softened
¾ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla
2 cups raspberries – I like fresh but frozen work
For topping:
½ c. sugar
¼ c. flour
½ t. cinnamon
½ stick (¼ c. butter, chilled and cut into bits)

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, sour cream and vanilla. Add flour mixture gradually until just mixed in. Fold in raspberries. Grease and flour an 8 or 9-inch pan and add prepared batter. Combine topping ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter in pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. Use toothpick to test.

Cherry Bombs

Cherry Bombs

These little treats make a great addition to your 4th of July party. They are simple to make, with only three ingredients.  You can make them in no time at all. It is a fun treat for kids to make, too.

Think of the cherry bombs as a type of candy. A simple, sweet treat that can be served just as they are. They can also be used to top a cake or other dessert. You can even garnish a cocktail with them. I did the same thing with strawberries, but “strawberry bombs” did not have the same ring to it.

 

To make the cherry bombs, you will need cherries, white chocolate and blue sugar. If you don’t have blue sugar, you can put granulated sugar in a bag, add a few drops of blue food coloring, seal the bag and shake it up. The sugar will turn blue. You could also use blue sprinkles.

Wash and dry off some large, sweet cherries. Melt white chocolate, stirring until smooth. Dip the cherries in the white chocolate, then the blue sugar. Place on wax paper to firm up. Store in fridge.

Cherry and Almond Sorbet

Cherry and Almond Sorbet

I love all sorts of sorbets. I make them all year long, but I seem to make more when summer arrives. The basic recipe is simple –  just pureed fruit, some sweetener and usually, some flavoring or herb, to add interest. They are so light and refreshing. The perfect dessert for summer.

So far I have make sorbet from pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries (with red grapes), peaches, cranberries and coconut. I am sure I have forgotten some of them.

I picked up fresh cherries at the market, so I could make cherry sorbet.

Fresh cherries are one of my favorite fruits of all time. I love both sweet and sour cherries. For the sorbet, I just pitted a pound of cherries, added sugar and some lemon juice. It needed a little something more- so I added almond extract. Really worked well with the cherries.

So here is the recipe. Simple and sweet.

Cherry Almond Sorbet

1 lb. cherries, pitted

3/4 c. sugar, or to taste*

3 T. lemon juice – it helps the cherries retain their color

1 t. almond extract

Place cherries in blender or food processor, with the sugar and extract. Blend until smooth. Adjust sweetener to suit your taste. Place in a container with a lid and freeze. Once mixture is frozen, remove from the freezer, break into chunks and place in food processor. Process until mixture looks creamy and smooth. You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Eat or return to freezer until ready to use. Makes just over a quart of sorbet.

*Feel free to use other sweeteners you like in place of the sugar. Honey or maple syrup would both work nicely.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Fresh Strawberry Cupcake

I just don’t get tired of strawberries. Maybe because the season for local berries is so short- and sweet. Local strawberries are at all the markets now- and they are fabulous. The season for local berries is short and I try to use them as much as I can. I also will freeze some for use throughout the year.

I was making cupcakes for some friends and decided to make some with strawberries. As you might expect, they were a big hit. The berries add sweetness and color in a delicate, natural way. You could also  make these with frozen berries. I like to get extra strawberries and freeze some, so I will have them, even when the season is over.

 

Strawberry Cupcakes

2/3 cup whole fresh strawberries

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg whites, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside. Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing. Makes 12.

Strawberry Frosting

1/2 cup whole fresh strawberries or frozen strawberries, thawed

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold

Pinch of coarse salt

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not over-mix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream. Makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes.

Strawberry Waffles

Strawberry Waffles

These waffles would make a great breakfast. We actually had them for dessert last night. That’s the thing about waffles. They can be eaten any time of the day.

I have been enjoying fresh strawberries in everything!!! The season for local berries is pretty short, so I try to enjoy them as much as possible, while I can.

This waffle recipe came about because I needed a dessert for dinner with a friend. It was a last minute dinner, so I didn’t have a lot of time. Waffles seemed like a great idea. They don’t take a lot of time to make, and  they highlighted the berries. My friend really liked them. I did, too.

I made the waffles with fresh strawberries in the batter. Then, the  waffles are served topped with more fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar.

They were a perfect dessert. I could see topping them with ice cream or whipped cream, too. Any leftover waffles can be frozen.

For the fresh strawberry topping, you just combine fresh, sliced berries with some sugar. If you can make it ahead of time, the sugar draws juice out of the strawberries, kind of making its own sauce. I made the topping first, then popped in the fridge.

So here is my recipe. Enjoy!!

 

Strawberry Waffles

 

1 1/3 c. flour

2 T. sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 t. cinnamon

½ t. salt

2 eggs, separated

½ c. butter, melted

1¾ c. milk

2 t. vanilla

1 c. chopped fresh strawberries

 

Powdered sugar for topping waffles

Strawberry topping- recipe follows

 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. Set aside. Separate the eggs. Set aside the yolks. Place the whites in a small mixing bowl. Beat whites until moderately stiff; set aside.  Combine milk, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla in small bowl. Add to dry ingredient mixture and blend. Stir in berries. Fold stiff egg whites into mixture. Ladle mixture into hot waffle iron and bake. To serve, top with powdered sugar and strawberry topping. Makes 10-12 (4-inch) waffles.

 

Topping

1 qt. strawberries

½ c. sugar- or to taste

 

Wash and stem berries. Slice berries. Place in bowl and sprinkle on the sugar. Stir to combine and place in fridge until ready to use. Try to do this at least 30 minutes before using. That will give the mixture time for juice to be released from the berries.

Strawberry Chocolate Cheesy Pie

Strawberry Chocolate Cheesy Pie

This pie has it all. Fresh strawberries, glazed and sitting on a flaky crust. But it doesn’t stop there. The crust is topped with chocolate and a layer of sweetened cream cheese. The chocolate and cheese are under the berries. They provide a wonderful surprise when eating the pie.

The chocolate is such a natural match for the strawberries. The cream cheese gives a little “cheesecake” feel.  In the end, the combination works perfectly together.

During strawberry season, I enjoy so many different dishes made with fresh berries. Fresh strawberry pie is always going to be a favorite. I try to make different versions and this one was definitely a version I will make again.

Strawberry Cheesy Chocolate Pie

 

1 9-inch pie crust * recipe follows

1 c. chocolate chips

1 T. butter

1 qt. strawberries (1¼ lbs.), hulled

1 c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

¼ c. water

1 T. butter

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

½ c. powdered sugar

Whipped cream, optional

 

Using a pie pan, roll out your crust and fit it into the pan- trim off any excess. Pre-bake your crust. To do this: The prepared pie crust should be pricked all over with a fork. Cover the surface with foil and then pie weights. I use dry beans for my pie weights. Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees. Bake crust for 15-20 minutes. Check to be sure it doesn’t get too brown. Remove weights and foil. Melt chocolate chips and butter together, stirring until smooth. Pour over crust and use a spatula to spread into a thin layer on the bottom and, if you like, up the sides of the crust. Set aside and allow crust to cool and chocolate to set up. Select about 25-30 berries to be placed in pie crust, large side down, and set aside. You might need fewer berries, if they are really big. Puree or crush remaining berries. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch with water and stir until smooth. Add to the strawberry mixture and cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and gets clear. Simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Set aside. Place cream cheese in a bowl and beat in the powdered sugar. Spread cheese over the chocolate layer. Arrange the reserved berries on the cheese layer, pointy side up. Put the largest berry in the middle and arrange the rest around it decoratively. Spoon the puree over the berries and allow the pie to cool down a little before putting in the fridge. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Note: other berries can also be used including raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, or a combination. This recipe can also be used as a filling for tarts and tartlets.

 

Half and Half Dough*

 

This is a great crust for liquid fillings like custard type pies and fresh fruit pies.

¼ c. butter, room temp

½ c. shortening, room temp- you can use lard instead, or chilled coconut oil

¼ c. sugar

½ t. salt

2½ c. pastry or all purpose flour

1/8 t. baking powder

¼ c. milk

1 t. lemon juice

Cream together the first 4 ingredients until smooth. Mix together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. Combine milk with the juice and set aside. Stir ½ c. of the flour into butter mixture. Stir until smooth. Add a little of the milk, stirring until smooth. Add remaining ingredients alternately until finished. Dough will firm up once chilled. Chill at least 4 hours before using. Makes 2 crusts. You only need half the dough for the strawberry pie.

Strawberry Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes with Strawberries

Since strawberries are in season, I am sharing a lot of my favorite strawberry recipes.  This is one of my favorites. The chocolate crepes pair so nicely with the fresh berries.

If you haven’t made crepes, this might be just the reason to start. I often make a double batch of the crepes, then freeze some, between layers of wax paper. That way I can have crepes whenever I want.

Truth is, you can fill these crepes with all sorts of stuff. I had fresh berries, so that is what I used. I added some Kahlua to the batter for a little extra flavor and it worked out just great.

You can have all the components ready, then just assemble when ready to serve. Such a lovely dessert.

 

Here is the recipe.

Chocolate Crepes

1 c. flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
¼ c. cocoa
3 T. sugar
¼ c. Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur or ¼ c. strong coffee
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled

Mix all ingredients in blender (except butter) until smooth, scraping sides often. Add butter and blend well. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or batter can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 1 tablespoon of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 18.

Strawberry filling: I just sliced a couple of pounds of berries and added a little sugar- about ½ cup- a tablespoon of vanilla and a healthy dash of cinnamon.
When filling the crepes I spooned some berries down the center of the crepe and added some whipped cream. Folded over, topped with a few berries and another bit of whipped cream.

Homemade Chocolate Eclairs

Homemade Mini Chocolate Eclairs

If you want to surprise someone with a very special sweet treat, you could make eclairs. These are a bit or work, but the end result is so wonderful. I think they are worth the effort, especially for special occasions.

I decided to make a mini version this time. Not everyone wants to eat a full size eclair, especially after a big meal.

You start by make a pate a chou, or cream puff pastry. This is the same dough used to make cream puffs. It is a combination of water, butter, milk and flour- cooked on top of the stove, then enriched with the addition of eggs. The dough is piped onto baking sheets and baked until puffed, golden and crisp. Once cooled, they are filled with sweetened whipped cream or, more traditionally, a custard filling, then topped with chocolate ganache.

 

Homemade Mini Eclairs

1 recipe Cream Puff Pastry (Pate a Chou)- recipe follows
Egg custard- for filling, or sweetened whipped cream- recipe follows
Chocolate Ganache- for topping- recipe follows

Start by making the dough. This recipe will make 12-18 medium eclairs or 3 dozen of the mini ones.

Cream Puff Pastry

¾ c. water
¼ c. milk
¼ t. salt
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1¼ c. flour – unbleached or bread flour preferred
4 large eggs
Extra milk for brushing

In saucepan, heat together water, milk butter and salt into a full boil. Butter has to be melted. While stirring, dump flour into saucepan, stirring constantly. Mixture will form into a ball. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking dough, while stirring, for another minute or two. Place dough in an electric mixer and allow it to cool down a little before adding the eggs. Mixture has to be at 140 degrees F, or below, before you start adding the eggs. I use the paddle attachment and beat the dough before adding the eggs. This cools the dough down faster. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat until dough is shiny. A spoon, lifted out of the batter, should leave a peak that does not fall down.

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. I used a silicone liner and was happy with the result. Don’t grease the pan. Using a piping bag, squeeze the dough into 2-3-inch strips on the baking sheet- leaving a little room in between. Strips should be about ¾ -inch in diameter. Using a little milk on your finger, smooth down any peaks on the puffs. They should resemble miniature hot dog buns. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 375. Bake eclairs 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. Tap the shells. They should sound hollow. Turn off the heat and leave oven door open a crack, allowing them to dry completely. Cool before filling. Makes about 36.

Custard Filling

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1⁄3 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Using a whisk, combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stove top. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan. Remove milk mixture from heat, preferably to a burner that’s turned off.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs into milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking milk mixture constantly. Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil. (If you find that you have egg white strands in custard, feel free to pass it through a fine-mesh sieve into a different bowl now.) Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool before using. Makes 3 cups.

To fill the eclairs, using a small piping tip with a pastry bag, filled with the custard. Squeeze filling in on one end, on through the bottom, squeezing until it seems full.

Once eclairs are filled, top with a chocolate ganache. I just dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm ganache and chill until chocolate sets. Filled eclairs should be stored i8n fridge until ready to serve. They can be frozen.

Chocolate Ganache

4- 6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped- or 1 cup chocolate chips
2 oz. heavy whipping cream

In saucepan, heat chocolate and cream together until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. You can also do this in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave for about a minute. Remove and stir until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

 

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes with Strawberries

If you are looking for a special dessert for Valentine’s Day, you might want to make these chocolate crepes. I love crepes and this recipe is one of my favorites. The chocolate crepes pair nicely with fresh berries.

If you haven’t made crepes, this might be just the reason to start.

I often make a double batch of the crepes, then freeze some, between layers of wax paper. That way I can have crepes whenever I want.

Truth is, you can fill these crepes with all sorts of stuff. I had fresh strawberries, so that is what I used. Ice cream would make a nice filling, too. A mix of berries would also be fun.

I added some Kahlua to the batter for a little extra flavor and it worked out just great.

 

 

Here is the recipe.

Chocolate Crepes

1 c. flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
¼ c. cocoa
3 T. sugar
¼ c. Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur or ¼ c. strong coffee
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled

Mix all ingredients in blender (except butter) until smooth, scraping sides often. Add butter and blend well. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or batter can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 1 tablespoon of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 18.

Strawberry filling: I just sliced a couple of cups of strawberries and added a little sugar- about 1/4 cup, a teaspoon of vanilla plus a dash of cinnamon.
When filling the crepes, I spooned some berries down the center of the crepe and added some whipped cream. Folded over, topped with a few berries and another bit of whipped cream.

Giant Peanut Butter Cup

Giant Peanut Butter Cup

If you are looking to make something special for Valentine’s Day this year, you might want to try your hand at making a giant peanut butter cup. It takes a bit of effort, but is not really hard to make.

I’ve made small ones in the past, so I knew the basic structure. Using a 10-inch tart pan offered different challenges, but I went ahead and gave it a try. I wasn’t worried about the components. I had good quality dark chocolate and peanut butter. I knew it would taste good. I wasn’t sure it would stay in one piece.

It worked, and here is the result. I used a pretty good amount of chocolate. You could probably use less, but I wanted the chocolate thick enough on the bottom the make it sturdy. I also used a slightly altered version of the filling I use when I make buckeyes. I am pleased with how it came out.

Here is how I did it.

 

 Giant Peanut Butter Cup

 

1- 1½ lbs. chocolate – I used a nice quality dark chocolate

1½ c. peanut butter

1 stick (½ cup )  butter, softened

2 ½ c. powdered sugar

2 t. vanilla

 

You will need a tart pan with a removable bottom. I used a 10-inch pan, but a 9- inch pan would work, too. Cover the removable bottom of the tart pan with wax paper. It will make it easier to get the thing out in one piece later. I cut out a square and just folded the extra wax paper under the pan and taped it down. Melt the chocolate and pour enough of it into the bottom of the tart pan that you can cover the bottom generously. Use a small spoon to push chocolate up the sides of the pan.

 

Now at this point you could just keep tipping the pan to get the chocolate evenly coated inside. I know my limitations. I just pictured myself dropping the pan of melted chocolate, so I used the spoon method instead. The important thing is that the entire inside gets a coating of chocolate. Place pan in fridge to cool and chocolate to set up. Meanwhile, in medium bowl mix peanut butter and butter together until well mixed. Stir in sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth. Spread this mixture over the chocolate shell. Don’t press too hard. You don’t want to break the shell. I will confess that before I added the peanut butter, I played around with loosening the chocolate shell. I was worried it would not come out later. After I added the peanut butter mixture, I put it back in the fridge to firm up. Once the peanut butter mixture was chilled, I melted the rest of the chocolate and poured it over the top.

 

I used a lot of chocolate in the base and needed to melt more chocolate than I originally planned on. I do think the thicker shell helped when it came time to get it out of the tart pan.

 

To remove the peanut butter cup- make sure it is completely hardened. I gently pulled at the sides all around the edges of the tart pan, to loosen it. Then I pushed up on the removable bottom of the pan. After a few gentle pushes, it came out. I had to trim a little chocolate off the bottom when removing the wax paper, but it helped in getting the peanut butter cup out in one piece.

Spread peanut butter mixture over chocolate shell

Spread peanut butter mixture over chocolate shell

Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter filling

Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter filling