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Comfort food- Old fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

3 Mar

We just moved halfway across the country, and I feel like I haven’t done anything but pack, unpack, clean, and organize. All the hard work has paid off though, and we are finally settling into our new home- which required a very expensive trip to the grocery store to stock up the kitchen. We are really, really, tired of eating out. I’m just really tired. So as badly as I have wanted to get back to baking and crafting and all the Becky-Home-Ec-y stuff I love, tonight’s dessert needed to just be simple.

To me the little spongecakes you buy from the supermarket are good, but they don’t stand up to the texture and density of a homemade shortcake. And they are way overpriced for what you get. I personally love this recipe not only because it’s what my mom made, but it uses Bisquick- which cuts out some of the time needed to measure out and mix dry ingredients. This recipe used to be on the box has disappeared, thank goodness for the internet.

2 1/3 c. Bisquick

3 tbsp. sugar

3 tbsp. melted butter

1/2 c. milk

Mix it together, and press evenly into a 8×8 pan

Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes

While that is baking up, rinse and slice up a bowl of strawberries. 2 pints from the store ends up being about 2 cups sliced. Add about 1/4c or so of sugar and toss. Cover and place in the fridge. The sugar helps draw out some of the juices from the berries, and you will want lots of juice for your shortcake.

When your shortcake is ever so slightly golden brown on top, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool down some. You could take it one step further and make some fresh whipped cream, but my kitchen is not yet organized to the point where I can find the whisk for my mixer. Fail. Good thing the quick mart down the road had some of the canned kind.

And there you have it. Super easy and super yummy dessert. My favorite dessert actually, kind of perfect.

Pie love : Martha’s Raspberry Genoise Tart

16 Jan

I am making my way through Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts (1985) trying to learn more about baking and pastries. The other day I attempted the Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie which came out looking beautiful, only for me to cut into a goopy unset lemon curd. I don’t  know what I did wrong, but will try again another day. I decided to pick a simpler recipe, and chose the Rasberry Genoise Tart. This turned out beautifully. And was delicious with my morning coffee.

So first things first, a “Pate Brisee” tart shell- otherwise known as basic pie shell.

I always start with cold ingredients: I prep it all then store in the fridge for an hour. The food processor makes pie dough super easy to make. I don’t know how my mom makes her pie dough without a food processor it seems like an impossible task.

Start with your flour, salt, and butter.

Crank that baby up until the mixture is blended well. Then slowly add some ice water until it all comes together.

It took me several tries over time to gauge how much water is needed for a perfect consistency in the crust. Not too dry or you will never be able to roll it out. Too wet, and its just a mess you have to chase with more flour and then it doesn’t taste right. On top of that, the humidity and temperature of your kitchen can throw things off too. But you’ll get the hang of it with practice.

Wrap up your dough in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour. It needs to relax.

Next roll it out, lay it in your tart pan, and don’t skip weighing it down with some aluminum foil and rice, or it will bubble up and get all weird.

This one only has to be partially baked, as it will finish baking once filled.

Like this:

The Genoise batter is super simple, and it calls for a splash of Framboise or Grand Marnier but I substituted Chambord. (Duh, Raspberry tart=Rasberry liquor) But this is where I hit a major snag; the recipe in the book does not say what temperature to bake the damn thing at. So I guessed and watched very carefully.

And this was the final product:

Success!! The crust was perfectly flaky and tender, the Genoise was light and buttery. A ring of fresh raspberries and sprinkling of powdered sugar topped it all off beautifully. Now to eat it, and pick the next recipe to try from this book. Maybe the Nectarine Galette? Or a Sugar Pie? Or a beautiful Apple Croustade? Yum.

Cupcakes! Champagne and Strawberries

11 Dec

I haven’t made cupcakes in a looooooong time, but I was asked to donate some for a fundraising auction at work so I got excited to try a new recipe. The auction winner chose Champagne and Strawberries, yum.

First things first, making the chocolate covered strawberries. I never use anything but Ghirardelli baking chocolates. It is one thing to splurge on, like real vanilla extract, pure cane powdered sugar, etc.

So start by setting up a double boiler- I fill a small saucepan halfway with water and set to boil. Then set a heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan. (Pyrex works great) You are supposed to chop up the chocolate, but I just break it up and put it in the bowl to melt.

I did 2 dozen small strawberries with just 6 oz of semisweet chocolate. Wash and dry the berries, dip in the melted chocolate, set onto a sheet of waxed paper to cool. Easy peasy. If you want to get really fancy, melt some white chocolate, and use a piping bag to drizzle it over the top.

Next I set out to make the cake part of the cupcakes. I’ve made a pink champagne cake before, so this was familiar. I tried a new recipe though, and modified it a tiny bit. It called for 7 egg whites, and 7 yolks- crazy. So I cut out 1 egg. The whites made a mountain of meringue. This was folded VERY carefully into some sugar, the egg yolks, vanilla, red food coloring, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and 3/4 cup sweet champagne. Then divided evenly into 36 lined muffin cups.

They are very light and fluffy, on account of all the egg whites. Which had me thinking about a lighter and fluffier frosting than just a basic ganache which the recipe called for. In December’s issue of Martha Stewart Living there was a whole article on ganache- including a whipped version. I thought it was brilliant, but it took forever to make. I thought it was just never going to whip up:

then boom- after about 7 minutes with the mixer it finally went from a very liquid state to a light airy mousse. This then went on the cupcakes like a frosting, and I topped them off with the chocolate strawberries. I even went and put them in nice bakery box.

 

And yes, that is a box with 24 cupcakes, when I made 36. I ate the other ones while testing out the champagne glaze v.s straight champagne brushed onto the cakes before the ganache. I went with a mix of both. The glaze was simple too, stick of butter, cup of sugar- melted, reduced down  and mixed with some bubbly.

Finished product, so yummy:

 

Can it!

16 Oct

Totally excited about this new-to-me world of canning. I was invited to help my friend Chuck use up some of his abundant garden produce via homemade salsa while his girlfriend (one of my besties) was in town for the weekend. So I brought over some jars and lids, and we got to work.

First, he set all the kids to work planting garlic. 

This was interesting in itself because I had no clue you could just plant garlic like that. I grew up with vegetable gardens, and we even had one ourselves when we lived in Shreveport, but never had my own garlic. I WILL have a big garden and I WILL plant yummy garlic when we get to our new house in Delaware. This project was a big hit with the kids, on account of the playing in dirt I’m sure.

I wish I’d have gotten a picture of his garden, it was decimated in a hailstorm a little while back. But he still got a ton of tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. I guess from the gardens out at his cabin. The cabin where he has bee hives.

First was all the prepwork. The tomatoes were set to boil so we could remove the skins and cut out any bits of imperfection. The green peppers were seeded, the tiny onions were disproportionately pungent so we mostly used a food processor, I thought I might go blind they had our eyes burning so much. He used some jalepenos and habaneros for the kick.

Once everything was prepped, the ingredients were combined into a large stockpot with some salt.

The jars were filled to about an inch from the top.

I think there was at least 3 gallons of yummy salsa, six jars of which I got to claim as my own. Here is Natalie’s daughter showing off the nearly finished products!

Now the part which I had been waiting for. The mystical canning/sealing process. Chuck used his turkey fryer out on the front lawn and got the pot boiling. The water level was just below the lids of the jars. He had some nifty grabber tools specially made to fit the jars, I have to invest in some for myself.

After about a half hour or so, we pulled the jars from the pot, and carefully but quickly, Chuck used his secret can sealing trick. This was to swiftly release the lid just a quarter turn then twist it back on tightly. Then we sat back and listened for the lids to “pop”. One, two, three, four, “was that one”, “yup”, ok five.

Afterwards we got a hankering for applesauce. So we headed out to the local pick your own, and came back with a few bushels of assorted apples.

 

There was less picture taking for this process, as it was getting late and I now found myself making enough pâte brisée to churn out 3 double crust apple pies. Chuck fed us all some farm raised pork tenderloin (AMAZING) and Natalie made sweet potatoes (of course, from Chuck’s garden) on the side. The peeled and seeded apples burnt a little bit because we used a giant stock pot which made it difficult to stir them. But from what I hear it turned out ok, although I wouldn’t actually know as I didn’t get a sample.

Next up, my mom has to teach me how she made all that raspberry jam. So I can try my hand at canning it.

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