Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Holiday Baking: Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake

orange-olive-oil-cake-lynda-balslev

Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake
Almonds and Gran Marnier

This light and moist cake will carry you through the holidays. Redolent with orange, cardamom, and almonds, and slightly spiked with Gran Marnier, it’s delicious for tea and spiffy enough for dessert. The sea salt is optional in the glaze, but if you lean that way, go for it. The flavors of the cake will develop while it cools and the glaze will ensure long lasting moistness. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days, but it’s unlikely it will go uneaten that long.

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest, from an untreated orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
Pinch of sea salt

Optionals:
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color. Add the olive oil, orange juice, zest, vanilla and almond extract and stir to blend.
3. Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients, stirring to blend without over-mixing. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, about 45 minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. Combine the sugar and  orange juice in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the liquid reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the Gran Marnier and sea salt and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with the glaze and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan, then brush the cake on the sides with the glaze. Cool completely.
7. Serve dusted with confectioners sugar and/or with a dollop whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping. .

Blackberry Clafoutis

Blackberry Clafoutis TasteFood

Got berries? If you’re like me, it’s impossible to resist the baskets of fresh summer berries at the farmers’ market. If you have more restraint than me and you haven’t gobbled your berries up yet, here’s a great way to add them to a dessert. Clafoutis is a French flan-like dessert consisting of fresh fruit baked in a custardy batter. It’s light and elegant, gently sweet, and redolent with your favorite fruit. Berries work well because their juices seep into the clafoutis while it bakes. You can also use cherries, plums, and pears.

Blackberry Clafoutis

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 to 55 minutes
Makes 8 (6-ounce) or 1 (10-inch) clafoutis

Unsalted softened butter for greasing the pans
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces fresh blackberries
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups half and half
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 8 (6-ounce) shallow ramekins (or 1 (10-inch) ceramic tart pan). Sprinkle the ramekins with the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and tap out any excess. Place the ramekins on a baking tray. Arrange the berries in one layer in the ramekins.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the half and half, flour, lemon zest, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt until just combined.
3. Pour the mixture over fruit. Transfer the clafoutis to the oven and bake until the top is tinged golden brown and the custard is set, about 25 minutes for the ramekins (or 35 to 40 minutes for the tart pan). Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
4. Before serving, sprinkle the clafoutis with powdered sugar and garnish with additional lemon zest. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Baking Favorites: Lemon Shortbread Bars

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

If I had to name a favorite baking ingredient, it would be a lemon, and, in my opinion, the best way to show off its citrusy sweet-tart flavor is a lemon bar. These tiny (or not so tiny) squares are all about the citrus. A buttery shortbread crust anchors a squidgy thick wedge of puckery filling, simply topped with dusting of sugar. A pinch of sea salt is a nice finishing touch, balancing the sweetness and letting the lemon shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for lemon – and sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

Rhubarb trifles quinoaTrifles and parfaits are a great way to show off the season’s best fruit. I like to assemble them in little glasses, so the layers are visible and the servings aren’t too large. They can be as simple as fruit and cream, but I often add a little crunchy texture, such as crumbled meringue or a sprinkle of streusel. In this recipe, I’ve made an almond and toasted quinoa streusel. The nuttiness of the quinoa is a great match for the tart rhubarb.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfaits with Almond-Quinoa Streusel

This recipe makes about 6 large servings or 12 small servings, depending on the size of your glasses.

Rhubarb Compote:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of ground cinnamon

Almond-Quinoa Streusel:
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup shaved coconut
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound fresh strawberries, quartered

Make the compote:
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the rhubarb releases its juices. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rhubarb softens and the compote is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until use.

Make the streusel:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Toast the quinoa in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and coconut.
Whisk the syrup, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa and stir to combine. Spread the streusel in the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool.

Whip the cream:
Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.

Assemble:
Spoon a layer of rhubarb into serving glasses. Top with cream. Add a layer of strawberries over the cream and top with more cream. Garnish with the streusel. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour before serving.

 

Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

almond choc chip tastefood

I apologize if this messes with any diet resolutions, but here’s to a little balance and wishing you all a delicious new year with a bundle of sweetness, a dose of nuttiness, and pinch of salt.

Almond butter does wondrous things to this chocolate chunk cookie. It’s not as pronounced in flavor as peanut butter which, in my opinion, can overwhelm a cookie. Almond butter is mellower, adding a rich, golden background to the dough with a hint of roasted nuts. A dusting of sea salt is an extra touch – optional but highly recommended. A little salt makes everything taste better – even sweets – especially when chocolate is involved.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted creamy almond butter (not raw)
7 ounces chopped dark chocolate
Sea salt flakes for garnish, optional

1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Add the almond butter and mix until smooth.
3. Dump the flour  into the mixing bowl and mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated without over-mixing. Stir in the chocolate, including all of the little pieces and dusty bits (they will melt into the batter). Refrigerate the batter for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes to each cookie, if desired. Bake until light golden, 12 to 14 minutes.
5. Slide the parchment and cookies on a rack to cool. The cookies will continue to firm up while cooling.

Cranberry Pear Galette


cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free-form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered and folded around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Filling:
4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.