Tag Archives: dessert

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake  tastefoodReprinted from the TasteFood archives, because it’s the end of the school year, and  we all deserve cake.

More strawberries, you say? You bet. I am greedy at this time of year when spring produce is cluttering up the market shelves. A rotation of asparagus, peas, and strawberries passes through our kitchen to the table on a daily basis. You would think we would tire of all of this goodness, but it never seems to be the case. It also helps to have a variety of recipes to choose from to change things up a bit. While nothing beats fresh strawberries with a little cream, put a few aside to make this simple cake. It’s light, gently sweetened, and generously studded with more strawberries than you know what to do with. Actually, I don’t mean that – we all know what to do with strawberries. Just be sure to save some to make this cake.

Strawberry Cake

I halved my jumbo sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they will begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess.  Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

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

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) pie or tart pan (I used a 9-inch extra-deep pie pan).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the butter and 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 1 teaspoon lemon zest on medium speed. Add the flour and mix to combine without over-mixing. Spread the batter in the prepared dish. Arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake in the oven until the top of the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon lemon zest over the cake. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp – Gluten Free

berry crisp

It was one-stop shopping at the farmer’s market this weekend. A little rickety table in the far corner of the maze of our Sunday market was lined with pint-sized cartons seeping with blue-violet blotches. They brimmed with wild raspberries, blueberries, and – best of all – boysenberries, a tart flamboyant cone-shaped berry resembling a floppy blackberry. Next to the berries was a wide wicker basket filled with dainty upright rhubarb stalks awash in green and fuschia. The message was clear: Come and get it. And so I did.

Rhubarb Boysenberry Crisp (Gluten-Free)

I made this dessert for our dinner guests that night, one of whom is gluten-free. The topping was crisp, nutty and sweet, faintly spiced with cinnamon – delicious for gluten-free and gluten-lovers alike. Serves 6.

Topping:
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oats (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled

Filling:
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 cups boysenberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine all of the topping ingredients, except the butter, in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Place the rhubarb and half of the boysenberries in an 8 x 8-inch (or similar size) baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over and gently mix to combine. Whisk the orange juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour over the fruit and gently stir to coat. Arrange the remaining boysenberries over the top of the fruit, then evenly spread the topping over the fruit.

Bake in the oven until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 45 minutes. If the topping browns before the filling is fully cooked, then loosely cover with foil to prevent burning. Remove and cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

coconut macaron tastefood

Happy Passover: Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

The bane of my childhood candy experience was a Mounds Bar. I just didn’t get it. I would bite into the chocolate nugget, which would immediately give way to a grainy, chewy, grassy interior, that in my opinion had no rightful place in a candy bar. I was mystified by my friends who bought supersized packages of Almond Joys to scarf down when we were at the movies. Every halloween when my brothers and I would pile our loot in the middle of the kitchen table, gloating, eyeing and sizing trade-ups, my chocolate covered coconut bars were the first to go with no regrets. Unfortunately, my brothers were not so keen on coconut either, so the negotiating could get ugly.

It baffles me that my family loves coconut. As a result, I have slowly, with time, age and parental compromise, learned to like coconut. I’ve come to terms with its flaky texture and appreciate its nuttiness in a sea of sweetness. I eat it now, unforced, and prefer it paired with dark chocolate. Sometimes I make macaroons, a jumble of coconut bound together with egg white and, ahem, condensed milk. Yes, the milk is icky-sweet, but it seems to yield the best  juicy soft interior, which is what distinguishes a great macaroon – and alleviates its propensity to dryness. I’ve followed a recipe from Ina Garten from time to time, but switch out some of the sweetened coconut with unsweetened. It helps to tamp down excessive cloyiness. And I always dunk them in dark chocolate, which has a magnificent grounding effect on, well, everything.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 24

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces dark (70-72%) chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 350° F (180° C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour milk, coconut and vanilla in a large bowl and stir to combine. Beat egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks from. Fold into the coconut.

Drop tablespoon-sized mounds of coconut on baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool on rack. Dip half of the macaroons in melted chocolate. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment. Refrigerate until set.

Strawberry Phyllo Stacks

Strawberry Napoleon  stack

I’ve been on a strawberry bender. They are impossible to ignore. Strawberries are in season now in California, and it’s too easy to simply gobble up a pint or two (or four) from the farmers market with each visit. Like all fruit and vegetables that reign supreme during their seasonal heyday, strawberries are the life of the party while they last. But even a good thing can become redundant, and that’s when our duty as a cook takes over. It is up to us, like gracious hosts, to showcase our seasonal gifts in fresh and flattering ways, so that we never (God forbid) grow tired of them.

This recipe brings a little phyllo dough to the mix, literally elevating the strawberry in a dramatically stacked presentation between layers of sugary phyllo and mascarpone cream. While they take some prep time, the phyllo sheets can be made in advance. The outcome is a light and luscious dessert, elegant yet simple, showcasing the lovely and ever-appealing strawberry.

Strawberry Phyllo Stacks (Napoleons)
Makes about 12

Phyllo:
1 package frozen phyllo sheets, defrosted overnight in refrigerator
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Cream filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced 1/4-inch thick, plus 6 large strawberries, stems intact, halved lengthwise.
Sifted confectioners sugar for dusting

Prepare the phyllo squares:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Unroll the phyllo dough and place one sheet on a work surface. Cover the remaining dough with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.
3. Lightly brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter. Sprinkle a light layer of sugar over the butter. Place a second phyllo sheet over the dough. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with 2 more sheets.
4. With a sharp chef’s knife cut the stacked phyllo sheets into 12 squares (4 across the sheets’ long side x 3 across the short side). With a spatula, transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the oven until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on racks.
5. Repeat this process until you have used all of the phyllo dough – you will have about 36 squares. (The phyllo squares may be prepared up to one day in advance. Place in an airtight container and separate each layer with parchment paper. Store at room temperature.)

Prepare the napoleons:
1. Beat the filling ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment until stiff peaks form.
2. Arrange one phyllo square on a work surface. Spread one tablespoon of the filling over the square. Arrange 2 to 3 strawberry slices on the cream. Smear a little cream over the strawberries, then place another phyllo square on top and gently press to adhere Repeat the layering process one more time and finish with a phyllo square. Place a small dollop of cream in the center of the phyllo and top with a strawberry half, cut-side down. Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
3. Dust with the napoleons with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.

Chocolate Stout Pound Cake 2.0

chocolate stout cake tastefood

I’ve had a recipe for Chocolate Stout Pound Cake on this blog for a few years, and this weekend, with St. Patrick’s Day looming, I decided to make it. As I read through the recipe, I found myself itching to make a few changes to the measurements and method. It’s not unusual for me to tweak a recipe – in fact I rarely follow one to a T.  It’s also interesting to see how recipes evolve with time. I find myself making small tweaks to older recipes when I haven’t made them in a while. So, I hereby present you with this newly minted and perfected 2015 version of Chocolate Stout Pound Cake. The recipe yields one hefty pound cake. While its size is generous, the crusty exterior yields to a moist, tender, and fine crumbed cake, subtly laced with stout and Guinness. Goodness knows why it took me so long to remake it. For an extra indulgence, serve it with the whiskey cream. The recipe for the cream is below, and I haven’t changed it one bit. (Some recipes should never be changed.)

Chocolate Stout Pound Cake
Makes one

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup stout beer
10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a loaf pan, then line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and dust the pan with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess.
2. Heat the butter and stout in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the dark chocolate and stir until smooth.
3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
4. Whisk the eggs and sour cream into the chocolate. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine without over-mixing.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it will be quite full). Place the pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake until the cake is set and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, 55 to 65 minutes. (If the top is beginning to darken before the cake is completely baked, loosely cover with a piece of foil.)
6. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Serve with Irish Whiskey Whipped Cream.

Irish Whiskey Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Irish Whiskey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to whip until soft peaks form.

Rhubarb Cobblers

Cobbler Lynda Balslev

You’ve got to hand it to rhubarb. In the land of seemingly eternal winter, when spring is but a rumor, the dependable rhubarb plant will begin to sprout. It’s no wonder that rhubarb is a favorite in Scandinavia, where the winters are long and dark. By March, the weather may be bleak, but you can be sure that the rhubarb will shoot. Something about rhubarb’s tartness is fitting for the season. Not too sweet, but fresh and astringent, it’s like an early spring cleanse in the form of a plant.

Rhubarb Cobblers

Rhubarb and citrus muddle together in this bright cobbler crowned with a crumbly lemon-flecked dough. The bubbling filling can barely contain itself, and neither can we when this is served for dessert.

Serves 6

Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups diced rhubarb, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Place the remaining filling ingredients in the bowl and stir to combine. Spoon the filling into 6 individual ramekins or an 8-inch square baking dish.
3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add the egg, cream, and lemon zest  and pulse until the dough comes together.
4. Drop spoonfuls of the topping over the filling. Bake the cobblers in the oven until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes for the ramekins, and 45 to 50 minutes for the baking dish. Remove from the oven and cool.
4. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream. The flavors will develop as the cobbler cools.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate. Picture a zingy sweet-tart filling rippling with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt adorning the top keeps all sweetness in check, allowing the puckery citrus to 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 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.

Orange Cardamom Cake with Almonds and Gran Marnier

Orange almond cake tastefood

Copenhagen at Christmas – I wish I were there. It’s a magical time and place, awash in twinkling lights and candlelit coziness, full of festivities and traditional celebrations. This time last year, I was there – researching an article for this month’s issue of Marin Magazine. So, while I won’t be in Copenhagen for a Nordic Christmas this year, I can read my words and let them transport me for a vicarious moment. And then I’ll make some gløgg to fill the house with the scent of orange and spice to enjoy with this luscious cake while we decorate our tree.

Orange Cardamom Cake with 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 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. Store the cake at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/2 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 4o 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 slightly 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 a dollop whipped cream. If desired, add a tablespoon of the (thoroughly cooled) glaze to the cream while whipping. .

Holiday Desserts: Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

Here is a festive trifle that will carry you through the holidays – it’s a great do ahead party dessert with show-stopping results. Buttermilk poundcake is blanketed with layers of cranberry compote, orange infused mascarpone cream, and candied walnuts. Each bite is light and airy with the pop of sweet-tart cranberries and the crunch of cinnamon dusted nuts, so be sure to get a little bit of everything in each spoonful. The best part is this dessert can be assembled a day in advance, which leaves you plenty of time to take care of that turkey.

Cranberry Orange Trifle with Candied Walnuts

While there are several components to this trifle, each one may be prepared in advance, and each one is stand alone good, so feel free to use them on their own. Serve in a trifle bowl or individual goblets. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the buttermilk pound cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.) Butter a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Add half of the flour, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour, mixing well to combine after each addition. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake in the oven until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack and cool completely. The pound cake may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until use.

For the cranberry compote:
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and release their juices. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days.

For the candied walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a baking tray and bake 10 minutes. Heat the sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan. As soon as it begins to dissolve, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is liquid and amber colored. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Add the salt and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and pour the walnuts onto a baking tray lined with parchment or a silpac sheet. Cool completely then break into coarse pieces. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

For the orange mascarpone cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, chilled
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cream and mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire attachment. Beat until traces of the whisk are visible. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made 4 hours in advance.)

Assemble the trifle:
Reserve a few whole cranberries from the compote for garnish. Pour a thin layer of cranberry compote into the bottom of the trifle dish or individual serving glasses. Cut the pound cake into 3/4-inch cubes. Arrange a layer of pound cake over the compote. Top with a layer of cream. Sprinkle a few of the nuts over the cream. Repeat the layering process, finishing with a layer of cream and nuts. Garnish with reserved cranberries and finely grated orange zest. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours before serving.

Optional: Brush each layer of pound cake with Cointreau or Gran Marnier for an adult version of this dessert.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel

pear yogurt crumble tfPosted by Lynda Balslev

Fall on a plate: Burnished Warren pears, toasted streusel and golden honey. I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Or in this case, turn down an offer for a box of pears from Frog Hollow Farm – especially in the fall, when I love to bake fruit crisps, crumbles and tarte tatins. This recipe is a “healthy” version of a crumble, with pear halves roasted in the oven, then topped with yogurt, honey and a streusel topping. Call it a healthy dessert or a decadent breakfast, but just be sure to make it.

Roasted Pears and Yogurt Streusel
Serves 4

2 ripe but firm pears, such as Warren or Bartlett
Extra-virgin olive oil
Granulated sugar
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey, plus extra for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and remove the cores. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place in a baking pan and roast in the oven, cut side up, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.

Combine the oats, walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and mix to coat. Spread on a small rimmed baking pan and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk the yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Arrange the pears in bowls. Spoon the yogurt into the centers of the pears. Sprinkle the streusel over the yogurt and pears. Drizzle with additional honey.

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary box of Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farm with no obligation to write about the product. All opinions are my own.  This recipe is inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Bon Appetit.