Tag Archives: dessert

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.

Labor Day Dessert: Iced Meringues and Cream with Berry Compote

meringue berry tastefood

Celebrate Labor Day with this airy and luscious dessert.  Slabs of frozen whipped cream folded with crumbled meringues are served with a compote of the season’s freshest berries. It doesn’t get easier or lighter that this, a perfect last hurrah to summertime.

Iced Meringues and Cream with Berry Compote

Prepare the cream at least 8 hours before serving and eat within one day – which shouldn’t be difficult. Feel free to mix up the berries to your taste. Serves 8.

Iced Meringue Cream:
3 ounces meringues (about 10 [2-inch] meringues), divided
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sifted confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Compote:
3/4 pound fresh berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lightly oil a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Line with plastic wrap, leaving a 3-inch overhang on all sides. Crumble 1/3 of the meringues, leaving large chunks intact, and spread over the bottom of the pan.

Beat the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until traces of the whisk appear. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Crumble the remaining meringues and gently fold into the cream. Pour into the pan and spread the cream evenly on top. Cover with the plastic overhang, then cover the pan entirely with another piece of plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare the compote: Combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and the berries break down and release their juices, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool completely.

To serve, remove the frozen meringue cream from the freezer. Unwrap the plastic and invert the cream onto a serving platter. Remove remaining plastic. Cut into serving slices and serve with the compote.

Danish Layer Cake (Lagkage) and Camilla Plum

Danish Lagkage tastefood

When it comes to baking I am not perfect. I embrace presentations that are what they are – not too fussy, but simple, honest and fresh (as we should embrace ourselves, right?) It was my daughter’s birthday recently, and her favorite cake is lagkage, a traditional Danish cake consisting of layers of genoise or vanilla cake, whipped cream and fresh fruit. It’s beautifully simple – no piping, no bling, just vanilla-infused cake and slathers of  whipped cream smushed with macerated fruit. The only decorations are oodles of berries and pretty snipped edible flowers and herbs from the garden. Actually, it’s…perfect.

I adapted this cake from a cookbook by Danish food icon, Camilla Plum. She is a Danish chef who, in addition to her television shows, cookbooks and garden books, has an organic farm an hour outside of Copenhagen, open to the public on weekends. During the summers you can stroll through her fields, orchards and greenhouses. Her sprawling and well-lived property includes a shop with organic produce, fruit and flowers from her farm, as well as organic meats, kitchenwares and, of course, her cookbooks.

DK camilla plum

 

DK plum is

There is also a cozy cafe where you can  enjoy a slice of lagkage with a cup of coffee or hyldeblomst (elderflower juice) outside in the gardens before heading home.  Just watch out, you might also leave with a kitten.

DK lagekage

DK kitten

Danish Layer Cake (Lagkage) with Whipped Cream and Berries

The cakes may be divided into 2 or 3 thin layers. Feel free to use as many layers as you like when assembling the cake. Recipe translated and adapted from Blomstrende Mad (Flowering Food) by Camilla Plum.

Cake:
8 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (375g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (50g) almond meal
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
5 tablespoons (75g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups (250g) unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder

Whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sifted confectioners sugar
1 cup raspberries, plus more for decorating

Assorted berries (raspberries, sliced strawberries, currants)
Fresh edible flowers, herb sprigs and leaves for garnish

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two (9-inch) cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and butter the parchment. Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gently mix in the almond meal, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir in the butter. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a small bowl, then add to the eggs. Gently mix just until combined without over mixing. Divide among prepared pans. Bake until light golden and tops spring back when pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool completely on racks. Remove the cakes from pans and slice horizontally in half (or thirds).

Make the cream:
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until traces of the whisk are apparent. Add the sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Place 1 cup raspberries in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add half of the whipped cream and gently stir to combine.

Assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with raspberry cream. Repeat with remaining layers. Spread the remaining whipped cream over top and sides of cake. Top with fresh berries. Garnish with snipped edible flowers and/or herbs.

 

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

rhubarb sage tastefood

They say what grows together goes together and that certainly applies to this springtime compote. Green rhubarb stalks, flowering sage leaves and spring lemons comprised the latest bag of loot I came home with from the farmers’ market. The green rhubarb was stunning, it’s puckery astringency melding beautifully with bright citrus and, yes, sage leaves. Serve this compote straight as it is or add a drizzle of heavy cream. Vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be bad either.

Rhubarb Compote with Lemon and Sage

Serves – 2 to 3 (or never enough depending whom you ask)

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 to 3 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Combine the rhubarb, sugar and sage in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and simmer over low heat until rhubarb softens, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.. Remove from heat and discard the sage leaves. Stir in the lemon juice. Cool. Serve garnished with lemon zest.