Summer Berry Tian

Summer Berry Tian

~ Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries: summer in a dish ~

This berry tian highlights the ease of summer in its simplicity of ingredients and preparation. The season’s best fruit – strawberries, blueberries and raspberries -are blanketed with a cardamom-infused custard and baked, resulting in a refreshing and delightful dessert. Tian is a french word for a shallow earthenware casserole, often gratineed, an appropriately simple and elegant name for this dish. Enjoy warm or chilled.

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Summer Berry Tians (Clafoutis)

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 to 55 minutes
Makes 8 (6-ounce) tians

Unsalted softened butter for greasing the tians
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
12 ounces mixed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, quartered strawberries
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 tians to the oven and bake until the tops are 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 tians with powdered sugar and garnish with additional lemon zest. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Coriander Spiced Pound Cake with Strawberries

Coriander Spiced Pound Cake with Strawberries

A while back I posted a recipe for an Orange Pound Cake perfumed with coriander, and I blamed it on the egg yolks. You see, I had 6 yolks in the refrigerator and felt compelled to use them up, so I came up with a recipe for an Orange Spiced Poundcake.

Well, now I can say that the Orange Spiced Poundcake made me do it. While the cake was pleasantly fresh with orange, it was elusively intriguing with its hint of coriander. I wanted more. So, in an eternal quest for perfection, I had another go at this cake. Instead of 6 yolks  and buttermilk, I used 3 whole eggs with whole milk, relying on a method by Rose Levy Beranbaum which I’ve used for years. Instead of orange juice, I simply added zest for brightness and stepped up the coriander note, not only in the cake batter, but in a syrup which I used to baste the cake. To top it off, I added strawberries to some of the left over syrup and left them to macerate while the cake cooled, before spooning them over slices of the cake. Fruity, spiced and light, this is a luscious springtime dessert which embraces the coriander spice and takes advantage of the season’s strawberries.

Coriander Spiced Pound Cake with Strawberries
Makes one loaf – approximately 8 servings

For the syrup:
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted, finely ground

For the pound cake:
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 pound strawberries, hulled, quartered
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Orange zest

Prepare the syrup:
Combine sugar, water and ground coriander seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cool completely before straining. Once cool, strain syrup into a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the pound cake:
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Butter and flour a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Whisk the eggs, milk, zest and vanilla together in a small bowl. Briefly mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl of an electric mixer to combine. Add the butter and half of the eggs. Beat for 1 minute to aerate. Add remaining eggs in 2 batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack. Brush the top of the cake with some of the syrup;  cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out onto the rack and brush the sides and bottom of the cake with the syrup. Cool completely. (The flavors will develop as the cake cools.)
While the cake is cooling, toss the remaining syrup with the strawberries in a bowl. Beat cream, sugar and ground coriander in a bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
To serve, cut pound cake into 3/4 inch slices. Spoon some of the strawberries with syrup over the cake. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with orange zest.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Rhubarb is the culinary equivalent of the groundhog. When its fuscia stalks emerge in the markets, you know that spring is nearly here. Luckily, rhubarb’s best friend, the strawberry, also make an early spring debut in California, jostling for attention with the well-established lemons and oranges crowding the supermarket shelves. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I’ve combined all of these seasonal goodies in this dessert recipe. Strawberries, rhubarb and lemon muddle together in this impossibly bright cobbler, while a crumbly sweet dough flecked with lemon zest attempts to keep a lid on the bubbling fruit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Serves 6

For the filling:
2 cups diced rhubarb
1 pound strawberries, hulled, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the 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
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Make the filling:
Combine all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Make the topping:
Combine flour, sugar baking powder, salt and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until dough resembles coarse meal. Add cream and egg; pulse until dough comes together. Pulse in lemon zest.

Spoon strawberries into a baking pan or individual ramekins. Drop spoonfuls of the topping over the fruit. Bake in a pre-heated 350 F. oven until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbly, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The flavors will develop as the cobbler cools. Serve with creme fraiche.

Red White and Blueberries: Strawberry and Blueberry Shortcakes

Red White and Blueberries: Strawberry and Blueberry Shortcakes


Shortcake 2

A celebration of summer and independence are two good reasons to throw a party, and the fourth of July is perfectly timed to take advantage of the season’s fresh berries. Fireworks and barbecues are de rigueur as skies and grills light up across America. With a nod to the colors of the American flag, this traditional dessert is fresh and festive, making use of an abundance of summer berries while stirring up nostalgic memories of easy summer living.

Strawberry and Blueberry Shortcakes

Serves 6

For the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup buttermilk

For the berries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
12 ounces blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

For the whipped cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the biscuits:
Preheat oven to 400 F.  Sift the flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Mix in the butter with fingertips until dough resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir until sticky dough forms. Drop dough in mounds on ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool 15 minutes.

Prepare the fruit:
While the biscuits bake, combine strawberries, blueberries, sugar, mint, lemon juice and zest in a bowl. Toss to coat. Let stand 30 minutes (can be prepared 2 hours ahead.)

For the whipped cream:
Beat cream in a bowl of electric mixer until traces of the beater appear. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form, taking care not to overbeat.

To assemble shortcakes, cut each biscuit in half and arrange bottom half on individual serving plates. Spoon berries with juices over; top with whipped cream. Arrange biscuit top over cream.

In Season: Strawberry Napoleon

Strawberry Napoleon tf

The thing about seasonal food, is you have to eat it while you can – again and again. Those sweet, succulent strawberries? In a month or two, they will be gone. Their star will have waned, and the fresher, more petite raspberries or yellow nectarines will take center stage. Those clean, crisp asparagus spears? They will be bumped aside by a Provençal-style invasion of summer vegetables whose sauces and salads will pointedly exclude the upright astringent asparagus. The obscure, frizzy coils of fiddleheads that we’re finally managing to get to know? Never mind, it’s time to tackle another dark horse of a vegetable, and let the idea of an edible fern fade to a fuzzy dream.

All fruits and vegetables reign supreme at the markets during their seasonal heyday, and while they last, they are the life of the party. We should gorge on them while we can, but too much of a good thing can become tiresome – especially after the tenth consecutive serving. This is where our duty as chefs comes in. It is up to us, like gracious hosts, to showcase our seasonal gifts, highlighting their qualities in appealing and flattering ways, so that they always look and taste great.

So, with yet another recipe including strawberries, I introduce a little phyllo dough to shake things up a bit. Unlike a parfait or a trifle, the phyllo adds a crispy texture and linear orderliness in a dramatic stacked presentation. The outcome is a light and luscious dessert, elegant yet simple, and mighty pretty to look at, too.

(But, let’s be honest. Is it really possible to tire of fresh strawberries?)

Strawberry Napoleons
Serves 10-12

1 package frozen phyllo sheets, defrosted overnight in refrigerator
1/4 cup (60 g.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (115 g.) granulated/caster sugar
8 ounces (250 g.) mascarpone cheese
1 cup (250 ml.) heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (500 g.) strawberries, hulled, sliced lengthwise no more than 1/4″ thick, plus 6 large strawberries, stems intact, halved lengthwise.

Additional confectioners sugar for dusting

Prepare Phyllo Squares:
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Line 2 rectangular baking sheets with parchment paper. Unroll phyllo dough. Place one sheet on work surface. (Cover remaining dough with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.)
Lightly brush phyllo sheet with butter. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Place second phyllo sheet on buttered phyllo dough. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with 2 more sheets.
With a sharp chef’s knife cut 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 prepared baking sheets. Bake in oven until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on racks.
Repeat this process 2 more times, so you will have a total of 36 squares. If you are serving 10 there will be a few extra squares which can be used as back up if there is breakage.
(Phyllo squares may be prepared one day in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Separate layers of phyllo dough with parchement paper.)

Prepare filling:
Beat mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. (Cream may be prepared up to 6 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.)

Assemble Napoleons:
Arrange one phyllo square on plate or platter. Spread one tablespoon cream over. Arrange 2-3 strawberry slices in one layer over cream. Top strawberries with 1-2 teaspoons cream. Place another phyllo square on top, pressing gently. Spread one tablespoon cream over. Arrange 2-3 strawberry slices in one layer over cream. Top strawberries with 1-2 teaspoons cream. Place third phyllo square on top, pressing gently. Place one teaspoon cream in center of phyllo square. Place one strawberry half, cut-side down, on cream. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup

Strawberry Rhubarb

Early strawberries and rhubarb are a gift of spring, reflecting the essence of season and simple, fresh food. My inspiration for this dessert comes from Denmark, which does not have the luxury of a California-style springtime. After a long, dark winter, spring is eagerly greeted in Scandinavia, but the early season can still be bleak. Strawberries are not yet seasonal, but hardy, dependable rhubarb is. The Danes gallantly make the most of what they have and, with characteristic minimalism, harvest the rhubarb and use it in simple preparations that herald the onset of the spring season in their Nordic kitchens. A traditional preparation is a simple, sweet soup. The astringent rhubarb is cooked in water with vanilla sugar and served with cream. As simple as it may sound, this dish is a celebration of season and a comforting favorite, pleasing adults and children alike.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup is a similar compote consisting of the season’s rhubarb and early strawberries we are luckily experiencing in Northern California. I do not add any water, because I like the soup thick and intensely flavored with the rhubarb and strawberries. Sugar is added to smooth the tartness and a touch of vanilla is added for extra depth.  Allow the soup to cool to room temperature and serve either with crème fraîche, lightly sweetened whipped cream or simply drizzled with heavy cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lb. rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled, halved
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heavy cream or crème fraîche for garnish

Combine rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a large pot. Cover slightly. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb and strawberries give off their juices and rhubarb is very tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Serve in bowls. Drizzle with heavy cream or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Showcasing Strawberries: Strawberry Napoleon

Strawberry Napoleon 1

The thing about seasonal food, is you have to eat it while you can.  Again and again.  Those sweet, succulent strawberries?  In a month or two, they will be gone; their star will have waned, and the fresher, more juicy, more yellow nectarines or petite raspberries will take center stage.  Those clean, crisp asparagus spears?  They will be bumped aside by a Provençal-style invasion of summer vegetables whose sauces and salads will pointedly exclude the upright astringent asparagus.  The obscure, frizzy coils of fiddleheads that we’re finally managing to get to know?  Never mind; it’s time to tackle another dark horse of a vegetable, and let the idea of an edible fern fade to a fuzzy dream.

All fruits and vegetables reign supreme at the markets during their seasonal heyday, and while they last, they are the life of the party.  But too much of a good thing can become tiresome – especially after the tenth consecutive serving. This is where our duty as chefs comes in.  It is up to us, like gracious hosts, to showcase our seasonal gifts, highlighting their qualities in appealing and flattering ways, so that they always look and taste good.

This is my somewhat metaphorical attempt to explain yet another recipe featuring strawberries.  In fact, not only does this recipe feature strawberries, it also calls for many similar ingredients in my post Strawberry and Mascarpone Cream Parfaits.  The difference is the addition of phyllo dough, and a little dramatic elevation in the stacked presentation.  The outcome is another entirely different dessert, elegant yet simple, delicious to eat and very pretty to look at.

Strawberry Napoleons
Serves 10-12

1 package frozen phyllo sheets, defrosted overnight in refrigerator
1/4 cup (60 g.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (115 g.) granulated/caster sugar

8 oz. (250 g.) mascarpone cheese
1 cup (250 ml.) heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 lb. (500 g.) strawberries, hulled, sliced lengthwise no more than 1/4″ thick, plus 6 large strawberries, stems intact, halved lengthwise.

Additional confectioners sugar for dusting

Prepare Phyllo Squares:
Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)  Line 2 rectangular baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unroll phyllo dough.  Place one sheet on work surface. (Cover remaining dough with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.)
Lightly brush phyllo sheet with butter.  Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.  Place second phyllo sheet on buttered phyllo dough.  Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Repeat with 2 more sheets.
With a sharp chef’s knife cut 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 prepared baking sheets.  Bake in oven until golden, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on racks.
Repeat this process 2 more times, so you will have a total of 36 squares. If you are serving 10 there will be a few extra squares which can be used as back up if there is breakage.
(Phyllo squares can be prepared one day in advance.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Separate layers of phyllo dough with parchement paper.)

Prepare filling:
Beat mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla in bowl of electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  (Cream can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use.)

Assemble Napoleons:
Arrange one phyllo square on plate or platter.  Spread one tablespoon cream over.  Arrange 2-3 strawberry slices in one layer over cream.  Top strawberries with 1-2 teaspoons cream.  Place another phyllo square on top, pressing gently.  Spread one tablespoon cream over.  Arrange 2-3 strawberry slices in one layer over cream.  Top strawberries with 1-2 teaspoons cream.  Place third phyllo square on top, pressing gently.  Place one teaspoon cream in center of phyllo square.  Place one strawberry half, cut-side down, on cream.  Dust lightly with confectioners sugar and serve.