Summer Cocktail Series: #4: Rhubarb Cherry Hibiscus Gin Fizz

Rhubarb. What do you do with it besides pairing it with the obvious; Strawberry. Pick anything sweet basically since it is tart. This quick and easy rhubarb syrup was a cinch to whip together. I just love the color as soon as it starts to leech out into the sugar water. I was going to use a cherry flavored seltzer when I came across the Hibiscus flavor instead. Both are subtle so you could go either way. I love pairing gin with summer flavors, but you could easily use vodka as well. Cheers to Summer!

 

Rhubarb Syrup

(yield ~ 12 oz. )

1 Cup filtered water

1 Cup granulated sugar

2 Cups washed and chopped fresh rhubarb

 

In a small saucepan place the water, sugar and rhubarb. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let stand until slightly warm. Once cool strain into a jar and keep stored in the fridge.

 

For Rhubarb curls:

Take a vegetable peeler and quickly run down the length of a rhubarb stalk. Dip the strip into the warm rhubarb syrup and then twirl around a plastic straw. Let the ribbons dry on a parchment lined sheet pan. Remove/gently slide off the twirls from the straws when dry. Use inside the drink or drape over the side of the drink.

 

Rhubarb Cherry Hibiscus Cocktail 

(one drink)

2 oz. Rhubarb syrup (cold)

1- 1.5  oz. gin (depending on how strong you like it)

crushed ice

3-4 fresh dark sweet cherries, pitted and sliced in half

Hibiscus flavored seltzer (such as La Croix brand)

 

Fill a Collins glass with the syrup, followed by the gin, 1/2 glass of crushed ice, cherries, and top with seltzer.

Garnish with rhubarb curls as desired.

 

 

 

 


Strawberry Cheesecake Pie

 

Crust

Line a 9 inch deep dish pie plate with your favorite crust. Blind bake the pie crust. If you like; see my all-butter pie crust recipe: Fearless pie crust.

If you prefer, you can also used  a purchased graham cracker crust or make a quick graham cracker crust instead of using a traditional pie crust.

Filling

Cheesecake layer:

8 oz. Cream cheese, softened

6 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

2 1/2 Tbsp. sour cream, room temp

3/4 tsp. plain unflavored gelatin powder

1 Tbsp. cold water

6 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

In a large bowl or stand mixer;  beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form but don’t overbeat or you’ll get butter. Place back in the fridge until ready to use. In the same bowl; no need to clean- beat the cream cheese until smooth and lump free. Add the sugar, vanilla bean paste, and sour cream and mix until just combined. In a small microwave safe bowl place 1 Tbsp. of cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over; let bloom for 5 minutes, then microwave on high for about 20 seconds until the gelatin is dissolved, whisk, then let mixture stand for about 2 minutes. Add the cooled mixture to the cream cheese mixture and blend gently. Fold in the whipped cream by hand until combined. Spread evenly over the cooled pie crust and chill while you make the strawberry layer topping.

 

Strawberry layer

Fresh strawberries ~ one pound (washed, hulled and dried)

1 Cup water

2 Tbsp. cornstartch

scant 3/4 Cup sugar

3.0-3.5 oz box Jello: strawberry gelatin

Top your cream cheese filled crust with using half of the berries sliced thin, then the rest of the bigger berries on top left whole. In a small saucepan place the water, sugar, and cornstarch and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring continuously until it appears thick. Boil two more minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the strawberry gelatin until it is dissolved. Pour over the top of the pie; note you will have some leftover; don’t be like me and pour over too much or it will run off the sides. But if you do- don’t fret it’s still delicious and amazing. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight until set. Serve cold.

 

 


Mango-Key Lime Bars

I’m not a huge mango fan unless it’s in a margarita or lassi, but these bars are beyond. I love an easy cookie bar that comes together quickly. I used the food processor to make both the crust and the filling. My processor lives on my counter top and I admit I use it at least once a week for something. I had a taste for something sweet but fresh and summer like. Served cold right out of the fridge on a hot day, these are divine. You could easily drizzle some melted white candy melts or white chocolate over the top of these instead of the confectioners sugar if you prefer.

Mango-Key Lime Bars

 

Crust:

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 C granulated sugar

1/4 C confectioners sugar

zest of one lemon

pinch of salt

1 C all purpose flour

 

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over sides of pan. In a food processor place the butter, sugars, zest, and salt and pulse to combine. Add in the flour and pulse just to combine. Remove from work bowl and combine any areas of flour with a spatula to make a cohesive dough. Place dough in pane and press with your fingers into an even layer; extending up the sides slightly; about 1/2 cm. Chill the crust for 30 mins.

Bake the crust 16-18 mins until the edges are starting to turn light brown.

 

Mango Filling

2 ripe mangoes peeled, diced and pureéd*

  • Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve in order to yield 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp mango juice (it will be thick).

2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.  key lime juice (I use Nellie and Joes bottled juice)

1/2 tsp. key lime zest or lemon (I have a lemon tree so I used lemon)

5 large egg yolks

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

pinch of salt

In a large bowl whisk together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour over the baked crust and bake until center is set about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Remove entire slab by lifting the parchment out of the pan, peel away the paper and cut into desired shape. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.  Serve chilled or slightly chill. Keep chilled and covered with plastic wrap any remaining bars until ready to serve.

 


Salted Caramel Macarons

Salted caramel oh how I love thee. You seductive diet breaker, you call me out of the depths of keto and beckon me in the middle of the night just longing for me to plunge my spoon into your jar. You are the like the forbidden apple of my Kitchen Garden of Good and Evil, but even a good girl has to have a forbidden fruit once in a while. These are a variation of other caramel macarons I’ve made in the past. This time I just flavored them with the wonderful salted caramel filling on their own. I sprinkled some sugar in the raw on top for visual appearance, but it’s totally optional.

Salted Caramel Filling

280 g granulated sugar

120 g heavy cream

200 g unsalted butter

1 tsp. Maldon sea salt

 

  1. Start by making a dry caramel by melting and caramelizing the sugar gradually. At the same time, heat the whole liquid cream.
  2. When the sugar is completely melted and it has a nice caramel color, gently pour the hot cream over the caramel while mixing with a whisk and paying attention to the mixture rising; be careful as it will foam up. 
  3.  Continue to cook for another few minutes, until the caramel is 245° F, then remove from the heat and add the unsalted butter and whisk thoroughly to combine, then add in the salt. Pour into a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap the chill until thickened.

 

Macarons

124 g confectioners sugar

140 g almond flour

108 g fresh egg whites (I don’t age mine)

110 g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

gel food colors in Espresso (dark brown)  and gold

optional sugar in the raw to sprinkle on top of unbaked macs

  1. In a food processor place the almond flour and confectioners sugar and run for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides so the mixture settles into the processor bowl. Repeat this 2 more times, then sift mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t have to be fine) over a large bowl (I use a 5 quart size stainless steel bowl). Preheat the oven to 300° F convection, 325° F for non convection setting. Prepare two baking sheets with Silpat mats. I use these mats by Velesco (you can get 2 for 13 dollars on Amazon).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar and whisk by hand to combine. Place over a ban marie and stir gently for about 5 minutes until the mixture reaches about 130° F or when you touch the mixture with your index and thumb fingers you don’t feel any sugar crystals. Remove from the heat and place on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and start the meringue by running mixer on  power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and run for about 3 minutes.  Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down the mixture that appears on the sides.
  3. Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.
  4. Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.
  5. Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in a bit of gel food color (I use Americolor).
  6. Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1-3 minutes or until the meringue is stiff peaks and it has started leaving tracks in the meringue and a good portion has collected inside the whisk . A sign that meringue is ready is there will be a good amount collected within the whisk and if you turn the bowl upside down the meringue will not slip or move. If you stop the mixer and tap the whisk gently on the side of the mixer bowl it will look like a bird beak; the meringue is stiff but it has a slight hooked curve when holding the whisk horizontally. If the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by; being careful not to overmix.
  7. Add one half of almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half and continue to gently fold, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. The batter is perfect when you lift up the spatula and tip the pointed end of the spatula down and ribbons of batter fall smoothly back into the bowl. I like to gauge its ready when I can count 6-7 continuous ribbons falling without breaking and I can “draw” a figure 8 with the batter when lifting the spatula and letting it fall into the bowl. Fill your pastry bag by using a heavy tall cup or mason jar to hold your pastry bag with the top folded over the glass. When preparing your bag after you drop in your round tip (I use Ateco 804), twist the bag right above the larger end of the tip and push it down into tip. Fold the top 4 inches of the bag over the jar or glass.
  8. Let the batter fall right into the bottom of the bag and continue filling to ensure you don’t get air bubbles. When ready to pipe and all of the batter is in the bag, twist the top of the bag and when ready to pipe, push down with your dominant hand to force the bottom of the tip to open.
  9. Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Take the sheet pan and let it drop onto the counter about 5-7 times, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Bake the first tray right away (no resting), in a preheated (convection oven if you have at 300° F , 325° F for NON convection oven*) for about 16-18 minutes or until the cookie does not wiggle when attempting to check by carefully grabbing both sides of a cookie and gently testing. Let the tray rest on a wire rack and then bake the second tray.  After the cookies have cooled about 8-10 minutes turn them upside down and let the cool on the tray until completely cooled. (I find this helps prevent hollow shells). Cool the cookies completely and pipe the salted caramel filling between two cookies and sandwich together.
  10. Chill the macarons in an airtight container for 24-48 hours to impart flavor and help soften the macarons to desired chewiness. Bring to room temp to enjoy.

 


Black Cocoa Chocolate Galaxy Cake

 

Did you know there’s a thing such as black cocoa powder? Yep, the same type that Oreo’s are made from. You can buy it online. I purchased some quite a while back from King Arthur when I make homemade style Oreo’s and I wanted to play around with some colors on top of some black buttercream. I tweaked this buttercream from Sweetapolita’s recipe for glossy black buttercream slightly, as well as her recipe for black cocoa cake on her site that is called Glam Rock Cake. It was super fun to play around with smearing some other colors on top of the black frosting to get the galaxy look. I always use Americolor gel color paste; and besides the super black that was used in the frosting, I used electric blue, electric purple and electric pink along with some white to get my galaxy look. You have to start with a black smooth canvas then randomly smear on little dabs of the colors and then take your bench scraper to lightly mix the colors. I then took some silver luster dust mixed with a little super white gel food color and thinned it with a tiny bit of vodka to get the right consistency to splatter on the white space matter. I also “threw” (literally) on some tiny edible silver stars for the final flourish.

The galaxy styled cake was a surprise birthday cake for a friend of mine in my church group, and he loved it!

The inside of the cake is black velvet filled with cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries. The raspberries help counteract the sweet contrast of the buttercream. I love how it looks also when you slice into it. I used bittersweet chocolate in the frosting but in hindsight; since the black cocoa is a very forward flavor, if I make it again I would use half semi sweet and bittersweet as I thought it was a little too bittersweet for my taste, but it was delish none the less.

 

Black Cocoa Galaxy Cake

Black Cocoa Cake

recipe: from Sweetapolita Glam Rock Cake

2 1/3 Cup all purpose flour

3/4 Cup plus one Tablespoon best quality black cocoa powder (I used King Arthur brand)

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 Cups buttermilk, room temperature (or mix one cup whole milk with 1 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. vinegar and let sit for at least 10 minutes)

1/2 Cup hot coffee

1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp

2 1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar (it seems like a lot; but the cake needs it)

2 tsp. vanilla

4 large eggs, room temp

1/4 cup mayonnaise, room temp

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

 

Preheat the oven to 350° F and spray three 8 inch pans with baking spray and line with parchment circles.

In a bowl sift together the flour, black cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a large glass liquid measuring cup mix together the buttermilk and coffee. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment ,or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 8 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between, stopping frequently to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add in the vanilla and mix gently. Decrease the speed to low and add in one third of the flour mixture until just combined. Add in one half of the buttermilk/coffee mixture. Add in the remainder of the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk mixture, ending with the flour mixture until combined; being careful not to overmix. Remove the bowl and carefully mix in the mayonnaise.

In a small bowl quickly mix the baking soda and vinegar and quickly add to the batter, whisking until smooth.

Divide the batter evenly amongst the pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-27 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly touched and the cake just starts to pull away from the pan. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Black Glossy Fudge Frosting

recipe from Sweetapolita 

1  Cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

6 Tbsp. black cocoa powder  (I used King Arthur brand that I purchased online)

2-3 Tbsp. hot water

1/4 cup sour cream

3/4 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (melted along with the bittersweet chips)

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

gel paste color in super black (Americolor)

In a large bowl, using a hand held mixer beat the butter until pale and fluffy; about 6 minutes. Sift the confectioners sugar, salt, and the cocoa together and add in and mix on low first to avoid a mess, then add in the hot water and sour cream and mix to combine. Increase the speed and beat for about 2 minutes to combine. Add in the melted chocolate chips and beat for another minute or two to combine. Add in about 1/2 tsp. of the black gel paste color and beat to combine. Let the frosting sit for about 15 minutes (it darkens as it sits) and then add a little bit as necessary to achieve the color you want. Note; the frosting darkens considerably after sitting. I made the frosting the day before and let it sit covered in the bowl on the counter and it went from very dark brown to black; so if you have time; make it the day before so you can gauge the blackness of the final product.

For decorating the galaxy look: 

White vanilla purchased frosting (you want a white white color so your colors are not off) for coloring small bowls of divided frosting with electric blue, electric purple, and electric pink (all Americolor gel colors) to use for decorating the outside of the cake.

Note: I also used a small amount of silver luster dust mixed with bright white Americolor and vodka to achieve a thickened liquid consistency to “splatter” on the outside of the cake using a clean small paintbrush (that I buy in the craft store- and use solely for this purpose). Clean afterwards and you can reuse and store in your containers of gel colors to have handy.

To decorate; after your cake is smoothed with your final black frosting; smear on random small amounts about 1 inch of each colors randomly around the cake and gently smooth using your bench scraper going around the cake and adding in colors as needed to achieve your final look. Avoid smoothing too much; you want spots of color to show. I also add on some white frosting and gently smooth to get some gray color. While the frosting is still sticky; if you want toss against the sides with edible silver stars and splatter with your mixed silver luster dust/white gel color/vodka mix.

 

Fluffy Cream Cheese Filling

recipe: sweetapolita

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp

1 1/2 Cup confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

8 oz. softened cream cheese, cut into small cubes

2 (6 oz.) containers fresh raspberries, washed and dried

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the confectioners sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and salt and decrease the speed to low and beat for one minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy; about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and add in the cream cheese and beat until smooth, about one minute. Try not to overbeat as the frosting will become too loose if you fdo. Fill the cakes by gently spreading one half of the frosting over two of the cakes and placing the raspberries onto the frosting, and then gently smushing them down onto the frosting before topping with the next cake layer; repeat with the second cake layer, and top with the third cake layer and frost the outside of the cake with the black frosting and decorate as described above.

 

 

 

bonus photos of some galaxy macarons I made; but decided not to use in the end