We had such a lovely Fourth of July yesterday. It was a beautiful day here in Arizona and we lazed around all day and I threw together a quick blueberry puree in my ninja blender. I had quite a bit of fresh mint left in the fridge and whipped together this refreshing sipper with some store bought lemonade. Normally I make fresh lemonade when our ginormous lemon tree is in season, but I think it is yummy even with store bought. I like the brand Simply Lemonade. The great thing about this quick cocktail is the little ones can enjoy it sans vodka, so it’s family friendly. Just whip up the puree earlier in the day and keep it in the fridge with the fresh mint.
We finished off the night swimming in the pool and sipping cocktails with our friends, while watching our neighbors’ fireworks. We are lucky to have neighbors a few blocks away who shoot off fireworks every year so we stay home and swim in the pool while taking in the bright display. Stay safe and enjoy Summer everyone!
Blueberry Mint Lemonade (with optional Vodka)
2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 Cup water
Place the blueberries and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, puree in a blender until smooth (some little bits of blueberry are fine).
How to make cocktail:
In a tall Collins glass place 1 1/2 Tbsp. of blueberry puree and mint leaves from one sprig. Smash lightly the mint with a spoon. Fill the glass with 1 oz. of vodka, one more sprig of mint, then top off with crushed ice and lemonade.
Tip for storing fresh mint: When you bring the mint home from the store, take it out of the package, rinse in cold water, and place in a glass of cold water (I use a mason jar). Make sure the sprigs are immersed in the water.
I have a serious THING for key lime pie, so turning that into a martini? yeah…
Is there really anymore to say? Other than this is for my Summer Cocktail Series. Cocktail # 2
Commence with the sippin’ and the porch sittin’ !!
Key Lime Pie Martini
1.5 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. key lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. Coco Lopez
0.5 oz. (1 Tbsp.) pineapple juice
1 oz. heavy cream
One drop mint green (gel) food color
Fill a martini glass or coupe glass with crushed ice to chill.
On a small plate mix the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together.
Mix the martini per instructions* in the cocktail shaker.
Pour out the ice water from the martini glass and wipe dry.
Cut a small piece of lime and wipe around the rim of martini/coupe glass.
Dip the rim of the glass into the cracker mixture.
Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve immediately.
* Fill a cocktail shaker with all the ingredients then fill with ice. Shake vigourously.
Graham Cracker Rim:
1 full rectangular square graham cracker ground to crumbs in either a mortar/pestle or in a ziplock bag using rolling pin. Mix the crumbs with 2 tsp. of sugar. (You could also use cinnamon graham cracker if you prefer).
Fresh ripe juicy blackberries
Elderflower St. Germain liqueur
Warm gentle breezes
A few of your best friends
What do all of these have in common? The Amelia cocktail– named after Amelia Earhart is a wonderful, berrylicious, bright and fresh cocktail that comes together quite easily in a cocktail shaker. The end result is a gorgeous purple-maroon colored beauty. Sorry guys- this is a girly girl drink.
Summer lends itself to our creative senses when it comes to sipping on something refreshing, so I’m starting a new category called “Summer Cocktail Series” to get us in the mood. The star of this beautiful libation utilizes fresh blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and St. Germain liqueur. St. Germain is a liqueur made from elderflower and it pairs nicely with berries and lemon because of it’s citrus notes.
Mix this up ahead of time and find a pretty glass container and invite your BFF’s over for some lazy sipping on the front porch. Serve it in coupe wineglasses if you have them, (or a martini glass will do) placed on a pretty serving tray for a style reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour. You can multiply the recipe and keep it in the fridge in a pretty glass container of your choice so easy pouring and seconds will not distract you from your lazy porch sitting-slow sipping-catching up on neighborhood gossip-entertaining duties. Serve it alongside simple hors d’oeuvres and you will never leave the porch or pool side. Enjoy~
The Amelia Cocktail
recipe: adapted slightly from Nordstrom Bar
yield: two cocktails
12 fresh large plump blackberries
1 Tbsp. super fine sugar
2.5 oz. vodka
2 oz. St. Germaine liqueur
1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
ice to fill cocktail shaker
Garnish: fresh blackberries, mint, super fine sugar for rimming glasses
Chill glasses ahead of time in the fridge or place ice in each glass to fill then fill with enough water to fill each glass. Right before serving, dump out the ice cold water before pouring the cocktail.
Prepare cocktail: In a cocktail shaker place the berries and sugar. Muddle the berries and sugar (with a cocktail muddler or end of a large wooden spoon) until broken down and juicy. Add the vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice and enough ice to fill the shaker. Cap the shaker and shake vigourosly about 20 times.
Prepare glasses: Remove chilled glasses from fridge (or dump out the ice water from glasses and wipe dry). Swipe a small piece of lemon around the rims of glasses and then dip the glasses in sugar (place sugar on a small plate for easy rimming). Strain the cocktail into the glasses and serve garnished with fresh mint and blackberries.
Lets face it-there are certain fruits or foods which given their name do not exactly evoke a tasty image. Case in point, the blood orange. I mean….how could one get excited over something with the word blood in it if you’re going to be shoving it in your mouth? Well, these little beauties lend the most amazing ruby red color when juiced. You’ll find them used in everything from cocktail recipes to baking. Mix the juice with a little confectioners sugar and you have the most beautiful AND flavorful princess pink icing.
It’s always a surprise when you slice one in half to find how deep in color your prized beauty really is. When picking one out you want to find one that has a good patch of crimson red mixed with deep orange.
Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 Cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of 2 large blood oranges
2 Tbsp. blood orange juice
1/3 Cup milk
1 tsp. white vinegar
2-4 Tbsp. poppy seeds
Combine milk with vinegar and set aside for about 10-15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a standard loaf pan with non stick baking spray and line with parchment paper so the ends are extended over the long side of the pan. Leave at least 2 inches of overhang.
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and combine. Zest the oranges over the mixer bowl and also add the blood orange juice. With mixer on stir setting, stir to combine. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add in half the flour mixture and beat gently to combine. Add in milk mixture with mixer running on slow speed and mix gently to combine. Add in last half of flour mixture and beat gently to combine. Stir in the poppy seeds (Note* this is a matter of preference on how much poppy seeds you like-I add in only 2 Tbsp. but you can much more to your liking).
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated oven for about 55 minutes to an hour or until a wooden skewer inserted shows a few moist crumbs.
Make the Blood Orange Syrup by placing ingredients into a liquid glass measuring cup and microwaving until mixture comes to a boil.
Let the cake cool for 30 minutes then gently pour the Blood Orange Syrup over the cake until cake absorbs all of syrup. Let cake cool completely, then apply glaze with a large spoon until top of cake is covered.
For glaze– in a medium bowl place sifted confectioners sugar and blood orange juice and whisk to combine.
Blood Orange Syrup
1/2 Cup water
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. blood orange juice
1 1/2 Cup confectioners sugar, sifted
3-4 Tbsp. fresh blood orange juice
I confess-I still had leftover Halloween candy, I was going to wait and save it for next year but decided to crumble them and put them to use in a buttercream to try a new macaron flavor. Have you ever wondered why the Butterfinger candy bar has that weird orange color? or is it just me.
I have been recently tweaking my macaron recipe as well to try and combat hollow macaron shells and I was so overjoyed that this batch came out perfect. Nice feet with no hollows. I know you all are probably tired of another macaron recipe, but bear with me as I recently purchased some macaron Silpat mats and I had to try them out. For the record, I did not age my egg whites either-I have to admit, I’ve tried it several times with and without and for me personally I don’t see a difference in aging. I even baked my first batch with only resting them 10 minutes and they still came out perfect.
yield: ~ 30 or more assembled macarons (depending on piped size of shells)
140 gm Almond flour (I like Wellbee’s super fine blanched brand)*
124 gm confectioners sugar
107 gm egg whites, room temperature
110 gm granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
orange gel/paste food color
brown gel/paste food color
unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
(*try to find the best almond flour that is fine or superfine and blanched, or pale in color). I use “Wellbee’s superfine blanched almond flour” which I buy in 5 pound bags from Amazon. It’s cheaper as you go up in quantity.
- 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.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk by hand (using the mixer whisk) until foamy for about 30 seconds. Prepare two baking sheets with either parchment paper or Silpat liners. I recently purchased new macaron mats by Velesco from Amazon and I love them! You get 2 mats for 15 dollars.
- Set the mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment assembled to the mixer, and start the meringue by running mixer on power level 4 (Kitchen Aide) and start gradually adding in the granulated sugar- run/whisk for 2 minutes once all the sugar is in. Stop once to scrape the sides of the bowl to push down any sugar that appears on the sides.
- Increase mixer then to power level 6 and run for 3 minutes.
- Increase mixer to power level 8 and run for 3 minutes.
- Stop mixer and with a bamboo skewer or toothpick add in your gel colors. About 3-4 parts orange to one part brown.
- Increase mixer to power level high (10) and run for 1 minute or until meringue is stiff peaks. 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 the color does not appear to be mixer to your liking at this point I add in any color and mix gently by hand; being careful not to overmix.
Add one half of the meringue to the almond flour/sugar mix and start folding with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to look cohesive. Add in the remaining half of meringue 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 7 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. See pictures.
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.
Pipe the batter onto prepared baking sheet with 30 macarons per sheet. Six across the long side, and five rows perpendicular. Sift a light dusting of cocoa powder over each piped macaron round. Take the sheet pan and wrap against the counter for 13 times. Repeat x 2 more times of 13, then look for any visible air bubbles and pop with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Allow the macarons to rest for 10-30 minutes, then bake 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.
Cool the cookies completely and pipe the Butterfinger buttercream between two cookies and sandwich together.
*A word about oven temperatures: EVERY one’s oven is different and after painstaking doing several batches of macarons I determined that in MY oven 300 F convection setting is best for me. Check your oven temperature against a thermometer placed in the middle of your oven. Some people bake there’s at 285, 290, 310 etc. unfortunately it’s something that you have to play around with and determine what is best for you and your oven.
3 egg whites
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 “fun size” Butterfinger bars, crushed
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla, then beat until smooth. Fold in the crushed pieces of the Butterfinger. Note: you can make the buttercream a day or two ahead and keep chilled in the fridge-through the steps minus the crushed candy. When ready, let the filling come to room temperature and re whisk in the mixer until smooth and then fold in the crushed candy.
I think everyone knows my obsession now with rose flavored desserts, and pistachio and rose are like BFF’s. Since I had some rose buttercream leftover from my macarons it gave me an idea to come up with a recipe for pistachio and rose cake. I still ended up making buttercream since my leftovers weren’t enough but no bother it was a good excuse to make a layer cake. A word to the wise since pistachios are a bit expensive- make sure you buy them from a purveyor who’s supply is quickly turned over and store them if not using right away in the freezer. I had bought some a while back (even stored them right away in the freezer) but when I thawed them they were rancid. It was from a bulk bin of nuts so I think they sat there a while. Anywho…I digress. This cake turned out to be one of my absolute favorites of all time. It kind of reminds me of the preppy pink and green from the 80’s. Muffy and Biff would be proud. I admit I bumped up the color of the cake with a bit of mint green gel food color just because I found it added that extra pretty preppy punch from being nicely dressed to va va voom.
Pistachio Cake, Rose~Pistachio Buttercream
yield: 8 inch 3 layer cake or ~ 24 cupcakes
3 Tbsp. Confectioners sugar
1 C + 2 Tbsp. unshelled pistachio pieces (I get mine from Trader Joes)
3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 C sugar
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
4 1/2 large eggs
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. whole milk, room temp
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. pure almond extract
mint green gel food coloring (optional)
In a food processor place the confectioners sugar and the pistachios and grind/pulse until finely chopped with some nuts being ground into a coarse powder. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare 3 eight inch cake pans with baking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray lightly again. Note: If you only have 2 pans, you may bake the third one separately after allow the pans to cool.
In a separate bowl place the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine well. Set aside.
Cream the sugar and the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed until combined. Note: mixture will look somewhat curdled (don’t worry-mixture will come together). Add in half of the flour mixture on medium speed, stopping to scrape down the mixer bowl as needed. In a glass measuring cup mix the extracts with the milk. With the mixer running, stream in the milk and beat on low speed until combined. Add in the last half of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl to combine everything well. Add in the ground nut mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until combined. Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans. Bake in preheated oven for ~ 24 minutes or until the cake has a few moist crumbs when pierced with a wooden skewer, or when pressed lightly the cake springs back. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack until cool.
Pistachio Sugar Syrup (optional)
1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
4 drops Pistachio flavored concentrated essential oil for baking (such as Lorann brand) (found in cake supply stores)
Boil the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and add in the drops of the pistachio flavored oil.
1/2 Cup shelled unsalted & roasted pistachio nuts
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. pistachio oil (or vegetable oil)
1. Prepare a sheet pan with either a Silpat or by lightly greasing with vegetable oil.
2. Pour the water in a saucepan and then add the sugar. With a clean finger mix the sugar and water until it looks like wet sand. Have a cup of water with a clean pastry brush placed in the cup. Bring the sugar to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar dissolves-stop stirring. If sugar crystals form along the sides of the pan; use the wet pastry brush to let water drip down to dissolve the crystals. Continue to cook until the mixture comes to a light caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts. Return to the heat and cook until comes to a medium amber color. Working quickly- pour the nut mixture onto prepared pan and with a heat proof spatula do your best to flatten out nuts. Allow the nuts to cool until they become hard.
3. Once mixture is hard and completely cooled- use your hands to break apart any large clumps. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse several times to initially break up the mixture. Proceed to process the mixture until it starts to form a thick paste. When the blade no longer seems to move add the oil and continue to process until as smooth as possible. Leftover should be stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
5 egg whites
1 1/2 Cups sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, cool but not cold
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. pistachio paste
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. Rose water (I like Nielsen Massey brand)
mint green gel food color
deep pink gel food color
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth. Divide buttercream evenly into two bowls.
To one bowl add the pistachio paste and mix well with a spoon or spatula. Add in a tiny bit of mint green gel color using a toothpick, and stir to combine. Add more a little at a time until desired color is achieved.
In the other bowl add the rose water and stir to combine. Add in the deep pink gel color using a toothpick, and stir evenly to combine until desired color is achieved.
If using the simple syrup: brush each cake liberally with the syrup and allow to seep into the cake a while before stacking and assembling the cake.
Fill a piping bag with each pistachio buttercream and rose buttercream side by side. Using a spiral technique pipe a layer of buttercream over the surface of cake round and stack the next round of cake on top. Continue til all three are stacked. Pipe rows of alternating flavored buttercream onto sides and top of cake and smooth as necessary to create a two toned affect.
Do you love rose flavored treats? I do. What better way to celebrate Valentines day than having a rose flavored treat. I was so inspired I even treated myself and picked up some pretty pink roses. I just love sneaking in a little rose water with different desserts when possible. Try it in blueberry pie sometime, or a blackberry dessert. You have to be careful though because too much and it can taste “soapy”. The key is to start with a little amount and add accordingly with several tastings. The flavor should be subtle and not overpowering. I was lazy when I made these and didn’t sift my almond flour so they didn’t turn out as smooth as I like, but I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little punky lately since overcoming the flu. I’m still trying to recover fully with getting my energy back, so I skipped that step. I does make a difference. Rose water can be a bit pricey, so if you can try to locate an international market or an Indian market for the best price! Try filling a mini spray bottle with distilled water and adding in some rose water for a quick spritz at work when you’re feeling draggy at the end of the day. It’s super refreshing!
75 g egg whites, room temp
pinch of cream of tartar
50 g superfine granulated sugar
90 g almond flour
135 g confectioners sugar
pink gel food color (2-3 drops) (I used half electric pink and deep pink)
1. In a food processor pulse the almond meal, and confectioners sugar, stopping to push contents down into the bowl and process until fine. Sift contents into a bowl and discard any hard lumps. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and superfine granulated sugar, and hand whisk until foamy. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed (Kitchen aide stop 4) for 2 minutes, then medium speed (stop 6) for 2 minutes, then on high speed (stop 8) for 2 minutes, add the gel color then increase to highest speed (stop-i 10) until whites are stiff. Hint: if you remove the bowl and turn it upside down and the whites do not slide out they are ready! (Just be careful when checking!)
2. Gradually add the almond flour mixture to the meringue and mix/fold with a rubber spatula until mixture when lifted is able to form a figure 8 ribbon. About every 5th fold lift the spatula up and let the batter fall gently back into the bowl. Once you can form a figure 8 ribbon without the mixture breaking, the mixture is ready. You want the batter to fall down in ribbons-if it falls off in “plops” then it’s not ready, continue folding. Prepare the piping bag with a round tip. Fill gently with the mac batter.
3. Prepare a sheet pan with either Silpat or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325° F. Pipe the macarons onto the prepared sheet pan about a quarter size with 1 1/2 inches space between. Note; if after piping there are visible peaks then the batter is too thick and could cause problems such as cracking or not rising correctly. Squeeze out all the batter back into the bowl (with firm pressure) and refill the batter back into the piping bag and re pipe. Usually the act of doing this will thin the batter enough (without having to mix more) to get a more ideal thickness. Once you have piped the batter take the sheet pan and rap it on the counter a few times (3-6) to release any air bubbles. If you still see any visible air bubbles pop them gently with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Allow the sheet pan to sit for 30-60 minute to form a “skin” so when touched the batter is no longer tacky feeling.
4. Bake the macs with rack in middle position for about 15-17 minutes or until when touching the top of a macaron, the top does not wiggle or slide but is firmly set. If they look like they are getting too browned then cover with tinfoil for the last few minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Do not attempt to remove until they are completely cool. Once cooled fill as described below with the rose buttercream.
Rose Buttercream Filling
3 large egg whites, room temp
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4-1 tsp. Rose water (make sure it’s water and NOT extract)
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla, then beat until smooth. Add in 1/2 tsp. at a time of rose water and beat till smooth (all rose waters run a little different, so taste test to your liking). I used 3/4 tsp. of rose water Nielsen Massey brand.