I might have a weakness for cheesecake; and might I note there is nothing easier than a good old 9×13 slap it in the pan, and pour it in, and bake dessert. Cheesecake in an oblong pan is like the kissing cousin of slab pie. but in my mind, even easier to pull off. Strawberries have been crazy cheap in my area lately. Last weekend I found 1 pound cartons for 50 cents. I grabbed two and threw them in the fridge not knowing what I had planned for them. A recipe popped up on my email for these squares from the New York Times. The original recipe calls for topping them with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I decided instead to spread a classic sour cream topping in lieu of whipped cream. You could also make this in a standard springform pan as well. I tweaked it slightly by adding in some extra strawberry flavor (LorAnn Strawberry Bakery Emulsion) to punch up the strawberry-ness. You can skip that step if you cannot access the strawberry emulsion.
recipe adapted from New York Times
Strawberry Cheesecake Squares
11 oz. Shortbread Cookies (I used 2 packages of Pepperidge Farm brand)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line with a parchment sling a 9×13 inch pan.
In a food processor grind the cookies and salt until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Cool completely while you prepare the filling.
24 oz. fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temp
5 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp. strawberry emulsion (LorAnn brand)
Fresh quartered/halved strawberries for garnish (optional)
In a 3 quart or medium pot, mix the strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the berries soften and mixture becomes saucy; about 8 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then transfer a clean food processor bowl and puree until smooth and no longer chunky; tiny bits are fine. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.
To the food processor bowl, add in the cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups sugar and blend until smooth. Add in the eggs a couple at a time and blend until smooth. Add in the strawberry flavor emulsion and blend. Scrape down the sides of processor bowl and mix until all blended. Pour the cheese mixture into the strawberry mixture and fold until combined. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for 45-50 minutes until edges look set but the middle is very slightly jiggly. Note: I only baked mine for 45 minutes, but next time I will do a few mins. longer as I found the filling was still a little soft. While the cheesecake is baking stir together the sour cream topping. When the cheesecake is done, remove from the oven and gently dollop the topping on top and smooth evenly and to the edges with a small offset spatula. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 11-12 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan over a wire rack, then refrigerate over-night or for several hours until cutting into squares. Serve cold. Garnish with fresh strawberries as desired.
Sour Cream Topping
2 Cups sour cream, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium bowl stir together all the ingredients with a whisk.
I’ve said it before, but it’s true. I always have a pie crust or two sitting idle in my freezer for such an impromptu idea as whipping together a quick simple pie or tart. Cruising through the store the other day the strawberries and blackberries were on sale and they looked divine, so I picked up a few cartons. Summer is all about simplicity when it comes to desserts and this is no exception. When you make a pie crust, get in the habit of making double and park that crust (wrapped really well in plastic wrap) in the freezer. Crust is the most time consuming part when it comes to whipping a pie together. The filling is the easy part, especially when it comes to berries because unlike say apples, there is minimal prep work. This simple pie would also work with throwing in some blueberries as well in place of some of the strawberries. Take note that because the strawberries carry a lot of liquid, the pie is best eaten the day it is made.
It’s best eaten when the filling is still warm and the crust is crispy. Vanilla ice cream optional. Mmmm
1/2 recipe fearless pie crust (or your favorite pie crust)
3 1/2 C fresh berries (mixture of strawberries and blackberries)
1/3 C sugar + more for sprinkling edge of pie crust
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 C almond meal
1 tsp. orange zest
heavy cream (or half and half for brushing pie crust)
1 1/2 Tbsp. Seedless Strawberry or Raspberry Jam for finishing
Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll out pie crust to approx. 1/8 inch thickness. Place the pie crust onto the prepared sheet pan. Toss the almond meal, flour and orange zest together and sprinkle onto the rolled out pie crust, leaving about a 2 inch border.
Wash and dry the berries. Cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on size. Aim for the same size as the blackberries. I found strawberries that were really small in size so I just halved them (leave the blackberries whole). Toss the berries with the sugar (right before you assemble the pie). Place the berries onto the bed of the almond meal mixture in a nice high pile and fold in the sides of the pie crust, pressing lightly. Brush the crust with the cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the pie in a preheated oven for approx. 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Note: you may need to cover the pie with tinfoil for the last 10 minutes or so if the crust is getting browned too quickly.
In a small bowl mix the jam vigorously to smooth out any lumps. Allow the pie to cool slightly then brush with jam and serve warm.
You know I love a good cocktail. It’s Summer and it’s time for a great fruity drink that calls for sipping on the porch or by the pool. Summer is the best time to explore new drinks as the fruit is ripe and plentiful. If you are lucky enough to have a strawberry plant then you can pluck off a little white or pink flower from the plant and use as a garnish, or simply garnish with a ripe strawberry placed on the rim of the glass.
Strawberry Cassis Martini
yield: 2 servings
4 fresh strawberries, (preferably large size) washed and dried
4-6 ice cubes
4 oz. quality vodka
2 tsp. crème de cassis liquer
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. sugar (preferably superfine sugar)
Prepare 2 martini glasses or other decorative glasses by chilling in the fridge. Muddle 2 strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add in the ice, vodka, crème de cassis, lime juice and sugar. Shake vigorously about 10-12 times. Prepare the rim of the glasses by rubbing with lime juice around the rim and dip each one into sugar. Strain and divide the contents into the two chilled glasses. Garnish each glass with a fresh strawberry on the rim by making a small slit into the berry with a sharp knife.
Do you have a picky breakfast eater?
Are you at an impasse trying to think of new breakfast items for your little gremlins?
Do you need an easy breakfast for visiting company?
Do you have like 3 ounces of energy on a weekend morning (even after 2 cups of coffee) but you want to show that you care a little more than what a bowl of cereal offers?
I give you….the easy Nutella crepe. You can whip up the crepe batter in like 5 minutes the night before, park the batter in the fridge and the next morning all you have to do is whip out some fast crepes. If you really want to save time- you can make up all the crepes (without the filling) the night before- stack them between sheets of wax paper, then place the entire stack in a sealed plastic baggie tucked safely in the fridge for morning.
I paired the classic Nutella and strawberries here, but you can swap in fresh raspberries or bananas too. If you don’t want to use Nutella, fresh seasonal fruits paired with some sweetened cream cheese, mascarpone, or honey greek yogurt would work. Honey-vanilla greek yogurt with fresh peaches would be great once fresh peaches come into season. If you want to go really low maintenance you can simply smear some great jam and roll them up to serve.
Sweet Crepe Batter
yield: about 12 crepes (about 8 inches)
3/4 Cup milk (2 % is fine) (room temperature)
1/2 Cup water (lukewarm)
2 eggs (room temperature)
3 Tbsp. melted butter (+ more for prepping pan)
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 Cup all-purpose flour
Note: you can use this same recipe for savory crepes- just omit the sugar and vanilla.
1. In a blender pulse to combine all the ingredients except the flour. Add the flour then combine for about 20-30 seconds. Cover the batter and let rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
2. Heat a small (6-8 inch) non-stick pan over medium low heat and add a little smear of butter. Tip: I like to use the cut end of a stick of butter and quickly swipe over the surface of the pan. You’ll want to do this for each crepe.
3. Pour 2 Tbsp. of batter over surface of your pan, pick up the pan off the heat and immediately swirl the batter (using a circular motion and tilting your wrist) in the pan 3-4 times until pan is coated with your batter. Set the pan back on the heat and heat until lightly browned; about 2 minutes. Use a bamboo skewer or toothpick to pick up the edge of the crepe and flip it over to the other side and heat until browned as well. Move your crepe to a large plate and stack your crepes between pieces of wax paper while you continue making the rest of the crepes.
To fill: smear a thin layer of Nutella using an offset spatula over surface of crepe. Place thin slices of strawberries over one side of the crepe, then fold in half and then half again forming a wedge shape. You can also roll them into a log shape if you like. Sprinkle with optional confectioners sugar for serving.
Fresh fruit(s) such as thinly sliced strawberries, raspberries, or sliced bananas.
Summer means lighter desserts since the last thing you want on a hot day is something heavy. Imagine a nice warm summer evening sitting on the deck sipping chilled moscato wine, listening to jazz and tucking into one of these tarts. The beauty is you can make these ahead of time; like the day before and enjoy a nice relaxing evening dining al fresco.
Adapt this recipe to make it your own with different fresh fruit toppings if you like. I’ve made this tart with raspberries before and it’s amazing. If you like- you can make one large tart as well. If you really want to save time, you can make both your tart shells and the pastry cream a day or two ahead and assemble them on the day of your party. Make sure to buy your berries no longer than a day before assembly to ensure a very fresh taste.
Shortbread tart Crust: (10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 1 9-10 inch tart)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/3 C confectioners sugar
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
(soft butter for brushing tart pan)
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed; cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla bean paste and combine briefly until smooth. In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt to combine. Add the flour mixture on medium low speed until the mixture is almost combined; there will be some bits at the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer and with your hands lightly mix the dough together to incorporate any little bits until it is combined.
Prepare the tart pan by brushing with soft butter and flouring the pan; tap out any loose flour. This step is key if you want to actually remove the tart crust from the bottom part of the pan; such as if you are giving it for a gift or putting it in a box to take to a party. The flour will ensure you can slip a thin spatula in between the crust and the bottom portion of the removable tart pan. Hey, if you are having your own party and you don’t plan to transport that sucker, then skip this step. There is enough butter in the tart crust that you will still be able to remove the ring without buttering or flouring the pan.
Press the dough into the tart pan until it looks fairly even. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes before you bake it. I chill mine an hour so it helps prevent the crust from shrinking when baked. Once the crust has chilled, dock the bottom of the crust very well all over with the tines of a fork; being careful not to go all the way through. This will prevent the crust from puffing as much as possible when baked, or you can blind bake your shells. Set the tart shells on a cookie sheet and Bake at 350 º F for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust looks no longer wet. You are not really looking for color. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the bottom of the tart shells lightly with a beaten egg white. Note: if your crust(s) have puffed up I like to take a the back of a rounded measuring teaspoon to quickly smooth out the crusts flat (for mini tarts) or an offset spatula for one large tart; then I brush with the egg white. The egg white will prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the tart crust cool completely on a wire rack.
White Chocolate Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)
yield: enough filling or 10-12 mini 3 inch tarts OR 9-10 inch tart
1 1/4 C whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. soft butter
4 oz. melted & cooled white chocolate
In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and whisk in the sugar until smooth. In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir to combine. Add this to your egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat, whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute until it looks like pudding. Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter. If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Whisk in the white chocolate. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.
Note: If after chilling you find your pastry cream is not thick enough- you did not let it boil long enough. You can always rescue it by returning it to the pan and make a small slurry of cold water and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch and bring to boil while whisking mixture.
To assemble: Place cold pastry cream into each tart shell, smooth the filling. Top with your berries/fruit. Brush with warm glaze (recipe below) and keep tarts chilled until ready to serve.
1/4 Cup seedless strawberry, seedless raspberry or apricot Jam
2-3 tsp. water
Heat the jam and water over low heat until mixture is thin. If using apricot jam; strain the chunks of fruit out.
I am having a total 70’s flashback today (in reference to my childhood) thinking about Neapolitan ice cream. In the 70’s it was still the cheap square cardboard boxes when it came to ice cream, and you didn’t have a million flavors like we do today. Somewhere along the line we transitioned into circular ice cream containers. What’s up with that?
Neapolitan ice cream was a frequent in our house growing up. I loved the first glance of those perfectly proportioned lines of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry when you first lifted the lid on the container. I was a naughty girl and always scooped from the strawberry stripe only. I’m sure my Mother figured it out. If not-she is certainly right now- reading this. For some reason I was not much interested in the chocolate or vanilla. Today I have grown out of my strawberry obsession and am an equal flavor opportunist.
Neapolitan macarons. You get all 3 wonderful flavors at the same time. Give it a try….
I did a couple variations on flavors. You could use vanilla swiss meringue buttercream to fill all or also choose to divide some of them and fill with chocolate ganache or even strawberry buttercream.
200 gms almond flour, sifted
200 gms confectioners sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
76 gms egg whites
200 gms granulated sugar
50 gms water
75 gms egg whites (room temp)
pinch of cream of tartar
1. In a large bowl combine the almond flour, and confectioners sugar and cocoa powder. Add the 75 gms of egg whites, and stir to combine. Set aside.
2. In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine 75 gms of egg whites and the cream of tartar and begin whipping them on medium-high speed.
At the same time combine the 200 gms of granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan on high heat; bring to 240° without stirring while whipping the egg whites on your mixer simultaneously. You want the cooking sugar syrup to reach 240 degrees at the same time your whites reach stiff peaks. To time this; keep the stand mixer next to the stove so you can peek at the whites while still watching your cooking syrup. If you notice the whites starting to get too stiff before the sugar is done; slow down the mixer to low-speed.
3. Once the syrup is at 240 degrees, stop/take off the heat and start pouring the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl slowly with the mixer running on slow-medium at the same time; careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk to prevent hard syrup forming. Once all the syrup is in, crank up the mixer and whip the whites until very glossy and stiff.
4. Take the whipped meringue and place on top of the almond mixture and start to fold gently until all of the meringue is incorporated; careful not to deflate the mixture. You are looking for a thick consistency like lava. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe the cookies on parchment lined sheet trays; leaving at least an inch space between cookies. Take the trays and rap them hard on the counter to release any air bubbles. Let the trays sit out anywhere from 30-60 minutes; as long as it takes until when you touch the top of the cookies they are dry and no longer tacky to the touch.
5. Bake the cookies double panned (placing one empty tray underneath the piped cookies) one tray at a time in a 325° oven for about 15-18 minutes until the cookies are no longer wet on the bottom and appear dry. Sacrifice one if you have to test. Let the cookies cool on the tray. Sandwich with the filling. Store the cookies in the fridge covered loosely for 8 hours or overnight; this helps the cookies become even more chewy as the moisture from the filling helps the texture of the cookie.
Follow the same recipe as above except substitute the cocoa powder with 2 Tbsp. dried strawberry powder and add a few drops of deep pink food coloring gel in step one.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla
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 and and beat until smooth. Use a generous 1 tsp. full to fill macarons.
Note: any leftover buttercream may be frozen. Store in an airtight container. To use: thaw at room temperature and rewhip with paddle attachment. You may also make strawberry buttercream by dividing adding in some seedless strawberry jam and whipping to combine.
Assembling Neapolitan Macarons: match up one chocolate and strawberry mac cookie and fill with vanilla buttercream. As an alternative you may fill some with chocolate ganache.
Small batch chocolate ganache
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 oz. heavy cream
In a medium bowl place the chopped chocolate. Heat the heavy cream on high until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute before stirring to combine thoroughly. Place the ganache in the fridge while you make the cookies.