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.
I’m falling in love all over again with my cast iron pan. Not that I fell OUT of love with it mind you, but I was rearranging my pots and pans in the cupboard and I came across my old friend. He was hidden in the back, but not completely forgotten. Comfortable like an old shoe, and familiar; the cast iron pan can do many jobs. He’s a Jack of all trades. Lately I’m in a phase of simplicity and easy recipes. That can all change on a weekly basis, but my old friend fits into my easy breezy lifestyle that I’m embracing this week. This is a recipe that comes together rather quickly and you’ll be singing the praises of your iron clad buddy as you spoon out warm strawberry oozy goodness to your family and friends. Have some vanilla ice cream at the ready….
Strawberry Apple Cobbler
1 1/2 lbs fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled (very large ones cut in half) otherwise kept whole
1 Cup sugar, divided
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 tsp vanilla, divided
1/2 Cup butter, divided
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Prepare the biscuit topping:
In a large bowl whisk the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut 1/4 cup of the butter into small cubes. Cut the butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter until butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and stir gently until just combined. Set aside while preparing the filling.
In a 9 or 10 inch cast iron pan place the strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and vanilla and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and starting to thicken; about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the butter and the apples. Drop the biscuit topping in six equal portions over the hot filling, sprinkle biscuit portions with turbinado sugar and place in preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then serve warm. Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.
When I lived in San Francisco we used to frequent the most amazing Greek restaurant called Mykonos. It has just the right amount of atmosphere; it’s cozy, non pretentious, and has great authentic affordable Greek food. They have THE best moussaka I’ve ever had and great baklava. The husband and I always ordered the same exact thing every single time; a family platter that had an assortment of traditional food and it came with coffee and baklava at the end of the meal. We almost never ate the baklava in the restaurant because we always left too full and with leftovers to boot. I would save it for the next day and when I did- I savored it with a good cup of coffee or tea. I always looked forward to that baklava and promised myself that eventually I would take a crack at making my own. Baklava is not hard to make- just a bit time consuming and tedious, but there is something relaxing and almost meditative that happens while you build each layer of love.
At first glance you will be scared when it comes out of the oven, as it looks dry and somewhat of an experimental science project gone wrong, but have no fear. Once you pour over the unctuous sweet syrup is when the magic truly happens. It is not a dessert to make when you are in a rush but rather a treat to build while you have the kitchen to yourself, it’s quiet and you can enjoy the process. You must also reserve some constraint as the whole mass must bathe languidly in that syrup for 6-8 hours or overnight to soak up the sweet love before you can bust into it, so plan accordingly.
I must have researched and read a million recipes before coming up with this combination. Some recipes call for all walnuts while others call for a combination of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios or even all pistachios- it’s really what you prefer just make sure you have a total weight of one pound of nuts.
yield: one 9×13 inch pan (about 24 pieces depending how small you cut them)
one (1 lb.) package of filo dough- thawed in the fridge overnight
1 lb. of nuts (I chose 50% walnuts/50% pistachios) [mixture to equal about 4 cups onced chopped if you don’t have a scale]
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup honey (I used orange blossom)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 piece orange rind- minus the pith (approx. 1 inch wide by 2 inch long)
3/4 Cup water
1. Make the syrup first and then allow it to cool in the pan to room temperature. Remove the filo dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temp (in the box) for 1-2 hours.
2. To make the syrup: place all the contents in a saucepan (2-3 quart size is best) and bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring just initially until the sugar is dissolved, then decrease the heat to medium low and boil for 4 minutes (without stirring). Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, remove the orange rind.
3. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until nuts are fine, but do not grind to a powder. I pulsed my pistachios and walnuts separately as they are different sizes and this ensures they do not get too small. Place both nuts in a bowl and add the spices and mix to combine.
4. Prepare the filo by placing 2 sheets of plastic wrap side by side and overlapping slightly on the counter top. Carefully lay out the sheets of filo onto the plastic wrap and cut the stack to size to fit your pan. All brands are different- (My filo came in one huge stack that measured 13 x 18 inches so I simply cut it into two stacks each stack measuring 9 x 13) then place another sheet of plastic wrap big enough to cover on top of the filo, followed by a damp tea towel or kitchen towel. Keep the filo dough covered this way as you are working with it to ensure it does not dry out as the dough can easily tear. You may need to check your tea towel and re wet it and squeeze out again to maintain a damp towel.
5. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch pan with melted butter. Carefully pick up one sheet of filo dough and place it on the bottom of the pan and brush with melted butter. Continue in this manner; brushing EACH and EVERY sheet carefully with melted butter (I used a silicone brush) until you have built a stack of 10. Sprinkle a generous 3/4 Cup of nut mixture over the stack. Start another stack (this time a stack of 5 layers) (ALWAYS brushing EACH layer with melted butter as you “stack”), then sprinkle 3/4 Cup of nut mixture. Continue this 5 layer stack followed by nut sprinkle until you have used all the nuts, then build a final and top layer of 10 sheets or a minimum of 5-7 if your package does not allow a final layer of 10. Make sure to brush the final top layer with melted butter. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
6. Take a sharp pointed knife and cut 3 vertical lines so you visually have 4 equal portioned vertical rows through the entire built layer spacing your rows about 1.5 inches apart (see the above picture). Now cut diagonal rows through the entire stacked layers (to form diamond shapes) and place the baklava in a 325° F oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until it is light golden brown.
7. Remove the baklava and allow to sit for 5 minutes then pour the cooled syrup over the baklava. You will hear it hiss and crack a bit (that’s normal). Allow to sit a room temperature to soak up the syrup. Once room temp, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 6-8 hours or overnight to ensure the baklava soaks up the syrup. Enjoy at room temperature or warm slightly if you wish by zapping in the microwave.
I just finished reading a really moving book that tells the true story of Sasha Martin, called Life From Scratch. The book is sad, inspiring, raw, and sensitive. Along the way you feel the mood and emotion of her childhood as she moves into adulthood. Each chapter is a blessing of recipe(s) from her life’s journey. One of the recipes is a Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Buttercream which I’ve adapted into cupcakes and added a bit of extra chocolate fudge frosting as a bonus. I’ve seen cake recipes before that use Guinness so I was especially excited to try this, and it was fabulous. Pick up her book if you haven’t read it- it’s a great read.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!
Chocolate & Guinness Stout Cupcakes
recipe adapted from the book Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
yield: 16 cupcakes
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer (take the beer out ahead of time and let sit on the counter unopened so that it is not cold)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, room temp
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a small saucepan heat the butter until just melted, then whisk together with the Guinness, vanilla, and cocoa. While the Guinness mixture is cooling, line cupcake tins with paper liners. Whisk together the sugar, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour the Guinness mixture onto the dry ingredients, and then whisk in the 2 eggs. When the batter is shiny and smooth, pour it into the wells of the cupcake tins filling 2/3 full; exactly 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for ~ 15-20 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. (baking time in a regular oven is around 19-20 minutes. I used my convection oven at 325° F and baked mine for exactly 15 minutes). Cool completely.
Prepare a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or your choice of tip) and fill each side of the bag with chocolate fudge frosting and Baileys frosting-it’s handy to use a “two tone” piping bag if you can find one.
Dark Chocolate Fudgy Frosting
recipe adapted from Sweetapolita
1 Cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup plus 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1/3 Cup (40 g) extra dark unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey’s extra dark)
1/4 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of salt
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli) melted and cooled
In a food processor place all but the melted chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and pulse until smooth. Chill frosting is not using right away.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream
recipe from Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted
2-4 Tbsp Baileys Irish Cream
Whip the soft butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar on low speed, then increase to medium high, and drizzle in enough Baileys to get the buttercream loose and fluffy. To achieve a whiter frosting whip it 5-10 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Happy Valentines Day. Do you know where your sweet tooth is? That’s right- it’s still in the same place you left it, no-not at the dentist’s office-but right in the back of your mouth. Your mouth is calling for something red and sweet. It’s okay, you are allowed to indulge today-no need to feel guilty. Your welcome.
Red Velvet Brownies
brownie recipe: from thatskinnychickcanbake
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz. liquid red food coloring (such as McCormick)
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 C sugar
2 lg. eggs
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Line both sides of an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with tinfoil and spray lightly with non stick spray. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, red food coloring and 1 tsp. of the vanilla to form a smooth paste, set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape bowl. Add the remaining one tsp. of vanilla to combine. Add in the cocoa powder paste mixture and beat gently to combine. Stir in the flour and salt to combine. Smooth batter (it will be thick) into prepared pan and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let brownies cool completely before icing.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled (I use Ghiradelli white chocolate) (do NOT use white chocolate chips)
Chop the white chocolate very fine and microwave on 50 % power to melt chocolate-stopping frequently to stir. Allow to cool. Beat the cream cheese and butter in bowl of stand mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Add in the sugar a little at a time and beat until smooth. Add in the cooled white chocolate and beat until smooth. Spread the icing over the cooled brownies (decorate with heart sprinkles if desired) and chill entire pan until icing becomes firm-this makes cutting the brownies easier.
Run a thin knife or offset spatula around the perimeter of the brownies. lift the entire slab of brownies out of the pan and cut into desired shapes.
Some treats evoke a sense of cozy. Marshmallows are cozy. Fluffy, soft, sweet- what’s not to like. This is the season of joyful and cozy eating and indulging. Just go with it. Forget the diet for now. Just once in your life you need to make homemade marshmallows. I think Christmas time is the perfect time. Imagine Christmas morning as you set up a hot chocolate bar and include these as part of your cozy plan. Make your hot chocolate and have it sitting warm on the stove as your little gremlins open their presents.
I have made mallows several times and I find my favorite recipe is one with a little egg white in the mix. They come out softer and less rubbery. The Husband proclaimed he doesn’t even like marshmallows but he likes these. A lot. This recipe makes a nice thick square when cut and quite a few so you can wrap them in cellophane bags and give as gifts-perhaps with a sleeve of mocha, hot chocolate mix or peppermint mocha mix. Plan to make them early in the day or the night before so they can set up. It’s a gift to yourself curled up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and tucked into your favorite fuzzy blanket.
yield: one 9×13 inch pan (36-40 marshmallows)
3/4 Cup cold water
3 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
3 Cups sugar
3/4 Cup light corn syrup
3/4 Cup hot water
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure peppermint extract
3 Tbsp. finely crushed peppermint candy canes (about 3 mini candy-canes)
red food coloring
confectioners sugar and cornstarch for tossing marshmallows
Line a 9×13 inch pan with baking parchment, allowing excess to hang over both sides. Sprinkle liberally with confectioners sugar
Place the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl with set up of mixer with whisk attachment.
In a small bowl place cold water. Sprinkle gelatin over water a teaspoon at a time allowing to soak in as your sprinkle. Let stand to bloom.
In a heavy saucepan (3-4 quart) combine sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and salt. Cook over medium heat stirring until sugar dissolves. Once sugar dissolves, stop stirring insert a candy thermometer and continue to cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 F on a candy thermometer). Once mixture reaches 200 F start to beat egg whites on medium high-speed until stiff; BE CAREFUL TO NOT LET WHITES GET OVERBEATEN AND DRY. IF OVERBEATEN, THEY WILL APPEAR CURDLED. Turn mixer speed down to low if whites appear to be ready before sugar mixture reaches 240 F. Once mixture reaches 240° F turn off heat and add the bloomed gelatin, and whisk with hand whisk to combine. Carefully pour the sugar/gelatin mixture to the stiff egg whites down the side of mixer bowl in a steady stream being careful not to let sugar touch whisk. Add in vanilla, peppermint and crushed candy cane and beat until stiff and glossy; about 8-10 minutes. Pour half of marshmallow mixture into prepared pan spread to distribute evenly, then drop about 6-8 drops of red food coloring, moving quickly swirl color into mallow. Pour the remaining mallow into pan, spread evenly and again drop more random food color and swirl with knife or bamboo skewer. Dust entire surface with confectioners sugar and cover with plastic wrap.
refrigerate marshmallows overnight to allow to set. Remove entire slab of marshmallow using the parchment paper and cut into squares using sharp scissors.
Whisk together 1 Cup confectioners sugar along with 1/2 Cup confectioners sugar and toss cut marshmallows. Shake off excess sugar mixture and store in an airtight container.