berry season is here!

I hadn’t been to the farmer’s market for a few weeks so was pleasantly surprised to see loads of strawberries, raspberries, and even a few tart cherries on Saturday.  Allegedly there are some local blueberries that are coming in too but alas, I bought mine on sale at the supermarket last week and they originated in California.  Never mind.  The season is upon us no matter where the berries may have grown!

I had been craving blueberry muffins ever since I brought the blueberries home so this morning got to quick work making it happen.  I tried a Barefoot Contessa recipe that sounded interesting due to the streusel topping (I’m a sucker for streusel toppings) and use of lemon zest in the batter.  I know Ina is a big fan of using lemon zest to bring out other flavors in baking (or adding coffee to chocolate baked goods to deepen the chocolate flavor) and it really works here.  It brightens the flavor of the muffin, if that makes sense.

They were a cinch to make and they made a lovely second breakfast this morning.  The first breakfast of steel cut oats was hearty and all but not the most exciting.  (No offense steel cut oats, we’re still bros.)

Blueberry Streusel Muffins (from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten)

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, shaken
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half-pints)

For the streusel topping:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and blend with your hands.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs.  Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing just until blended.  Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Don’t overmix!  With a standard (2 1/4-inch) ice-cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cups, filling them almost full.

For the topping, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces.  Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the streusel on top of each muffin.  Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping

You might be thinking to yourself, another rhubarb recipe?  I hope you aren’t, but if you are I get it.  I have rhubarb coming out the wazoo right now so have been experimenting a lot with it lately.  I am also simultaneously trying to clear out my freezer of last year’s fruit to make room for this year’s and last June I did some serious strawberry-picking and thus still have it in abundance in my freezer.  So when I found another awesome-sounding recipe for a strawberry-rhubarb combination I knew it was meant to be.

This time I bring you a cobbler with a cornmeal biscuit topping.  The cornmeal topping made it a bit lighter than traditional cobblers so in turn I did not feel guilty eating it for breakfast and dessert in the same day.  I love it when that happens!

I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend, relaxed with friends and family, and ate lots of good food.  I am still thinking about the various grilled and barbecued meats I consumed over the weekend.  They were all awesome but think I will be detoxing with lots of vegetables this week…

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuit Topping (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

Filling

  •   ½ cup sugar
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •   1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  •   2 12-ounce baskets strawberries, hulled, halved
  •   1 ½ cups ½ -inch-thick slices fresh or frozen rhubarb

Topping

  •   1 cup all-purpose flour
  •   1/3 cup sugar
  •   ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
  •   1 tablespoon baking powder
  •   1 teaspoon baking soda
  •   Pinch of salt
  •   3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
  •   ½ cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix sugar, flour and cloves in large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb and toss to coat with sugar mixture. Transfer filling to 10-inch-diameter glass pie dish

Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.   Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form (do not overmix). Spoon topping evenly over filling.

Bake until topping is golden brown and filling is tender, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The lady on the left taught me how to bake pies, amongst many, many other things.  Thanks Mom.  You’re the best.  (Incidentally the lady on the right taught me how to bake some awesome banana bread.  Thanks Aunt Sarah, you’re awesome too.)

I’m the blonde child with the giant red Solo cup that is partially obscuring my cousin’s face in this image.  Sorry cuz.  Looks like I was way more into the grape Kool-Aid or whatever that dark liquid is in the background than I was into smiling for the photo.  Sorry about that Mom.  You and Aunt Sarah look great.  You make the 80’s look stylish.

I remember once when my mom was baking a pie (which she often did) and she had some leftover pie dough that she let my brother and I make our own mini pies with.  I don’t remember the exact details but I think we were either short on fruit in the house that day or she was letting my brother and I get creative with the filling as I recall that my brother filled his mini pie with strawberry jam (smart move, bro).  My choice?  Grapes.  Yeah.  Raw green grapes.  Not good.  Pretty sure the family dog was the only one who enjoyed my pie that day…

But I totally appreciate the fact that my mom let us experiment in the kitchen and also just that she was such an amazing baker and mom and still is.

Her standards are peach, blueberry, or apple pies, but she must have made strawberry rhubarb pies back in the day too.  I realized this today when I ate a bite of the strawberry rhubarb pie I made and it totally brought me back to my childhood and tasted like summer all at the same time.

Thanks for always being an inspiration Mom.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • 3 cups 1/2″-thick slices of rhubarb
  • 3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Pour mixture into pie shell (see below for pie crust recipe).  Place top pie crust over filling and crimp around the edges to seal to bottom crust.  Slice vents into top pie crust.  Cover the crust with aluminum foil to prevent crust from burning.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes more or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool for 2 hours before consuming.

Two Crust Pie Pastry (from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball.  Shape into two flattened rounds.  If desired, wrap flattened rounds of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the shortening slightly, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.  Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

a taste of summer in what should be winter

Growing up peaches were always my favorite fruit.  I never thought about this before but it could partially be attributed to the fact that I was born in late summer and that is the peak season for peaches.  And with late summer and my birthday and peaches comes peach pie, which just happens to be one of my favorite kinds of pie.

I realize it’s not late summer right now, even though it feels that way in the upper Midwest.  It’s been at or near 80 degrees for the past week.  It’s nuts!  But it’s the good kind of nuts since normally we’re up to our eyeballs in snow this time of year and riddled with cabin fever.  No complaints about the unseasonably warm temps from this girl, no sir.

While there are “fresh” peaches at the grocery store right now, flown in from who-knows-where, I happen to be lucky enough to have a mother that buys them locally by the bushelful in August and then freezes them in perfectly-proportioned-for-pie-filling freezer bags.  And she shares these frozen fruit bags with me.  Score!

So in belated honor of Pi Day I thawed out some of those beautiful peaches and baked myself a gluten-free pie.  It tasted glorious, like late summer.

Peach Pie

Gluten-Free Dough (slightly adapted from recipe found in “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour (Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour works just fine), plus more for dusting
  • ¼ cup sorghum flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons guar gum
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted cultured butter, diced
  • 3 eggs

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend.  Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add the eggs and mix on high speed until the dough turns in on itself.  Turn out the dough onto a work surface that has been dusted with rice flour and knead for 3 turns.  Divide in half and form each half into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Remove both disks from the refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out.  Dust the work surface again with rice flour and roll out one disk to a 14-inch round.  Gingerly transfer the rolled dough to a 12-inch deep-dish pie pan, fitting the dough into the pan and being cautious not to tear the dough, as it is delicate.  (If you do tear the dough, just join the tear together and brush the tear with water; smooth with your finger until the damage is no longer visible.)

Roll out the second disk of dough to a 14-inch round, adding additional rice flour, if needed.  Set aside.

Peach Filling (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups sliced peaches (6 to 8 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon together.  Add peaches and toss.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Add pie filling to pie pan fitted with bottom crust.  Place reserved top crust over the top of the filling.  Crimp edges of pie crusts together until sealed.  Slice vents in top of pie crust.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Wrap edges of crust with aluminum foil if they brown too quickly.

Let pie cool for 2 hours before eating.

cherry cobbler

Man am I glad I bought a big ol’ tub of frozen cherries at the farmer’s market at the end of the summer last year. That was some major forward-thinking on my part. There’s just something about baking with cherries that screams summer even if it’s only the beginning of February.

Speaking of February: I heard on the news this morning that the local groundhog didn’t see his shadow so it’s supposed to be an early spring. Fingers crossed on that one…

Anyhow I decided to thaw out some of those beautiful Door County cherries to make a cobbler. Cobblers are SO easy. Even people who say they can’t bake can totally make cobblers. Trust me on this one.

I wanted to break out this awesome vintage baking dish that my Aunt Sarah gave to me for Christmas only I didn’t take into account that it was smaller than what the recipe called for so the cobbler was more like a full-on crust. No matter. It tasted wonderful just the same!

While I have made cobblers in the past, this recipe was very light and made me feel like it was almost good for me. And I guess if it made me happy thinking of summer in February then it was!

Cherry Cobbler (adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 4 to 6 cups cherries or other fruit, washed and well dried
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus some for greasing pan
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the fruit with half the sugar, and spread it in a lightly butter 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar in the container of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for 10 seconds, until the mixture is well blended. By hand, beat in the egg and vanilla.

Drop the mixture onto the fruit by tablespoonfuls; do not spread it out. Bake until golden-yellow and just starting to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

cranberry brie pie

I had a request for the recipe for the Cranberry Brie Pie I made for Thanksgiving so am posting it now.  Unfortunately I could not find the origin of the recipe online as I clipped it from a magazine years ago, which is a shame because a) I’d like to give proper credit where credit is due, and b) people need to know about this recipe and then go out and make it!  Updated 12.15.11: recipe came from Fresh Home magazine.

Like any cranberry recipe (at least any cranberry recipe I’ve tried) you have to first cook the cranberries down to soften them up a bit.  Then you pair them with a little bit of creamy, slightly salty Brie cheese in the shell of a pie and top with a butter/brown sugar/flour combination for a nice crispy finish.  The combination of flavors was awesome– the tart from the cranberries with the savory, salty bite of the Brie, and the sweet of the brown sugar topping.  Awesome.  It was my favorite dessert at Thanksgiving this year but could certainly make a great finish to any meal this holiday season since cranberries are still abundant in grocery stores.  Take advantage!

Last night I had a small Christmas party and spent oh, about 7 hours preparing for it yesterday so am a little bit beat this afternoon.  This week I will be posting some images from the party with tips on how to survive your own holiday shindigs this time of year.  I definitely learned a few lessons myself and am happy to share them so that you do not make the same mistakes I did..

Cranberry Brie Pie (recipe by John McMillan published in Fresh Home magazine)

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz. Brie cheese, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 sheet refrigerated pastry dough (or use One Crust Pie Pastry recipe to make your own below)

Topping:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cold butter, cubed

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice, flour and vinegar.  Cook over medium heat until berries pop, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, unroll pastry into a 9-in. pie plate; flute edges.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes.

Remove cranberry mixture from the heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour into crust.  Dot with butter.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour and brown sugar; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly (cover edges with foil during the last 20 minutes to prevent overbrowning if necessary).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers.

One Crust Pie Pastry (from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 1 cup all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball.  Shape into flattened round.  If desired, wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the shortening slightly, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 2 inches larger than upside-down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.  Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

sweet & tart

I was inspired by my adoptive state of Wisconsin to experiment with cranberries. Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries in the US…did you know that? I didn’t either until I moved here. One of these days I’m going to get myself up north to see the harvesting of the cranberry bogs. I bet it’s neat.

Every year on Thanksgiving I make a cranberry chutney that inevitably gets forgotten about in the fridge until we are nearly finished with our meal. What a shame. I thought it might be nice to make cranberries into more of a featured part of the meal and what could be more featured than dessert? No one forgets about dessert.

A few years back I tore a recipe out of a magazine for a cranberry-apple crisp and decided to test it out here for you. When the apples and cranberries were cooking down on my stove it smelled like the holidays. I wish the internet had smell-o-vision so I could share the scent with you– it was heavenly.

The topping for this crisp couldn’t have been simpler– it consists of oatmeal, flour, butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I took this into work for a co-worker’s birthday and it was a big hit. I think it was a nice contrast to all of the overly sweet desserts that others had brought in. There is definitely a tartness to this crisp but it works. It’s even better warm with a little vanilla ice cream which I also tried. This could be the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving meal!

Cranberry-Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel Topping (found at www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Makes 12 servings

  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 12-ounce packages cranberries
  • 1 1/4 pounds Golden Delicious or Fuji apples (about 3 medium), peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice or cider
  • Vanilla ice cream

Combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and salt in large bowl; toss to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture comes together in moist clumps. Cover; chill while preparing filling. (Topping can be prepared 1 day ahead; keep chilled.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine cranberries, apples, sugar, and apple juice in heavy large pot. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil until cranberries are tender and juices thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer filling to prepared dish. Sprinkle topping over.

Bake crisp until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp and deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.