A Blueberry Morning

Blueberry Muffins

 

It’s super cold – winter blew in last night leaving everything gray and bone-chillingly cold.  We are having a lazy day inside and all I can think about are these warm blueberry muffins with cold butter and hot blueberry syrup soaking into every crumb.  My mom made this combination quite frequently for us, growing up.  I associate them with cold, Sunday mornings. We needed something rather fast while getting ready for church, yet warming at the same time.  Something Mom could pop in the oven and then have time to get ready, herself!  She would boil the blueberry liquid and add a little sugar to make a wonderful blueberry syrup to pour on top of the muffins.  That was always my favorite part.  Just HOW blue can I make this muffin?

So when I saw a can of wild Maine blueberries in the grocery store, my mind went instantly to these muffins and I had to make them for us.  Mom’s were better, but that’s to be expected 🙂  Stay warm, today, Lubbock!

Blueberry Muffins with Butter Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Muffins with Blueberry Syrup*
makes 12-16 muffins

12 1/2 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
Heavy pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh, frozen or I used a can of blueberries packed in water – that part is important if you use canned)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 16 muffin tins with papers and spray the papers with non stick spray.  Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, powder and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.  Reserve the juice that comes in the can of blueberries and put it on the stove in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer during the baking time of the muffins.

Fold the blueberries into the batter and divide among the muffin cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Remove and remove from the pan, letting them cool upside down for about 10 minutes.  Split, add a copious amount of salted butter and drown in blueberry syrup.  Cheers.

*adapted from Alton Brown’s Blueberry muffin recipe

Literal Banana Bread

Banana Oat Bread
We always have bananas around here.  I realize my last post was about bananas and I apologize for the redundancy.  They are the most logical, good-in-a-pinch snack or breakfast for a little one.  I cut them up and put them in oatmeal most mornings, so one day when I had a lot of ripe ones and it was cloudy out, I thought that I’d do a literal banana bread and mix banana into the dough and add a lot of oatmeal to kinda make a bread version of my daily breakfast.  I really loved how rustic it turned out.  It was really great warmed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon – as most things are.  I always think of how I could improve something the second it comes out of the oven.  With this, I think thick slices dipped in batter and turned into banana French toast would be amazing.

Banana Oat Loaf

Banana Oat Bread*
makes two loaves

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 oz yeast
1/2 stick butter, softened
generous 1 1/4 cups water
2 large bananas, chopped
1 bowl of oatmeal, muesli or granola

Put the flour, salt, yeast and butter into a bowl.  Slowly add water to the bowl and mix carefully by hand until the dough becomes elastic.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then cover the bowl and set aside to rest for two hours.

Divide the dough into two, then add a chopped banana to each, using your hands to mash the banana into the mixture.  This makes the dough crazy sticky, so add enough oatmeal to each to regain the original texture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.  Roll each dough into a ball, then press into the bowl of oats, so that the dough becomes completely coated.  Place the loaves on a baking sheet and let rise for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Using a knife, deeply score the top of each ball into 8 sections.  Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*adapted from the amazing book, 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood.  

Bananas Foster Tart Tatin

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My mom and dad got me an awesome tart tatin pan for my birthday this year and I couldn’t wait to use it.  I had a recipe from Martha Stewart saved on my phone for the longest time and hadn’t gotten around to making it, but when I received this pan in the mail and looked at my five mysteriously mushy bananas on my counter, I knew what had to be done.  Okay, so the mysteriously mushy bananas – I bought a perfectly yellow, no bruise bunch that were on the top of the pile, and a day later, I went to cut up one for Olive and they felt like bags full of jelly.  ALL OF THEM.  Still perfectly yellow, still no bruises, but all mush.  What in the world?!  I thought maybe since I’d put them beside tomatoes, that maybe the gasses from the tomatoes instantly ripened the bananas?  So a day later, I bought another bunch and put one banana with the tomatoes and the rest far away from them and the banana that was with the tomatoes was fine.  So, the mystery remains.  Maybe they were on the bottom of the truck since they were on the top of the pile!

Despite their mushy texture, the bananas worked out perfectly for this recipe and I was glad to be able to use them.  The French love their tart tatins.  They basically do it with every fruit in season.  And my theory is that the French use fancy terms to make ordinary dishes sound fancy.  Like tartines.  Tartines are various toppings on toast.  That’s it.  Some might call it bruschetta, some call it toast.  It’s all the same.  Or how about this tart tatin?  Yeah, it’s an upside down cake/tart.  They typically use puff pastry instead of cake batter, so the result is a crispy, almost turnover texture with caramelized fruit on the top.  It’s a wonderful way to use up old fruit and to do something really simple in a hurry for guests.  And you should always keep frozen puff pastry on hand.  It’s a freezer staple for me.  You can use it in so many ways from topping little strips with shredded cheese or sausage or peppers for an instant appetizer to using it as a base for a cobbler, strawberry shortcake or whatever you can dream up!

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Bananas Foster Tart Tatin*
serves 8

  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large ripe bananas, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 cup creme fraiche, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 13 1/2-inch square. Using a large skillet as a guide, cut out a 12-inch round. Transfer pastry round to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Make three 1/2-inch slits in center of round; set pastry aside at room temperature.

Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, swirling skillet occasionally, until mixture turns medium amber, about 3 minutes.

Arrange bananas in skillet, overlapping slightly. Cook, without stirring, 3 minutes. Drizzle vanilla and rum over bananas, and cook until most of the rum has evaporated and liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place pastry round on top of bananas, and transfer to oven. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully invert the tart onto a serving plate. Whisk creme fraiche until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Serve dessert warm or at room temperature with the creme fraiche.

*I didn’t adapt this Martha Stewart recipe at all, except that my tatin pan was 9″ instead of the 12 the recipe calls for.  I didn’t have too many bananas – it worked out perfectly.

Strawberry Pots de Creme

Strawberry Pots de Creme

Here’s a beautifully simple dessert that is silky and rich and bright with the last memories of summer strawberries.  Fresh is always best if you can find good ones, but if they’re out, or have already sky-rocketed in price, frozen would work just fine.  It’s a custard kind of week here on the Family Meal blog.  I get good use out of my cute little ramekins and I have really embraced them as they are a perfect little size for toddler hands.  Oh yeah, and that spoon is part of this set, which I really just couldn’t resist.  I love them for Olive and for dips and jams and even my morning coffee.  Plus, what little girl wouldn’t feel excited to get to eat her oatmeal in the morning with a gold glitter spoon?  Olive couldn’t really care less.  It’s for me.  🙂

Strawberry Cream Pots

 

Strawberry Pots de Creme (pronounced: poh-duh-crem)
makes 4-6 depending on your vessels

  • 8 ounces strawberries (7 or 8 large berries), hulled
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 1 tsp Cointreau (I left this out for Ollie)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a tall cup or blender, combine strawberries, sugar and egg yolks. Process with your handy immersion blender (or regular blender) until pureed.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour the strawberry mixture into a large bowl.  Add 1 cup cream and the vanilla and Cointreau if using. Mix well. Divide mixture evenly among four 1-cup ramekins. Place ramekins in a baking dish, and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of ramekins.

Place baking dish in the oven, and bake until the custard is just set, about 1 hour. Check by jiggling the pan – if they still look pretty liquidy in the center, rotate the pan and let it go another 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven; place ramekins on a rack, and cool. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours. To serve, top with diced strawberries or whipped cream and enjoy with your sparkle spoons!  🙂

 

Cherry Almond Scones

Cherry Almond Scones with butter

Dear goodness, I love a good scone.  Some people think they are too dry or would prefer a muffin, instead.  Cake is cake so there’s really no comparing it with a muffin.  Scones are meant to be enjoyed warm, with a sliver of cold butter and a hot cup of coffee or tea.  How very English.  Their merit of being on the verge of dry is that they pair well with butter and a warm drink.  And like their fluffy muffin-cousins, the varieties are endless.  I love a savory scone with cheddar and onion just as much as a sweet variety.  These particular scones have a magical pairing – almond and cherries!  I bought some hippie soap this weekend with that combination and I didn’t intend to buy soap if I hadn’t smelled it, but there it was, cherry almond soap, screaming, “I’M SO COMFORTING!  INHALE ME WHILE YOU DRIVE HOME!”  And so I did.  And it was a really great car ride.

When I received my copy of King Arthur Flour magazine, one of the first scone mixes inside was cherry almond.  I knew I had to make these on my own, instead of waiting on a mix to arrive on my doorstep.  So, I looked up the nearest recipe online and adapted it to be more almondy (there really is never enough almond-flavored things in the world) and got to baking!  They turned out soft on the inside and crispy on the outside – perfect!  I want to make them again, soon, and figure out a way to make them a little more cherry, too.  Perhaps a swirl of homemade cherry preserves in the dough!  They’re really great as is, though – just don’t forget the (real) butter!

Happy Beginning of the Week!

Cherry Almond Scones with Vanilla Bean

Cherry Almond Scones*
makes 8-10 scones, depending on the cut

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into pea size pieces
1 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup milk with a tsp of vanilla and a tsp of almond extract mixed in!

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add in the butter and rub with your fingers into the dry ingredients until a coarse meal forms. Add in the cherries and almonds. Add the milk and extracts and combine it into the butter flour mixture.

Form the dough into a 1-inch thick disk and cut it into 8 rounds with a biscuit cutter (You can really cut them however you like.)  Transfer the scones to a greased cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 17 to 18 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.

*Adapted from Anne Burrell

Pavlovas with Black Cherry Syrup

Cherry Pavlova with Greek Yogurt

 

While we were on our trip last week, Matt and I stole away, left the kid with our friends, and had a little adventure in Seattle.  After a ferry ride and a crazy time trying to catch the bus in the midst of 300,000 people watching a parade downtown, we finally made it to Delancy – a pizza place that’s out of this world.  We seek out pizza in nearly every town we visit.  Okay, okay, we seek out FOOD in every town we visit, but more often than not, that will include a pizza joint.  Matt has been perfecting his pizza crust for the past few years and I can safely say after hundreds of pizzas made at home and hundreds we have tried out and about, Delancy is the best out and about and Matt’s is just as good – only it’s in our own kitchen.  Score one for Palmsey.  

This is beginning to sound like a pizza post, but it’s not.  I already did that a few months ago and the recipe hasn’t changed!  This is a post about how awesome Delancy was, and how you should go there, and when you do go there, go next door to get a drink because you’ll have an hour wait.  Next door is an extension of Delancy’s kitchen called Essex and they have wonderful appetizers and desserts.  One of which we ordered at the end of our perfect pizza experience – a pavlova with Greek yogurt and raspberries.  I’d had pavlova (baked meringue) with other fruits and it’s traditionally served with creme anglais or ice cream, but the Greek yogurt was such a wonderful way to cut the almost-too-sweet combination of a sugary meringue and raspberry syrup.  This desert was gone in about 5 seconds and went immediately on my list of recipes to recreate once I got home.

So here we are.  I got home on Tuesday and went shopping.  Raspberries were $3 for a half pint.  No thank you.  Cherries were $1.50 for a whole pound.  Sold.  I cooked the cherries down in a little brown sugar and let the juices bubble away and form a syrup and whipped up a little full-fat, plain Greek yogurt to place in the meringues once they were baked.  When Matt got home, I had two portions set out and while Olive napped, we ate.  Before dinner.  The joys of being an adult.  Matt even exclaimed, “This is EXACTLY RIGHT” which, if you know Matt, really means something.  I was proud of the recreation and I’ll definitely make it, again.  Maybe next time with apricot preserves…the options are really endless!

Pavlova with Black Cherry Syrup and Greek Yogurt

 

Pavlovas with Cherries and Yogurt*
makes 8-10 pavlovas, depending on size

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5-6 (about 6 oz) large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch salt

Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.

In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla.  Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.

Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white — not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.

Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for a week.

*recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

Black Cherry Pavlova

Cherry Compote
makes about a cup

2 cups pitted cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar
Squeeze of lemon

Put the cherries and the brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and let it come to a simmer.  Let it cook for about 20 minutes, mashing the cherries a bit as you go.  When the syrup starts to thicken a bit, take it off the heat and squeeze a lemon over it all and stir it up until incorporated.  Let the sauce come to room temp before topping the pavlovas.  

To Assemble:

Take one meringue shell and place it on a plate.  Scoop out a generous 1/4 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt and place on top of the meringue.  Top the yogurt generously with the chunky cherry syrup and serve!  Modify as you wish with whipped cream, creme anglais, frozen yogurt – whatever you like!  And if you can’t make a fruity compote, I suppose warming up some preserves wouldn’t be too shabby 🙂

 

Greek Yogurt and Almond Butter Cheesecake

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I made this cheesecake last weekend for the 4th of July festivities.  By festivities, I mean meals.  Olive has been consuming a lot of yogurt lately (plain, full fat awesome stuff sweetened with a little bit of honey) and I did one of those “I thought we were out” mistakes and bought a huge container to come home and realize we already had a huge container.  I hate wasting and so I have been putting Greek yogurt in a lot of stuff , lately.  This morning I made yogurt and oatmeal waffles (really good, I’ll post about those, soon) and when I ran across a recipe that called for 2 cups of yogurt in a cheesecake, I knew I’d found my way to not waste!  Oh, how humble of me to eat a cheesecake in order to not waste yogurt.  It’s a hard life.

This is the no-bake type of cheesecake I grew up eating.  I love the kind you bake and there’s a place for that (that place is anywhere) but for these super hot summer days, a lighter, fluffier, doesn’t-heat-up-your-kitchen dessert is the way to go.  And using those strawberries I almost ALWAYS let rot on my counter is a plus, too!  For the topping, I chopped up almost-bad strawberries, a few blueberries and mixed them up with a bit of honey and let it sit out while I made the cheesecake.  By the time everything was ready, the topping was perfect.

The addition of almond butter adds such a wonderful flavor.  I think if I make this again, I’d try using peanut butter, just to see what it would be like!  The original blogger of this recipe said that it was “healthy” and could be eaten for breakfast because it has yogurt and granola in the crust.  I think that’s a marvelous way to feel like taking a nap at about 10:30, so I wouldn’t recommend it (this is based on experience).  Just because something has granola and yogurt doesn’t make it healthy.  This is perhaps lighter than most cheesecakes, but it also has cream cheese and whipping cream, so you do the math.  Or don’t do math.  Just enjoy dessert and stop thinking about whether it’s healthy or not. Of course you shouldn’t eat it every day.  If you want to, then sure, obsess over calories.  If you only eat stuff like this on weekends, then by all means, go for the gold.

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This little hand loved every bite.

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Greek Yogurt and Almond Butter Cheesecake*

For the Granola:
1 cup rolled or old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped cashews
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp coconut oil (or butter would work fine – just make sure it’s soft and at room temp)
1/4 cup honey

Crust:
1 1/2 cups granola you just made
4 whole grain honey graham crackers
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling:
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
3/4 cup + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond butter
2 cups plain greek yogurt – full fat, y’all
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, coconut, and nuts. In a measuring cup or separate bowl, whisk together the salt, coconut oil, and honey. Pour this mixture over the oats, and stir to completely coat the ingredients. Spread the mixture into an even layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Flip granola around with a spatula every 3-4 minutes to prevent burning and to get an even golden-brown crisp. After baking, set granola aside to cool.

Once the granola is cool to the touch, combine the granola and graham crackers in a food processor. Puree for 60-90 seconds, until a very fine and crumb-like texture. Pour in melted butter, and stir to combine evenly. Next, spread the crust mixture into the bottom of an 9-in round springform pan. Press down to compact into an even layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes. (Do not let it burn!) Set aside to cool.

To make the filling, add the cream cheese and 3/4 of a cup of sugar to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the cheese and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla and almond butter, and beat until incorporated. Then, remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in the Greek yogurt with a spatula. (Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl!)

In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cheesecake filling. Finally, pour the filling into the cooled granola crust, and spread into an even layer with a spatula. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and freeze overnight.

To serve, run a paring knife around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen the sides from the pan. Then, unlatch the springform pan. Transfer the cheesecake to a cake stand or serving platter and garnish with fresh fruit.

*adapted from the adorable Mangoes and Palm Trees blog

Black Plum and Blackberry Galette

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I’m in love with this pie.  It’s a galette – a free-form pie that is usually very rustic and can be sweet or savory, or even resemble a thin pancake in some regions of France.  I love it because it eliminates the pressure to make a pretty pie crust.  So many people struggle with pie crust, and when the edges crack, it can make even the most tempered person lose their cool.  But the galette solves all that.  You simply roll out your dough, fill it up and fold the edges over.  If you add an egg wash and some crunchy sugar sprinkled over the dough, no one in the world will care that it isn’t in a pie plate!  We enjoyed plums and a few blackberries in this pie because they were ripe and in season and cheap!  I really don’t buy fruit if it isn’t on sale.  I just figure that sale price tells me what’s in abundance and that’s an easy way to know what’s in season!

I served this over the course of a few days to a few different friends.  I love that one dish can unite so many.  I believe five different friends, total, shared this pie at different times over the weekend.  This is my very favorite thing about cooking and sharing meals.  And yes, a plum galette and a cup of coffee is a meal 🙂 I think people stay longer and open up quicker and are more at ease if you have something to offer them to eat and drink.  I’m not always good about doing this, especially for the most frequent friends.  And how awful to treat the frequent friends less special!  It’s hard for those of us who can’t be trusted with baked goods in the house, to have them in the house during the week.  But, maybe you could consider it a bit of a social challenge for yourself to bake this pie and then see how many different friends you can get to share it with you.  🙂

plum galette

Plum and Blackberry Galette*

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice water
1/4 cup whole, skin-on almonds, toasted
5 to 6 plums, halved, pitted, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (keep slices together if possible – this was hard for me because my plums were cling and didn’t come away from the pit very easy.  I just sliced them as best I could – still pretty)
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups flour, butter, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/4 cup remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Don’t overmix! Remove dough from processor and shape into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, wipe bowl of food processor clean and add almonds, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground to a coarse meal.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; sprinkle almond mixture over dough (this is necessary for absorbing the juices from the fruit so your crust won’t be a soggy mess.  Plus, it tastes great.)  With a spatula, transfer plums to dough; press lightly to fan out, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20 minutes (this is so your butter doesn’t leak out). Brush crust with cream (I used an egg); sprinkle galette with 2 tablespoons sugar (I used super crunchy sugar!)  Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.

*I made this from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts cookbook, which, is a book I could look at for hours on end, reading it like a novel.  That’s one way to get better at cooking, by the way – read cookbooks like they’re novels 🙂

Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes

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I used to have a huge apricot tree in my front yard.  It was so wonderful throughout the seasons to see the blossoms appear in spring and the fruit appear around June and the leaves turn shockingly golden in October.  It was one of my favorite things about our house and it introduced me to jamming and gave me a passion for it.  Because of that tree, I learned to make apricot preserves and the first two years we had fruit, I canned nearly 100 jars of apricot jam variants. Vietnamese Cinnamon, Chinese 5 Spice, Bourbon Brown Sugar, Rosemary, Vanilla Bean (the best version) and even Crushed Red Pepper Apricot!  I gave them away as gifts and really just reveled in the sudden surge of domestic satisfaction I was getting from the process of gathering, cleaning, cooking and canning a resource from my own yard.  I felt like such a good steward of those little golden gifts!

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To make a sweet story a bit sad, that tree fell victim to the terrible drought our area has been suffering the past three years.  The second year into the drought, the fruit on our tree was tiny but packed with flavor.  It was the last year it would bear fruit.  We had to chop it down last summer and I will admit, I mourned the loss of that tree for months.  We’ve tried planting replacement apricot trees twice, now, and borers got the second one (and the first – it was a borer/drought combo) and the second replacement got hit by two late frosts and never recovered (although I won’t call it officially gone till next spring).

So maybe it’s not meant to be?  Maybe the lesson learned is to make good use of what you have while you have it.  Revel in the gifts you’re getting now, because soon, they may not be available to you.  If you have a fruit tree and don’t have time to make anything from it, first, call me and I’ll come pick up every piece from your yard (I know there’s no fruit on trees in this area, yet – still, the sentiment always applies) and second, if nothing else, just eat from it!

This recipe is a wonderful, easy recipe that can be used with fresh, canned or even dried apricots (or any fruit, really).  I used dried apricots that I reconstituted in a bit of water, first, because I couldn’t find canned, as the recipe called for.  They turned out wonderful and they lasted for a week!  The cake part is a wonderful cake recipe and one that I plan on using for other purposes in the future.  It calls for buttermilk, and I happily used some raw buttermilk from our local dairy, Pereira Pastures.  They are suffering from the drought too, and could use your support if you are from this area and feel like making a donation and getting some amazing milk in the process!

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Apricot Pine Nut Cakelettes*
makes six cakes

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
8.5 ounces apricot halves, sliced
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter six 6-oz ramekins and place them on a baking sheet with a shallow rim.

Divide the pine nuts evenly among the ramekins.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat.  Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and the water and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the apricots and stir gently until coated.  Divide the apricots and syrup evenly among the cups.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the remaining 4 tbs butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and the granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, mix half of the dry ingredients into the batter until just combined.  Mix in the buttermilk until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients until combined.  Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and smooth the tops.

Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes (mine took more like 45).  Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and cook for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the cakes.  Invert the cakes onto individual dessert plates and serve warm with fresh whipped cream, or a drizzle of amber agave nectar, like I’m currently obsessed with.  🙂

* recipe from the Bonne Femme Cookbook!

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Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue

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I fulfilled a little dream, today.  I baked with my daughter.  And she even wore a mini-apron. In just a few more months, she’ll be able to stand beside me on her stool and really help.  Today, she got to sit on the counter, play with the rolling pin, say, “row, row, row” as she rolled the dough and even properly sneaked little bites of the raw dough to eat.  This girl knows how to live.  And I’m so happy that she’s teaching me how to live mine, all over again.

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I found cherries on sale for $2.97, regularly over $7!  Cherries are in season in May, so I really hope they stay cheap for a few more weeks!  I did a couple things with my purchase.  First, I put a few whole in a jar and covered them with bourbon.

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A great addition to cocktails in a few weeks, I’m sure!  Or a grown up ice cream Sunday.  Or, a merciful substitution for those horrid Maraschino circles of candy that call themselves cherries.

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For my second act, I overcooked a batch of cherry pie filling so much that it resembled bits of dried cherries, resting comfortably in glue.  (I’d left it on the stove to “simmer” while I went to see my friend in the hospital.  Um, don’t ask why I did that.)  Matt rescued my near-break down by going and getting me another pound at 10:00 last night, then helped me pit every last one of them so I could start over.  That’s true love.

So I had a vague vision of what I wanted to do.  I wanted to make mini pies, fill them with tart cherry filling and use a brown sugar meringue that I’ve used before and wanted to make again because it’s close to perfection and is SO SWEET that it can really only be paired with something tart.  So these little devils are a combination of three recipes: Martha Stewart’s hand pie dough, My Baking Addiction’s cherry pie filling and Cindy Pawlcyn’s brown sugar meringue that she uses on her mile high lemon meringue pie at her amazing restaurant, Mustards Grill in Napa Valley (we went! we ate! we went into a food coma!)

The results were pretty great.  I think next time, I’d use my tried and true pie crust recipe and just add lemon zest to it.  Other than that, this recipe is a winner!  Especially for this super hot weekend that reminds us all too well that we live in the desert and it is officially summer.

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Mini Cherry Pies with Brown Sugar Meringue
makes two dozen

For the Crust

3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon zest (this microplane works best!)
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup, room temp)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 oz. cream cheese at room temp
2 tbs buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and zest.

With an electric mixer on high speed (I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment), beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the egg and beat until just combined.  Add cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat until well combined.  Add reserved flour mixture, and beat until smooth.  Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and flatten into a disc.  Refrigerate 1 hour, up to overnight or freeze up to 1 month.

Let the dough come up to room temp and then roll out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out 4″ rounds and press them into a standard muffin tin, making sure to patch up any holes that form.  This dough is kind of crackly, so don’t fret.  It patches up pretty easily.  Prick the bottom of each pie with a fork and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Some of the bottoms of the pies will puff up, but when they’ve cooled just press the puffed up centers down a bit before filling.  I wasn’t about to cut 24 parchment rounds and fill each cup with pie weights.  I’m not THAT dedicated to perfection.

For the Filling

5 to 6 cups fresh, pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
2 tbs lemon juice (fresh!)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbs constarch
1/2 tsp almond extract

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cherries, water, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the almond extract and cool slightly before using.

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I really love using my copper jam pot – (pardon the iPhone pic) The copper heats up almost instantly, as do the sides, so it cooks jam more evenly.  There are lovely, affordable ones here!

For the Meringue:

3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Place the brown sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan with high sides (that sugar will boil up and scare the meringue right out of you if you have a small pan), add water to cover, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, and turn the heat on high. When the sugar is at about 240 degrees, start whipping the whites on high speed (they should be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar). When the sugar is at the high soft-ball stage (245 degrees), remove the thermometer from the sugar and, with the mixer still running, carefully avoiding the whip, pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin stream. When steam starts to come off the whites, add the sugar more quickly. When all sugar has been added, continue whipping until firm but soft peaks form.

Assemble!

Fill each pie shell with the filling.  Then top each with a generous dollop of meringue (you’ll have leftover meringue) and then get a torch and torch those suckers.  I don’t like toasting meringue in my oven because I inevitably scorch them and that makes me feel like a failure and I try to avoid that feeling whenever possible.  It’s all about setting yourself up to succeed in the kitchen that will keep you coming back.

I think these are best served with iced coffee because that’s what you need on a 100 degree day like today!

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Little fingers are very curious 🙂

 

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JOY!