Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fresh Strawberry Pie

I'm so happy that local strawberries are finally available.  With a longer cool season that made its way till June, I thought I wouldn't see berries ripening or even happening this month.  But, it's here and that's what makes me rejoice!

As I mentioned before, I'm running out of strawberry jam stock so I really need to replenish it.  With the strawberries, I love the flavor of local strawberries over supermarket variety, especially the Hood variety.  It's my go-to strawberry to pick for making jam and when it's in season I have to act quick or they'd be gone.  Last Sunday I dragged my family to Beaverton area, precisely to Hoffman Farms, to help me pick strawberries.  I've gone to this farm for about 2 years in a row and I really like their fruits.

This year is the first year I've picked strawberries though.  I was expecting muddy field, but they've lined the path between the rows with straws so that we didn't have to muck around in the mud.  It rained the day before and it was kind of cloudy on the day, so we always expect the worse in this Oregon weather.

There are 4 types of strawberries available and we picked Hood, Albion and Sweet Sunrise.  Like I said the Hood was made into jam; I got 5 pints out of almost 5 pounds.  The Albion will be eaten fresh, and the slightly tart-more on sweet Sweet Sunrise was made into this fresh pie.  I was glad I picked this variety because it has character and it suited this pie.

I didn't plan ahead on making pie but as it happens, I had 2 homemade pie crusts sitting in the freezer.  So it's an impromptu dessert.  I used my favorite pie crust recipe, which was used in making this Sweet Potato Pie.  What I like about it is that it makes 3 crusts which is quite handy; I can make a double crust pie and a single crust pie right away.  I think it's time to make another batch so I'm ready for the next dessert day!

Anyway, as with a fresh fruit pie, it's a messy eating but it's deliciously out of the world.  We love serving a slice with whipped cream, and we don't mind if the pie looks lopsided or is too runny!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Serves 8

1 recipe double-crust pie dough,  see this recipe

8 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
2/3 cup sugar or more depending on how tart the strawberries are (mine were sweet enough that I didn't need to add a lot of it)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Milk for glaze
2 teaspoons sugar

Roll one disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter, then fit it into a 9-inch pie plate, letting the excess dough hang over the edge; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Roll the other disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Toss strawberries and 2/3 cup of sugar in a large bowl.  Let sit for about 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position; place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 425F.

Drain the fruit thoroughly on a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the juice.  In a large bowl, mix together the drained fruit, cornstarch, orange zest, vanilla extract and salt.  If the fruit tastes tart, add more sugar gradually until it suits your taste.

Dump the fruit into the dough-lined pie plate, mounding it slightly in the middle.  Cover the top with the second piece of dough.  Trim, fold and crimp the edges and cut 8 vent holes in the top.  Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar.

Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and bake until top crust is golden, about 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375F, rotate the baking sheet, and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes longer.  Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours; serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Source: filling adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Java Chocolate Crunch Loaf

This buns were made because my husband requested chocolate bread.  I didn't realize at the time that this wasn't a sweet bun recipe, instead it was a coffee and chocolate flavored buns.  Those two flavors were faint in taste, but it did color the bread brownish.  The pistachio nuts wasn't enough to satisfy the crunch factor in my opinion.  Maybe a bit more in quantity would be better next time.

There's this book that I just bought, which is called 300 Best Bread Machine Recipes and I've been making a variety of bread from it.  It's a bread machine book, but a lot of time, I converted it an oven-baked bread.  It's fairly simple to prepare it and our family likes it better.  I own another book of bread machine recipe but I get bored easily so I had to buy another one to play with :D

My husband did used it for making his sandwich for lunch and he was happy about it.  The texture was great, it was quite soft and fluffy.  Oh, the original recipe was a loaf but since I had a bit of time on my hand, I made them into rolls :)  The recipe will make about 12 buns.  Also, I added beaten egg glaze and a sprinkling of cocoa powder on the buns.  Honestly, I don't mind making it again actually with lots more pistachio, of course.

Well, it's a short post today; and here's the recipe!

Java Chocolate Crunch Loaf

Makes 1 loaf or about 12 small-sized buns

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup freshly brewed coffee (room temperature)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons liquid honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/3 cup pistachio nuts--can increase to 1/2 cup if you want
1 1/2 teaspoon bread machine or instant yeast

Measure all ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Insert pan into the oven chamber.

Select Dough Cycle.

At the end of its cycle, remove the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.  Prepare a 9-x 5-inch loaf pan, spray it with nonstick cooking spray.  Or if making buns, lay a parchment paper on a large baking sheet.

Roll the dough into an 8-x 10-inch rectangle.  Working form the short side, roll jellyroll-style.  Seal the seam by pinching the dough between the thumb and forefinger.  Place the dough seam down in the pan.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubles in size.  Usually I preheat my oven to 150F for 15 minutes before I have to put my bread in.  I turn it off, wait for 5 minutes then put the bread in.  This will take about 1 hour for the loaf to double.

If you're interested in making small-sized buns, divide the dough into 12 balls.  Roll each ball on a floured surface until smooth.  Place them on baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise until doubles.  Before baking, brush the tops with egg glaze (1 egg beaten with a tiny amount of water) and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Bake the bread in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes for loaf; about 20-25 minutes for buns, depending on the oven.  Remove the baked loaf or buns from the baking sheet immediately and set on a rack to cool.

Source:  300 Best Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Peanut Butter-Brownie Cheesecake

Since we had the no-bake cheesecake, my family wanted me to make another one right away.  When it's that good, there's no stopping the craving!

This one is obviously a baked cheesecake, which I haven't made for a long time I didn't think I would be successful.  I managed to bake it just right with only a sliver of crack.  That 2 minutes extra time I added at the end was unnecessary obviously.

The combo flavor is the one that everyone loves.  But don't be alarmed that I used up a small jar of peanut butter to make the filling!  I'm sure my PCP won't be too happy with the cholesterol-laden food I'm eating at home.

The brownie bottom has bits of bittersweet chocolate which I thought was nice.  The recipe calls for finely chopped, but I went with perhaps bigger pieces.  Brownie was chewy and chocolaty, a perfect vessel for the creamy and smooth peanut butter filling.

We didn't polish this off in one day, we couldn't anyway.  We ate sliver by sliver until it's no more.  I found out that I like eating cheesecake when it's really cold while my son likes it at room temperature.

Well, here is the recipe; give it a try!

Peanut-Butter Brownie Cheesecake

Serves 12 servings

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour (sifted, then measured)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

12 ounces Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter

3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

To make the crust:  Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F.  Butter 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.  Dust pan lightly with flour; tap out excess.

Stir unsweetened chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth.  Cool.  Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in small bowl to blend.  Using electric mixer, beat eggs and brown sugar in medium bowl until very thick, abut 4 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Beat in melted chocolate mixture, vanilla, and chopped bittersweet chocolate.  Add flour mixture and beat until just blended.

Spread 1 cup brownie batter over bottom of prepared pan.  Bake until firm, about 17 minutes.  Cool bottom crust in pan in freezer 15 minutes.  Maintain oven temperature.

To make the filling:  Blend cream cheese and brown sugar in processor until smooth.  Add eggs and sour cream; using on/off turns, process until mixture is smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.  Using on/off turns, blend in peanut butter.  Using small knife, spread remaining brownie batter evenly around sides of pan, sealing batter to bottom crust.  Pour in filling (filling will not be as high as brownie batter).

Bake until center of cheesecake is gently set and brownie sides have fallen to form 1-inch-wide ring around filling, about 30 minutes.

To make the topping:  Whisk sour cream and sugar in small bowl to blend.  Spread evenly atop hot cheesecake to within 3/4 inch of edge.  Bake cheesecake 1 minute longer.

Set cake on rack.  Cut around top edge of pan sides to loosen cake.  Cool cake completely.  Place peanut butter in pastry bag fitted with small (No.1) star tip.  Pipe tiny rosettes of peanut butter around edge of sour cream.  Chill cake until rosettes are firm, about 30 minutes.  Cover pan tightly with foil and chill cake overnight.

Cut around pan sides to loosen cake.  Remove pan sides.  Transfer cheesecake to platter.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts

Saturday, April 22, 2017

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

My apology for being absent for a long time.  I think I mentioned it on my last post that I'm taking more responsibility at work now that my priorities at home has also changed.  I also don't feel like making desserts or sweet treats for a while so this break is much needed.

My son also has an early bird class which makes my day is longer than usual.  I'm in bed by 10 most nights and I believe sleep is one of things I won't miss out.  A well rested wife and mommy is a much appreciated person during the day :)

This month I finally feel the urge to start baking again.  But the first thing I made is actually involves little time in the oven.  I had a slice of cheesecake on my church potluck and I wanted to eat cheesecake at home.  I don't think I've ever made no-bake cheesecake before that this time is the right time to try it.  Strawberries have started coming in the stores so automatically it's the fruit that I fancy putting in the no-bake cheesecake.

The crust is made of chocolate graham crackers with some oats and brown sugar.  It tastes very yummy; actually this combo strawberry and chocolate is super delicious.  The addition of whipped cream and extra strawberries on top makes it even better.  This actually reminds me of strawberry ice cream without the brain freeze!

Now the fresh strawberry slices are mixed with melted marrionberry jam because I run out of my strawberry jam.  They taste just fine with it, it's just when photographed it looks a little funny with those little seeds of marrionberry.  This also told me that I need to make more strawberry jam in a month or two.

I hope you'll give this a try!

No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake

Serves 10

9 whole chocolate graham crackers
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (from 2 envelopes)
1 1/2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 cups chopped strawberries

1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups fresh strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup strawberry jam

To make the crust:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Blend graham crackers, oats, brown sugar, and salt in processor until graham crackers are finely ground.  Add melted butter and vanilla; process until moist crumbs form.  Press crumb mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.  Bake crust until deep golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Cool.

To make the filling:  Pour 1/4 cup water into small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over.  Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.  Stir over very low heat just until gelatin dissolves.  Blend cream cheese, cream, sugar, and lemon juice in processor until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.  Add berries; puree until smooth.  With machine running, add warm gelatin mixture through feed tube and blend well.  Pour filling into crust.  Cover; chill overnight.

Cut around pan sides to loosen cake; remove pan sides.  Transfer cake to platter.

Topping:  Using electric mixer, beat cream and sugar in medium bowl until peaks form.  Spread cream mixture thickly over top of cheesecake.  Place berries in bowl.  Heat jam in small saucepan over low heat until just melted.  Pour jam over berries; toss to coat.  Mound coated  berries on cream, leaving 1-inch plain border.  Chill cake at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts

Monday, January 9, 2017

Easy Fruit Cake

When I wrote my last post it was in 2016 :P  I know I've been absent from the blog for many weeks.  I usually am pretty good of closing the year with a Christmas post, but this year my end of year break was marked by my mom's illness that necessitated an ER visit, my working at adult community center, and an unpredictable future regarding a friend's moving day and how it would play on my regular job.  It was a stressful end of year and I didn't think of wanting to sit and write a post.  But, my family had a fun catching lots of Netflix TV episodes and I think that's where most of my free time went :)

And since the departure of my co-worker, I've been working harder at work and longer hours.  Consequently my free time is now so precious that I'd rather spent sleeping!  I even skipped going to the gym today and I do miss it.  I'd love to go the gym to clear my mind, and that's the purpose of my workout.  If I can work out five days a week I'd do it because I came home in a better spirit.

Anyhow...I have a recipe that I was going to share in December but had to put it in the back burner.  Did I tell you that I love fruitcake?  Yes, I do and I'm glad my family loves it too.  I admit, I much prefer lighter fruitcake than the heavy, dark, and old-fashioned one; but if there's one available, I wouldn't mind at all.  This cake is moist and has almond flour, plenty of fruitcake mix and buttery.  It was my husband's favorite that I think I made it twice; one during the break and a couple of weeks later.  Pretty easy and lovely!

Easy Fruit Cake

Serves 12

225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225 g sugar
4 large eggs
225 g self-rising flour
100 g ground almond
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
450 g mixed dried fruit
25 g slivered or flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease an 8-inch springform with cooking spray; line the base and sides of the pan with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to prevent curdling.

Fold in the flour, ground almonds, and almond extract and beat until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Gently fold the dried fruit into the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and level the top.  Sprinkle the surface with the slivered/flaked almonds.  Cover the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil because it will leak during baking.

Put the pan into the oven and bake for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Test the cake using a skewer inserted in the cake, it should be clean and dry; if not return the cake to the oven to cook further.  Cover the top with aluminum foil if it is going brown too soon.  When the cake is done, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Source:  adapted from Marry Berry's Cookery Course