Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chocolate Shortcakes with Macerated Cherries

Meet strawberry shortcake's cousin: chocolate shortcake with macerated cherries :)  When chocolate craving hits and there are cherries in the fridge, I made this to satisfy the sweet tooth.  These two components actually work fantastically together, the flavor mimics the black forest cake.  The only difference is that this shortcake isn't split into two when it's time to eat it, but instead the cherries and cream are piled on top.  It doesn't matter how you eat it, what matters is the deliciousness of this dessert.

Few things about the chocolate shortcake.  Even though it's called shortcake, the result will be close to chocolate cake; I don't mind it a bit though since it's like making an easy chocolate cake.  Do not allow the shortcake to bake too long because it tends to get dry; a few crumbs sticking to the toothpick should be fine when it's time to check the doneness.  Otherwise, the shortcake is chocolaty and fun to eat with any kind of macerated fruits.

Chocolate Shortcakes with Macerated Cherries

Yield 6 servings


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup chilled whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Macerated Cherries:

1 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup kirsch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups fresh, pitted cherries

1 cup chilled whipped cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Toasted slivered almonds for garnish, optional

Make the biscuits:  Preheat oven to 400 degree F.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream and vanilla in medium bowl until firm peaks form. Stir cream into flour mixture until moist clumps form.  Transfer mixture to lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough forms ball, about 10 turns.  Pat dough out to 3/4-inch thickness.  Using 3-inch cutter, cut out biscuits.  Gather dough, pat out again, and cut out total of 6 biscuits.  Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet.

Bake biscuits until toothpick inserted into centers comes out slightly dry, about 10-12 minutes.  Transfer to rack; cool.  Biscuits can be made 6 hours ahead; let stand at room temperature.

Make macerated cherries:  Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Let it boil and stir until sugar is dissolved; off heat, stir in kirsch and vanilla.  Let it cool.  Once cools, pour syrup onto cherries.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

Using electric mixer, beat chilled whipping cream with the confectioners' sugar until soft peak forms.  Place 1 biscuit on each of 6 plates.  Place large spoonful of macerated cherries with juices atop biscuits.  Top with whipped cream.  Scatter almonds and pass remaining cherries alongside.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2007

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Melon Granita

Maybe it's comfortably warm somewhere but here, it's a yo-yo weather for us.  A couple of months ago we had unseasonably few warm, 80's days; but then when May came, the rain was back and people grudgingly took blankets to sleep again.  Now that summer has come, the weather is still--yawn--not that great.  The only consolation is that summer fruits will still come in time, like strawberries, local cherries, peaches, and many more.  Interesting how nature has its own timetable.

I'm not going to wait till the warm weather to come.  When I think of summer desserts, granitas come to mind because they're easy to make and don't require the oven to be turned on.  Fruit-based granitas are always refreshing to have at the end of any meal, and what I love about them is that they're also quite low-fat.

This recipe first appeared in last year's summer edition of Indulge magazine by Zupan's Market.

Melon Granita

Serves 6

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

3 cups chilled 1-inch cubes peeled, seeded cantaloupe

¼ cup dry, fruity white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, optional

2 tablespoons lime juice

Lime zest for garnish

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat; stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat to medium.  Simmer 1 minute.  Let syrup cool.

Place cooled syrup with cantaloupe cubes, white wine, if using, and lime juice in a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Pour mixture into an 8x8x2-inch glass dish then cover it.

Freeze mixture until thoroughly frozen, about 4 hours, stirring with fork every 1 hour.

Before serving, scrape granite with a fork into icy flakes.  Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons granite into each of 6 glasses.  Garnish with lime zest.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pistachio and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies might seem like ordinary cookies but when they are made with outstanding ingredients, they can shine.  What's more, they can be decorated, have things added to them, flavored in many ways, shaped to whatever creations you dream of; there's no end to manipulate sugar cookies.

The cookies I made yesterday were essentially icebox cookies because they were shaped in a log and refrigerated for several hours or overnight before being cut into rounds and baked.  This particular recipe has cream cheese in it that makes it super, super yummy!  The dough is rolled on to chopped salted pistachio which adds texture and not making this cookie a boring cookie in my opinion :)

To keep the dough logs perfectly round, put them in tall drinking glasses as they chill (I placed those glasses horizontally in the fridge).  As you cut the logs, rotate the logs to prevent one side from flattening.

Pistachio and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Makes about 44 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons finely shredded orange or lemon peel

1/2 cup finely chopped lightly salted pistachio nuts

In a large bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in any remaining flour, and the orange/lemon peel.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a 7 1/2-inch roll.  Roll dough rolls in pistachios to coat.  Wrap each roll in plastic wrap.  Chill about 1 hour or until dough is firm.  (Or freeze for up to 2 months.)

Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Cut rolls into 1/4-to 3/8-inch slices.  Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Brownies & Bars, 2013

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Strawberry-Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

I hope another posting of a variation on lemon curd recipe won't bore anyone.  But I can't resist not to whip up extra batch of Meyer lemon curd to make this lovely tart.  It's late spring, almost summer; local strawberries are just coming in, and Oregon-grown strawberries are red all-around, sweet and juicy.  When the tart is cut, the luscious and creamy curd seeps through the buttery and flaky crust; who can resist such temptation?

My parents have a small patch of strawberry plants and they're picking the fruits everyday---it's now or the slugs will get to them.  The fruits don't always look perfect but they're quite sweet.  Elsewhere, u-pick strawberry farms are starting to advertise their picking hours recently and I'm planning to go pick some more strawberries this season, to supplement what I can also get from my parents' patch.  Most of the fruits from last season were almost gone and my homemade strawberries jam is down to one last jar.  I used my vanilla-strawberry jam to glaze this tart and it helps the tart looking more gorgeous.

I didn't use up all the strawberries to cover up the tart--the rest was for snacking--but I think it still looks pretty that way.  The lovely combo of lemon curd and strawberries is a must-try for tart lovers.  I, for one, can't get enough eating the tart shell alone; in my opinion, a good crust equals a giant buttery cookie--simply irresistible!

Strawberry-Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

Serves 10

For Meyer lemon curd:  please see this recipe.  Note:  the curd can be made 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled until used.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons (or more) chilled heavy whipping cream

1 large egg yolk

For topping:

1 1/2 quarts strawberries, stem ends cut flat

1/2 cup strawberry jam

To make the crust:  Blend flour, sugar and salt in food processor.  Add butter; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add 2 tablespoons cream and egg yolk.  Blend until moist clumps form, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.  Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk.  Wrap and chill 1 hour.  The dough can also be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled until used.  Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Roll out dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round.  Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan.  Trim dough overhang to 1/2-inch; fold in and press firmly, forming double-thick sides.  Pierce crust all over with fork; refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes.  Cool crust completely on rack.

Spread curd in crust.  Stand berries in curd, cut side down.  Stir jam in small saucepan over medium heat until melted; strain into small bowl.  Brush jam over berries.  Chill tart until glaze sets, at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.

Remove pan sides from tart.  Transfer to plate and serve.

Source:  adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts