Posts Tagged With: strawberries

Strawberry Shortcakes

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While at school, I happened to have coffee with a professor (on multiple occasions, as she always manages to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step regardless of pre-existing grumbles).  As we plowed through a myriad of different conversation topics, we fell upon cooking.  In a wonderfully kind and enormously appreciated gesture, this professor [knowingly] enabled my procrastination abilities and handed me a tote bag full of old Cook’s Illustrated magazines, sticky-noted with suggestions and recipes that she uses for her family.

Needless to say, I was in heaven.  (Still am, actually…definitely a good example of the imperfect tense in French – not only an emotion, but a state that began in the past and continues to the present.  Merci à vous, chère prof extraordinaire !)

Cook’s Illustrated is a fantastic review of recipes published after immense scrutiny.  As a result, the recipes that make the cut are polished and often foulproof.  Furthermore, the pages include scientific reasons why certain ingredients fail and other succeed – handy to note if ever one needs to do a little ingredient switcheroo.

Bref, upon hitting these “lazy” summer months, I’ve been reading through these Cooks Illustrated like it’s my job…which it isn’t…but that’s alright !  In so doing, I’ve copied multiple recipes including this fabulous strawberry shortcake concoction from the 1997 May/June issue.  I’ve made shortcakes before, but they never have quite the proper consistency.  This go-around, I was pleased to discover a nice, scone-like shortcake that was so easy to make, the dessert was ready in under an hour (20 minute prep, 20 minute cook/cool).  For a family that loves spontaneous sweets morning, noon, and night, a quick fix is a popular one.

June is strawberry time in MA, and we’ve been nibbling on native berries that are small but incredibly sweet.  Whip up (or roll out) some shortcakes while this fruit is still in season !

Topping :

3 pints strawberries (Mash 1 pint, quarter the other two)
6 tbsp sugar (optional !  If those strawberries are really fresh, just add 1-2 tbsp)
Squeeze of lemon if desired.

Wash the berries and pat them dry.  The recipe divides them by pints, but I just did it by handful – one handful of mashed berries to two handfuls of intact berries.  I don’t have a way to measure a pint in the kitchen, so I rely on my eyeballs.  Mash the berries with a fork – they don’t need to be beaten into a pulp, just macerated enough to release some of the juices and make a faux (well, fausse) sauce.

For the “intact” berries, hull and quarter them.  Hulling is very easy – pull back the stem, run the knife around the center of the berry, making a cone shape, then pull it out and discard.

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Cut the berry into quarters, put in a bowl with the sugar (as little or as much as you prefer – I didn’t need much due to the freshness of the berries).

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A little lemon juice is pleasant as well, as is Grand Marnier liqueur. Let this sit while you prepare the shortcakes.

Shortcakes :

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar; 2 tbsp for sprinkling (5 total)
1 stick butter, frozen
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cups + 1 tbsp half and half
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 425F.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and 3 tbsp sugar.  Mix together to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Set aside.

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Grab that stick of FROZEN butter.  Using a large cheese grater, grate the butter onto a plate (or directly into the dry ingredients, if you are strong enough to do so.  I am a weakling and cannot grate while holing our [broken] grater).  I put a plate or a paper towel on top of the counter and therefore grate straight up and down rather then on an angle.  I found it was easier to do it this way, if not simply for the well-being of my whisk-worn wrists.  Toss the butter curls into the flour mixture.

If you don’t have a grate, fear not !  Simply cut the butter into small, workable pieces and mix them into the flour mixture.

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Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until it forms large clumps and resembles cornmeal…or almond flour.  You should be able to squish the dough between your fingers and it will momentarily keep its shape.

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Mix the beaten egg with half and half; pour it into the flour mixture.  I made a hole in the dry ingredients and emptied the egg combo into the center of the flour, then mixed with a fork.  Stir until large clumps form.

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Turn mixture our onto a floured work surface and lightly knead until it comes together – this shouldn’t take long nor a lot of flour – it’s a sticky, soft, loose dough.  Just make sure the countertop is nicely floured and you shouldn’t have any problems.

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Pat dough into a 9-by-6” rectangle (well, that’s rather fussy, isn’t it ?) that is 3/4 inches thick. I would just estimate a nice rectangle that is about the thickness of your pinkie nail.  The cakes will rise in the oven, but not excessively, so keep that in mind when you are patting out the dough.  Cut the dough into 6 rounds (or more, depending on how thick or thin you made your dough).  I used a glass as my “cookie cutter” and it worked perfectly.  Place over the dough, press, turn, and lift – works like a charm.

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Place 1 inch apart on a large baking sheet.  Brush the tops with eggs whites and sprinkle with remaining sugar – if you have turbinado sugar, or raw sugar, I think that would be excellent.

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Bake until golden brown – probably about 12-15 minutes in a hot oven.  Upon removal, let the cakes cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

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To serve, split each cake cross-wise and plop a hearty spoonful of vanilla ice cream in the center.  Spoon berries over ice cream and maybe a little whipped cream, and serve on a back porch on a warm sumer night !

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Bon appétit ! 🙂

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Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mousse au Frangelico

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I was sitting in the kitchen, contemplating the world (as usual) and of course, attempting to make une décision très importante:  what to have for dessert. Crise existentielle de la journée, as one might say.  Alone, with a kitchen just begging to be used, and a sibling returning soon home from her long day over at the Eric Carle Museum…I felt the pressure.  What to do, what to do.

Hm.  I didn’t have any chocolate chips.
Nor enough oatmeal to make oatmeal scotchies.
Not in the mood for pie.

I could make brownies.  But I don’t want those either.

Then I started thinking…what about mousse ?  It was a beautiful day, mousse doesn’t sound hard, and it’s definitely soemthing new. With a bit of luck, sibling called, saying she would happily pick up some ingredients at a local market before coming home.   With her purchasing whipping cream and some native strawberries (for ’tis the season, so they say), I set about crafting some mousse.

I didn’t want chocolate mousse – too rich and I didn’t have the right chocolate for it.  I thought abotu what goes with cream and ended up with…frangelico !  Frangelico is a lovely hazelnut liqueur that is best served (in my humble opinion) with cold cream.  Best friends with the exotic Kahlua and the reliable Bailey’s, Frangelico is another one of those dessert-type liqueurs that comes in an immediately identifiable bottle and possessing an unforgettable flavor.  It’s refreshing and delicious and just sounded fabulous with strawberries and a little chocolate garnish.  When I googled my concept, however, nothing came up.

Uh-oh.

I’ve never made mousse and apparently, the world hasn’t made frangelico mousse – all I located were chocolate-based recettes.  As a result, I made up my dessert and lucky for me, it turned out splendidly.  Light and creamy from both egg whites and whipped cream, the mousse was a great summer treat and the strawberries, being native, tiny, and adorable (I know a souris who would have loved them) added an excellent tartness to the dish.  I served mine in chocolate cups, but you definitely don’t need to do that – the mousse is delicious as a solo act.

NOTE:  MOUSSE REQUIRES THE USE OF RAW EGGS.  PLEASE USE THE FRESHEST EGGS AVAILABLE TO MAKE THIS DESSERT IN ORDER TO AVOID GETTING SICK.  If you buy pasteurized eggs, which apparently exist, make sure the whites are whippable, as some pasteurized eggs lose the ability to whip due to protein denaturation.

For the mousse :

3 FRESH eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tbsp (one for whipping cream, one for egg whites)
3-4 tbsp Frangelico (I did it by taste but I would guess it was about this much)

Start by separating the eggs.  Put the yolks in a large bowl and set the whites aside for the time being.  Grab a whisk and roll up your sleeves – mousse requires some serious mixing skills.  Add the 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and vanilla to the yolks.  Whisk until they thicken and lighten in color (this step is also known as ribboning the eggs – it makes sure the sugar is well distributed throughout the yolks).  Add the frangelico, stir, and taste.  The yolk won’t hurt you – be bold and taste it !  You should be able to taste a burst of hazelnut and a tiny bite of alcohol, but not much.  If you want more, be my guest and get those yolks a little silly !

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In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add 1 tbsp of sugar and beat again to incorporate, staying at the soft peaks stage.  Set aside.

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In YET ANOTHER bowl, whip the cream until thick and looks like a swirly mountain range.  I used the trusty Sunbeam beater to do this because I didn’t want to whisk by hand and I’d already used BOTH electric mixing bowls.  Kitchen drama.  Add the 1 tbsp sugar, mix again to incorporate, and grab a spatula.

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This next bit is a little delicate.  Start by adding the whipped cream to the yolk mixture.  Using a spatula, fold the cream in carefully – we are trying to increase the volume of the combination.  Don’t over mix – it’s okay if it’s not all incorporated because…

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…we are going to fold AGAIN !  Once all the whipped cream has been added, spoon in the egg whites and continue folding.  When complete, the entire concoction should be very airy, large, and a pale yellow color.  Cover your container and let chill until set – probably a good 4 hours.

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Naturally, we weren’t that patient and ate ours before it had entirely chilled and the sky did not open up nor did the earth quake, so if you are like my sibling and I (two antsy filles with a stubborn sweet tooth), go ahead and indulge early.

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Serve in chocolate cups with chopped strawberries OR on it’s own in a little ramekin OR with a vanilla wafer OR eat it straight out of the bowl.  Bon appétit ! 🙂

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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