ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chocolate Banana Gorilla Bread

I was at Urgent Care with all three kids and my second round (of three, so far) of strep throat this summer. I'd brought apples for their dinner. I felt like crap and all I wanted was to climb into bed and go dark. But I was at Urgent Care instead, when Paula Deen and one of her sons came on the waiting room TV making this. And even though the last thing I wanted to do in that moment was cook or eat anything, my critical baker's eye still recognized a good thing, so I quick-looked it up on my phone and bookmarked it for a healthier day.

My friend Shanna has been having her kitchen renovated all summer, feeding her family off takeout and whatever can be microwaved. So we had a baking day - I wanted to try this little devil, and Shanna just wanted to bake anything. Reading the recipe, I felt there was likely a high result-to-effort ratio, and that was just what we were going for.
Lots of really good things tucked into a pan with lots of other really good things. Yummy yummo. Although. Not everyone likes cooked banana. (Shanna is one of those people.) I discovered what happens to bananas when they get warm in an unfortunate banana cream pie incident once - I didn't let the custard cool enough before putting the bananas in, and it changed them. But I liked them in this. Next time I might cut them thicker and see if they cook less. But there's only so much you can do about it when they're in the oven for an hour. If you like cooked bananas, good on ya. If not, the crescent is your canvas, man. Shanna and I came up with half a dozen other filling ideas while we licked our fingers - Nutella, peanut butter, peaches or blueberries, something cream cheesey, lemon curd, a combination of the above?

So if you like chocolate & banana, this is your stop. If you are feeling lucky, then this is your jumping off point. Either way, Paula Deen has done a good, good thing here and I thank her for it.

Chocolate Banana Gorilla Bread (print recipe)
3 T granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup packed light brown sugar
8 T butter
24 ounces of refrigerated crescent roll dough (2-12 oz. tubes or 3-8oz. tubes)
6 T sweetened condensed milk
2 to 3 bananas, sliced 1/4 inch thick
About 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, melt the brown sugar with the butter over low heat. Break open the crescent roll packages and separate the triangles of dough. Brush each triangle with sweetened condensed milk (that's right!) and top with 2 banana slices and 1-2 tsp chocolate chips; fold the edges of the triangle together any which way to make a pocket that encloses the filling and seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

4. Put half of the nuts in the Bundt pan and top with half of the dough packets. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar. Pour half of the brown sugar-butter mixture over the dough. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake until puffed, golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Use a knife to hold top dough apart to check doneness of the dough in the middle. Remove pan from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Put a platter on top of the Bundt pan and invert. Pull apart to serve warm or room temperature.Recipe from The Deen Family Cookbook by Paula Deen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peach and Raspberry Crostada

A few weeks ago I was having some girl friends over for dinner. Old friends from grad school that I was more interested in catching up with than necessarily impressing. But of course there had to be dessert. I wanted something kinda rustic and summery. Like something you'd find at a farmer's market. Something without pressure. A great time to try my first galette. Which, I have learned after further research, is something else! This kind of pastry is called a crostada.

I had peaches and raspberries on hand, and I literally wanted to put them in a crust and bake it. Unfortunately I got a little concerned when I checked some recipes - mostly about overly juiciness of fruit making crust soggy - so I decided to go with this one from Dorie Greenspan who takes several precautions to avoid the problem. First, she brushes the dough with jam to make a bit of a seal between the fruit and the crust. Next, she sprinkles on some graham crumbs to absorb some juice if necessary. And finally, she pours in a little simple custard to hold the fruit together and keep it from all getting too messy. Plus it adds a little creaminess that goes delectably with the fresh fruit and perfectly crispy crust.
In the end, it actually was impressive. For a minute I felt like one of those model hostesses in Martha Stewart throwing together that perfect "effortless" summer dinner party. In reality it was a much more regular gathering, but dessert was great. Really great.

Peach and Raspberry Crostada (print recipe)
Pastry Dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 T) very cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
2 1/2 T very cold vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
About 1/4 cup ice water

2 to 3 T jam or marmalade
2 T graham cracker crumbs
About 6 firm peaches*
About 1 pint raspberries*
3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Coarse sugar for dusting

1. Make the Dough: Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don't overdo the mixing - what you're aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 3 T of the water. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the work bowl and onto a work surface. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Roll the dough into a large 1/8-inch-thick circle. Using a pastry wheel or a paring knife, trim the dough to a 13-inch diameter. Using a cake pan as a template and the tip of a blunt kitchen knife as a marker, lightly trace a 9-inch circle in the center of the dough - this is the area for the filling.

3. With the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula, spread some of the jam over the circle - how much you use depends on how much jam flavor you want. At least cover the circle enough to get a "seal." Sprinkle over the crumbs, adding a little more than 2 T if you think you've got particularly juicy fruit. Put a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper over the dough and refrigerate it while you prepare the fruit.

4. Peel or blanch the peaches, then halve and pit them. Rinse the raspberries thoroughly and lay on dry paper towels. Gently pat/dab with more paper towels to dry them as much as possible. Arrange the peaches on the dough, cut side down. Sprinkle the raspberries all over, within the 9-inch circle. Gently lift the unfilled border of dough up and onto the fruit. As you lift the dough and place it on the filling, it will pleat. Freeze the crostada for 15 minutes to rest the crust. Heat the oven to 425F.

5. Brush the dough very lightly with a little water, then sprinkle it with coarse sugar. Bake the crostada for 25 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the fruit soft.

6. Meanwhile, make the custard. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in a bowl. When the crostada has baked for 25 minutes, remove it from the oven (leave oven on!) and carefully pour the custard around the fruit. Depending on how much juice has accumulated and how much space you have between the fruit, you may not be able to pour all the custard into the crostada, but even 2 T can give the right effect. Pour in as much custard as you can, then carefully return the pan to the oven.

7. Bake for another 12 to 15 minutes, or until the custard is set - it shouldn't jiggle when you gently shake the pan. Cool the crostada on the baking sheet on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully slide a small baking sheet or cake lifter under the crostada and slip it onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.
*Other fruits you could use: 10 apricots, 8 to 10 nectarines, 8 to 10 firm plums or 2 stalks rhubarb.

Recipe adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coconut-Filled Lemon Cake

Mmm. This one was borderline for Lemonade Week since it is oh-so-lemony and the glaze could just as easily be lemonade syrup. But in the end I had family coming into town and I just didn't get a seventh recipe up, so here it is a little later. No complaining.

So I know it doesn't look perfect but you can see this is a tunnel-of-coconut cake, right? A very lemony tunnel-of-coconut cake. Which makes it perfect and amazing. I made it for 4th of July - Bundts are always a great choice for picnics or potlucks because they travel so well and everyone likes them. And they're not melty, at least this one isn't. But it is fun! Different! Flavorful beyond description! Moist! Summery!

And it uses one of my new favorite ingredients - I can't remember if I've mentioned it before. Lemon juice powder. Laaa! It gives you that super strong true lemon flavor you want without compromising your chemistry with liquid or artificial stuff. Love it! And if you're wondering what to use it in, you can start with this cake and go from there.
Coconut-Filled Lemon Cake (print recipe)
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon coconut flavor OR 2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons OR 3/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1 T lemon juice powder, optional

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

1) Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl till the mixture is soft and fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar, and beat at high speed till the mixture forms fairly stiff peaks. When you scoop some up in a spoon, it should hold its shape easily. Stir in the coconut flavor or vanilla. Toss the coconut with the flour, and add to the egg white mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined. Set it aside while you make the cake.

2) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a a 9" to 10", 9- to 10-cup capacity Bundt-style pan, or a 10" tube pan.

3) Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first till combined, then till fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after you've added the first 2 eggs. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the grated lemon rind or lemon oil and the lemon juice powder, if using.

4) Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. You want to add enough to cover the bottom, and start to come up the sides; but not so much that you don't have enough left over to cover the filling. Distribute the stiff filling atop the batter, centering it within the ring of batter so it doesn't touch the sides of the pan. Pat it down gently. Dollop the remaining batter on top, again smoothing it with a spatula.

5) Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

6) While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Set it aside.

7) Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. After 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, and turn the cake out onto a rack. Place another rack on top, and flip it over, so it's right-side-up. Poke the hot cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick. Stir the glaze to combine, and immediately brush it on the hot cake. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up. Allow the cake to cool before slicing. Makes about 16 servings.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blueberry Cupcakes with Maple Brown Butter Frosting

Alrighty. Summer's official end is drawing nigh and it is time to CRANK the rest of my summer recipes out while the gettin' is still good at the farmer's market. (Speaking of, if you live in the DC area and can't get to your farmer's market when you want to, check out Local Market in Falls Church.)

Time for more blueberry magic. Delicious, sweet and tender yellow-blueberry cupcakes. I'm sure they would be delicious plain or with any number of toppings (lemon glaze, whippped cream, cream cheese, etc.) but you do NOT want to miss out on the revelation this Maple Brown Butter Frosting is. Do you see some little flecks in there? Browned butter solids. Making this icing with brown butter lends it a caramel/toffee essence you can't get any other way. And the maple flavor is perfectly balanced. And you are allowed to be impressed with my fancy piping job.

I made these cupcakes for a ladies' lunch of discriminating palates, and received praises all around. I can say that without bragging because like almost everything I post on here it's not my recipe. Got this one from A Bountiful Kitchen, which is worth serious browsing and may require a drool bib. A problem which can be partially remedied by making these cupcakes!Blueberry Cupcakes with Maple Brown Butter Frosting (print recipe)
Blueberry Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
1 cup blueberries

Mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix butter and egg lightly. Add buttermilk and milk. Add milk mixture to flour and mix just until blended. Toss blueberries in a tablespoon of flour and fold into batter. Spoon batter into 12 standard muffin cups, greased or lined with paper. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Maple Brown Butter Frosting:
1 stick butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 T maple syrup

In a sauce pan, melt butter at medium temperature until golden brown. In a bowl, add butter to sugar, then add milk and syrup. Beat until smooth. Top with a fresh blueberry immediately after frosting. Recipe from A Bountiful Kitchen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

La Diva Chocolate Cake

Just in case you have never made a really divine chocolate cake, or at least not in awhile, I give you La Diva!

She is sweet, deep, and greater than the sum of her parts. She keeps nothing a secret, layering milk, and then dark, chocolate ganache on the outside, in an undeniable, and irresistable, attempt to bring you hither.

A word about grating chocolate. It goes seriously static! It flies everywhere and there is no containing it, I don't care how many tricks you know. The best way I've found is to lay my grater on a very shallow paper towel-lined rimmed plate or tray. The fly-aways go to the paper towel, which you can then fold up and use for pouring. Sheesh, what a mess! But as always, it is worth it. I never lead you astray.La Diva Chocolate Cake (print recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated semisweet chocolate

Milk Chocolate Ganache:
2/3 cup whipping cream
6 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 T unsalted butter, cut into bits

Finishing Touches:
Confectioners' sugar
Chocolate curls

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Generously spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and place pan on baking sheet.

2. For cake, in a large bowl, hand-whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a medium bowl, place chopped chocolate and butter and cover with boiling water, whisking to blend and melt chocolate. In a mixer bowl, on low speed, blend sugar, eggs, and vanilla very well until light, about 3 minutes. Fold in sour cream and then dry ingredients, melted chocolate, and grated chocolate. Blend well, scraping bowl often to ensure evenly blended batter, about 2 to 4 minutes. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed with fingertips, about 55 to 65 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes before unmolding. Wrap and freeze 1 hour before garnishing cake.

3. To make milk chocolate ganache, in a small saucepan, bring cream to just simmering. Quickly stir in chopped milk chocolate and continue stirring until it melts, turning off heat as you do so. Mix well and chill until very firm. Then whip in a mixer on high speed to fluff.

4. For dark chocolate ganache, in a small saucepan, bring cream to just simmering. Quickly stir in chopped chocolate and continue stirring until it melts, turning off heat as you do so. Mix well. When it is thick, stir in butter to blend in. Let cool to room temperature. Chill until it can be poured over cake as a thick glaze.

5. To assemble and garnish cake, invert cake onto a serving platter. Spread milk chocolate ganache on top of cake. Chill cake 20 to 30 minutes. Then pour dark chocolate ganache over top of cake. Chill briefly and then garnish with confectioners' sugar, chocolate curls, or a pesticide-free red rose.Recipe from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade

Alrighty. How are you liking LEMONADE WEEK? It's time to talk a little lemonade, shall we?

How do you like it? Mouth-puckering tart? Sugary-sweet? Fizzy? Frozen? Speaking of, go back and remember my Mint Lemonade from last summer. Man that stuff is good; worth a revisit.

Have you noticed lemonades popping up more on menus? I mean things you drive by. McDonald's, for example, has a new "Frozen Strawberry Lemonade." Have you tried it? I had to, you know, for research. Grody. Artificial-tasting, very strong, very sour. A friend of mine thought the same thing. She thought it might have been flukey - how can something that sounds so good taste so bad? - so she tried it again when visiting another state. Same badness. That's three data points so you know it's reliable.

On the other hand, Wendy's has a new Wild Berry Lemonade that is super good. Very refreshing. Thumbs up.

I know Cafe Rio is not nationwide yet, but it's big in Utah and we recently got a couple out this way. I have to say, I don't love the food. But next to their self-serve soda spigots are three or four kinds of fresh lemonade that are to die for. Worth the trip just for them. I can't remember the others because I was hook-line-sinker addicted to a combo of southwest lemonade (which contains something floral/herbal - hibiscus?) and mint lemonade after one sip. Seriously, I would drive the hour just for the drink!!!

But when I don't have an hour, I'm still OK because there is a Starbucks on every single corner in Arlington. (Don't believe me? Watch this.) Maybe every other corner. And my very favorite summer beverage (that I don't make myself) is Starbucks' Passion Tea Lemonade. Oh, thrill of my taste buds, there are no words for the refreshment thou hast brought me, summer after summer! do you lemonade?

Oh, yes. There is a recipe in this post. Straight-up fresh strawberry lemonade. Not pretend strawberry lemonade like some places make. Very delicious, and you can make it thick or thin, depending on how thoroughly you choose to strain the berry puree. Just be warned! The seeds sink to the bottom so careful about sipping them all up through a straw. I wish I'd had a video camera...
Strawberry Lemonade (print recipe)
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 6 lemons) plus 1 lemon, sliced, for serving
1 pound strawberries (3 cups), hulled and halved
16 ounces seltzer, chilled
Mint sprigs, for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water and sugar to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate until cool, about 45 minutes. Add lemon juice and stir to combine.

2. In a blender, puree strawberries until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into pitcher with lemon syrup, pressing on solids. Stir well to combine.

3. To serve, stir in seltzer and divide among ice-filled glasses. Top with lemon slices and mint. Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Everyday Food, June 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pink Lemonade Pie

Now, this. This is one of those fabulous treats everyone should have in their repertoire. Perfect for too-hot-to-bake days (especially if you buy the crust!) Awesome for company. And kids of all ages gobble it up. Believe me, even kids in their 30's.

It might sound weird, combining lemonade concentrate with ice cream. But think creamsicle, only pink. Think sweet-tart-sweet. Think refreshing-cold. I am so sick of hot weather!!!

A tip: For this recipe you need to soften your ice cream, but you know how it goes. You put the container on the counter, and the edges melt while the center stays frozen. Instead, think outside the box.

I cut mine to size (roughly 2/3 of a 1.5 quart container to get 1 quart - I put the rest in a container in the freezer). Then chopped it up into large even-sized chunks. This way the quart will soften more evenly, and more quickly. You only want it as soft as you need it to mix with the other ingredients. You don't want it melted.
Pink lemonade is a glorious thing in the summer. Ice cream, a revelation. Cool Whip, a little strange but you know you love it. This pie makes a dang good licking spoon when you're done stirring!

Pink Lemonade Pie (print recipe)

Graham Cracker Crust
9 graham crackers (5 ounces), broken into rough pieces
2 T sugar
5 T unsalted butter, melted and warm

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a food processor, process the graham crackers until evenly fine, about 30 seconds (you should have 1 cup crumbs.) Add the sugar and pulse to combine. Continue to pulse while adding warm melted butter in a steady stream; pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to 9-inch glass pie plate; use the bottom of a ramekin or measuring cup to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides, forming a crust. Bake the crust until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 14 to 17 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pink Lemonade Filling:
1 quart (4 cups) vanilla ice cream, softened
6 oz. frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed (half of a 12-oz. can)
1 (4 oz.) container Cool Whip, thawed if frozen
Lemon or lime peel or berries, for garnish

*Tip: To evenly soften ice cream, cut it into even-sized chunks (about 2x2-inches) and place in a room-temperature bowl. Mash a little as soon as they begin to soften. You want minimal softening - only as much as you need to mix it with the other ingredients.

In a large bowl combine ice cream, concentrate and Cool Whip until smooth and homogenous. Spread into cooled graham crust. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature a few minutes before serving. Garnish as desired.Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lemonade Cupcakes

I can't exactly remember, but I think these cupcakes were the inspiration for LEMONADE WEEK. They certainly fit the theme, with lemonade syrup in both batter and frosting. (That's thawed lemonade concentrate for Americans.) I hunted down some lemon drops for garnish, but if you are up to candying your own lemon slices, by all means do it...and then email me directions and photos so we can work out a guest post! They would be the crowning jewel on these lemony handfuls of sunshine!
When my brother visited us from England in May, he brought me Cake Days, a cookbook from The Hummingbird Bakery in London. I told him while he was here I would make him anything he wanted out of it; he chose these cupcakes. The measurements were in grams and ounces - sorry, no cups, but if you've got a kitchen scale, which honestly, you should have one by now! (here's mine), then you can do these, no problem. Yummy and sooo LEMONADEY!!!
Lemonade Cupcakes (print recipe)

3 oz. unsalted butter, softened
10 oz. sugar
8 1/2 oz. all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 T lemonade syrup (thawed lemonade concentrate)
8 1/2 fl. oz. whole milk
2 large eggs

2 T lemonade syrup
1 3/4 fl. oz. whole milk
1 lb 2 oz. confectioners' sugar
5 1/2 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Lemon jelly candies or lemon drops, to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, set on low speed, beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest until all the ingredients have come together and resemble fine breadcrumbs.

3. Mix the lemonade syrup with the milk in a jug, add the eggs and whisk together by hand, then pour three-quarters of this milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium and keep mixing the batter until thick and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and continue to beat on a medium speed until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth once again.

4. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each about two-thirds full. Any remaining batter can be used to fill one to four more cases in a second muffin tin. Pop in the oven and bake for 18-20 minute or until risen and springy to the touch. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin, then place on a wire rack to cool completely before you add the frosting.

5. To make the frosting, first mix the lemonade syrup with the milk. Using electric mixer, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the butter and lemon zest on a low speed until sandy in texture. Mixing on a low speed, pour the flavored milk into the sugar mixture. When you've poured it all in, increase the speed to high and whisk until light and fluffy.

6. Spoon a generous dollop of frosting on to each cold cupcake, then gently smooth over with a knife, making a swirl at the top and adding lemon slices or candy, if you wish.

Makes 12 to 16 cupcakes

Recipe from Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special from the hummingbird bakery

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lemongrass Sorbet

It's always exciting to buy an ingredient I've never used before - in this case, lemongrass. It is indeed long and grass-like and I found it near the cilantro and other fresh herbs at my market.

As you may know, lemongrass is commonly used in Asian cooking, and it's appropriately named for the herbal-citrus essence it lends. To this sorbet, it brings a slightly citronella tinge, but I mean that in a great way - you will in no way feel you are eating a candle! Promise! It is a completely fresh and refreshing take on a classic, and if you chose to muddle it in a tall glass with a little bit of seltzer or Sprite, well, then you have got some awesome frozen lemongrassade.
Lemongrass Sorbet (print recipe)
Lemongrass Syrup:

8 stalks lemongrass
6 T sugar
6 T water

1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 T sugar, or to taste

1. Bruise the lemongrass stalks by crushing them under the flat side of a chef's knife - this will release their flavor. Cut the bruised stalks into 2-inch pieces.

2. Combine the lemongrass, sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is slightly thickened (almost the texture of warm honey), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely. When cool, strain the syrup and discard the lemongrass.

3. Combine the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Slowly stir in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the liquid is sweet, but slightly tart. Stir in the cooled, strained syrup and taste. The mixture should be quite sweet - if not, add a little more sugar, keeping in mind that freezing will dull the sweetness of the sorbet. Chill the mixture for at least 1 hour, then churn in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a freezer container, cover the surface directly with waxed paper or foil and freeze for at least 4 hours. Makes 2 1/2 cups

Recipe from Ice Cream! Delicious ice creams for all occasions by Pippa Cuthbert & Lindsay Cameron Wilson

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars

Hi. Did I mention it's LEMONADE WEEK around here? What does that mean?

Well it just means I have some pretty great lemon recipes I've been saving up, and over half of them have lemonade in the title or ingredient list, plus it's August and that is all I want to drink!

It also takes me back to two years ago when I was in my first trimester with Poppy and very nauseous. Nothing looked or sounded good even though I was so hungry! So I went to the grocery store with the goal of walking up and down every aisle until I found one thing I could stand to consume. It was in the last row by the sour cream and orange juice. A big bottle of Simply Lemonade, cut to half strength with seltzer. It really got me through some tough months.

You can look forward to more fascinating anecdotes like that one all week! That's what LEMONADE WEEK means.*These bars are serious bake-sale material. And I love how the "pink" part comes from something at least a little more natural than food coloring. Raspberry jam offers subtle color and flavor to make these bars just a little more than "lemon."

Pink Lemonade Crumb Bars (print recipe)
Crust and Crumbs:

2 cups plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam, stirred to loosen up
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 tsp)

1. Heat oven to 350. Line a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with nonstick foil.

2. Crust and Crumbs. Combine 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, almonds, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to finely grind almonds and blend ingredients. While processor is running, add butter and vanilla. Reserve 2/3 cup crumbs mixture and press rest into bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, with your hands, blend remaining 2 T flour into reserved crumbs.

3. Filling. In a medium-size bowl, whisk sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs, then raspberry jam. Whisk in lemon juice and zest.

4. Remove crust from oven and pour filling over crust. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle crumbs over top of bar and bake an additional 15 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Chill before cutting into bars. Refrigerate until packaging or serving.

Recipe from Family Circle, April 2011

*Have an excellent lemonade story, or, even better, recipe, to share? Please do - I am comment-thirsty!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blueberry Lemonade with Ginger and Basil

About a month ago The Washington Post FOOD section (the main reason I subscribe) did a feature on blueberries. They wrote about two local blueberry growers, one organic, one not - their entire life stories plus all the details of their garden/farm/plot? What is a big blueberry patch called? Anyway, as always, it was a mouthwatering article (here, if you want to read it) that ended in a number of totally creative blueberry recipes - like Blueberry Fritters with Honey Cream and Summer Couscous Pudding with Blueberries.

And this lemonade.

Which I made immediately, especially since we had just gone blueberry picking. And which I made again for Dessert Club. And with which I have decided to start LEMONADE WEEK!

It is AMAZING. If you like the contributing flavors. Because you can taste each one. So if you're not an herbal person maybe it's not for you. But for those with a more sophisticated palette, like myself of course, this is about the most refreshing thing you could toss back in the heat of summer. After you blend up the hot base, remove the lid and hold your face over the concoction - breathe deeply for an herbal sinus cleanse and facial steam. Then after you add the lemon juice and water, chill thoroughly, at least overnight, for the most delicious purple beverage you could ever hope to drink. Then you can die happy.Blueberry Lemonade with Ginger and Basil
1 pint blueberries, stemmed and rinsed, plus more for optional garnish
1 cup sugar or sweetener of your choice
1 cup plus 1 quart water
1/2 cup basil leaves, packed, plus more for optional garnish
Two-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut crosswise into thin slices
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 3 or 4 lemons

1. Combine the blueberries, sugar and 1 cup of the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the berries just begin to burst.

2. Transfer to the blender*, along with the basil, ginger and lemon zest. Puree until smooth, then strain into a pitcher, pushing on the solids with a rubber spatula to extract all of the liquid. Discard the solids.

3. Add the remaining quart of water and the lemon juice to the base mixture. Serve over ice. Garnish with blueberries and basil leaves, if desired.

*Careful! Blending hot liquid may literally cause the blender to blow its top. If your lid has a removable center, take it out and loosely hold a paper towel over the hole so steam can escape but it doesn't splatter. If not, leave the whole lid off and do the paper towel thing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Peach Melba Muffins

I have been doing some seriously good seasonal baking this summer and now I am playing catch-up to get them all posted before summer - and her wonderful flavors! - are gone.

Have you gone peach-picking yet? It is one of my favorite parts of summer, and that is saying something because there aren't many (favorite parts of summer, not peaches. There are lots of peaches.) Biting into one fresh off the tree, hot from the sun and juice running down your chin and elbow. Oh, yes.

Then you take them home and have them for every meal! Peach pancakes! Peaches and cream! Peach slices! Peaches and yogurt! Peach muffins, cake, pie, (hand pies!), peaches with ice cream! Ed is making himself a bowl even as I type. Mmm.So here is one more way you can put a peach in your cake hole. Without checking wiki or something, "Peach Melba" refers to a peach-raspberry dessert made for an Australian celebrity (opera singer?) named Melba. And there is your history lesson for the day. Delicious!
Peach Melba Muffins (print recipe)
1 cup fresh raspberries or frozen unsweetened raspberries, unthawed
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
1 T berry liqueur, raspberry vinegar, lemon juice or orange juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 or 2 peaches, about 8 oz. each, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Coarse sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease 12 standard muffin tins or line with paper.

2. In a small bowl, toss the raspberries with 1 T sugar and liqueur/juice. Let stand for 30 minutes. This would be a good time to peel, pit and chop your peaches.

3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.

4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, and milk until blended. Stir in the dry ingredients just until evenly moistened, no more than 15-20 strokes. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the peaches just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Take care not to break up the fruit. Do not overmix.

5. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it half full. Divide the raspberries among the cups, using about 1 T per muffin (2-3 raspberries), then cover the batter level with the rim of the cup. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 T sugar and the sliced almonds, dividing evenly.

6. Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 25-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve them warm or at room temperature, with butter.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Muffins

1 year ago: Pecan-Peach Cobbler
2 years ago: Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Coconut Key Lime Pie

I don't feel like I really need to say much about this pie. You can see for yourself its glory, the low-endedness of my camera notwithstanding. Except that it has pushed me over the edge to create a "lime/coconut" tag because it is a beloved and honored combination on this blog that brings delight and refreshing euphoria to at least this author. So instead of writing more unnecessary commentary, I'm going to use my time to go and back-tag all the other lime & coconut treasures VGP has to offer. Then I might go research some more to make in the future... Enjoy!

Coconut-Key Lime Pie (print recipe)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice
7 large egg yolks
1 graham pie crust (recipe follows)
2 cups cold heavy cream
2 T confectioners' sugar
3 T sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk, lime juice, and egg yolks until smooth. Pour into crust and bake until set but still slightly wobbly in center, 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day.)

2. In a large bowl using electric mixer, beat cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. To serve, top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.Easy Press-in Pie Crust
6 ounces cookies (about 12 graham crackers, 46 vanilla wafers or 30 chocolate wafers)
3 T sugar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
5 T unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (about 1 1/2 cups). Add sugar, salt and butter and pulse until combined.

2. Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until crust is dry and set, about 12 minutes. Let cool completely in plate on a wire rack before filling.

Recipe from Everyday Food

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peach Hand Pies (and how they taught my kids about Twinkies)

Oh, good heavens. These are everything you would want them to be. I always want to make something good for Dessert Club but for some reason this time I really, really wanted to bring my A game. I pored through cookbooks and websites, choosing, then rejecting, at least ten, maybe fifteen, different summery things. So many things I almost made. But when I thought of hand pies, and then found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen, who I trust without question, my search was over.

Peaches are my favorite summer fruit. So fleeting. So rarely perfect, so like-buttah when they are. So juicy and delightful - they taste and look look like the sun. However, that said, you can make these with any filling. I've only tried peaches, but I'm sure raspberries, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, etc. would all make delightful hand pies. Just adjust sugar to taste and flour to juiciness.

What I'm saying is that the crust is the star and the key of this recipe. As SK says, yes, it is fussy. There is a lot of chilling between steps so make sure you have room for a baking sheet or two in your fridge before starting. And make sure you will be home for several hours! Just so you know. But it goes without saying they they are worth it. Best, best, best.And here's what they have to do with Twinkies. I had looked over the recipe and knew I had everything. Then on the day of Dessert Club I took out the recipe and realized my sour cream was gone. I had cleaned out the fridge the day before and tossed all the sour cream - it wasn't bad but I didn't know how old it was and couldn't think of anything immediate I would need it for (stupid, stupid, stupid!) So it's 1 pm, the baby is sleeping, I'm ready to cook, and I am missing the crucial ingredient. Quick calculations - if she wakes up before 3 and we run to the store for just one thing, I can still have them done by 8:30! So I went about other work (chilling my other crust ingredients), with a stressful eye on the clock.

Baby wakes up, I call to the other girls to get their shoes on. Ginger comes down. "Hazel's asleep." Dang. Hazel sleeps like a rock and is as heavy as one. Baby is crying, hungry. I give Ginger marshmallows and tell her to feed them to Poppy one by one. I shake Hazel frantically, "We gotta go, we gotta go!" Skipping ahead, it was super hard to wake her up - I had to carry her down the stairs and promise treats - "You can pick out ANYTHING you want at the store, we just need to go now!"

On the way there, I rattled off some choices so they wouldn't take forever - "You can get M&M's, popiscles, Twinkies, popcorn, ..."

"Mom, what are Twinkies?"

It is a testament to my desperation that I consciously decided in that moment to actually tell my kids about, and then show them in the store, the entire line of Hostess products. Cupcakes, ho-h0's, Donettes, and yes, Twinkies. I remember Twinkies being the end-all ultimate treat of my childhood. Now I know they are pretty disgusting. And yet, last week on the day of Dessert Club, my three girls and I left the grocery store with sour cream, popsicles and Twinkies. Since then (less than a week), they have asked for Twinkies two more times (luckily we only got a 2-pack and not a whole box.)

That is the position I have put myself in just so YOU can have these pies.

Peach Hand Pies (print recipe)

Makes 14 to 24 (depending on cutter size)

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 ts. salt
16 T (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds peaches (about 3 medium)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

One egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)
Coarse sanding sugar, for decoration

1. To make the pastry, in a bowl or small Ziploc bag, combine the flour and salt. Place the cut-up butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer. This step could also be done in the food processor - pulse until it resembles coarse meal, add liquid and pulse until it comes together slightly, but be very careful to not overwork the dough.

2. Divide the refrigerated dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-to-5 inch biscuit cutter, cut circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling, cutting, and chilling process with the remaining half of dough. (I used a 4 1/4-inch cutter and got about 9 circles from each half after rerolling scraps, with a little dough leftover for my dough-munching husband.)

3. Make the filling: Peel and chop the peaches into small bits (approx. 1/2-inch dice), much smaller than you’d use for a regular-sized pie. Mix them with the flour, sugar and pinch of salt, and add the vanilla.

4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons filling (my 4 1/4-inch circles would only hold 1 tablespoon) onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush a little cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat process with remaining dough. Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut a small slit in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle sanding sugar generously over the pies, and place pies in the oven to bake. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 20 to 26 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven, and let stand to cool slightly before serving.LinkRecipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (comments in parentheses are mine)

1 year ago: Baked Buttermilk Donuts
2 years ago: Deep Dark Double Chocolate Bread
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