Strawberries Archive

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

strawberry chiffon shortcake

strawberry chiffon shortcake

Though this should surprise precisely no one, when I was a kid my best friend and I went through a phase where we became obsessed with baking cakes. Though the cake creations ranged in flavor and size, they never lacked for two components: buttercream frosting by the bucket and Dunkin Hines “yellow” cake by the layer. (My mother politely requests that I point out that we did the baking at my friend’s house, and not mine, as my mother would never, ever permit the use of such things as baking mixes. She doesn’t kid.)

caaarefully folding

I’m not exactly proud of the cake mix part either, but you see, these cakes really had nothing to do with eating and everything to do with construction. Fascinated by cakes with endless layers, one time we cut the layers so thin, we were able to make the Layer Cake of Our Dreams, six flats of cake each filled with a different shade of frosting (red, orange, yellow, green and blue) and covered in purple icing. It was the kind of starts-and-hearts-and-glitter-and-omg fantabulous I think you really need to be a pre-adolescent girl to appreciate, and the taste, well, what did we care. It was purple!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

strawberry tart

classic strawberry tart

A few times a year, I fall in love with tarts all over again, and not only because Alex thinks that “fluted removable bottom tart pan” is the best name given to any kitchen tool, ever, but because there are few things not made tastier when rendered wide and shallow, in a flower-like shell. In the winter, I gush over slices of warm quiche, on a plate billowing with lightly-dressed greens, or a deep, rich, hard-to-forget ganache tartlet but in the summer, its fresh fruit or bust.

whole lemon tart

This past weekend not one but two tarts exited my kitchen in a new Envirosax tote bag, both entirely inspired by the city of Paris. The first headed for my friend Molly’s dinner party on Friday night, a take on the classic tarte au citron (lemon tart) so fabulous, I might never make stove-top curd citrus curd again. I’ve mentioned before an ongoing fascination with “whole citrus” recipes, those that know that the whole shebang–from peel to pith to pulp–smartly leveraged in a dish is infinitely more satisfying that those that just go for the more low-hanging ingredient of juice. This entire tart is made with one single lemon, ground to a pulp with sugar, then mixed with egg, melted butter and cornstarch and seared in a par-baked crust until the top is bubbly and the taste is absolutely worth bragging about. The simplicity of ingredients alone makes it worthwhile, but the grown-up flavor with the bitter, fragrant vibe straight from the lemon’s edge makes it ready for its close-up. I can’t wait to make it next with two key limes, half a ruby red grapefruit or a whole orange.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

strawberry-rhubarb crumble

strawberry-rhubarb crumble

I’ve baked more fruit crisps in the last few years than I could count on both my hands and all of your toes. And no matter which sweet thing has managed to find its way into my gaping maw between crisps, it’s damn near guaranteed that I’d have preferred that it had been some variety of baked fruit, in its countless incarnations. There’s been an apple-fresh cranberry, apple-raisin, apple-pear, peach, peach-blueberry, peach-raspberry, mixed berry and one day, hopefully very soon, there will be a mango and also a sour cherry.

strawberries, rhubarb

But before we get into my new favorite topping, let me give you a rough outline of the makings of any baked fruit crisp. Fruit of your choice is washed, prepped and coarsely chopped and tossed in its baking dish (usually, a deep dish pie pan, but it can be scaled up easily to a 9×13) with somewhere between two tablespoons (for a not very leaky fruit) to half a cup of flour (berries, I’m looking at you), some sugar (more for rhubarb, way less for peaches), a pinch of salt and some flavoring, be it lemon juice, cinnamon or a scrape of vanilla. Go wild. The topping always begins with melted butter, because it’s the easiest and it has never failed me, a few tablespoons of brown, white or crunchy sugar, and a mixture of flour/oats/finely chopped nuts or just flour. This mix is spread over the fruit mixture and popped in the oven for 40 to 60 minutes, while a resolution-weakening aroma wafts through your apartment. There is simply nothing not to love.

strawberry-rhubarb crumble, ready for the oven

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Monday, April 2, 2007

mixed berry pavlova

miniature pavlovas

I think it pretty much goes without saying that I wasn’t going to be allowed to show up to my parent’s seder tonight without one of these, but when my mother came down at the end of last week with both bronchitis and conjunctivitis in both eyes, did not consider this, perhaps, a sign from above that she would be given a pass on the thirteen-guest dinner tonight and insisted upon foraging ahead, she asked if I could attack the second dessert we’d decided upon–the mighty pavlova–as she wanted to wait until she was no longer contagious to start cooking. I thought that was mighty considerate of her, and of course, had been chomping at the bit to make it anyhow, so I didn’t mind.

plumes of shiny egg whites

Pavlovas are one of those things that I’d never heard of three months ago but have heard about almost weekly since. There was Nigella’s with passion fruit on her new show, Ina Garten’s mixed berry version and her subsequent mention that it would be included in her last meal on earth, no small feat for a woman known for starting every recipe with “beat a pound of butter in a mixer.” But the clincher was Shuna’s gorgeous guest-post on Simply Recipes a couple weeks back, and its step-by-step photos. What better to counterbalance the riches of thick swaths of whipped cream between layers of dead-serious chocolate cake but a giant meringue piled with fresh fruit? And why had I not thought to make this for Passover before?

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

strawberry rhubarb pecan loaf

strawberry rhubarb pecan cake

I should apologize for the lewdness of this title—or perhaps you should, for that gutter mind—but I’ve always been endlessly amused by the “put some South in your mouth” logo painted on the wall of the Carolina BBQ joint and frat-boys-living-out-their-glory-days haven, Brother Jimmy’s. Really, it’s just about the only thing I enjoyed about the place the innumerable times a certain ex-boyfriend of mine with a ACC basketball bent dragged me there under duress or pleading. The bar’s menu consists things like fried pickles, green tomatoes and corn fritters and something frightening called a “flaming pig pick,” and while I am not one to argue that these are indeed Southeastern flavors, my associations have always been in sweeter, homier places: berry pies, cobblers and pretty much anything that has known, been adjacent to or looked at a pecan in it’s life.

strawberry rhubarb pecan cake

Last week, so eager for the Spring weather, a getaway, and yes, some South in our mouths, I made a strawberry rhubarb pecan cake, in hopes to get our palates into gear. It was delicious, and demolished by my coworkers in no time, but always the nit-picker, I wasn’t overwhelmed with it. It didn’t rise enough, I wanted more fruit, more grit, and more adherence: slices would crumble into smaller pieces when you picked them up and the sprinkled-on topping fell of as soon as I flipped it out of the pan, much to the disappointment of my husband, who had just swept the kitchen floor. I know I should have let it go—hell, it was plenty tasty—but I couldn’t in good conscience tell you to make something that I knew had structural issues. See how earnest I can be? It’s nauseating, really.

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