My friend who recently visited me at the cottage requested strawberry shortcake. I was only staying at the cottage for a week, and had limited baking supplies on hand. I had brought some buttermilk pancake mix (Krusteaz is my favorite brand), so I thought we could use that (I figured it wasn’t that different from Bisquick or Jiffy Baking mix). With some brief searching on the internet and a few modifications (based on ingredients we had on hand), we came up with a great recipe which resulted in great shortcake. This shortcake recipe will definitely be my new go-to for a quick, easy, summertime dessert.
- 4-5 Cups Fresh Strawberries- sliced
- 2/3 Cup Sugar – divided
- No-Stick Cooking Spray
- 2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
- 4 TBS. Cold Butter- cut up into small pieces
- 1/2 Cup Milk
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Whipped Cream
Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced strawberries and 1/3 Cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the dough. Combine pancake mix and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Add cut-up butter to mix and work in with a fork or fingers. Add vanilla and milk, and mix thoroughly – batter will be very stiff. Coat a 9″ pie or cake pan (eoither round or square) with non-stick cooking spray and spread batter in pan. Bake shortcake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and all to cool slightly – cut into individual servings, top with strawberries (and accumulated juice), and whipped cream.
Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.
On Saturday I returned from a 16 day trip to China. I had high hopes of catching up on my blog and adding a lot of posts while I was traveling, but I discovered that my blog is blocked in China- not for any reason specific to my blog, but, apparently, all WordPress blogs (and many other blogs where people can freely express opinions) are blocked. My neighbors were initially surprised that I wanted to host our regular Sunday dinner so soon after my return, but then they thought about it and came to the realization that cooking was probably near the top of my list of things that I missed while away from home for so long – they were right. We enjoyed a great meal of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pasta with basil and lemon cream sauce, grilled bread, and fresh peach cobbler with a la mode. To me, grilling is like a true celebration of summer, however it’s not popular (at all!) in China, so it was what I craved upon my return. I believe I’ve posted most of the recipes for everything except the cobbler. Watermelon, berries, and peaches are the fruits that come to mind when I think of summer. Since I ate an abundance of watermelon in China, that was off my list; so I settled on a dessert with peaches. The obvious choice… cobbler. I toyed with the idea of a pie, but cobblers, crisps, and buckles are just so easy, and seem so much more casual and homey. This cobbler was no exception. We enjoyed it still warm from the oven, but it’s great at room temperature, or reheated in the microwave. As with many desserts, it’s even better topped with ice cream or whipped cream. You could make a ginger flavored whipped cream or homemade ice cream which would be delightful, but I settled on store bought vanilla (the kind with the vanilla bean flecks). You can adjust the spices a bit, I like a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but cardamom is a popular pairing with peaches as well (I didn’t have any ground cardamom on hand, and didn’t feel like grinding any). Serves 8-10 (with leftovers).
- 8-10 Peaches, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
- 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
- 4 TBS. Corn Starch
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
- 14 tsp. Ground Ginger
- 2 Cups Flour (I use 1 Cup of cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose, but can use just all-purpose)
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
- 3/4 Cup Buttermilk or Heavy Cream
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, spices, corn starch and all but a few tablespoons of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling on topping). Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the topping. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until well mixed. Add butter cubes and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk or cream and use a fork to combine to make a dough – but do not overmix. The dough should be the consistency of a biscuit dough; it should hold together and be able to clump, without being too wet. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk or cream. Pour the peaches into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish. Top the peaches with the dough (drop clumps over the top until covered) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 350 Degrees for 50-60 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes
I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes I become a little too inspired and ambitious. I love the way this “project” turned out, but I am going to be perfectly honest – it was a ton of work! The recipients were well worth the effort (I made these for a couple of special Moms on Mother’s Day), but I caution you to enter into this project naively. It can be challenging to find the supplies; I got very lucky to not only find the perfect parts, but to get a super great deal on the pots (Michael’s marked down to $2.99 plus I had a 25% off coupon). I found the water tubes at a local garden center/florist (English Gardens for those of you who are local to metro Detroit), but I had to ask the florist if they had them and if I could buy them (.25 each – a bargain). You can buy the tubes on-line, but you need to order a box of 100 – I will not be making 100 of these gifts! You can use any type of cupcake for this, but I went with my strawberry basil cupcakes because I wanted to use fresh basil as part of the bouquet. Some great alternatives would be lemon leaves (available at most florists), mint leaves, or any other herb or green (edible) leaf. I would recommend using a fairly sturdy stemmed green. The original project on Pinterest did not use any fresh greens (just tissue paper), but why settle for that when I could further enhance it?
When it comes to frosting cupcakes, my skills are lacking (or non-existent). There are a lot of resources on-line that show cool frosting techniques. You can choose any style that mimics a flower for these. I was going to try to do the rose pattern as shown on the original Pinterest post, but that was above my pay grade. I just kind of experimented (on a paper towel) first and ended up with a design that looked a bit like a chrysanthemum or a dahlia (notice I said “bit”). I used my the frosting recipe that for my strawberry basil cupcakes which is a variation of a buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but it contains strawberry puree (great color) and some basil infused milk). The problem was that the frosting was not stiff enough to achieve the petal design and because the cupcakes are kind of tipped when placed in the flower pot, you really need a stiff frosting that won’t drip. The solution for me was to just keep adding powdered sugar, but this took away from the strawberry flavor, so there was no point. I am including a recipe for a traditional stiff buttercream frosting which will pipe well and hold up. You can use a bit of food coloring if you want to achieve a particular color (the gel food coloring – available at specialty food stores like Sur le Table or Williams Sonoma- are great because they don’t dilute the frosting).
Recipe for Strawberry Basil Cupcakes
Basil Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 Cup Unsalted Butter -softened (but not melted)
- 3-4 Cups Confectioners (powdered) Sugar- sifted
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1 TBS. Vanilla Extract (or any other flavored extract you want)
- 1/4 Cup Milk
- 4 Large Basil Leaves
Popovers are the new favorite roll in our host. They are featured at every Sunday Family Dinner. I usually serve two varieties of rolls, biscuits or bread – the popovers always go first! I’ve also been making some flavored butters to accompany the popovers. Both are super easy and the great thing about popovers, as opposed to most other rolls, is that you don’t need to wait for dough to rise. I’m not exactly sure of the science of the popover, but I do know that the pan has to be preheated, and you should not open the oven during the cooking process. I have a popover pan, but I also use my regular muffin tin and, quite frankly, the muffin pan works just as well if not better. I never have enough leftover to serve for breakfast, but these would be great for breakfast, brunch or lunch as well as for a dinner roll. Makes 12 popovers.
3 TBS. Unsalted Butter- melted
2 Eggs – room temperature
1 Cup Lukewarm Milk (heat for 30-40 seconds in the microwave)
1 Cup Flour
1.5 tsp. Kosher Salt (substitute 1 tsp. regular salt)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a muffin pan or popover pan in the preheated oven and heat for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously . Add the warmed milk and whisk again. Add the flour, salt and 2 TBS. of melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Remove the muffin or popover pan from the oven and brush each compartment with remaining melted butter. Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin (fill each compartment 1/2 – 3/4) and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes- avoid opening the oven during the cooking process. Remove the muffin/popover pan from the oven and remove popovers from the pan immediately. If possible, serve warm.
* The popover batter can be made in a blender – follow the instructions above, but blend in blender instead of whisking.
Light and Airy Popovers
Honey Almond Butter:
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter – softened
1 TBS. Honey
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and add more honey or almond extract if desired. Transfer butter to a small bowl or ramekin and refrigerate until butter reaches desired firmness (I usually serve it a little soft).
Banana Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramel Drizzle
I’ve really been a cake making kick lately. I never used to bake cakes because, well, quite frankly, I didn’t want to be tempted to eat cake everyday, and tempted I would be. However, now that we have a crowd for friends/family dinner on Sundays, I don’t have to worry too much. We typically eat most of the cake, and I can always find some willing takers to pawn off the leftover slices. I’ve also been on caramel drizzle kick lately. That doesn’t need much explanation…almost any dessert is better when drizzled with caramel. This cake is super easy, as is the versatile (this version has pureed banana for extra banana flavor) whipped cream cheese frosting.
For the Frosting
- 1 1/4 Cups Heavy Cream
- 14 oz. Cream Cheese – softened
- 1/3 Cup unsalted Butter- softened
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1/2 Ripe Banana – pureed
- Prepared Caramel Sauce (store bought or homemade)
Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour two 9″ cake pans. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter, oil, and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool ten minutes. Remove cakes from pans and allow to cool completely before frosting. If desired, place cakes directly into the freezer for 45 minutes before frosting- this will make the cake very moist. While the cakes cool, prepare the frosting: In a chilled bowl, use an electric mixer and whip heavy cream on high speed until stiff peaks form, then set aside. In a separate bowl, Whip together cream cheese, butter, and pureed banana until smooth and fluffy on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and whip on medium speed, about 2 minutes longer. Add half of whipped cream into cream cheese mixture and gently fold until combined, then fold in remaining half. Place one cake on cake plate and frost sides and top. Place second cake on top of first, and frost. Garnish with slices of banana and drizzle with caramel sauce.
Banana Cake topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce