Category: berries

Let’s talk about berries & bundts, bitches.

Remember I said I never make cakes? Unless its easy? Well… yeah. This is why I’m obsessed with these tiny little mini-bundts. Remember the mini-bundt pan I spoke about a few months ago?

Strawberry ricotta mini bundt cakes.

I love it. Mini-bundts are my new favorite thing. They’re SO easy to just fill up with a recipe and bam- instant fancy. They make any recipe look awesome-r. And way cuter, let’s be honest. Not that ricotta cake needs help being awesome, but look. So cute.

Strawberry ricotta mini bundts.

And strawberries are cute, too.

Strawberries for ricotta mini-bundt cakes.

When you find yourself with strawberries on sale, and you’re dying for the fresh smell of a summer berry even though it’s only late April, you just buy ’em. And make cakes.

And jam.

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Triple berry jam (vegan) cakes with (vegan) cream cheese frosting.

Triple berry vegan cupcakes with a triple berry vegan cream cheese frosting!

Oops, I did it again. I successfully tricked people into eating vegan cupcakes & they were none the wiser! Of course, there were a *few* tells: the texture of the cupcake, and the frosting texture of course. However taste-wise, there were no complaints!

I used that triple berry maple bourbon jam (from last month) in them, and wow. The moistness of the cupcake was just heightened with that addition. Yes, they are indeed messy though. That’s the price you pay for this kind of moist cupcake with jammy goodness.

What is “vegan” you ask? I can’t imagine many folks nowadays that don’t know, but here you are:

Veganism /ˈvɡənɪzəm/ is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.

Distinctions are sometimes made between different categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet, but extend the vegan philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals or animal products for any purpose. Another term used is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.

source

Listen. I love meat. I love chicken. I love cupcakes. I love eggs, butter & all things dairy. Butter is literally my go-to condiment. And cheese is my BFF. I have no desire to become vegan, but just like I love salads & often find myself choosing them over other meals, it’s nice to have an option like this. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from a lot of butter or cheese. Have something lighter. Or … just do it to save the few eggs you have left in the fridge for egg salad. Whatever.

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Triple berry maple bourbon jam.

Triple berry maple bourbon jam.

Boy, berries can be messy.

I forget this from year to year, until I have some & I’m making jam & it splatters everywhere & it looks like I’ve been doing illegal surgeries in my kitchen sink.They’re so pretty though. So I forgive them their trespasses, for they know not what they do. And they’re summery, so it stands to reason I’m ready to start using them.

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Independence Day pastries.

Every heart beats true for the red, white & blue. Happy 4th of July!

When our founding father’s made the blueprints for America, I don’t think they had any idea that this time of year would turn into such a circus. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve got nothin’ against a good party. I love to grill up some hot dogs & burgers & have a cold beer. I love the colors red, white & blue. I love seeing everyone (or almost everyone) flying the flag. I have nothing against the 4th of July in it’s current incarnation. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty great.

I just hope that it’s not reduced to nothing but another excuse to get drunk & stupid for most people. Like I said- I have nothing against a good time. But there’s more to the day than a reason to get plastered & blow an arm off. This is a historical day, an important day for Americans. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted to approve the resolution of independence from Great Britain. From this, Congress turned their attention to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents (if not the most important) in American history. The document explains the decision for leaving Britain’s rule, becoming 13 independent states that formed a new nation, The United States of America. The date on the Declaration itself was July 4th, which was the date the official wording was approved, so because of that, we celebrate on the 4th. But whichever day it is, it’s important. It should mean something.

For me, it’s not just a reason to party. I never take a minute of my existence for granted, not just that I’m healthy, etc… but that I live in a country which- for all it’s many faults- is pretty damn awesome. But to be honest? Holidays for me are always a(nother) excuse to bake. And as a matter of fact, my mother’s birthday happens to be tomorrow, so it’s kind of a double celebration, which means double the desserts. Which calls for some easy mini pastries for the 4th.

Easy little fruit-filled pastries for the 4th of July! #4thofjuly #independenceday

I’ve made homemade PopTarts before, and I’ve made tons of hand-pies or mini-pies. So I thought that it’d be fun to make some patriotic-themed ones for the 4th. It’s a simple, hand held dessert that bakes up pretty quickly and makes use of fresh fruits. I know, it doesn’t seem simple. There are a lot of steps involved, but in all honesty they’re easy steps! However- you can also use canned pie filling to make them, as well as frozen pie crust. One small can of pie filling and two frozen pie crusts will probably give you around a dozen of these, maybe less.

And you don’t just have to use the blueberry filling. Make strawberry, cherry, blackberry… whatever you want! Or a few of each.

Patriotic blueberry-filled mini pastries. Also known as red, white & BLUEberry pastries! #4thofjuly #independenceday

Why stars? Well because of the stars & stripes of course! The American flag is commonly referred to as the “stars & stripes”, obviously because of the fact that it contains both. The stars are known as the “Union field”, meaning the stars represent the States of the Union. The union field is a blue square, so it was only right I use blueberries in the pies. Right?

If I’m being totally honest, though, I really just wanted to say they were “red, white & BLUEberry.” I’m corny like that.

INDEPENDENCE DAY FRUIT-FILLED MINI PASTRIES

Ingredients:

Pastry dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)

Blueberry filling:

  • 1 pint blueberries (2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Make the dough:
    1. To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of peas and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the dough. Mix together with a fork until everything is evenly moistened. Knead briefly on a floured surface, if necessary, until the dough comes together.
    2. Divide the dough in half. (At this point you can wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) If you refrigerate the dough, let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out.
  2. Make the filling:
    1. Combine blueberries with cup sugar in pan. Simmer on low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is very liquid; about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water in bowl, then add to pan with blueberries. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to full boil and is clear and thick. Pour hot mixture into large bowl & same as with the cherries, cool until room temp.
  3. Roll the dough out. Roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thick, in a 9″ by 9″ square, or as close you can get to that. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel or bench scraper, trim the dough so you have even smooth edges. Add those scraps to a scrap pile- we’ll deal with them later.
  4. Cut the sheet of dough into 6 squares/rectangles/squarangles/whatever shape you can. On half of the squares, cut a star shape out of the middle; these are going to be the “tops” of your pastries. Save the stars!
  5. Using a spatula, transfer the “bottom” squares to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the lightly beaten egg on each of the rectangles. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving about a 1/2-inch of space around the edges. DON’T OVER FILL THEM. One at a time, place a second rectangle of dough on top of the nine assembled ones. Using your fingers, press around the seams of the dough to make sure they are sealed. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangles.
  6. Now, if you want to, you can add the cut out stars, attaching them with some of that beaten egg, to the tops of some pastries. Offset them on the cutout, or put them next to it, etc, then brush that too with the egg. If you’re not using the stars, dust them with cinnamon sugar along with the scraps mentioned above, and bake them on another cookie sheet until golden. INSTANT SNACKS.
  7. Repeat #’s 4 & 5 with the other half of your dough, if you wish. If not, the dough will keep in a fridge for a few days.
  8. Refrigerate the pans with the finished pastries (you don’t need to cover them) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. Store pastries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Independence day mini fruit pies! Better than those popular toastier pastries & great with vanilla ice cream. #4thofjuly #independenceday

If you wanted to add a white icing to the top, you could. Or ice the stars white with little red sprinkles. Cuteness.

So, here’s the deal: I’d suggest using the above as a guideline, because I never get the right amount of pastries. EVER. I never measure right, and I always end up with more or less than I’m supposed to. And mine are never perfectly shaped- they’re always wonky & uneven. But that’s okay! Who cares!? The important thing is that they’re DELICIOUS.

And they are. They’re particularly amazing to eat around the firepit, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream (or cherry!), while watching the fireworks.

Happy Independence Day!

Delicious little pastries filled with blueberry (or cherry, or strawberry). #4thofjuly #independenceday

 

Eating this True Blood cake did not suck.

This Sunday, June 16th, at 9 o’clock p.m. EST on HBO, season 6 of True Blood will premiere. I know all you “Trubies” are going bananas. As they say, “waiting sucks.” And I absolutely agree: it does totally suck to have to wait so long for a new season. But …while you all were waiting patiently (or not so) for the new season, I had this baby to keep me company. The True Blood cookbook! 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

It’s a delicious book- filled with beautiful photographs of scenes from the show and more. There are gorgeous shots of Gran’s kitchen & the outside of both her house & Bill’s house, as well as pictures of Merlotte’s and Fangtasia. The attention to detail is awesome; the picture of Gran’s kitchen makes you feel like you’re right there. Big, glossy, clear photos.

The food photography in and of itself is beautiful. Almost every recipe has an accompanying photo. And it’s not just food, or baked goods that are featured. There are cocktails & non-alcoholic drink recipes too…

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

A cake from the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

So to celebrate the return of this beloved show, and all my favorite characters (Eric & Pam! Eric & Pam!)… I made me a True Blood Naked Cake. Also known (in the book) as “Totally Surprised Birthday Cake,” which is the stunning cake on the cover (and as seen above). My version of the cake is a “naked” cake; meaning it’s not fully frosted. The majority of the frosting is combined with the filling and put on top to create a naked effect.

A layer cake filled with lemon filling, vanilla frosting & a mixed berry topping inspired by and adapted from the True Blood cookbook.

In the book, the cake is fully frosted. But I wanted to make a naked cake for three reasons: one, I hate frosting cakes, two, it’s pretty. And three… ‘naked’ is kinda appropriate for True Blood. Lotsa people gettin’ all kinds of naked on that show!

A cake inspired by the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps.

This cake is comprised of two cake layers, a lemon filling, a frosting similar to a 7-minute frosting or an Italian meringue buttercream and a rich berry topping; made of macerated raspberries & strawberries. It’s decadent, it’s drippy, it’s smooshy. It’s complex. It’s amazing. And you know what? I’m just gonna say it- it’s sexy. Kind of like the TV show itself. There’s so much going on you’re afraid you’ll miss something, but it all comes together perfectly.

I mean, come on. Look at this cake. It kinda makes you wanna do bad things.

A "naked" cake celebrating the return of True Blood season 6! Inspired by the True Blood cookbook, it's a two-layer vanilla cake filled with a lemon filling & vanilla frosting, then topped with more frosting & a mixed berry macerated topping.

Thick, creamy frosting.

Sunny, bright, slightly sticky lemon filling.

Moist & light vanilla cake.

And a bunch of juicy berries in sugar.

True Blood "naked" cake; vanilla cake filled with lemon filling, thick vanilla frosting & topped with a macerated raspberry & strawberry topping. From the True Blood cookbook!

Thick vanilla frosting, tart lemon filling & sweet macerated berries come together with vanilla cake to create this True Blood "Naked" cake; inspired by & taken from the True Blood cookbook!

Cake inspired by the True Blood cookbook!

Beautiful.

It’s the perfect cake to crack open a Tru Blood with, before you get down with some vampire action on those hot, humid summertime Sunday nights. And right about now you’re wondering where the recipe is. Well, I hate to do this to you… but…

If you want the recipe- you’re gonna have to buy the book!

 

I know, I know, I suck (pun intended!). You can buy True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And be sure to watch the True Blood season 6 premiere on HBO this Sunday night, June 16th, at 9 p.m.

A vanilla layer cake filled with a bright, tart lemon filling, a thick vanilla frosting & topped with macerated raspberries & strawberries. Inspired by & adapted from the True Blood cookbook!

Don’t forget the cake! And remember, friends don’t let friends eat friends.

 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

“Sittin’ down to eat with the people you love, or even just like, life don’t get any better than that. Least not here in Bon Temps.”

– Sookie Stackhouse

(Pssst… I received absolutely no compensation for this post. I purchased the book myself, and any & all opinions are my own. I do not claim ownership of the True Blood logo, name or television show, nor do I claim to have any rights to any recipes in the book or anything to do with Charlaine Harris’ book series. For other desserts & eats that are True Blood inspired or could be used in relation to True Blood, check out my True Blood velvet cupcakes, blood spatter cupcakes, and True Blood orange cupcakes. Enjoy responsibly & keep your fangs in.)

Blackberry breakfast whatever you wanna call it.

Whoa! Today is the last day of April! Holy balls. Where the hell has the time gone? I really don’t know, because I swear on a Weck canning jar it seems as though only last week I was making pumpkin everything. And now it’s practically May. Unbelievable. This past year has flown by for me, and I have no idea why. It just seems like once last August hit, the time just whooshed past me until all of a sudden I stopped & looked at the calendar & it was April 30th, 2013. Sheesh. Maybe it’s because I’ve had so much going on… maybe it’s just that when you reach a certain age time just starts to go by faster. Not sure. Either way, it seems to have snuck up on me.

Blackberry oat breakfast bake! Also known as a WHATEVERYOUWANNACALLIT!

And I’ve been having a bit of a rough time lately. *insert long, dramatic sigh* I feel a little lost, truthfully, and to add insult to injury this past weekend ended on a completely shitty note. Add to all of that the fact that I have a severe lack of inspiration. Food isn’t exciting me right now- and I can’t really grasp why. I’ve always been a comfort eater, and yet recently I’m kind of lackadaisical about food in general. No new recipes are calling to me, my mind is blank. I have to change that. I have to get back on my track.

Anyway, when I’m having a rough time of things, I find it’s best to do something that doesn’t require a lot of thought but provides business. And I don’t mean business, but “busy-ness.” Emphasis on the ‘y’ sound. Make your hands busy & your mind will follow, instead of harping on things you can’t change or control. So I throw a few things together to make something just to get my mind off whatever it is that’s getting me down. And every now and then I come up with something a bit… un-label-able (that is definitely NOT a word).

Black berry breakfast whateveryouwannacallit; call it a cake, call it a cobbler, call it a whatever... it's delicious & easy.

And I do that type of thing a lot; I make things that aren’t really any one thing. But it seems to get worse when I’m frustrated, or sad, or baking to busy myself. Ugh, how can I explain all of this better? Hmm. Well, for example… this isn’t a cake. Not really. And it’s not a bread- it’s too moist. It’s not a cobbler; there’s too much “dough”… and because it isn’t dense or chewy, it really can’t be described as “bars” or cookie bars. It’s just a thing. A blackberry thing, that’s excellent for breakfast. I don’t know. I did the same thing with that ginger stout cake. I STILL don’t really know what that was, I just called it a cake!

But this particular little baked item is even more puzzling.

I could just label it as a cake.

But I won’t.

Blackberry oat breakfast bake! Also known as a blackberry breakfast whateveryouwannacallit!

BLACKBERRY BREAKFAST WHATEVERYOUWANNACALLIT

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus 3/4 cup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled & cut into 1/2″ pieces, plus more for pan
  • zest of one organic lemon
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 10 oz. fresh blackberries
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350º F & grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with butter. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the eggs & sour cream together in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, 3/4 flour and pinch of salt, and mix well. Gently stir in blackberries. Pour mixture into baking dish.
  3. Mix together the 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, lemon zest & butter in the bowl of a stand mixer -with the paddle attachment- until it’s crumbly & “sandy” in texture. You can also use a food processor for this, or a pastry cutter.
  4. Combine crumb mixture with oats. Sprinkle mixture on top of blackberry mixture. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. Let cool for 1 hour. Serve with whipped cream, because hey… why not.

Blackberry oat breakfast bake/whateveryouwannacallit. Can go from breakfast to dessert in 5 seconds; just add yogurt, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.

I used an 8″ x 8″ Le Creuset stoneware baking dish to make this. Pyrex also works, and I’m sure a regular metal one would work. The baking time might change a little bit, but that’s easy enough to monitor. As a matter of fact, it took a while longer to bake in my stoneware than it probably would have in a regular Pyrex or metal baking dish. Also, you can double this recipe and use a 9″ x 13″ pan, if that suits you better, however the baking time would definitely change in that case.

Blackberry & oat breakfast bake.

The whipped cream is a really mildly sweet one, which makes it perfect for breakfast… however, if you just can’t get down that way, yogurt works too. Alternately, vanilla ice cream is great when it’s being served for a dessert.

 Sources & credits: Le Creuset stoneware baker in Cassis.

Vanilla-strawberry jam cakes.

Sometimes you just want a really quick dessert that isn’t chocolate. Or maybe you don’t, but other people might. Some people are fruit people. I know a lot of folks that, when given the option, will take a fruit salad or blueberry pie over a dark chocolate cake or decadent seven layer salted caramel chocolate ganache thingy. Or maybe you want to start eating a bit lighter. Or perhaps you’re just wanting to use up some fruit jam or preserves.

I know how that is, sister.

Although in this particular case, I sort of made up the dessert around the fact that I had made the jam, not so much to get rid of it, but to showcase it. I was looking through the book Cake Ladies & I got inspired by all that Southern-ness. So I just decided spur-of-the-moment that I wanted to make a different spin on the strawberry shortcake. Well, that and it was 80 freakin’ degrees here in New York last week. I was not in the mood for heavy duty cakery or cupcakery. I wanted to make something fun & light. Strawberry shortcakes sounded fun, but I wanted to do a different twist on them, and so vanilla-strawberry jam cakes were born.

However, I cheated & used Bisquick because I wasn’t in the mood to labor over the dough. Plus… to be honest… I just felt like it. I’m not going to make any excuses. Sometimes you just have to take a shortcut. I’m not ashamed.

But if you’re anti-Bisquick or you just don’t have any/can’t get any, here’s a recipe for making your own. However, almost any drop-biscuit dough recipe will work here.

Or, you can make a traditional shortcake, if you have a family recipe you hold near & dear. A simple vanilla or unflavored scone recipe would work as well.

The jam is a great way to introduce yourself to making jam, if you’ve never made it before. It’s a really easy one, and it thickens easily. When it’s done, if you’re not making the cakes at all (and you just want the jam) or you aren’t making them right away, all you’ve gotta do is just put the jam in any clean, warm jar you’ve got. I say warm because the jam gets very hot (obviously) while it’s being cooked, and if you put it into a cold jar it could shatter or crack. I used canning jars, but old spaghetti sauce/pickle/mayonnaise jars or little jars with hinged lids work just fine since you won’t be “canning” it. Just be sure the jars are thoroughly cleaned.

VANILLA-STRAWBERRY JAM CAKES

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, washed & hulled (a little over a pound, depending on the size of the berries)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice
  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Slice the strawberries & using a potato masher or your (clean) fingers, mash & squish them together. If this doesn’t work, and the berries are too firm, cut them smaller.
  2. Place the strawberries in a large saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean, adding the seeds to the berries. Add the empty vanilla bean along with the 1/2 cup sugar & lemon juice, stirring & cooking over medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks of berry with a wooden spoon.
  3. Cook until it thickens and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir, roughly 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the vanilla bean with tongs and add the jam to your clean, warm jars. You aren’t canning this so just make sure the jars are cool before refrigerating them. If making the cakes right away, there’s no need to refrigerate them (unless you prefer the contrast of cold fruit filling to warm dough).
  5. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425°F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms. Drop by 6 spoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Move to a wire rack to cool until just slightly warm. Plate the cakes, spoon vanilla-strawberry jam on, then spoon some fresh whipped cream on top (see below). Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Voila!


WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or vanilla as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get butter!

This very same recipe can be used without the jam, and with fresh strawberries. Or macerated strawberries if you prefer. I just think the vanilla-strawberry jam gives it a totally different spin. The jam is also great on oatmeal, English muffins, you name it. I should also say that this jam recipe would probably work well with raspberries or blueberries too, or even blackberries. The strawberries bright color lets you see the black vanilla bean flecks, but that doesn’t really matter. If you prefer blueberries, try making these jam cakes with them instead!

 

If you’d like to can the jam for shelf-stability, I’d recommend following a trusted canning-safe strawberry jam recipe and just adding the vanilla bean to that. Here’s a post I wrote up last year with more instructions on canning, and links to some reputable canning resources on the web.