Category: cream cheese

Cherry “surprise” coffee cake (the surprise is cream cheese!).

Cherry cream cheese surprise coffee cake.

Indy and I are best buds. When Jay leaves for work at night, it’s just us. We watch TV, cook (okay, I cook), read, or cuddle in bed, sometimes blogging. He usually naps during those activities. However when I get up he follows me around relentlessly. Even waiting outside the bathroom for me. I call him my shadow. My 100-lb. shadow… & bodyguard.

Consequently, Indy is also my baking buddy.

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Blueberry cream pie for Dad, plus a bonus jam.

This is my dad. Well, it’s him in the 1970’s, anyway.

Mein papa, 1970's.

My dad likes food.

My grandpa Butch liked food too, but he was my maternal grandpa, so there was no blood relation between them. However, between the two of them, I think that’s where I inherited my love of eating, my ability to eat more food in one sitting than a truck driver twice my height & weight, and also… my ability to inhale food as if it was the last meal on earth. Honestly, I eat faster than anyone on the planet. Everyone yells at me, tells me not to rush, to enjoy it. AND I’M NOT RUSHING. I DO ENJOY EVERY DAMN BITE. I JUST EAT FAST. Get over it. I once had someone ask me if my parents were in the military, because they knew someone who grew up in a strict military house where meals were timed. No. My parents were not insane drill sergeants, and neither of them were in the military. I just friggin’ fast, okay? Sheesh.

Anyway…

Other things I get from my dad: my height (I’m 5’9″ or 5’10”, somewhere in there), my stubbornness, and I’m sure my mother could tell you many more.

My dad also likes blueberry pie (I did not inherit this).

Pie prep!

Blueberry cream pie for Father's Day! The only baking involved is the crust.

For Christmas, a guy Jay works with went and picked up a bunch of pies from this place out on Long Island called Briermere Farms. They’re known for their pies, and they’re pretty incredible I have to say. Even though the only one I’ve had so far is the chocolate cream, I’ve seen how they look & visually they look… well… they look like pies you want to dive into headfirst, basically. And the fact that they’re all natural, homemade & don’t contain nasty preservatives or fake stuff? Even better. From the website:

All of our pies, bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, jam, and jelly are made right here on our farm from scratch. There are no pre-prepared ingredients or fillings bought for use. Most of the fresh fruit used in our bakery is grown right here on our farm.

But anyway, this guy drove all the way out there with a list of pies that other guys ordered, and picked them all up, just because the pies are that good. I’m talking like 30-something pies. They’re that big of a deal. So Jay ordered us a chocolate cream pie for dessert, as well as blueberry cream pie just for my dad, since he’s such a big blueberry pie fan.

And it definitely lived up to the hype. Even Jay liked it- and he hates berries more than I do. So I thought, gee, when Father’s Day comes around next spring, I should try & duplicate that pie.

Blueberry cream pie!

And so Father’s Day is here. And who better to look to when recreating a fantastic, cream-filled pie than Paula Deen? I mean, really.

So I found Paula’s version of the blueberry cream tart, and I decided it seemed pretty damn good. Now I’m not sure if it tastes anything like the one from Briermere Farms, but my dad sure likes it. I adapted it slightly from Paula’s original recipe. And looking at this pie, I take back what I said about not being a pie person. I make a pretty awesome looking pie!

And I guess we won’t have to order this particular pie from Briermere Farms anymore.

Easy & delicious blueberry cream pie. Perfect for Father's Day or a summertime barbecue.

BLUEBERRY CREAM PIE (adapted from Paula Deen’s Blueberry Tart recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pint (8 oz. or roughly one cup) fresh blueberries (I used Driscoll’s*)
  • One 21-ounce can blueberry pie filling (or equivalent amount of homemade blueberry pie filling)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Make your pie crust, and press it into your pie dish, poking holes in the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes (or as directed on the package if using frozen) until golden, then remove and let cool completely.
  3. Beat the cream cheese with the confectioners sugar. Beat the heavy cream with the granulated sugar until it forms soft peaks, then fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Add the vanilla. Fold in the fresh blueberries gently.
  4. Spoon the cream mixture into the cooled pie shell and top with blueberry pie filling. Refrigerate until well chilled.
  5. Serve to your dad & tell him to enjoy!
 *I used Driscoll’s berries because I really liked what I read about them over at Food in Jars.

Easy & delicious blueberry cream pie.

I’m sure you could probably use a cookie crust, like graham cracker, and there wouldn’t be any baking at all! You can totally make your own blueberry pie filling, and on the same note you can use a frozen pie crust if you prefer.

Yes, there are people who will tell you not to, yes there are people who’ll rip you a new one for not making your own everything… but do what’s best for you. If it’s your first pie, then take baby steps. Pie crust can be rough for a beginner (it took me a long time to get a handle on it and I still suck at fancy crusts!). Of course, this is an easy pie to start with if you’re new to pie-making: there’s relatively little to do, not a lot of baking involved, and not too much prep.

And not for nothing, I think this idea would work really well with cherries, too, and probably even raspberries.

Fresh blueberries for blueberry cream pie (and blueberry basil jam!)

And if you’re like me and you buy more fresh blueberries than you need, you can make a simple little jam, too.

I decided to create something a bit more unique than your average blueberry jam, however. An added Father’s Day bonus for dad, if you will. My friend Chrisie made blueberry basil preserves last year & ever since then I’ve been dying to do that myself. It sounded so different, like it wouldn’t work. But yet the smell of the blueberries cooking with the basil totally made sense. It’s a genius idea, really, even more so than my raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam.

So what I did was I took Love and Olive Oil’s recipe for blueberry basil preserves and used Food in Jar’s recipe for small-batch blueberry ginger jam and kind of made a Frankenstein monster of blueberry recipe jamminess.

Blueberry basil preserves.

SMALL-BATCH BLUEBERRY BASIL PRESERVES

Makes about 12 ounces; either one half- pint (8 oz.) + one 4 oz jar or three 4 oz. jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 dry pint fresh blueberries, washed & dried (again, I used Driscoll’s)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4-5 large basil leaves, washed & torn

Directions:

  1. Smash your blueberries a bit and place them in a bowl with the sugar. In a mortar & pestle, bruise the torn basil leaves slightly and add to the blueberries & sugar. Toss together & let sit for one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, sterilize two 8 oz. jars or one pint jar, and put the lids in hot water to soften the seal.
  3. When ready, put the fruit mixture into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until it passes the plate test/reaches 220° F. This might take longer or maybe even less time; it will depend on the weather, how much liquid is in the berries, the ripeness, your stove, the type of pan you use, etc.
  4. Pour into warm prepared jar(s). Wipe rims, place lids & bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

If you’re umfamiliar with term “the plate test“, you have no idea what I mean when I say “sterilize your jars“, then click those links, and if you’re totally new to the canning thing but you desperately wanna start… then go read my post Canning for Dummies.

Blueberries are like little bombs of pectin, so I’m not sure why people always want to add more pectin to blueberry jams. They don’t need it! Let them cook down on their own. Oh, and wear a dark-colored apron when you make this. Blueberries like to attack sometimes.

Blueberry basil preserves.

4-ingredient blueberry basil preserves.

I can’t speak on the taste, but it sure looked pretty. And that pool of clear blueberry “liquid” is actually gelled, & wrinkles when pushed, so the preserves aren’t as loose-set as they appear. I tried to show in the photos that there are indeed basil leaves in there, but those suckers were hard to find. You’ll have to trust me.

Happy Father’s Day to all the awesome dad’s out there. Enjoy your day!

 Sources & credits: Longaberger black 11″ pie plate, Sur La Table marble rolling pin, vintage silverware, Ball® 8-ounce jars can be purchased at freshpreserving.com.

I am the Pumpkin King! Er, Queen.

Well, it’s October. Time really flew by, didn’t it? This means it’s time for my Annual Autumnal baking frenzy.

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In my house, there never really needs to be a reason for a baking frenzy. With me, you never hear anyone say “You baked? What’s the occasion?” As a matter of fact, it’s more like, “You didn’t bake this week?! Why? WHAT HAPPENED!?”

And I’m actually pretty proud of that. I’m proud of being the kitchen witch I am. But over the summer, it’s rare that I bake every week. Usually in the summer it’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, and jams/jellies/pickles. When the mercury goes up, the baking is reserved for cooler days, late nights, special fresh fruits that beg to be incorporated into something other than jam, and summer birthdays. That’s not to say it never happens. It just has to happen when my kitchen (the hottest room in the house) isn’t rivaling a Russian banya for the hottest place in the world award. But that’s why I welcome fall. Even though the temperatures take a while to catch up, and it stays pretty warm until Halloween most years (except last year when we had snow before Halloween), it’s still much less humid and much more comfortable once mid-September hits. And then by the time it’s October? Forget it. Because of that, fall in my house is usually a cavalcade, or cornucopia if you will, of delicious baked goods. Hey- I’ve been saving it up practically all summer! And what a great time it is for baking.

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See October isn’t just when kids start wishing school was ending already and the stores begin putting out Christmas decorations or when the weather cools down enough so I get to scratch that baking itch (that I suppress all summer). It’s pumpkins. It’s apples. It’s fall leaves. It’s harvest moons. It’s Halloween. Ohh man. I’m bananas for Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, and I go all out. I decorate like crazy, I carve pumpkins, and I bake Halloween-themed things the entire month! Yeah, I know, I kinda do that stuff for every holiday, though this time of year is my definite favorite. I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach as soon as the wind changes and the air gets crisper. I can’t even describe to you how excited I get for Halloween. And for the past few years I’ve done a sort of compilation post for each season/holiday, including Halloween. I usually keep it at cupcakes, but I add in some candies or cookies, maybe throw in a muffin or two. However I thought maybe this year I’d forgo that, seeing as how there’s the new Recipe Index that lists basically every single recipe (almost) that I’ve ever posted. But you can also always check back to see last year’s Halloween Compilation post, and the one from the year before. You can also just see last year’s Halloween tricks & treats: here, here, here, here, here & finally here. Although you’d be missing out on some great stuff from previous years!

This year I decided to just start right in with the baking, ’cause honestly I got a little tired of all the compiling. I never was very good at filing & collating, I’d make a shitty secretary.

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So instead of spending my time doing all that work, I just made these pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes instead. Mmm hmm. You’re welcome. For the people out there wondering what exactly they are… it’s a pumpkin cupcake, topped with some “cheesecake filling” and then some cinnamon crumb.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
Cheesecake filling:
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, (softened)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
Crumb topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Line a 24-cup cupcake pan with paper liners. In a small mixing bowl, combine topping ingredients. Blend with fork until crumbly. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all-spice; set aside- that’s your crumb topping. In another larger bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. In another medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth. That’s your cheesecake filling. Set it aside.
  4. Divide the pumpkin batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Top each with around 1/2 tablespoon to one full tablespoon of the cheesecake filling, then sprinkle with some crumb topping.
  5. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake part (not the cheesecake part) comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

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For me, now, it’s officially fall. And more important… it’s officially Halloween-time. The first pumpkin recipe of the year! And not just pumpkin but cream cheese too? So much better than a pumpkin pie. So much better than a regular pumpkin cupcake. So much better than your average pumpkin muffin. You can’t take a pie with you to work- but these you can. And pumpkin cupcakes & muffins don’t have this special added cream cheesy fun on top (unless… unless it’s these pumpkin muffins, then yes, they do). They’re moist, pumpkin-y, cheesecake-y, cinnamon-y, spicy, warming and filling, too. One cupcake is more than enough at once. It’s definitely not the kind you can just inhale one after another. And just so you know, I made 18 cupcakes and one 8″ cake layer with this recipe. The cake had to bake longer, but came out delicious, and it would probably make a great layer cake. Also, it would be excellent baked in a 9″ loaf pan, too. Or maybe two loaf pans if you’re using the entire recipe & not just half.

Also, the pumpkin recipe itself, without the cheesecake filling & crumb topping, makes a spectacular cupcake. Just frost it with whatever frosting you want.

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But a deep burnt orange colored pumpkin cupcake with a creamy cheesecake filling slash topping & some semi-crunchy brown sugar crumb on top? Sign. Me. The hell. Up.

Happy Samhain.

Samhain (play /ˈsɑːwɪn/, /ˈs.ɪn/, or /ˈsn/)[1] derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning “summer’s end”,[11] was the first and the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish and Scottish[12] calendar[13][14] and, falling on the last day of autumn, it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead.[11] It’s better known as a Gaelic harvest festival, which is held on October 31–November 1. It was linked to festivals held around the same time in other Celtic cultures, and was popularised as the “Celtic New Year” from the late 19th century, following Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer.[2] The date of Samhain was associated with the Catholic All Saints’ Day (and later All Souls’ Day) from at least the 8th century, and both the secular Gaelic and the Catholic liturgical festival have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.[3]

The medieval Goidelic festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”. It was celebrated over the course of several days and had some elements of a Festival of the Dead. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.[4]

There was also a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen.[13][14] To ward off these spirits, the Gaels built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.[11] In the Western Isles of Scotland the Sluagh, or fairy host was regarded as composed of the souls of the dead flying through the air, and the feast of the dead at Hallowe’en was likewise the festival of the fairies.[15]

Samhain is celebrated as a religious festival by some neopagans.[5]

 

- Wikipedia

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To Autumn.

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Autumn hasn’t always been my favorite time of year. When I was a child, I didn’t like it because it meant summer was over and school was starting. No more sleeping late and floating in the pool all day, no more beach days, no more “fun.” As I got older, fall started to be my favorite season. I started to appreciate more the absolute beauty of it; the changing leaves, the pretty colored skies. I love sweaters and boots and knubby socks. I still despise the winter though, and all it’s grey-ness, snow and ice. That won’t ever change. If I could live somewhere that gave me the definite changing of the seasons but just skipped over the snow & -12°F temperatures we tend to get in the deep winter? Hell, I’d move there today. However the beauty of fall? That’s something I can’t deny. Summer is lovely.. slow, warm, soft and hazy. Summer is fans, porch swings and lemonade. Fall is crisp, golden, hurried. Fall is apple cider, pumpkins, the crunch of leaves under your feet and scarves. And most of all, fall is Halloween, which is my most favoritest holiday ever. So that means I’ve grown to love fall, and the clothing that comes with it. So I’m really, really, really going to miss summer, especially this year, for a lot of reasons. Most of which are sentimental and personal, which I’m not going to get in to here. And despite the weather, as of 6 days ago it’s official: summer is over & it’s completely autumn.

So in honor of that, today I present you with a delicious pound cake, loaded with flavor, moist and delicious, with a lovely sugary “crust” on top, and of course, served with whipped cream and some halved plums I canned in syrup.

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Plums are around from May through October, the peak time for them being August. But to me, they’re strictly a late-summer fruit.

A few days ago, I posted the spiked chocolate plum jam, with beautiful photos of the jewel-like deep purple plums in a bowl and the resulting beautiful, purply-red jam. But I didn’t tell you that I only used half of the plums in that jam. The other half? Well three were eaten right off the bat, and the rest were halved and canned in syrup. In terms of “whole fruits”, not jams or preserves, I had only ever canned peach slices, clementine slices & whole strawberries in syrup before, so I thought it was time I did something bigger. Canning whole fruit kinda scares me- I mean, how the hell do you fit a ton of whole nectarines into a JAR? Weird. It can only be explained by magic.

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Anyway, I halved the plums so I could fit more into one pint jar. If you want to make more than one jar, or you’re using quart jars, then double/triple/quadruple/etc, the following recipe to suit you.

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1 PINT of PLUMS IN SYRUP

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 lb. plums (purple or prune plums, Damson plums or Greengage plums work best)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar, and pop the lid into a bowl of hot water. Keep the jar hot. Combine the water & sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Wash the fruit. If you’re halving the plums like I did, cut them in half and remove the pits. If you’re canning them whole, poke 3-4 holes in the skin of each plum to avoid “bursting” in the jar.
  3. Pack the plums tightly in your jar. Squeeze them in as best as you can without bruising or squashing them, they shrink up once they “cook” in the syrup.
  4. Pour the hot syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Gently remove air bubbles with a knife or thin spatula. Adjust headspace if needed by adding more syrup.
  5. Wipe rim, place lid and screw band on to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Because my pint jar is the Collection Elite jar, it’s a different size and shape than the conventional pint jars. If you use a regular one, you might need a little extra fruit to fill yours (or maybe less, depending on the size of the plums you’re using).

And when you’ve got such a beautiful looking jar of plums, you need something to serve them with. And for that reason, there’s pound cake.

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Last summer I made a pound cake that was so incredibly delicious, so amazing, so perfect… that it was world-renowned. Maybe not world-renowned, but at the very least it was the talk of the family. It was almost obnoxious how “adults” almost killed one another to grab a slice. But I understood, because it was that good. I served it with a rhubarb-ginger jam the first night, after that it was eaten a variety of ways: with ice cream, plain, with fresh fruit, etc. Basically I’m using a lot of words to say this: it was amazing. I didn’t really think that any other pound cake could top it, actually, until I found one at the King Arthur Flour website that sounded equally delicious, but was slightly smaller in a lot of ways (except that whole five eggs thing). I didn’t want to make the other one again, because I was just making it to serve with the plums for a simple little dessert, and that’s quite a large cake. So I made this one.

And I figured best case scenario, I get rave reviews about the plums, the whipped cream and the cake itself. And on the other hand, at the very least it would just be the vehicle that transported the plum halves and piles of homemade whipped cream into people’s mouths.

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But I needn’t have worried. Jesus Christ on a cracker, this was some good shit. Was it as good as that other pound cake? Yes, however if I’m being honest, the other one was just a smiiiidge better. But more importantly- this makes a smaller cake. So if you have no use for a massive 10″ bundt-shaped pound cake but you still want a moist & delicious one, this one’s for you. If you’re feeding a lot of people, or you’re making it for a party or a bake sale, and you want a top-notch pound cake, then by all means make this one.

GOLDEN VANILLA POUND CAKE (taken & adapted extremely minimally from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3/4″ loaf pan, or a 12″ x 4″ x 4″ tea loaf pan. To avoid overflow, be SURE to use the correct size pan!
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder & vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy. After you’ve added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed. Mix just until combined. The batter will be smooth and thick, but still pourable. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Stir until the mixture is syrupy. At first it’ll seem very stiff, but will become “drizzle-able” as you stir. Set the topping aside.
  6. Set the cake on a baking sheet, for easiest handling and as a precaution against potential overflow (which shouldn’t happen if you use the correct size pan). Bake it for 55 minutes (for either size pan).
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, and brush/drizzle with the sugar mixture. Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Insert a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean. If you use an instant-read thermometer, the center should register about 200°F to 205°F. The very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy; don’t worry about it.
  8. After 5 minutes loosen the cake’s edges and turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

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I was shocked when this cake came out so perfect. Usually I have a terrible time with loaf cakes; for some reason almost every time they overflow like crazy. I have no idea why. It’s as if all my loaf pans are magically from another planet. I measure them every time to make sure they’re the right size, yet almost every time I get overflow. But not this time! It just came out like… well… a piece of cake. The whipped cream is the always intriguing “whipped cream in a jar.” It’s very simply made by combining heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar & pure vanilla extract in a jar. Then you just shake it! For people like me who never have whipped cream in the house, but who usually have heavy cream, it’s an easy and fun way of making your own without whipping (no pun intended) your mixer out.

WHIPPED CREAM IN A JAR (adapted a bit from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 drops vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Put all three ingredients in an 8-ounce jar. Close lid.
  2. Shake jar vigorously for about 3-5 minutes or until it becomes whipped cream (you’ll be able to feel when it no longer “sloshes” and it gets thick). Eat!
  3. Store in the fridge for a day or two tops, but best when eaten as soon as it’s made.

Who can turn down pound cake & homemade whipped cream? And the plums were the highlight, for sure. Who knew such a simple pairing, the components of which are all so incredibly easy, could make such an impressive dessert when put together?

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What a lovely way to welcome fall. See you all in October.

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

“To Autumn”, John Keats (1795 – 1821)

It’s cheesecake. It’s ice cream. It’s delicious. & ridiculous.

The last week or so, it was hot. Okay, let me rephrase: it was GODDAMN hot. So hot, an ice cream truck could melt.

The handy Weather Channel app on my phone informs me of this as if I haven’t noticed. As if my t-shirt sticking to my back as I water my vegetables wasn’t a clue. Or as if the fact that even when the A/C is on high it isn’t quite cold enough wasn’t a clue, either. Yeah. I’m pretty much uninterested in anything unless it involves air-conditioning, eating ice cream, eating ice pops, or swimming. Or listening to my summer music on full blast; Dr. Dre, Snoop, Incubus, Sublime, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan and of course, the Notorious B.I.G. (those just scream summer to me for one reason or another). I also try to avoid the 6 million mosquitos that want to feast on me like I’m one of those naked sushi-platter chicks. Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but that’s pretty much all I want to do in a nutshell.

‘Cause really… when it’s this freakin’ hot, who wants to cook? Or bake? Not I, says the girl who runs the BAKING BLOG.

But honestly. I know I’ve posted a lot of baked stuff lately; pie, cupcakes, galettes, etc. In spite of all that even I sometimes really can’t face turning the oven on. Not in this heat, not even with my A/C on full blast and not even at night when it’s slightly cooler. So when you want something sweet, what else is there to have? Ice cream! Ice cream screams summer, too. And coincidentally, July is also National Ice Cream month (thanks to Ronald Reagan; it was probably the best thing he did as President). And I decided that I wanted to make some ice cream inspired by cheesecake after seeing an ad for ice cream made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. So I adapted it a little to suit my needs.

;

Hey, it’s also my birthday month. If I want ice cream, I’ll have ice cream. Not only is it my birthday month, but my birthday is in just 9 days. Ice cream is practically a requirement right now! But first, a little history:

In the Persian Empire, people would pour grape-juice concentrate over snow, in a bowl, and eat this as a treat, especially when the weather was hot. Snow would either be saved in the cool-keeping underground chambers known as “yakhchal“, or taken from snowfall that remained at the top of mountains by the summer capital — Hagmatana, Ecbatana or Hamedan of today. In 400 BC, the Persians went further and invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty during summers.[4] The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavours.

Ancient civilizations have served ice for cold foods for thousands of years. The BBC reports that a frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 BC.[5] The Roman EmperorNero (37–68) had ice brought from the mountains and combined it with fruit toppings. These were some early chilled delicacies.[6]

Arabs were perhaps the first to use milk as a major ingredient in the production of ice cream.[citation needed] They sweetened it with sugar rather than fruit juices, and perfected means of commercial production. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was widespread among many of the Arab world’s major cities, including Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. It was produced from milk or cream, often with some yoghurt, and was flavoured with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that the recipe was based on older Ancient Arabian recipes, which were, it is presumed, the first and precursors to Persian faloodeh.

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat asserts, in her History of Food, that “the Chinese may be credited with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpetre over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.”[7][8] Some distorted accounts claim that in the age of Emperor Yingzong, Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China, a poem named Ode to the ice cheese (詠冰酪) was written by the poet Yang Wanli. Actually, this poem was named Ode to the pastry (詠酥; 酥 is a kind of food much like pastry in the Western world) and has nothing to do with ice cream.[9] It has also been claimed that, in the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan enjoyed ice cream and kept it a royal secret until Marco Polo visited China and took the technique of making ice cream to Italy.

In the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperors used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets.[10]

When Italian duchess Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans (Henry II of France) in 1533, she is said to have brought with her to France some Italian chefs who had recipes for flavoured ices or sorbets.[11] One hundred years later, Charles I of England was, it was reported, so impressed by the “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula secret, so that ice cream could be a royal prerogative.[12] There is no historical evidence to support these legends, which first appeared during the 19th century.

The first recipe in French for flavoured ices appears in 1674, in Nicholas Lemery’s Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature.[11] Recipes for sorbetti saw publication in the 1694 edition of Antonio Latini’s Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward).[11] Recipes for flavoured ices begin to appear in François Massialot’s Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, les Liqueurs, et les Fruits, starting with the 1692 edition. Massialot’s recipes result in a coarse, pebbly texture. Latini claims that the results of his recipes should have the fine consistency of sugar and snow.[11]

Ice cream recipes first appeared in 18th-century England and America. The recipe for ice cream was published in Mrs. Mary Eales’s Receipts in London in 1718.[13][14]

-Wikipedia

Before modern refrigeration techniques, ice cream was a rare treat to be consumed only on special occasions. Luckily now it’s something we can have any time we want, in any flavor we want, morning, noon or night. Birthdays or not. And we’re most especially lucky to have it in cute little ice cream cups like I have. ¡Viva Mes Nacional del Helado!

CHEESECAKE ICE CREAM (inspired by & adapted from a recipe from Philadelphia Cream Cheese)

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 graham crackers, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Mix the first four ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly blended. Freeze for 4 hours or until almost solid.
  2. Re-beat the mixture with the stand mixer until creamy. Add graham crackers to mixture, mix well.
  3. Freeze for 8 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer around 15-20 minutes before serving. Let stand at room temperature to allow it to soften before scooping into bowls.

And that’s basically that’s all. You can sit back, relax, and have a refreshing dessert that doesn’t require an ice cream maker, an oven or a stove-top at all. Hallelujah! It reminds me of the kind of ice cream you get at one of those super cute little retro ice cream parlors. Smooth, creamy, delicious.

And it tastes just like a slightly melted cheesecake!

It reminds me of a much richer, higher fat version of the Red Mango plain yogurt + crushed graham cracker combo I usually get. You can substitute crushed Oreo cookies for the graham crackers too, kind of like an Oreo cheesecake. Or, incorporate fresh berries into the mix before freezing.

Serve it with anything you’d top a cheesecake (or ice cream sundae) with: fresh berries, strawberry sauce, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, crushed Oreo cookies, etc. I had some fresh raspberries so that’s what I put out for a topping. But even sprinkles are fun. Go nuts. Like I said, it’s National freakin’ Ice Cream month. Do I really need to elaborate further?

No. No, I do not.

One potato, two potato…

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. It took me a while to think of what my cupcakes were going to be this year for St. Patrick’s Day. I couldn’t think of anything to top my previous years exploits: Guinness stout cupcakes, Bailey’s Irish cream cupcakes, maple-Irish whiskey frosted cupcakes & green velvet cupcakes. But I really didn’t have any awesome cupcake ideas this year. I know- crazy right? I other awesome ideas, yes, but none for cupcakes. I tortured myself, I even experimented with some things that I didn’t like at all. And then… I decided to scrap the whole thing & just make some Irish potatoes.

No, not actual potatoes. They’re candy! Little candies made from coconut & cream cheese & rolled in cinnamon. Nope, they are not cupcakes. But you know what? Screw it! I always make cupcakes! This year I’m makin’ me some pertaters! Ireland & potatoes go together like peanut butter & jelly.

The potato was introduced to Ireland as a garden crop of the gentry. By the late 17th century, it had become widespread as a supplementary rather than a principal food, as the main diet still revolved around butter, milk, and grain products. In the first two decades of the 18th century, however, it became a base food of the poor, especially in winter.[23] The expansion of the economy between 1760 and 1815 saw the potato make inroads in the diet of the people and became a staple food all the year round for farmers.[24] The large dependency on this single crop was one of the reasons why the emergence of Phytophthora infestans had such devastating effects in Ireland, and had far less effects in other European countries (which were also hit by the fungus).[25]

The potato’s spread was essential to the development of the cottier system, delivering an extremely cheap workforce, but at the cost of lower living standards. For the labourer, it was essentially a potato wage that shaped the expanding agrarian economy.[24]

In 1844, Irish newspapers carried reports concerning a disease which for two years had attacked the potato crops in America.[30] According to James Donnelly, a likely source was the eastern United States, where in 1843 and 1844 blight largely destroyed the potato crops. He suggests that ships from Baltimore, Philadelphia or New York could have brought diseased potatoes to European ports.[35] W.C. Paddock suggests that it was transported on potatoes being carried to feed passengers on clipper ships sailing from America to Ireland.[31]

Once it was introduced, it spread rapidly. By late summer and early autumn of 1845, it had spread throughout the greater part of northern and central Europe. Belgium, Holland, northern France and southern England by mid-August had all been stricken.[36]

In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852.[1] It is also known, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine.[2] In the Irish language it is called an Gorta Mór (IPA: [ənˠ ˈɡɔɾˠtˠə ˈmˠoːɾˠ], meaning “the Great Hunger”)[fn 1] or an Drochshaol ([ənˠ ˈdˠɾɔxˌhiːlˠ], meaning “the bad times”).

During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland,[3] causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.[4] The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight.[5] Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland – where one-third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food – was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.[6][7]

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland.[8] Its effects permanently changed the island’s demographic, political and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory[fn 2] and became a rallying point for various nationalist movements as Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Modern historians regard it as a dividing line in the Irish historical narrative, referring to the preceding period of Irish history as “pre-Famine”.

The band Black 47 takes their name from the worst year of the famine, 1847. It was a very serious thing & there isn’t much to joke about. But the fact that Ireland bounced back (granted there were huge migrations to other countries as well) is a testament to their strength. Not to mention a reason to celebrate Ireland! It’s no surprise after reading that that potatoes & Ireland are so intertwined, though, is it?

My grandma always used to order them from an Irish gift company every St. Patrick’s Day. These are the ones she used to order; they’re O’Ryan’s. They’re so delicious, and unexpected. I searched around for recipes & I found one I liked at bakedbree.com. Most of the recipes are similar if not the same, so you can’t really go wrong. Really you can just mix some cream cheese, butter, coconut, vanilla & confectioner’s sugar until it’s the right consistency and go from there without a recipe if you want. They’re just like little truffles.

IRISH POTATOES (COURTESY OF BAKEDBREE.COM)

Ingredients:

  • ½ stick of butter softened
  • ½ brick of cream cheese softened (4 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Beat together butter and cream cheese. Slowly add the confectioners sugar.
  2. Add the vanilla, then the coconut and mix until combined.
  3. You may want to chill the coconut mixture a little before you roll them. I like to use a small ice cream scoop. These are really rich, so you want them to be small.
  4. Roll the coconut mixture into a ball. Then roll the coconut mixture into the cinnamon and put on a parchment lined baking sheet. Keep the finished Irish Potatoes in the fridge.

And there you have it. Totally easy, totally fun and really yummy. Great to make with kids, too. Since they have to be kept in the fridge, I decided to put them in a jar for storage. Glass keeps out odor & moisture better than plastic, anyway. Plus it doesn’t impart nasty old flavors from previous things that have been stored in it. So I used a flip-top jar to keep my potatoes nice & cold. I really suggest you get some glass jars for storage if you don’t already have them. Way better for you than plastic.

On that note, enjoy, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“Only two things in this world are too serious to be jested on, potatoes and matrimony.”
(Irish saying)

Raspberry Beret cupcakes.

Also known as dark chocolate cupcakes with fresh whole raspberries topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting & a little “raspberry beret.” Yeah, I know, but come on, it’s the perfect name! Look; he’s actually wearing a little raspberry hat!

...No, they’ve got nothing to do with Prince. I’m just batshit crazy & I name my cupcakes.

I know, it’s been a long time since I made cupcakes! I’ve missed them, haven’t you?

Chocolate & raspberry is a combination that is so typical & popular, it’s everywhere. It’s like peanut butter & jelly or ham & cheese. Most people might think to make these for Valentine’s Day, which is obviously appropriate, but I chose to make it now because of all the fresh raspberries around. I won’t pretend that cupcakes are good for you. I will say, however, dark chocolate has a lot of benefits health-wise, as do raspberries.

The consumption of high-cacao-content of chocolate has been correlated with positive health benefits from flavonol antioxidants derived from the ground and fermented seeds of Theobroma cacao.[15]

Dark chocolate may transiently improve DNA resistance to oxidative stress, probably for flavonoid kinetics.[16]

 

Raspberries contain significant amounts of polyphenol antioxidants such as anthocyanin pigments linked to potential health protection against several human diseases.[6] The aggregate fruit structure contributes to its nutritional value, as it increases the proportion of dietary fibre, placing it among plant foods with the highest fibre contents known, up to 20% fibre per total weight. Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 30 mg per serving of 1 cup (about 50% daily value), manganese (about 60% daily value) and dietary fibre (30% daily value). Contents of B vitamins 1-3, folic acid, magnesium, copper

and iron are considerable in raspberries.[7]

Raspberries rank near the top of all fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of ellagic acid (from ellagotannins, see for instance raspberry ellagitannin), quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. Yellow raspberries and others with pale-coloured fruits are lower in anthocyanins.

Due to their rich contents of antioxidant vitamin C and the polyphenols mentioned above, raspberries have an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 4900 per 100 grams, including them among the top-ranked ORAC fruits. Cranberries and wild blueberries have around 9000 ORAC units and apples average 2800.[8]

Although there are no clinical studies to date proving these effects in humans, antioxidant and antiproliferative (chemopreventive) effects against cancer have been linked to the amount of phenolics and flavonoids in various foods including raspberries.[9][10][11]

Mucho thanks to the almighty Wikipedia for that info. See? Now you have an excuse to make them. They’re good for your health.

RASPBERRY BERET CUPCAKES

Get these ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 container (6 ounces) fresh raspberries, chilled

Then you should:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Remove 12 of the best looking and firmest raspberries from the container & set aside in a small bowl, these are your toppers, or “raspberry berets.”
  2. Sift together cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in raspberries- it’s okay if they stay whole and it’s also okay if they break (as a matter of fact, because I did in fact use a hand mixer, mine broke into a gazillion little berry pieces & everyone loved them, said it tasted like raspberry jam mixed in there). Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔  full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cooled, then top with a raspberry.

VANILLA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Whip the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla until combined, and beat in powdered sugar a little at a time until frosting is as thick as you’d like.

In case you’re totally confused about this raspberry beret/Prince thing:

Raspberry Beret” is a song by Prince and The Revolution. It was the first U.S. (and second UK) single from their 1985 album, Around the World in a Day. The sound was different from any previous Prince track, incorporating Middle Eastern finger cymbals, stringed instruments, and even a harmonica on the extended version. The song was also more in the pop vein than ever before, though the 12-inch single and video of the song feature a funky intro. Although the song was originally recorded in 1982, Prince drastically reworked it with The Revolution to give it more of an international sound. The string section was: Novi Novog on violin, Suzi Katayama and David Coleman on cello. Wendy & Lisa provided backing vocals, and the rest of the song was performed by Prince.

The song tells of a teenage romance and first sexual experience with a girl who wears the titular hat. The video for the song was Prince’s first since his short-lived “ban” on music videos. The song quickly became a fan favorite, and a staple in nearly every Prince tour. The extended version was included on Ultimate in 2006. While this song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, it only reached #25 on the UK Singles Chart.

Ya get it now? Personally I’m more of a ‘Controversy’ fan than ‘Raspberry Beret’, myself. But actually, after I thought of that name for these, it reminded me of a school trip I took in grammar school where this kid Robbie was singing “She wore a razz-belly belay!” all day long, and he had me & my friend Jessica in hysterics. So we started singing it too really loud on the bus & it turned into chaos. So I guess these are also for Robbie & his “razz-belly belay”, wherever he is now. Another time, Robbie went home on his bike and brought back with him a bee repellent/bee-sting care package (“just in case”) to the bleachers at the local high school where I was hanging out, because there was a huge beehive there. I always had a way with the dudes.

So a few things about these cupcakes: One, they were easily the easiest I ever made. You don’t even need a mixer, I used one (my vintage hand mixer) on low just to speed things up (no pun intended) but it isn’t necessary. Two, they rose perfectly. Three, the texture is amazing. That’s basically it. The flavors go so well together, but that’s a freakin’ no brainer. It’s just perfect, the perfect cupcake. I also got exactly 12, which was a first for me, usually if I think it’ll make 12, I get 15. Or 20. I definitely live in a parallel universe when it comes to my baking pans. If you prefer another kind of cocoa powder, by all means, use it. I just recommend a dark one, and the Hershey’s Special Dark is one of the best (& darkest) I ever had.

I used a Wilton 2A tip to frost, then an offset spatula to smooth ‘em down. Oh, and the brown liners are from sweet estelle’s baking supply at Etsy. I love the way a brown liner looks on a chocolate cupcake, don’t you?