Category: strawberry

Strawberry vinegar.

Easy strawberry infused vinegar!

Happy June, everyone. It’s finally here! BERRY TIME! We’ve all been waiting patiently for some fresh fruits (other than citrus of course) to spice up our kitchens. And for jam/jelly-making of course.

Sometimes though, we end up with a surplus of something. Or some runts that aren’t quite good enough for eating fresh, and didn’t make the cut for making jam with or baking with. And that’s when we need to use those for something else. And why not an infused vinegar?

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Rhubarb jam, the quickest jam you’ll ever make.

The easiest spring preserves to make: strawberry rhubarb!

Back in 2011, the very first jam I ever made was rhubarb jam.

My photos weren’t as good back then… so if you click that link, bear with me.

I was really surprised back then at how easy it was. It was my foray into “jamming.” I had no prior homemade jamming experience at that point and it was definitely a pleasant one. And I was so proud of it. It thickened and came together so quickly, and there was no drama. In that sense it’s kind of like cranberry sauce- it just sort of thickens without any extra effort. It doesn’t have a naturally high pectin content but it still maintains a nice consistency. You can cook it down until it’s thicker, keep it loose or even add pectin if you like… depending on how you like your jams.

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Strawberry jam brioche rolls.

Strawberry jam rolls, brioche-style.

We’re in full-on spring mode now, right? The sun has been out & we’ve been gardening & sprucing up the outdoor areas. And of course there’s tons of sprouts growing in the yard! No more snow on the horizon.

One of the main things that makes me think of spring & summer is jam. Making it, canning it, baking with it. Last year I made a jammy version of strawberry shortcakes, so this year I thought I’d do something new with strawberry jam: a brioche-y type roll filled with it!

Like a jelly roll, but with jam, and individually sized. The dough is incredibly easy to make, the jam can be store-bought or homemade (homemade takes NO TIME at all), and they come together very simply.

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Linzer tart cupcakes.

Ohhh, Valentine’s Day is here. Time for hearts. Hearts everywhere. Heart-shaped everything! And of course, here that includes… cupcakes.

I go batty for holidays ’round these here parts, in case you didn’t know notice.

These particular little cupcakes are inspired by Linzer tarts, or Linzer tortes. In America, you low them as the cookies with a hole cut out of the top piece… its filled with a red or pink colored jam or jelly and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. However in Austria those are considered Linzer sablés (Linzer Augen or “linzer eyes”). They’re also a riff on the cupcakes I posted last year; which were chocolate cupcakes filled with pink frosting, all in a heart-shape.

Linzer tart cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

There are a few ways of doing this neat little heart-shaped hole trick, but I just use the method I find easiest: I push the cutter down into the middle of the completely cooled (preferably refrigerated for a few hours) cupcake. After some wiggling, the heart-shaped piece should pop out when you remove the cookie cutter. Another way: cut the top of the cupcake off, add a layer of jam, then cut the hole out of the top and stick it back on.

Linzer tart cupcakes filled with strawberry jam.

Whatever way you choose, the end result is adorable. And sweet.

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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.)

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.

Auld Lang Syne.

Here we are. Arriving at the end of yet another year. Another year older, and hopefully another year wiser. For many, NYE is a melancholy event, and for others it’s just an excuse to party hard & wake up the next morning with no clue of how/where the previous year ended. Neither of those describe me. Like I said on Facebook a few days ago, my idea of the perfect NYE? In my pajamas, eating take-out or a variety of appetizers while watching The Honeymooners. Then, right before midnight, switching over to the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve just to see the ball drop while drinking some bubbly. No parties, no bar-hopping. The furthest I’ll go is out to dinner. I am just not the partying type (anymore). And of course, being the significant other of a police officer means there’s not a whole lot going on on NYE anyway; he’s usually working, even if it’s a “day off.”

So on that note, every year for New Year’s Eve, since I’m usually home, I make something fun using champagne (or rosé or prosecco…). I think since champagne is the drink of the evening, it’s only right that any desserts or meals that are served not only compliment champagne & vice versa, but include it somehow.

This year, I was at a loss until I stumbled upon something on the Food Network website that gave me the perfect excuse to buy that extra bottle of champagne:

CHAMPAGNE PARFAITS. Whaaaat. I know.

This is probably the easiest dessert you’ll ever make. I know, I know, I always say that. But this time it’s 100% true: it takes absolutely no time at all to make, about 8-10 minutes, actually. And the rest of the time it just chills out in the fridge. You can make it the night before or that morning. It tastes just like champagne… but in a jiggly form. It’s a grown-up, classier, fancier version of a Jell-O shot… no fake fruit flavor added. Add some berries (berries bring out the flavors in champagne) if you like, or a little fresh whipped cream, or just eat it plain. You probably have all, if not most, of the ingredients already. And if you don’t? They’re easy enough to get a hold of.

Plus, it just looks spectacularly beautiful.

CHAMPAGNE “JELL-O” STYLE OR CHAMPAGNE GELATIN PARFAIT (adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson at the Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle champagne/rose/prosecco (750 ml)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon’s confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raspberries or strawberries (if you prefer, it’s optional)

Directions:

  1. Put the champagne, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.
  2. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour into parfait glasses, champagne glasses or a 9 x 11″ baking dish. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to set up for at least 4 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to serve the parfaits, in a large bowl, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks, adding the confectioner’s sugar slowly. Then add vanilla. Whip with a hand mixer using a whisk attachment until desired thickness, but not so much it turns to butter!
  4. Remove the glasses with the gelatin from the fridge. If you’ve used a baking dish, cut the gelatin into 1 by 1-inch cubes and put into parfait or champagne glasses.
  5. Top each with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and berries.* Then enjoy!

*Another idea is to put the berries into the room temperature mixture before refrigerating it. Then they’d be “floating” in the champagne!

I am IN NO WAY encouraging anyone to pour a steaming hot liquid into a crystal vessel or a non-heatproof glass vessel. I can’t take responsibility for anyone ruining their good crystal by pouring hot champagne Jell-O mixture into it. That said, after allowing the mixture to cool (not to room temperature, just slightly above) and warming the crystal under hot water first (and gradually), I poured it into the champagne flutes and then let it come to room temperature. Once it was cooled enough, then I transferred them to the refrigerator where they stayed until serving time. Any quick change in temperature can cause glass & crystal to crack or even simply shatter. So if you are planning on serving these in the flutes, you have a few options:

  1. Do as I did: heat up your gelatin mixture, and let it cool off the heat enough so that it’s not scalding hot, but just very warm. Meanwhile, let cool water, then lukewarm water, then warm water, then hot water run over your crystal champagne flutes. When they’re prepared for the hot champagne mixture, place a thin tea towel on your table or kitchen counter and place the warm flutes on it. Put a small metal spoon in each one, then you can pour the mixture into them slowly. Then remove the spoons. Allow them to cool completely and come to room temperature, then place them in the fridge for 4 hours or until it’s time for dessert. The idea is that the spoons absorb the heat, and help disperse it, and the tea towel absorbs the shock making it less likely you’ll break the flutes. I’ve had no problem with this method- but again, do it at your own risk.
  2. Use cheap dollar store champagne flutes or wine glasses to attempt it- if you don’t want to risk your good crystal. I’d still use the method above.
  3. Use disposable plastic champagne flutes from a party store. If you personalized them (either the glass or the plastic) with Sharpies, your guests could then take them home! You don’t need to prep plastic first, they should hold up just fine with the warm liquid (not boiling!)
  4. Use parfait glasses. Since they’re usually thicker glass, there’s really less concern with breakage. I’d still run the hot water over them first like I said in #1.
  5. Use a heatproof glass baking dish, let it come to room temperature, and then put it in the fridge the same way. Then simply cut it into 1″ squares once it’s ready, and place it into the flutes/wine glasses/bowls for serving. Heatproof glass doesn’t need to be heated before having boiling hot liquid poured into it, it’s just fine to use & withstands drastic temperature changes pretty damn well.

If you’re frightened, then don’t do it. Use a baking dish, and cut it to serve, or use the plastic champagne glasses. But I will say that these are my grandmother’s crystal champagne flutes from 1940, and they held up just fine with the method I explained above.

Just as with the champagne jelly, you shouldn’t use an expensive champagne for this. Any champagne will do- don’t waste your Tattinger, Perrier-Jouet or Veuve Clicquot. Because after all, don’t forget, you’re boiling it & adding sugar to it anyway. Why use something really expensive when you won’t get the full taste? I used Andre extra dry which is about $4.99 a bottle for the 750ml, and it turned out excellent. Plus, there’s more sugar in cheaper champagne as a rule, so they make a better dessert. You don’t really want a parfait that isn’t sweet. If you prefer very dry champagne that isn’t sweet for drinking, that’s fine. But in a dessert, served with whipped cream & berries? You want a little bit of sweetness.

Save the good champagne for guzzling !

I hope you have a safe & happy end of 2012 & beginning of the year, and a healthy 2013 throughout. I’ll see you back here next year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne…

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 

The name “Jell-O®” is a registered trademark of Kraft Foods U.S/the Altria Group. & this company or the makers of J-ello have nothing to do with me, this recipe or this post. I’m using the name as a generic term for a gelatin -based dessert, i.e. the way “Band-Aid” or “Kleenex” is used to describe bandages or tissue paper.