Category: traditional with a twist

French custard cream (or Creme Patisserie) with fruit.

Creme Patisseries with fresh fruit.

I know, they’re beautiful, right? I’m calling these little things French custards, but they’re really Creme Patisseries. It’s essentially just pastry cream, but it’s delicious. I think really it’s a dessert in it’s own right. Why hide it as a filling- it’s perfection on it’s own with some fresh fruit.

That’s probably not what most folks would do with it… but I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. Most people fill cakes or cupcakes or eclairs with it, or Napoleons maybe. But why not just fill up a little dish with it and top with fruit?

I can’t think of a reason. I mean, it’s usually the creamy part of a fruit tart anyway. Just cut out the middle man!

Creme Patisserie (pastry cream) with fruit.

It’s also very simple to make, which is why I made these look extra fancy with some fruit and mint leaves.

See, I grow strawberries. And the strawberries that I grow are a very very old kind that was first grown in gardens in the 12th century. They’re known as Alpine strawberries. And not only are they a very old variety, but they’re quite unique. The ones pictured here are fully grown at just 3/4″ long. That’s right- they do not become those giant monstrosities you see in the supermarket. These are a “wild” berry, they do not send off runners either, they stay bushy and compact and adorable.

They also have a unique flavor; as ReneesGarden.com says:

[…] berries with an intensely concentrated flavor I can only describe as truly ambrosial. [And] their aroma and flavor are unmatched as garden berries.

And as written on this website:

Order strawberries in a deluxe Parisian restaurant and you’re likely to be served berries that are very small, very expensive, and also very delicious. Such fruits are not merely scaled-down or poorly grown versions of regular strawberries, but a completely different species—the near-wild alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca.

Creme Patisserie with fresh fruit.

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Nectarine blackberry preserves with purple ruffled basil.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation #canbassador

I’ve been posting about being a “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission quite a bit this summer. First it was cherries, I recovered a gigantic box of gorgeous straight from the orchard Rainier Fruit Co. cherries and I made some awesome recipes with them- I even managed to bake up some delicious mini-pies and make a sauce with them! Then, I got a second huge shipment of a mix of yellow peaches and gorgeous yellow nectarines. They were so beautiful sitting in bowls around my kitchen/dining room.

Nectarine blackberry purple basil preserves. #sweetpreservation

I made some peach preserves with hot peppers from our garden (you’ll see that recipe soon), peach salsa and peach peel butter with vanilla bean and apple brandy. But the nectarines. I was stumped.

Then I bought some blackberries on sale because they were beautiful and perfect and cheap. I do that sometimes. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, but I buy them.

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Mini cherry Pimm’s pies.

Mini cherry pies with Pimm's liqueur.

I told you. I have had a lot of cherries. I received an amazingly large shipment of beautiful Northwest cherries from Rainier Fruit Co, and while I used most of them for canning and preserving, there were a decent amount that got too soft or weren’t right for that purpose. And that’s okay- it happens! They were excellent for eating fresh right out of the bag. But I needed to bake.

You know how that is. When you just have to bake something, even if it is 90º?

Well, yeah. That happens to me, anyway. So I decided to bake up some mini cherry pies… with a twist: I added some Pimm’s No. 1 Cup to them.

Pimm's cherry pies.

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Green tea + Jasmine cherry preserves, for our independence.

Ahhh, Independence Day. A day where Americans can reflect on what our forefathers went through to create this nation, and to remember how far we’ve come. But mostly just shoot off fireworks and get hammered. Totes legit. Go ‘Murica.

Anyway, because I’m certifiably insane I usually like to make red, white & blue themed desserts for this weekend. Like a sweet cherry cream pie, or strawberry shortcake cupcakes, or blueberry hand pies. This year I wasn’t feeling it- it’s actually too hot to have that oven on. So I did something totally different. I made cherry preserves. Because I have a lot of cherries, in case you didn’t know.

Shout out to The Washington State Stone Fruit Commission and Rainier Fruit Co. once again for their gorgeous fruit. I love being a Canbassador!

Rainier Fruit Co. cherries! I put 'em into some green tea + jasmine cherry preserves!

But, because I’m a wackjob, these are not just ANY cherry preserves…

They’re cherry preserves made with green tea + jasmine!

Green tea + jasmine cherry preserves.

I had this tea series my dad got me for Christmas, the Boston Tea Company‘s Boston Harbour Series. And seeing that and putting that together with Independence Day, plus all these cherries I have… it gave me an idea. Why not go back to my old standby for making preserves: infusing them with tea!?

The Boston Tea Party was pivotal in the formation of the United States, after all. It should get some credit!

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Cherries in the snow- uh, syrup.

Cherries in a light almond-y syrup. #sweetpreservation

Remember that Revlon lipstick, Cherries in the Snow? I believe they still make it. I remember as a kid my mom wore it, and I loved the name. What a great name for a lipstick. It was one of their best sellers for many, many years by the time I came along. Anyway… I always think of that lipstick when I see cherries, so it was more than a great name, it was great marketing!

This post isn’t really about Revlon or makeup or anything related to it at all, actually. It is, however, about cherries. Sweet, perfect cherries from the Rainier Fruit Company. And of course, part 1 (part 1… yes, there will be more) of what I did with them!

Rainier Company cherries! #sweetpreservation

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Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

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Chive blossom vinegar with lemon.

Chive blossoms!

I’ve been making chive blossom vinegar for a few years now. It all started because my chive plant was turning into a chive bush; no joke. It was humongous. And it began blooming so much that my entire yard was covered in the blossoms that eventually dried and fell off the plant. The blooms carry seeds, obviously, and where they land, new chives can grow. I didn’t want a yard full of chives, needless to say, so I began cutting the chives with blooms off and sticking them in jars of water, like fresh flowers. Which was fine. But my kitchen always smelling like a baked potato when the temperature was high wasn’t ideal (even though they are pretty).

So I did some research and discovered all the things you can make/do with them! Turns out they’re 100% edible. They make a great garnish for soups and salads, and they also make a mean infused vinegar.

Chive blossom vinegar with lemon.

That chive plant was taken from me in a hurricane. The pot it was in blew over and the plant never recovered. However, I since replaced it and my new one is just as big as the other one was, so I’m still getting blossoms up the wazoo. So now I’m finding new ways of making that old standby: chive blossom vinegar.

This one is inspired by a post I found on the internet at My Humble Kitchen. The lemon slice makes it smell ah-may-zing, and I’m sure will add a brightness to the flavor.

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