Strawberry Hand Pies

Today is a special day:  Julia’s birthday!

20130528-212555.jpgJulia has been my best friend since freshman year of college and has probably been the biggest culinary influence on me over these past 11 years. We initially bonded over sharing our closets but soon discovered our mutual love of food (which is really the key to any lasting relationship). Over the years we have made some incredible meals together and gone on many great foodie adventures both locally and abroad (most recently to Bimini). We know how to push each other’s buttons and may occasionally fight like an old married couple, but in the kitchen we are a harmonious team. While I do help out with cooking dinner, my main task is usually dessert. This year for her birthday, I decided to stray from the usual cupcake/cake route and instead came up with a new original recipe.

I have had a fascination with miniature things ever since I was younger. I remember, as a child, going to our yearly local fair “Longmeadow Days”, and enviously eyeing the doll houses and miniature accessories. I never did get a doll house but my fascination with things in miniature form persisted, especially when it comes to food! For some reason mini cupcakes or even baby brussel sprouts or zucchini just taste better than their regular sized counterparts, not to mention that they are super cute. So this weekend, when I spied the first of the local strawberries at my neighborhood Whole Paycheck (I mean Whole Foods), I decided to create mini strawberry pies aka strawberry hand pies! These adorable little hand pies have a slightly higher crust to filling ratio than regular pie, which I actually prefer (I seem to remember a mini food fight at a restaurant with Julia over pie crust).  Paired with Julia’s homemade vanilla custard ice cream (made with eggs from her chickens, aka “chicky boos”), it was the perfect birthday celebration dessert. Happy birthday Julia!

Click below for the recipe.

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Lemon Raspberry Cookies

I have been dreaming about making these cookies ever since the success of my Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes last month.  As I mentioned in that post, I am trying to explore other non-cupcake desserts so I decided to use the lemon and raspberry flavors to create a new cookie.

Today was my last night shift of the month for vascular surgery so instead of sleeping, I decided to whip up a batch in celebration.  I think they were worth the sacrificed hours of sleep!

This cookie uses the same raspberry frosting from the lemon raspberry cupcakes (minus the heavy cream) and sandwiches it between two lemon shortbread cookies.   You will likely have leftover frosting…but since when is leftover frosting a bad thing?  Click below for the recipe and more pictures.

Lemon Raspberry Sandwich Cookies 
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Watermelon Mint Sorbet

It is May in Boston.  The sun is shining…the tulips have bloomed in the Public Gardens…the Charles River is dotted with sailboats and………it is STILL COLD!!!!!  Hence, I am still trying to will the warm weather to grace us with its presence by creating light, summery desserts (“If you build it, he will come“).  And what says summer and warm weather more than watermelon?

Several years ago I invented (or so I thought) a watermelon mojito made of pureed watermelon, mint simple syrup, lime juice, rum and club soda.  Fast forward a year or two and I open a Barefoot Contessa cookbook only to find almost the same exact recipe!  Obviously, she stole it from me.  But all kidding and patent rights aside, it is a delicious and refreshing summer drink…so I decided to turn it into a sorbet…minus the alcohol (although now I’m having second thoughts about that, read on for further details about how alcohol contributes to the texture of sorbet and ice cream).

So I set out today to make a watermelon mint sorbet…and I think I ended up with more of a granita.  A granita is more of a shaved ice texture and is made without an ice cream machine while a sorbet is generally smoother and denser.  Although I was a bit disappointed with the final product due to the texture, it did still have a great flavor…and I happily ate it for dessert tonight while watching Game of Thrones (Daenerys is so badass!).  However, I did decide to do some research into how to improve the texture of the sorbet.  I found some advice on using gelatin or xantham gum, etc but decided to avoid going that route.  Other people advised increasing the sugar content- this website instructs you to place a whole egg (unbroken) into your sorbet mixture and add sugar (in the form of simple syrup) to the mixture until the egg floats.  And finally, you should add alcohol to lower the freezing point and prevent the sorbet from becoming too solid and “granita-like” as I experienced.  I’ll have to re-experiment later this summer and report back.  Click below for the recipe.

Watermelon Mint Sorbet

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Mother’s Day Brunch

Nothing says Mother’s Day like brunch (and flowers….and mothers I suppose) and I was lucky enough to have the day off so I invited my mom (and dad) down to Boston for a Mother’s Day brunch. l first started cooking with my mom when I was younger; I remember homemade pizza parties, warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven, and the made-from-scratch tomato sauce that I wrote my college essay about. We’ve had many culinary adventures together: wine tasting in Napa, cooking classes in New Orleans and then at the CIA (the real CIA….the Culinary Institute of America) for my birthday one year.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be able to cook for my mom and this Mother’s Day was no exception. She loves smoked salmon so I decided to make a smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese frittata with a salad on the side. My show stopper was Flour Bakery’s sticky buns- these are rich, indulgent and a little labor intensive but worth it for the best mother in the world! Finally, this was all washed down with a celebratory pomegranate sparkling cocktail.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. I love you!

Flour’s Sticky Buns ( copied from Food Network, can also be found in the Flour cookbook) 20130512-234225.jpg

Goo:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Basic Brioche Dough, recipe follows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

First, make the goo. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top. The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

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Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling

I’ve been trying really hard to stay away from baking and posting about cupcakes. This is a blog about baking in general, not just cupcakes! Plus, everyone in the food world says that the cupcake trend is out…which makes me kinda sad. What’s so wrong about a single serving of cake and frosting in a cute little package? Didn’t anyone ever tell Bon Appetit that good things come in small packages? (I may be a little overly defensive on this issue given my 5′ 3″ stature) But I digress…

Despite trying really hard not to make more cupcakes, inspiration hit me Saturday morning as I left the hospital after an 18 hour shift, with the bright sun blinding my eyes. Although it may not be exactly warm out (seriously, 50 degrees in May?), it has at least been sunny which always puts me in the mood for lighter, refreshing flavors….such as lemon and raspberry. These cupcakes start with a moist, lemon cake which are then filled with a tangy lemon curd and finally topped with a fresh raspberry buttercream frosting, reminiscent of a raspberry sorbet. The result is a the perfect blend of sweet and tart in the form of a cupcake- perfect for a bridal/baby shower, Mother’s Day brunch or a crazy night on vascular surgery.

Recipe for Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling (makes 24 cupcakes)

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