Desserts

Strawberry Treat

Who can resist sweet and juicy strawberries bursting with flavor?  Not me, nor can I  resist making an all time favorite dessert which came to me via a high school boyfriend’s mother.  That means I’ve been making it for a long time!

There are surely fancier strawberry concoctions, but for delicious, this one rivals any.  Heck, just looking at the picture makes me want a bite right now!  If you want to join me, here’s the very simple to make recipe.

Mrs. Ames’ Strawberry Dessert

3 cups strawberries, sliced and sweetened with sugar (I also add a tablespoon or two of Amaretto which adds the unexpected to the berries).  Set aside until ready to use.

Cracker crust

2 c. cracker crumbs (I use unsalted Nabisco crackers)

3 egg whites

1 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 c. chopped pecans

Beat egg whites until fluffy.  Add vanilla,  gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff.  

Fold in baking powder, finely ground cracker crumbs and chopped pecans.  Pour mixture into lightly buttered 9″ pie pan and bake at 325 until lightly browned.  This takes about 30 minutes.  Cool completely.

To serve, top the crust with strawberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.  (I often put the berries on the crust a couple of hours before serving to let the juice soak in.)

If this dessert is as popular at your house as it is at ours, you will be making it again and again.  Enjoy!

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Full Plate Thursday

Desserts, Recipes

What to do With Egg Whites?

For our last gourmet gathering my task was dessert, a delicious pumpkin pots de creme. Topped with cream whipped with bourbon and maple syrup it was like eating pumpkin pie without the crust.  In fact, I liked it better than pumpkin pie because it was lighter.

Left from the effort were eight egg whites.  I never know what to do with them and if it’s just one or two I usually throw them out.  With so many, I knew there must be a good way to use them, and it occurred to me that coconut macaroons, the hubby’s favorite cookie, might be an option.

On the internet were more recipes than I could believe.  There were ones made with condensed milk.  There were vegan macaroons and gluten free ones.  There were recipes with craisins and sprinkles and pineapple and on and on. Finally, I settled on David Lebowitz’s recipe simply because it used the most egg whites and the baked cookies were dipped in chocolate.  How can you beat that combination?  Additionally, he said that it was one of the favorite recipes in his book Ready For Dessert

Coconut Macaroons 

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 cups (200g) unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
1/4 cup (35g) flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2 ounces (55g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1. In a large skillet or wide saucepan, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, and honey.
2. Over low heat on the stovetop, stir the egg whites and sugar together until the mixture is tepid, but not warm or hot. You don’t want to cook them; just warmed slightly so they are looser.
3. Add the coconut, flour, and vanilla. Continue to stir the mixture over medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens to a cohesive mass. (It’ll be like very thick oatmeal and the bottom will very slightly start to scorch.) Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
4. When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking matand preheat the oven to 350º F (180ºC).
5. Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch (4cm) rounds in your hands, squeezing the dough to coax them into rough rounds (remember, the French call them “rocks,” so they can be a uneven – for smoother rounds, dampen your hands), then place them evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Bake the macaroons until deep golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely.
6. To dip the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the baking sheet. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate is set.

Notes: Unsweetened shredded coconut is available in most natural food shops or you can purchase it online. Flaked coconut is larger and I haven’t tried these macaroons with the flakes but if that’s all you have, I would pulse the flakes in a food processor a few times until they’re finely shredded.

Storage: The baked macaroons will keep for up to three or four days if stored in an airtight container. If dipped in chocolate, store the cookies in a cool place. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for at least two months.

Making them I did learn a thing or two.  

  1.  It really is important to keep your hands wet otherwise the sticky mixture won’t roll.  Next time I might try using an ice cream scoop and see if that is easier.
  2. Be careful not to overcook.  My first batch was a little too brown which made the macaroon overly chewy.
  3. Semisweet chocolate chips melted in the microwave work great and don’t mess up as many pans.
  4.  Let the macaroons cool just a bit before dipping them in chocolate to avoid burning your fingers and squishing the cookie.
Without question, macaroons will appear here more often as they are not hard to make and they disappear very quickly!
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Desserts, Food

Next: Cannoli

fullsizerenderStarting at Sicily’s Catania airport, I was in cannoli heaven!  I’m not sure why, but it is one of my favorite sweets and not a common menu offering in the States.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat really set cannoli in Sicily apart was having it made with fresh, creamy ricotta inserted into just made shells.

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After watching a demonstration of the whole process in Ragusa, I determined that cannoli was doable and would definitely be the dessert for the anticipated Sicilian gourmet gathering.

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The first step was ordering these little tubes around which the cannoli dough is wrapped for frying.  They allow the shells to hold their shape and to slide off easily once they are done.

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Making the shells requires a bit of elbow grease, a pasta maker or rolling pin and a lot of patience.  Might I add that’s it more fun with two as there is opportunity for lots of chuckles.  All done, there is quite a sense of accomplishment!

img_8232-1Most cannoli has a ricotta based filling that may have such as pistachios, candied fruit or chocolate chips as an added ingredient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThinking that everyone would like it, I opted for a filling with chocolate chips and a subtle taste of orange.  If there is a best hint for making cannoli, it is to use a pastry tube to fill the shells otherwise it’s a messy process.

OK, there you have it, a perfect ending to a Sicilian dinner.  What made it especially fun was the arancini and the cannoli were firsts for some of the diners, and you know how hard it is to introduce new tastes to gourmands.

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Dishing It & Digging It

Desserts, Recipes

An Irresistible Dessert

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If you are still looking for a knock your socks off dessert for an upcoming dinner, a Spiced Pumpkin Trifle is it.  I’d love to take credit for the recipe, but it is one I saved on Pinterest from a favorite blog where you can get the full details.  

Not only is it one of the best and prettiest desserts I’ve tried recently, it is incredibly easy.  The trifle layers pumpkin bread, condensed milk, whipped cream mixed with pumpkin, and heath bar chips.  No way you can go wrong with those ingredients.

You could shortcut the recipe with a bought pumpkin bread, but I went to my tried and true Southern Living cookbook for a favorite.

Pumpkin Bread

3 c. sugar

1 c. oil

4 eggs, beaten

1 16 oz. can pumpkin

3 1/2 c. flour

1 t. baking powder

2 t. soda

2 t. salt

1/4 t. ground cloves

1 t. each cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice

2/3 c. water

Combine sugar, oil and eggs.  Add pumpkin and mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture.  Add water, mix thoroughly and pour into 2 greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

You only need one of the loaves for the trifle.  Enjoy the other for breakfast or freeze for another day.  

A word of warning about the trifle.  It’s so yummy you will be tempted to have a second serving.  All of us at my table did just that and found that our eyes were bigger than our belly.  Save some for later and you’ll enjoy it even more.

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Desserts, Recipes

Blueberry Mania

blueberriesIf I have a favorite season in Maine, this may be it.  For a very few weeks blueberries are in, and there’s nothing like wild Maine blueberries that burst in your mouth with sweetness.  Believe me when I tell you they are a world apart from the ones you buy in the grocery.

blueberriesAnd, when you’ve picked them yourself, they’re even more appreciated!

blueberriesLike with lobster, I try using them in as many ways as possible.  Around here, blueberry crisp topped with a scoop of homemade cinnamon ice cream is a real favorite,

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but not far behind are blueberry muffins oozing with goodness.

blueberriesThe kids would tell you GrandP’s pancakes dripping with real Maine maple syrup are the bomb!

blueberriesAs of yesterday, however, there is something new to rave about, blueberry mousse, an easy to make dessert that is a scrumptious blend of lemon curd, cream and blueberries.  Though I’d like to keep it a secret, I’m feeling generous today and will share the recipe.

Blueberry Mousse

For the lemon curd, combine 1 c. sugar, 1-1 1/2 T. lemon zest, 3 eggs and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan.  With heat on medium, add 1 stick of butter and 1/2 c. lemon juice.  When the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat and stir constantly until it coats the back of a spoon.  This takes about 5-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Whip 1 c. cream until soft peaks form.  Fold 1/2 c. of lemon curd into the whipped cream, then gently fold in remaining lemon curd and 1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries.  Spoon into individual serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  At serving time, top it with mint leaves.

That’s all there is to it.  Should you want to make the recipe even simpler, use bought lemon curd.  Stonewall Kitchen has a very good one.  I think the mousse would also be wonderful with raspberries or strawberries or maybe a combination of berries.  Now, that’s got me thinking about what’s next!

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Baking, Desserts

Hands Down Winner!

While everything stays pretty much the same on our Thanksgiving menu, it’s always fun to try a new dessert. That doesn’t mean we stray too far from pumpkin and pecan pies that no Thanksgiving would be complete without, but there is some little twist.

Photo from Southern Living
Photo from Southern Living

I’ve been experimenting with this and that from one publication or another, and this Pumpkin Tart with Whipped Cream and Almond Toffee from Southern Living is a hands down winner!

pumpkin pieIt has a dark, rich color and taste that is likely attributed to having molasses as an ingredient.

pumpkin pieUnlike the perfectly presented photo in Southern Living, I finished each piece individually, first topping with the whipped cream

pumpkin pieand then with the almond toffee. The end result was the same: super good! 

If you haven’t decided on your Thanksgiving dessert, this one is absolutely delicious and leaves one wanting more though I recommend resisting the temptation because the tart is rich.  One suggestion:  you may want to cut the whipped cream portion by half and reduce the amount of powdered sugar unless you like it quite sweet.

This tart would be a perfect finish to any meal, so if you’ve already got Thanksgiving under control, give it a try another time.

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The Scoop

Baking, Desserts, Recipes

Buttermilk Pie

Years ago a friend came for dinner and brought a buttermilk pie from a cafe in College Station, Texas. We were hooked, but who knew how to make one? Internet search was not yet so available, so the only choice was to ask for the recipe on the next visit to the cafe. The recipe, as it turned out, came from a simple source: the side of a Borden’s buttermilk carton. Hey, that worked for me. I’ve been making buttermilk pie ever since, and it continues to be a favorite among family and friends. One thing’s for certain, there’s never a piece left, and that’s too bad because I always think about having a slice for breakfast!

buttermilk pieButtermilk Pie

1/2 c. butter, softened

1 1/2 c. sugar

3 T. flour

3 eggs

1 c. buttermilk

1 t. vanilla

9″ unbaked pie crust

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Add flour, beat until smooth. Add eggs, beat until blended. Add buttermilk and vanilla, mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 400 for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then chill.

Though it’s yummy as is, I sometimes add lemon zest or some lemon juice which makes it even better. Simple enough, huhn? This is a pie you’ll want to try as it is always a crowd pleaser.

This recipe is shared on Foodie Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday and Friday Firsts.

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