Tag Archives: raspberry

Raspberry Squares, Plus Baking with Kids

6 Dec

In what I can only refer to as a double-punch instance of sheer luck, it just so happens that my son is not only a fan of reading, but he is also a fan of reading about food. More specifically, he is a fan of reading about food making food, which I discovered when my son took a rather intense liking to the book Bake Sale, by Sara Varon. I can’t blame my son for falling in love with this book—it’s simply lovely. Sara Varon is the author and illustrator behind the Chicken and Cat books, two titles that rate very high in our home’s list of fine children’s literature, so it should not have come as any surprise to me that Bake Sale would be another spectacular work.

Bake Sale is the story of two friends, an eggplant and a cupcake, who work together to fund a dream trip to Turkey (which I just now realized is also the name of a food, which is a detail, intended or not, I now find totally hilarious). Cupcake owns and runs a small bakery, and while he is renowned amongst a small local following for his fantastic cakes and pastries, he is not exactly swimming in enough cash to fund his Turkish vacation. Through months of hard work and clever baking ideas, Cupcake eventually saves up enough money to accompany Eggplant on his trip. Cupcake’s fundraising bake sales are presented in lively detail, with one afternoon taking him to the Westminster Dog Show to sell homemade dog biscuits, and another to a farmers market to peddle his sweet offerings of vegetable-based baked goods.

At the end of the book lies a delightful treat: A ten-page spread of recipes based on the treats showcased in the story. Peppermint brownies, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, the aforementioned homemade dog biscuits—they’re all in there, and I can speak from experience when I say that some of the recipes are incredibly delicious (I can’t speak for the dog biscuits, but the vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting were a delight).

For months my son had been clamoring to make the raspberry squares featured in the book, so when we found ourselves with an open afternoon a few weeks ago, we open the book and dove right into the recipe. We had a great time working together as a family, my husband and son tackling the recipe itself while I stood back and took some photos. My son really wanted this project to be his, so I spent a fair amount of time out of the kitchen, purposefully keeping my prying mitts off of his work. When the dessert emerged from the oven, so beautifully golden and scented of butter, we could hardly stand to wait until the squares were cool enough to cut and eat.

And then something completely unforeseen happened. The raspberry squares were terrible. I mean, they were just awful. The base was loose, greasy, and tasted of raw flour. The crunchy topping was so sweet, it almost made my teeth dance. You couldn’t cut a square without it melting into a pile of slick, separated ingredients. What a disappointment. We tried to pretend that the squares were at least somewhat salvageable, but, in the end, we had to toss them out. It was a total disappointment.

I couldn’t let things end that way. This was a recipe from Bake Sale, one of my son’s favorite books! We couldn’t let the recipe fail us like that. Determined to start anew, I took a look at the original recipe, located a number of red flags, made a number of intuitive changes, and rewrote a plan of baking action that was sure to provide a better result. Ever the trooper, my son agreed to give things another go. The second time, we knocked those raspberry squares out of the park. With a crisp, flaky crust, a crumbly, lightly sweetened topping, and a good balance of toothsome crunch and fruit filling, the raspberry bars were given a new, completely delicious life. Bake Sale will forever remain one of our most treasured books, and now, revised and edited, these raspberry squares just might make the cut as one of our favorite treats.

Last Year: Dutch Apple Pie, Gifts for People Who Like Food and Cooking, and Chocolate-Dipped Lime Shortbread

Raspberry Squares Recipe

Very heavily adapted from Bake Sale, by Sara Varon

Crust:

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

½ cup unpacked light brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 cup low or reduced sugar raspberry preserves

Topping:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup unpacked light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into 1-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make the crust, combine butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Stir together with a sturdy spoon until the ingredients are incorporated with one another and no streaks of butter show through. Spread dough evenly into a 9’ by 13’ baking dish. Press down on the dough so it forms a flat and even layer of crust (you can use a piece of wax paper or the wrapper from a stick of butter to do this). Bake crust in center of oven for 17-20 minutes, until the edges are just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

While the crust cools, prepare the topping. In a large bowl (you can even use the same bowl you used to mix the crust—I promise I won’t tell anyone), mix together the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter pieces into the flour mixture until the mixture takes on the appearance of coarse crumbs.

When the crust has cooled, spread the raspberry preserves over the crust, leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges of the crust (if the preserves touch the side of the pan, they will burn during baking). Scatter the crumbly topping evenly over the preserves.

Bake in center of oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until topping is light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool significantly (at least 30 minutes, but preferably 1 hour) before cutting into squares.

Depending on how large you make your squares, you can get anywhere from 20 to 32 (or more) squares.

Nectarine and Raspberry Galette in a Cornmeal Crust

11 Jul

Supposedly, hot weather makes people less likely to pine for baked goods than cold weather.  Or so I hear.  I can only assume that it is the act of turning on and, thusly, heating an oven that makes baking more of a welcome winter affair than a summer one, because, and this should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever, I’ve never known a season that was unfit for baking.

Summer baking is, of course, different from winter baking, but really only by virtue of what you choose to be the star of your recipe.  Winter definitely makes me feel more inclined to fuss over things that fall into the category of being rich and chocolatey, but the main attraction of my favorite summertime desserts almost always lean towards being fresh and fruit-filled.  Sure, fall is a haven of fruity desserts as well—with pears and apples galore just begging to be caramelized or topped with a crispy and nutty blanket—but summer fruits differ from autumn fruits in that the choice of baking them will always be up to the dessert maker’s whim.

Cream tarts and trifles (and a wonderful pie that I will be sharing with you soon) are a great way to showcase uncooked fruit in a dessert that shares the spotlight with several different elements (lemon cream, semolina cake, whipped cream, lemon-scented yogurt and cream cheese, etc.), but one should never be discouraged from taking a stab at baking the plethora of summertime fruit that is available and ready to be found and adorned with such ease.

This galette, featuring heavenly scented nectarines and plump raspberries, is a great place to start investigating the benefits of summertime baking.  The fruit, barely sweetened, gets enveloped in a fantastically crunchy and buttery cornmeal crust that provides a perfectly crisp, almost cookie-like contrast to the fruit.  Beneath the fruit lies a light and surprising dusting of ground almonds that contributes a slight sturdiness to the dessert without leaving any trace of heaviness.  Eaten alone, or with a generous dollop of very lightly sweetened whipped cream, it’s a fantastic introduction to summertime baking, and, I hope, an encouragement to never shy away from baking, no matter the season.

Nectarine and Raspberry Galette in a Cornmeal Crust

Cornmeal Dough

This wonderful dough recipe was adapted from The Italian Baker, by Carol Field, by way of Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Fruit

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

½ cup yellow cornmeal

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling

1 pound nectarines

4 ounces fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons ground almonds or almond meal

3 teaspoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon flour

Make the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  Sift the flour, cornmeal, and salt directly into the mixture.  Add the vanilla and stir until the dough is thoroughly mixed.  Divide the dough in half and gather into 2 balls.  Wrap the balls in plastic, press them into discs, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Since you will need only 1 disc of dough for this recipe, feel free to freeze or refrigerate the other disc until you are ready to use it.  The wrapped dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Assemble the galette:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

To roll out the dough, cut out a 14-inch square piece of parchment paper.  Dust the parchment paper with flour.  Take a disc of dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap it from the plastic wrap, and place on the flour parchment.  Lightly flour the dough then place the plastic wrap on top of the disc of dough.  Rolling on top of the plastic wrap, roll out the disc into a 13-inch circle.

Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the circle of dough.  Place the rolled-out dough, still on the parchment paper, on a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling ingredients.

Cut each nectarine in half, remove the pit, and each half cut into 4 wedges.

In a small bowl, combine ground almonds, 2 teaspoons of the sugar, and flour.

Remove the chilled, rolled-out dough from the refrigerator.  Sprinkle the almond mixture over the top of the dough, leaving uncoated a 1 ½ inch border at the edges.  Place nectarines, skin side down, in a single layer on top of the almond mixture, still leaving empty the uncoated edges.  Place raspberries on top of the nectarines, nestling the berries into any open crevices in between the nectarines.

While rotating the tart, fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit. Pinch closed any breaks or cracks in the dough.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar over the top of both the fruit and the folded-over edges of dough.

Bake on the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the edges of the fruit have started to caramelize.

Cool for at least 20 minutes before eating, so as to allow the hot fruit juices to stabilize a bit.

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