Tag Archives: strawberries

Strawberry Lemon Cream Puffs

31 May

Though the arrival of our garden strawberries is still a few weeks away, it has proven difficult to resist the siren song of the plump, scarlet berries populating the market right now.  Even our local farmers markets have been showcasing some early strawberries, a feat that seems almost miraculous, what with the rather unstable weather we’ve been experiencing lately.  Or, more accurately, that we experience every year, though it has become very clear that, due to what I can only deem an effort of pure survival, I have apparently trained myself to forget every year.  This is the only logical explanation for why I still live in a place where 70 degrees is considered a warm and balmy June day.  But, let’s talk about something else

Specifically, let’s talk about strawberries, and how they seem to simply sing when matched with lemon.  This is not the first time I have decided to nestle some strawberries inside a cloud of lemon cream, and it is clear that there is good reason for my path back to this companionable flavor pairing.  The brightness of lemon brings out all the best notes of a sweet, dark berry, and the mellow smoothness of this particular lemon cream seems to make everything it touches transform into a soft, delicate dream.  Though the lemon cream is certainly not lacking in richness, it manages to maintain a lightness that belies its hefty butter content.

It was that exact lightness that led me to this riff on strawberry shortcake that was a bit less dense than the usual (and perfectly delightful) offering of a buttery biscuit topped with slices of berries.  When pastry is the topic at hand, you can’t get any lighter than a classic pâte à choux, and as soon as I envisioned a plate of airy cream puffs drizzled with tart lemon cream and piled high with ripe strawberries, there was no going back.  Unless, of course, you count going back for seconds, which I most certainly did.

Strawberry Lemon Cream Puffs Recipe

Cream Puffs

Pâte à choux

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

½ cup water

½ cup milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Line a large baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine water, milk, butter, and salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat.  Immediately add flour all at once and stir vigorously with a sturdy wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Reduce heat to low and continue to stir the mixture over the heat for about 1 minute.  As the moisture in the mixture evaporates, a little bit of butter may begin to seep out, which is just fine.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  When the mixture has cooled a bit, beat in the eggs, one at a time, using a wooden spoon.  Beat the dough vigorously in between each egg, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding another.  The dough should end up looking quite smooth and shiny.

To form cream puffs, fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain, ½-inch tip with choux paste (alternately, you could fill a large Ziploc bag with choux paste, then clip off a corner of the bag with a petite, ½-inch cut).  On the prepared baking sheet, pipe the choux paste into tight swirls about 2 ½ to 3 inches in diameter.  I fit about 11 swirls on one large baking sheet, and had to bake two batches of cream puffs, with 5 swirls in the second batch.

Bake the puffs for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the puffs are golden brown and firm to the touch.  Turn off the oven, turn each puff upside down, poke a small hole in the bottom of each puff (this will allow steam to escape and keep your puffs from becoming soggy), and allow the puffs to dry in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove the puffs from the oven, and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then repeat instructions to bake a second batch of cream puffs.

Makes 16 cream puffs.

Lemon Cream

Adapted from Tartine

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) of freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 whole large eggs

1 large egg yolk

¾ cup (6 ounces) sugar

pinch of salt

½ cup (4 ounces or 1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces

Bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan set over medium heat.  In a non-reactive bowl that is able to rest securely in the rim of the saucepan without touching the water, combine lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt.  Whisk the ingredients together.  Do not allow the egg yolks and sugar sit together without being stirred constantly, as the sugar will react with the eggs and turn them granular.  Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk for around 10-12 minutes, until the mixture thickens considerably and reaches a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the bowl from above the water and allow the mixture to cool to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir from time to time to help the mixture cool and release its heat.

When the cream has reached 140 degrees, pour it into a blender, or leave it in the bowl if you will be using an immersion blender to mix the lemon cream.  Add the butter to the lemon cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, blending the mixture continuously until each piece of butter is completely incorporated before you add the next one.  The cream will be pale yellow and quite thick.

The lemon cream can be used immediately, or it can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for up to 5 days.  Makes about 2 cups of lemon cream.

3 pounds of strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 pint whipping cream

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla, and whip together until it forms soft peaks.

To assemble strawberry lemon cream puffs, slice off the top of a cream puff.  On the bottom of a puff, drizzle on a bit of lemon cream.  Pile strawberries on top of the cream, drizzle on a bit more cream, then top with a dollop of whipped cream.  Place the top of the cream puff on the pile, and serve.

Makes 16 cream puffs.

Honey Cream, Strawberry, and Chocolate Pizza

16 Apr

Perhaps it is not entirely honest to refer to this as a pizza, since, barring the fact that it is pizza-shaped and utilizes a crust that is quite fitting for savory pizza applications, it is quite clear that if something contains strawberries, cream, and chocolate, it’s probably not really a pizza, per se.

But, in yet another example of how I like to turn non-dessert foods into dessert, when I had a leftover pizza crust laying around last week, it just seemed wrong to let it live out the last of its days as something not sweet.  Plus, I had leftover strawberries sitting around.  And leftover cream.  And chocolate.  And also, I am not actually trying to justify what I have done, and I hope I am making that painfully obvious right now.

For something so simple to make, this dessert is a real showstopper.  Not only do the honey cream and strawberries go together like, well, strawberries and cream, but the light drizzle of chocolate at the end provides a finish that is as delicious as it is easy on the eyes.  If you want to be really cheeky, you can serve this pizza as a dessert on pizza night, whipping up this pizza dough the night before, allowing it to rest overnight in the refrigerator, then using 2/3 of the dough for dinner pizzas, the last 1/3 for this dessert pizza.  Resting the dough in the refrigerator overnight is not a necessity, but in my years of pizza making (the last year being the most intensive and experimental), I have discovered that a long-rested dough develops an unbeatable flavor and texture that is difficult to approximate with a dough that has rested at room temperature for a couple of hours.  You’ll have to plan ahead a bit, but it is so worth it.

Plenty more recipes for pizza can be found here.  Also, last year on Indie Fixx I published one of my most favorite pizza recipes, which can be found here.

Last Year: A Trio of Flavored Butters

Honey Cream, Strawberry, and Chocolate Pizza Recipe

Pizza dough for 1 pizza, or 1/3 of this dough, rested in the refrigerator overnight for maximum flavor

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons honey

12 ounces of strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a baking stone or a heavy sheet pan on the second to lowest shelf in the oven.  Line a rimless baking sheet or an overturned sheet pan with parchment paper, and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, stretch and push the pizza dough with your hands, coaxing, poking, and punching it until it forms a roughly 12-inch circle.  Place the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and honey until the honey has dissolved.  Brush ¾ of the cream mixture over the pizza dough.  Arrange the strawberries over the cream, trying your best to lay them in concentric circles.  Brush the remaining ¼ of the cream mixture over the tops of the strawberries.

Gently slide the pizza—still on its parchment paper—onto the preheated baking stone or sheet pan.  Bake pizza for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the pizza are dark golden brown and bubbly.

Remove pizza to a rack to cool a bit.  While the pizza is cooling, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave on low heat, stirring frequently in both cases.  Melt the chocolate just until it still has come visible chunks, then remove from the heat and stir until the chunks have melted and the chocolate is glossy and smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate over the cooling pizza.  You can eat it while both the pizza and the chocolate are still warm, or you can allow both the pizza and chocolate to cool and firm up before eating.  Either way, it’s delicious.

Tiny Party Sandwiches

9 Aug

Let’s say you are in charge of providing snacks and treats for a party.  The party is not a dinner affair, nor a lunchtime soiree, but rather something that falls in between.  It’s a casual backyard get together, and you are expecting 30-40 people to join you.  Though those people will certainly not be expecting you to provide them a meal, it is, of course, assumed that you will be laying out a selection of light bites to hold people over until their next meal, which should helpfully supply some sort of absorbent landing pad for the selection of beer and wine that are also very likely to be consumed.

You’ll, of course, want to make something that isn’t terribly time consuming to begin with, but you’ll also help yourself immensely by making something that is capable of being replenished quickly and with minimal fuss.

Do you know what you want to do?  You want to make your lovely guests some sandwiches.

Now, hear me out on this one.  I am not advocating that you bust out the deli ham and mustard (though, to clarify, there is, of course, nothing wrong with serving such a thing to your guests).  What I am talking about in this instance is a selection of spreads and toppings laid atop tiny slices of baguette.  It’s not quite crostini, and not really bruschetta, but more of a cross between an open-faced sandwich and an appetizer.

The components are simple, but pleasing.  Light and creamy ricotta cheese is folded together with a sprinkle of herbs, honey, or spices.  The ricotta is generously spread on top of a small piece of crusty bread, then topped with a vegetable or fruit of your choosing.  One sandwich pictured here features a cool mint and ricotta spread topped with fresh cucumbers.  The other, which happens to be pleasing to both children and adults, is a lightly honey-sweetened ricotta topped with ripe strawberries, then drizzled with just a thread more honey.  That’s it.  You’re done.  Two baguettes later, your guests are pleased, your tummy is pleased, and you’ve discovered the secret to a delicious party snack that is light, fresh, and delicious, but also delightfully uncomplicated.

Leaving you all the more time to actually enjoy your own party while you simultaneously enjoy your sandwiches.

Mint Ricotta and Cucumber Sandwiches

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 small garlic clove, smashed and finely chopped

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, garlic, mint, and olive oil.  Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste.

Top each slice of baguette with 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture, then top ricotta with thin slices of cucumber.

Honey Ricotta and Strawberry Sandwiches

2 cups ricotta cheese

6 tablespoons honey, divided

pinch of salt

1 pound of ripe strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

1 large baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese with 4 tablespoons of honey.  Add pinch of salt and mix to combine.

Top each slice of baguette with 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture, then top ricotta with 3 or 4 thin slices of strawberry.

When you have topped all of the slices of baguette, thinly and lightly drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of honey over the tops of the assembled sandwiches.

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