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Tag Archives: strawberry

Strawberry Pecan Bread

31 May

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In some parts of the country, it’s strawberry season. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is almost strawberry season, which is sort of like saying it is almost Christmas or almost baseball season, meaning that we’re in that odd limbo period wherein one can start to feel sort of excited about what is to come, but there is still a rather hazy period of waiting that needs to pass before the real excitement kicks in. At least, this is how one feels if strawberries are the type of thing that qualify as excitement-worthy. As you can probably ascertain, this is how I feel.

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While the strawberries in my own garden still require a week or so of warm weather before they are properly ripened (in other news: it needs to stop raining and being 60 degrees, because 1) I loathe that weather, and 2) the strawberries, they need to ripen), there are local berries (grown in greenhouses, I can only assume) popping up at various markets around the city. When the local strawberries begin to appear, you know that summer is not far behind.

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While I’ll never tire of simply eating strawberries as they are, deeply crimson and perfectly sweet, it’s pretty much impossible for me to eat something while not thinking about the various ways I could incorporate or transform it into something different. Strawberry desserts, not surprisingly, are always top on my list of strawberry favorites, but a light strawberry snack should never be ignored. This bread falls somewhere in between a dessert and a snack, although, with only ¼ cup of added sugar to sweeten the whole loaf, I would argue that the scale tips more towards the latter. With hints of cinnamon and lemon zest, little bits of crunchy pecans, and mellow pockets of juicy strawberries, this welcoming bread would make a great picnic staple, but it’s also a welcome companion to a hot cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon. If you’re looking for a way to dress this fellow up, top a slice with a scoop of ice cream and call it dessert. Thus far, I’ve found no inappropriate way to enjoy this almost-summertime treat.

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Last Year: Ginger Cardamom Cake with Lemon Glaze, Stuffed Picnic Sandwich with Olive Tapenade, and Strawberry Lemon Cream Puffs

Strawberry Pecan Bread

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour the inside of a 9”x5” loaf pan.

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, brown sugar, and applesauce. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir lightly until just combined. Add the strawberries and pecans, and gently stir and fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top of the batter, then bake in the center of the oven for 75 to 90 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf emerges mostly clean, with just a crumb or two attached.

Allow bread to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Turn loaf right side up, then allow to cool almost completely before slicing and eating.

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Strawberry Mango Crumble

21 Jun

I’ve been sitting here for what seems like an eternity, trying to figure out the perfect explanation for why this fruit crumble has risen to the top of my list of Greatest Summer Desserts.  After a lot of false starts and deleted sentences, I can only seem to explain my love by stating this: this is a crumble that tastes like fruit.  It does not taste of unbearable sweetness, it does not taste of leaden crumble topping, and it does not taste of overwhelming spices floating about in a pool of syrup.  It tastes like fruit.

It is odd that I find this attribute to be so remarkable?  I’ve made dozens of fruit crumbles, crisps, and cobblers in the past, but none of them have hooked me in the same manner.  Maybe it’s due to my newfound realization that most desserts are simply bogged down by far too much sugar, but when I took my first bite of this crumble and was struck by how much it tasted like fresh mangoes and ripe strawberries, it was almost as though a light went off in my head.  A fruit crumble that tastes like fruit?  This is a revelation.

Okay, it’s possible that I am overstating things.  Perhaps highlighting the fruit in a fruit dessert is not the most Nobel-worthy of actions, but you’ve got to get on board with what I am touting here.  Think mangoes and strawberries, spritzed with lemon juice, barely sweetened, and sprinkled with just a hint of spices.  Then crumble on a nutty, lightly spiced topping and bake everything together until it becomes juicy, crisp, and absolutely delightful.  You can add a petite scoop of ice cream (in this case, a frozen concoction of leftover lemon cream and a bit of unsweetened heavy cream that, good lord, made the fruit sing even more than before), or you can eat it as is.  Just make sure you do eat it because, trust me, this is a dessert you don’t want to miss.

Last Year: Spinach Basil Pesto with Lemon and Almonds

Strawberry Mango Crumble Recipe

Crumble Topping:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans, or a mixture of the two

pinch of salt

pinch of ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cardamom

pinch of ground ginger

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Fruit:

12 ounces diced strawberries (about 2 cups total), pieces cut into 1-inch chunks

2 mangoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

juice of ½ a lemon

pinch of ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

To prepare topping, in medium bowl combine flour, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, nuts, pinch of salt, and spices.  Using a fork, stir together until ingredients are fully combined.  Drizzle in the melted butter, then stir until butter is evenly incorporated.  Set aside mixture to firm up just a bit.

In an 8” by 8” baking dish, combine strawberries, mangoes, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and pinches of cinnamon and cardamom.  Toss together and make sure that the fruit is evenly coated with the sugar and cornstarch.

Using your fingers, pinch off 1-inch to 2-inch pieces of crumble topping mixture and evenly scatter them over the fruit.  Bake crumble in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble topping is nicely browned.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, lest you scorch yourself with the molten lava-like heat of the fruit.

Serves 6 to 8, depending on the generosity of your servings.

Strawberry Cream Tart in a Gingerbread Crust

1 Apr

Last week it rained for seven days straight.  Now, in this part of the country that type of weather pattern may not be in any way unusual, but that does not erase the fact that it is also unpleasant.  Being as though I have lived here long enough to know that summer comes late to the Pacific Northwest (but also, thankfully, lingers leisurely into the autumn months), I coped with this long stretch of wet and dreary weather in the most reasonable manner possible: I pretended it was summer.

Imagine the days are long and sticky hot.  It’s too hot to turn on the oven during the day, so you wait until the sun sets before you satisfy your desire to bake something.  The heat of the day breaks at around 8PM, but there is a bright glow that lights the sky until well past 9PM.

In the morning, you head into the garden to pick some strawberries.  The berries are warm from the morning sun, and you can smell their sweet juice on your hands as you gather them.

By 10AM it is starting to get warm.  Knowing what the temperature will be like in just a few short hours, you plan ahead and start to assemble a simple cream filling for the tart shell you baked during last night’s reprieve from the heat.  Kept in the refrigerator, the cool cream, topped with fresh strawberries, will prove to be a welcome treat that cuts through the sweltering late afternoon sun.

And that’s how we made it through the week.  Though the berries didn’t come from our garden (we’ve got at least another two and a half months before we see any action in that area), and the days were not anywhere close to being even remotely warm, that didn’t stop us from enjoying this tart any less.  We pretended we were eating it in the backyard as we swayed lazily in a hammock and listened to the soft hum of the sounds of summer.

The good news is that summer will always turn up, even if you have to wait through another soggy and wet season in order to reach it.  The even better news is that you can make this tart now, no matter the season and no matter the weather, and that when it comes to enjoying the tart, there will be absolutely no faking required.

Strawberry Tart in a Gingerbread Crust

Gingerbread Crust

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground powdered ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses

2 tablespoons cold water

In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and baking powder.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly and resembles cornmeal.  Drizzle the molasses and water over the dough, mixing with your fingertips until the crumbs of dough begin to cling together.

Gather the dough together and knead it into a ball.  Press it evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9″ tart pan.  Pierce crust on sides and bottom with fork.  Gently fit a large piece of aluminum foil tightly against the crust.  Fill with pie weights (you can use dried beans or large handful of pennies, but, being someone to bakes a great deal, I like to use these super handy ceramic pie weights) and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges of the crust just begin to darken.  Remove foil and weights from tart pan (it’s best to just gather up the foil by the edges and lift the whole thing out, weights and all), and continue to bake the tart crust for 10-15 minutes more, or until crust is firm and darkly browned.

Set aside tart crust until completely cooled, at least 2 hours.  (I let mine cool, uncovered, overnight.)

Strawberry Cream Filling

8 ounces vanilla yogurt (regular or nonfat)

4 ounces cream cheese

finely grated or chopped zest of 1/2 a lemon

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and sliced

In a bowl with a mixer on high speed, beat together yogurt and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon zest and stir to combine.  Pour yogurt and cream cheese filling into cooled tart shell.  Refrigerate until chilled and slightly firmed (it will never reach actual firmness, so don’t aim for a sturdy filling), about 2 hours.

When filling has chilled, arrange strawberries on top in whatever manner you choose.  I layered them in overlapping circles, but I promise you that the arrangement of your strawberries will in no way compromise the taste of your dessert.

Optional

If your strawberries are off season, as these were, and not at peak sweetness, you can apply a very light glaze on top of the berries to coax out a bit more strawberry flavor.  Simply toss a couple of large strawberries into a small food processor or blender, along with two tablespoons of water, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, and a pinch of cornstarch. Blend together until smooth, then pour into a small saucepan set over low heat.  Stir over low heat until strawberry mixture has thickened slightly and just begins to simmer.  Let mixture cool slightly, then lightly brush over arranged strawberries until just covered.

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