Strawberry shortcakes may be a summer classic, but you can make a delicious shortcake with any kind of fresh fruit. The dessert will look even better if you opt for a fruit that is just as colorful as fresh strawberries – like fresh blueberries. Juicy, bright blueberries do just as well as strawberries in a shortcake because, when they are at their peak, they don’t need to be cooked or baked into anything to really shine. Giving them the support of a light, buttery biscuit and some whipped cream is more than enough to put the spotlight on them!
These Double Blueberry Shortcakes start with a biscuit-like cake that is made with blueberries, and are filled with fresh blueberries and whipped cream. The berries I used in the biscuit are dried (if you have them, freeze-dried blueberries work very well, too), which add some blueberry flavor and some nice pops of color to the biscuits. Since they don’t add much moisture to the dough, which fresh blueberries would, the biscuit keeps its light and slightly flaky texture, and doesn’t become too cakey or soft. The buttery biscuits are lightly sweetened and also have a hint of vanilla to them.
The filling is simple: a combination of lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh blueberries. You can’t go wrong – but you can mix things up a bit if you love blueberries and find yourself looking for a little variety. A little bit of lemon zest or extract in the whipped cream will really brighten up this dessert, and a splash of rum in the whipped cream will give this a more grown up feel. Or you could do what I do and just serve them with a big bowl of extra blueberries on the side.
When strawberries are in season and my local farmers markets are overflowing with them, I can’t resist taking home basket after basket. The problem with this is that I can end up with almost more berries than I know what to do with! Fortunately, I haven’t quite run out of ways to use strawberries yet, and these Fresh Strawberry Mini Cupcakes are my current favorite application.
The cupcakes are bright pink and have a strong strawberry flavor. With a dollop of vanilla buttercream on top, they taste like strawberries n’ cream. All of this berry flavor comes from pureed strawberries, which serve as the liquid in this recipe (where most cupcake recipes will call for milk). Choose fresh, flavorful berries that have a deep red color to them for the best results because there is no food coloring in them, just a lot of fresh berries!
These cupcakes are very moist and tender. That moistness comes from a mixing method that is a little different from that of other cupcakes. For these, cold butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients to create a very sandy mixture, then the eggs and dry ingredients are added. This creates a tight, fluffy crumb and delicious texture to the cupcakes. This can be done with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, but I find that the process goes very quickly if I whip up the batter in the food processor, so you might want to try that option when making these at home.
I made these as mini cupcakes and the recipe will yield two dozen miniature cupcakes – the perfect bite-sized treats (they also happen to be strawberry-sized) for a party. You can also bake these as full sized cupcakes, but the recipe will yield about 9 full sized cupcakes, not a full dozen.
Mother’s Day is not always the most personalized holiday. A bouquet of flowers and a card, along with a trip out to brunch or dinner, is generally the extent of the celebrations. Flowers are always nice, of course, but what is even nicer is getting Mom a gift that she can really use and enjoy. For instance, The Baking Bites Cookbook is a great Mother’s Day gift that will definitely come in handy throughout the year. Here are five more great baking-related gifts for Moms who probably spend the rest of the year cooking up cakes and cookies for you and the rest of your family to enjoy:
- A sourdough starter is a great gift for Moms who like to bake bread. It requires a little bit of maintenance, but it will help to produce some amazing loaves of bread right in your own kitchen. A stoneware crock is a nice container for a starter if you want to improve the presentation, although any container where you can keep it covered will ultimately work just fine.
- Nothing beats a lazy brunch with family on the weekends. Pancakes, waffles and french toast are breakfast staples, but an Aebleskiver pan makes a great gift and introduces something new to the line up. This pan makes spherical Danish pancakes that are often filled with fruit or jam, and they’re as fun to make as they are to eat. A cookbook about these treats would make a great gift to go with the pan.
- If cakes are your mom’s specialty, you can’t go wrong with a new bundt pan. There many amazing designs out there to choose from, but the Nordicware Heritage Bundt Pan is probably the most striking you’ll find. I recently added this pan to my own collection (and reviewed it) and every cake that has come out of it has been a showstopper.
- A stand mixer is a great splurge gift, but stand mixer accessories are great gifts for Moms who already have one. A Beater Blade or a KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater are bowl-scraping stand mixer attachments that virtually eliminate the need to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you mix. An extra mixer bowl for a brand of stand mixer she already has would probably be very well received, also.
- Last but not least, you can opt for something small and from-the-heart, like a big batch of homemade cookies or a homemade cake in your mom’s favorite flavor. These are gifts that you don’t have to buy, but ones that will definitely be well-received because you’ll put a little bit of love into the batter of your Chocolate Chip Cookies, Snickerdoodle Blondies, Cheesecake Brownies or Angel Food Cake (my own mom’s favorite), just like your Mom does when she bakes for you and the rest of the family.
Girl Scout cookie season is just around the corner. As usual, I’m not really planning to buy any of the Girl Scouts’ offerings – although I am happy to support local troops in other ways – because I know that I can make cookies that are as good or better at home. Girl Scout cookies still contain partially hydrogenated oils, even if they have decreased the amount to come in under the FDA’s definition of “zero trans fats per serving” (no more than .5g per serving). Homemade cookies are made with real ingredients – butter, sugar, flour, chocolate – and really do have zero trans fats. They’re still indulgent treats, but treats you can feel good about eating!
You can find recipes for four of the Scouts’ best sellers here, including an easy to make version of Thin Mints that you don’t need a cookie cutter to shape:
If you prefer your cookies gluten free, I’ve got that covered, too:
And if you’ve had enough of the cookies on their own, try using them in another way:
Tagalongs, or Peanut Butter Patties, seem to be one of the less remarkable Girl Scout cookies. Everyone likes them, but no one ever seems to call them out as their favorite. My feeling is that these cookies are very reminiscent of candies like peanut butter cups and I think we can all agree that they are a hard act to follow because the combination is such a good one.
So, while I don’t think that this homemade version of Tagalongs is going to replace classic peanut butter cups, they are still really good cookies. The cookie is crisp and a bit plain, although the hint of vanilla in it highlights the peanut butter filling. The chocolate is best in a thin layer, holding everything together in a neat package. I got the ultra-smooth cut in the photo above by using a hot knife; the filling does have a bit more texture to it than that pic might lead you to believe, especially if you use natural peanut butter.
The cookie base for these is the same one that I used to make my homemade Samoas: a tender and crisp shortbread-type cookie. The cookies are about the same size, although since they don’t have a hole in the center, they do need a tiny bit longer in the oven than the other cookies did. I shaped all of these by hand, but you can certainly use a cookie cutter to make them. By hand, simply take a tablespoon-sized ball and flatten it into a 1/4-inch thick disc on the baking sheet. To use a cookie cutter, simply opt for a 1 or 1 1/2 inch round and cut circles on rolled dough. I actually prefer the hand-shaped cookies for these because I felt they had a better shape. The edges spread ever so slightly and the center rose a small amount, too, creating a nice target for the “thumbprints” (the hole for the peanut butter created by pressing a thumb or the back of a spoon into the still hot-from-the-oven cookies).
I used the same peanut butter filling that I used for my homemade peanut butter cups, substituting all creamy peanut butter for the crunchy. It is a stiffer filling than I used for my Do-Si-Dos and works much better in this cookie. These would be nice with crunchy peanut butter, but are somewhat more authentic without it. I increased the amount I used in this batch and did have a bit of peanut butter left over, but the beauty of leftovers with this recipe is that you actually can make the peanut butter cups with leftover chocolate and filling. I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of that pleasure, so being extremely precise wasn’t a huge concern of mine. Besides, you can always pile up the peanut butter in your cookies if you want to improve on the GS version. Chill the peanut butter filling before dipping the cookies in chocolate to prevent it from softening and losing shape.
The only problem I encountered with these cookies was that the chocolate coating turned out to be quite thick, somewhat overwhelming the flavor of the peanut butter when I used dark chocolate. Semisweet produced a better contrast and, if you like milk chocolate, you might want to try half-and-half. Also, keep the melted chocolate in a glass or pyrex bowl so that it can be set on top of a pan of hot water (like a double boiler) while you work on dipping the cookies. This will keep the chocolate very fluid without the risk of burning it and will enable you to get a nice thin coating.