Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category
Beer and sodas are always staples at a barbecue because they’re easy to throw into a cooler and serve to everyone with minimal effort. I’ll usually throw a few bottles of wine into my ice chest, too. If I’m entertaining at home during the summer, however, I will also pull out my blender. Blended drinks are easy to serve to a crowd and, while they do take slightly more effort than opening a can of soda, they are always a huge hit when they come out – especially if the weather is hot.
These Fresh Strawberry Margaritas are a summertime favorite. They’re made with lots of fresh strawberries, freshly squeezed lime juice, tequila and a splash of triple sec, all blended up with ice. They’re sweet and are a very enjoyable way to cool down on a hot summer afternoon. Unless my strawberries are super sweet to start out, I like to add some additional sugar to my mix to highlight their sweetness – because if you’re having a blended drink, part of the fun is when it tastes like a treat to drink. I serve them in glasses rimmed with sugar, although a rim of salt makes for a nice contrast to the sweetness of the berries if you prefer your margaritas with salt.
These margaritas are not too strong because there are a lot of strawberries in them adding a good amount of fruit to balance out the booze. Depending on how big your glasses are, you might very well get more than servings out of this blender of margaritas. As a result, it is important to give your mix a taste while you’re making it up. If your strawberries aren’t sweet enough, you may need to add some extra sugar. If you like your drinks on the stronger side, or are planning for many small servings, you might need to add additional tequila (rule of thumb is 1.5 – 2 oz per drink).
Chocolate pound cake is not quite as common as vanilla pound cake. Vanilla pound cake has a delicate flavor, balancing the floral flavor of vanilla with the richness of butter. The taste is addicting, but it is subtle compared to other types of cake. Chocolate flavor, on the other hand, is not subtle and most of the time we want chocolate desserts to be very rich and dramatic. This Chocolate Pound Cake takes its cue from the classic vanilla cake. It has a very good chocolate flavor, but the texture of the cake is just as much the star of this dessert as the chocolate is.
The cake is very simple to make and gets its chocolate flavor from cocoa powder. I recommend using Dutch process cocoa powder in this recipe, which gives the cake a slightly deeper chocolate flavor. If you only have natural cocoa powder, there is no need to worry because the recipe will still work out, it will just have a very slightly different chocolate flavor to it. If you happen to have some chocolate extract in your pantry, this recipe is the perfect place to use it and you can add 1 tsp of chocolate extract in with the vanilla. My Vanilla Bean Pound Cake recipe is a classic pound cake recipe that doesn’t use any leavening agents, but since cocoa powder is much denser than flour is, the Chocolate Pound Cake needs a little bit of leavening to ensure that it is light and not too heavy feeling.
Once you’ve baked your cake, there is a lot you can do with it. It is good when sliced thick and served plain, with a cup of coffee on the side. You could top it with a scoop of whipped cream and some fresh fruit to dress it up a little bit. Strawberries and raspberries go very well with this cake. If you decide you want to boost the chocolate flavor up a few notches, make a quick ganache with dark chocolate and heavy cream and pour it over the top of the loaf before serving it.
The original pound cake got its name from its ingredients. It contained a pound of eggs, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and a pound of flour. It was a dense cake, but it had a tender texture that other cakes at the time lacked and it became popular enough that we still have pound cakes around today. There are lots of recipes for pound cakes out there, some adding additional ingredients and some cutting back on some of the original components, and many of them are good recipes. Sometimes, however, it pays to stick close to the original recipe and this one is pretty true to its roots.
This Vanilla Bean Pound Cake is a straightforward pound cake recipe, made with butter, eggs, flour and sugar. I added a little bit of salt to make the vanilla in the cake pop more and a little bit of milk, which prevents the finished cake from feeling too egg-y. As in traditional pound cakes, there is no leavening in this cake, so don’t be alarmed that there is no baking powder or baking soda on the ingredient list. The slight rise that this cake has comes mostly from the inclusion of the eggs in the cake batter. It has a very dense crumb but is so tender that it almost seems to melt in your mouth when you take a bite. It may not look fancy at first glance, but this is one of those cakes that I would choose over an over-frosted layer cake any day of the week!
The cake, although simple, feels very indulgent thanks to its buttery vanilla flavor. Since I used a whole vanilla bean in the cake, it is also loaded with specks of vanilla. This is one recipe where it is definitely worth splurging and using whole vanilla beans, scraping out the seeds and adding them to the batter. If you don’t have any, however, you can still get a good vanilla flavor into the cake by using 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
The cake is baked in a loaf pan and cut in slices to serve. It can be served plain, with a cup of tea or coffee, or it can be dressed up in a number of ways. For instance, you could turn it into the base of a strawberry shortcake and finish a slice with fresh berries and whipped cream. For summer entertaining, you can toast a slice on the grill to give it some extra texture and serve it with a big scoop of ice cream. The cake keeps well when it is stored in an airtight container and it can be baked a day or two before serving, if necessary. This also means that you can nibble away at your cake in small slices over the course of a week if you don’t have any plans to entertain or simply want to keep this cake all to yourself.
Freeze dried fruit is something that I see a lot in stores (Trader Joe’s carries a big variety), mostly because it is being marketed as a healthy snack food. I do not like eating freeze dried fruit on its own, but it can be good in cereal and is a great way to add a lot of flavor to baked goods that you couldn’t otherwise get fresh berries into easily. These Raspberry Coconut Macaroons are a perfect example of a recipe that gets a huge flavor boost from freeze dried fruit where you couldn’t easily use fresh raspberries.
Coconut macaroons are simple cookies, usually made with just coconut, egg whites and sugar. They have a crisp exterior and a moist, chewy interior, a great balance of flavor and texture. They are moist, but they are not “wet” inside and whole berries – such as fresh raspberries – will just add too much moisture to your typical macaroon. Freeze dried fruit has a lot of flavor but doesn’t add any moisture and will not take up much space in each cookie, so you can still have bite sized cookies that deliver a lot of raspberry flavor in a perfect macaroon package. The combination seems very spring-like to me, with the zesty raspberry and sweet coconut. The cookies are light and make a great snack any time of day.
If you can’t find freeze dried raspberries, try checking the healthy snack section of your local market. You might be surprised at what is lurking there! Other freeze dried fruits – mango, strawberry, etc. – will also work in these. In a pinch, you could opt for regular dried fruit instead, but that won’t give you the hint of pink that makes these macaroons look oh-so-tasty.
Strawberries are not always an easy fruit to bake with because they lose some of their texture when they’re in the oven. One way around this is to puree your strawberries and then incorporate the puree into whatever you’re baking – just as I did in these Strawberry Coffee Cake Muffins. The light pink muffins are packed with fresh strawberry and topped off with a generous layer of streusel topping. They’re the perfect coffee cake to enjoy on a spring or summer morning.
The muffins pack a lot of strawberry flavor into a little package, with a whole cup of strawberry puree right in the batter. They’re soft and moist, with a tight crumb that is strong enough to support the buttery brown sugar and vanilla streusel that tops them off. The fresh strawberries naturally color these muffins. I used egg whites rather than whole eggs in this recipe because the yellow of the yolks will actually give the muffins an orangey, rather than a pink, hue and I wanted that natural color to come through as much as possible. I’ve had a lot of strawberry baked goods, but the combination of strawberry and streusel topping has got to be near the top of my list of favorites because it is absolutely delicious.
I used a generous amount of streusel to finish these off. It is sweet from all the brown sugar, but I added a pinch of salt that balances that sweetness and makes it “pop” next to the tender muffin. If you find that you have extra streusel, just pile it even higher and do your best to get it all on top of the muffin. If any streusel tumbles off while baking, you can just consider the crispy crumbs to be an edible bonus for the baker!
I used fresh strawberries to make my puree and highly recommend that you do the same. If you only have frozen berries, you need to defrost them completely and drain them well before pureeing them. The frozen berries likely contain extra water (at least from being defrosted) and that can water down the strawberry flavor of your muffins. These muffins will keep well in an airtight container for at least a day or two, so you could easily make them the day before you want to serve them if you want to bake ahead.