Archive for the ‘Dessert Sauces’ Category
I have a soft spot for jellied cranberry sauce as a Thanksgiving side dish, as that was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, but these days I am much more likely to make my own cranberry sauce with fresh berries to serve as a holiday side (and that includes Homemade Cranberry Jelly). I like cranberry sauces that the sweet-tart flavor of the cranberries shine through without being overly tart or sour, which can make the cranberry sauce overpower things like turkey and stuffing. This Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce fits the bill nicely. The sauce is made with whole cranberries, freshly squeezed blood orange juice and has whole piece of blood orange in it. The orange adds some extra sweetness to the cranberries while adding a bright, fresh citrus flavor to the sauce.
To make it, you’ll need a bag of fresh or frozen cranberries. Frozen berries will always work well for a sauce, but I typically use fresh berries when my local markets carry them. The berries are cooked with blood orange juice and whole blood orange segments from a supremeed orange. Supreming an orange means that you cut down a whole orange into its most tender segments, removing the peel, pith and the tough “skin” that holds the slices together (tutorial here). By prepping the oranges this way, you get very tender pieces of fruit to add to your sauce.
Blood oranges make a good color match for the cranberries and the juice is slightly sweeter than that of some other types of oranges. That said, you can easily substitute any other type of orange into this recipe if you don’t have blood oranges and still get tasty results.
Boston cream pie is an unusual type of layer cake, made with two rounds of sponge cake that are filled with pastry cream and topped with a glaze of chocolate ganache. It is basically like a giant custard sandwich, and quite unlike most layer cakes. I thought it would translate very well into a whoopie pie format, making a miniature version of a Boston cream pie that can fit right in the palm of your hand.
These Boston Cream Whoopie Pies start out with a simple buttermilk vanilla cake that makes a lightly sweet backdrop for the pies. The cake is tender and moist, but still sturdy enough to handle easily without breaking while you frost and fill them. The batter rises well and you don’t need to do anything special (aside from making the mounds even) during baking to get them to keep their shape. The pies are cooled and filled with a homemade vanilla pastry cream. I use a vanilla bean in mine to get the most vanilla flavor into my recipe, but vanilla extract will work, too.
Most of the Boston Cream Pies I’ve had have some kind of chocolate glaze poured over the whole cake before serving. This creates a beautiful picture, but I found that wasn’t really practical for a whoopie pie. I topped these with a layer of chocolate ganache, spreading it onto one side of the pie. It was just thin enough to give me a few drips around the edges on some of the pies, but mostly stayed exactly where I put it. This made the whoopie pies easy to store and to handle, and was simply a lot more practical way of topping these. Don’t worry if you have a bit of ganache leftover after you top off your pies. It is good eaten off a spoon, too.
The finished pies have a great mix of soft cake, creamy vanilla filling and chocolate glaze. They’re very satisfying – but also light enough to indulge in two at a time if you’re tempted. These pies can be served chilled or at room temperature, but I generally serve them the day they’re made and keep the leftovers in the fridge, well-wrapped. I typically top half of the cakes with ganache in advance, then pipe in the pastry cream before serving. They’re still tasty the next day, but it is hard to beat a freshly made Boston Cream Whoopie Pie.
Whipped cream is a great way to finish off just about any dessert, adding a light sweetness to contrast with rich berry flavors and intense chocolate ones. For many, using whipped cream means picking up a can from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. This isn’t a bad solution in a pinch (I know I’ve used it many times), but making your own whipped cream is quick and easy – and you usually get a much more satisfying result. Many recipes call for lightly sweetened whipped cream and making your own is also a great way to control the sweetness because lightly sweetening the cream just means adding in a little bit of confectioners’ sugar.
To whip cream, start by pouring some cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream into a large bowl, then beat it with a whisk or an electric mixer until it reaches soft peaks. This will take anywhere from about 1-5 minutes, depending on how much cream you are whipping. Cold cream whips up better than less cold cream, and a larger bowl makes the whole process go faster. Towards the end of the whipping time, sift in a small amount of confectioners’ sugar to make lightly sweetened whipped cream. While plain whipped cream is just fine, adding a bit of sugar mellows the flavor of the cream and, frankly, just tastes better with dessert. Sometimes I add a bit of vanilla if I want the whipped cream, but this is completely optional.
Both pasteurized and ultra pasteurized creams can be whipped, though pasteurized will beat up a bit more quickly and will achieve slightly greater volume. Don’t be tempted to overbeat the cream, or you’ll end up making homemade butter. Homemade butter isn’t a bad thing, but if that is what you’re going for you’ll want to leave out the confectioners’ sugar!
A pat of butter and a generous drizzle of maple syrup is probably my favorite way to finish off a plate full of hot-off-the-griddle pancakes, but it isn’t the only option out there. Fresh fruit is another great way to top off pancakes, but as tasty as fresh fruit is, you don’t get the consistency with a handful of sliced berries and I like to have some sauce for my pancakes to soak up as I eat them.
This Strawberry Guava Syrup is a quick syrup I made in the microwave using fresh strawberries and some guava jelly (jelly or preserves available in most markets). It is one of those things that I realized I should share even though it isn’t particularly “fancy” because it is so good I’ve whipped some up at least a half dozen times since berry season started! The syrup has a lovely fresh and tropical flavor to it and, while it isn’t particularly thick, you end up with big chunks of strawberries in the finished syrup that add a nice look and texture to plates full of pancakes and waffles.
I use fresh strawberries for this recipe, but frozen berries will also work. The frozen berries will break down much more quickly than fresh strawberries will, so with frozen berries you might want to cook the syrup a little bit longer to break them down even further, creating a thicker syrup with fewer large chunks of berries. Frozen strawberries might also require a little extra sweetener that fresh berries at the height of the season will not need, so stir in an extra tablespoonful of sugar or so as necessary.
You can serve this syrup on anything, but since I’ve showcased it on top of a pile of fluffy buttermilk pancakes, I’m including the recipe for those as well as the syrup. The syrup is best the day it is made because that is when you can really taste the strawberry and guava separately. As you store it, the flavors will meld together a bit. Fortunately, the syrup takes less than a minute to make (and less than 5 minutes if you have to chop up the berries) so making it just before serving is even easier than making the pancakes to go with it.
While I do enjoy a good slice of cheesecake, I prefer to make cheesecake bars at home when I’m looking for a cheesecake fix. They’re easy to make, have a short baking time and don’t need to be baked in a water bath. They also make a great basic recipe for putting all kinds of variations on for different flavors. For this batch, I wanted to add a key lime element to my cheesecake bars and get the richness of cheesecake and the tang of a key lime pie in one dessert.
Most of the flavor comes from a homemade key lime curd that is swirled into the cheesecake batter before baking. This curd is a twist on a lower fat lemon curd recipe that I absolutely love. Made with tart key lime juice, the curd is very bright and citrusy. It makes for a nice contrast with the rich tasting cream cheese filling. I simply added a few dollops of the curd into the cheesecake and lightly swirled it around with a butter knife before baking. In some places where there was more curd than others, the lime curd sank below the cheesecake (other places it remained lightly swirled on top), creating a nice layered effect. The whole dessert is much less sweet than key lime pie, with a wonderfully rich cheesecake texture and a very refreshing lime flavor. If you don’t have key limes, you can use regular limes in the recipe for lime curd.
The bars have a vanilla crumb crust that is made with crushed vanilla wafer cookies and butter, and is baked and cooled before being filled with cheesecake mixture. Graham crackers would work for the crust, as well, but the vanilla adds a nice mellow flavor that goes very well with the flavor of the cream cheese. The crust holds up very well to the filling without getting soggy, and while it would be crumbly if you tried to slice it on its own, the filling adds the perfect amount of moisture to keep it together and still slice easily.