Category Archives: Desserts

Homemade Fudgsicles

This post is for my dad–a true Fudgsicle fanatic.  🙂

Food blogs this time of year churn out recipes for frozen goodness at an alarming rate.  My Google reader feed has been awash in these recipes, but alas, I have not been able to try any of them for lack of equipment.  Until now.  While my very own Kitchenaid ice cream attachment remains a (near constant) daydream, I recently treated myself to a set of Tovolo Goovy Pop popsicle molds.  Now, now I could finally satisfy my craving for homemade frozen goodness!

What better way to break my molds in than with a recipe for homemade Fudgsicles?  When I saw this recipe on Baking Bites, I knew I had to try it.  With no preservatives and no ingredients I can’t pronounce, these popsicles are ridiculously easy to make and even more ridiculously delicious.  If you are a chocoholic (or related to one), I recommend whipping up a batch of these, stat!  Cold, creamy, chocolatey, with exactly the right Fudgsicle texture…frozen hard enough to last a while, but soft enough to get some nice big bites to melt on your tongue.

The only downside to this recipe is that it is MESSY when you get to the pouring-into-molds part.  Then again, is that really a downside?  I mean, as a culture, have we gotten ourselves into such a state that we can’t handle a little bit of mess from time to time?  If the mess really bothers you, you can always use a small funnel and a ladle to fill your molds.  If you’re like me, though, a Fudgsicle-stained apron (and, erm, face, and hands…) is a culinary badge of honor.  🙂

Mmmph.  About these photos.  The camera I am currently using appears to be having a tantrum, and thus was quite uncooperative today.  That, and I am learning that popsicles are just dang difficult to photograph, especially by oneself!  Not a total loss, though.  I think the photos do an adequate job of conveying the texture and richness of the fudgsicles, though they’re certainly not foodgawker-worthy.  On a happy side note, I discovered that my photo-editing software can generate collages.  So, enjoy!  🙂  (If you want to see a really great photograph of these popsicles, check out Baking Bite’s photo!)

Homemade Fudgsicles
Recipe from Baking Bites
Makes 6(ish) Fudgsicles
2 cups milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup granulate sugar
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat just until sugar and cocoa have dissolved.  Pour into molds and freeze until solid.

Note: if you don’t have popsicle molds, never fear!  You can use little paper cups or ice cube trays and plain popsicle sticks for the handle.


Summer Berry and Stone Fruit Galette

I am having a great summer.  My summer job (at a summer-long camp for boys) keeps me feeling like I am outdoors most of the day, even though I work in the office.  I have had an eerily good run of days off with excellent weather; it always seems to rain on days when I’m working, when it rains at all.  My brain is finally relaxed after nine months of intense social work classes last school year, and (dare I say it) perhaps I’m even ready to dive back into all that again in a few weeks.

To symbolize this wonderful summer, I wanted to make a special dessert this weekend.  I’ve been combing my 44 (and counting) food blog feeds for pie recipes.  I don’t know, for some reason I just have pie on the brain.  My friend Tony recommended key lime pie, which I very nearly chose this weekend (I have been eyeing this recipe from Baking Bites).  However, I was feeling a little more loose, a little more flexible, perhaps from all the So You Think You Can Dance I’ve been watching lately.  I wanted something a little less precise, a little less confined-to-the-pan.  The solution?  A galette, or free-form tart.  This type of tart uses a fairly sturdy and mostly fool-proof dough that usually contains a bit of cornmeal.  Summer fruit desserts are pretty much my favorite thing ever, so to fill my galette I chose fresh blueberries, peaches, apricots, plums, and raspberries.

This was my first time making a galette, and I clearly don’t have the dough thickness down yet.  The part of my galette that is NOT visible in the photo is the side where I rolled the pastry too thin.  Too thin pastry = juices leaking out everywhere.  On the upside, I enjoyed several spoonfuls of warm filling that had spilled out onto the baking sheet when I pulled it out of the oven.  Yum!  🙂

The pastry dough itself is very easy to handle, not terribly finicky.  I chilled my dough per the original recipe and found that it rolled pretty well.  Next time I will be more careful about looking over the pastry for thin spots (and reinforcing them) before filling the galette with all that glorious fruit.

This tart is so simple, and so delicious, I don’t think I need to say much more about it than that.

Galette Pastry
Adapted from The Skillet Chronicles
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup organic cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup ice water (may need more or less, I needed a bit more)

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt, stirring well.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, blending with a fork until dough comes together.  Turn dough onto a large piece of parchment and gently form into a ball.  Flatten ball into a rough disk shape, wrap completely and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour but not more than 24 hours.  (Dough can be frozen at this point for future use.)

Berry and Stone Fruit Filling
Adapted from The Skillet Chronicles
2 medium peaches, pitted and sliced
2 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
1 large black plum, pitted and sliced
1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons milk

In a medium mixing bowl, combine fruits, the 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt, stirring gently.  Set aside while you roll out the pastry.

Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a large piece of parchment paper, being careful not to let any one area get too thin.  Entire piece of pastry should be about 1/8 inch thick.  Slide parchment and dough onto a baking sheet.  Dough can be refrigerated at this point, up to one hour (if you have not made your filling yet, for example).

Preheat oven to 375F.  When ready to bake, arrange fruit mixture in center of chilled pastry dough, leaving a border of about 2 inches around the outside edge.  Gently fold the pastry up over the fruit, pressing the dough into evenly-spaced pleats to enclose the fruit.  Use a bench scraper or sharp broad knife to gently loosen dough from parchment if it sticks or resists folding.  Brush the pastry edge with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45-55 minutes.  Allow to cool until galette is set enough to slide off the baking sheet.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry on Foodista

The Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that Almost Wasn’t

The title of this post says it all.  I set out to make a strawberry rhubarb pie for Memorial Day, and very nearly had a pie-related meltdown in the process.  I had never attempt strawberry rhubarb anything before, so I did my research.  I found a filling recipe and a crust recipe that looked compatible and fairly straightforward.  Hmm, isn’t it funny how sometimes things are SO not what they seem?

The filling came together beautifully.  However, the pie crust dough was another story (that I will get to in a moment).  The filling ended up sitting for about 10 or 15 minutes while I wrestled with the pastry dough, and in that time span released so much juice that I knew I could not pour all of it into the (now tamed) pastry-lined pie pan.

Meanwhile, the pastry dough.  Insert animal-like growl of rage here.  This pastry dough was nearly the end of me, and I am not ashamed to say I shed an angry tear over it, while standing in the middle of my kitchen wearing my pink flowered apron.  Here is the problem with the dough recipe as originally written: cake flour, or more specifically Softasilk cake flour, cannot–CANNOT–withstand the necessary rolling out process for making a pie crust.  Not even with a thorough refrigeration period.  My theory is that cake flour simply doesn’t have the structural capabilities of regular flour.  Thus, my pastry dough did nothing but tear, rip, and stick to the counter.  In the end, I ended up managing a quick enough roll-and-place maneuver that most of the dough got into the pie pan in some sort of evenly thin layer.  There were holes and cracks aplenty, though, so I had to perform pastry surgery, fitting in little pieces of dough here and there.  The unbaked, unfilled pie crust was not at all attractive.  At this point, I very nearly threw both it and the waiting fruit filling into the trash.  The ingredients for this pie cost me almost $12!  With that in mind, I said to myself, “Self, we’ve come this far…let’s just bung the rest of it together, throw it in the oven, and see what we get afterward!”

And that is what I did.  At this point, the filling went in.  I scooped the fruit in and most of the juice.  I just used my best judgment, and when I felt like enough of the released juices were in the pie pan, I stopped pouring.  I would say about 3/4 cup of juice was left over in the bowl.  Useless, but tasty when licked off the back of the spoon.

Now, we encounter the problem of what the dickens to put on top of this pie.  By this time I had decided that I was absolutely, IN NO WAY, attempting lovely little lattices to weave across the top.  No sirree Bob.  Employing some quick thinking, I decided to roll out the dough and use a drinking glass to cut circles out.  The circles went somewhat symmetrically on top of the pie (I was going for a bit of a floral shape), and the pie went (FINALLY) into the oven.

I baked it for about 45-50 minutes.  I kept an eye on it, and when the filling looked somewhat set, I took it out of the oven and let it cool completely (which took probably 3 or 4 hours).  During this cooling period, I basically ignored it and tried not to obsess over what it was going to look like when I finally cut into it.

I must add here that I also used a new pie pan for the first time, a stoneware plate from my grandmother.  The new pie plate plus the frustration of the recipe led me to have very low expectations for the final result.

Friends, I am happy to report that this pie was quite possibly the best pie–all pies previously consumed by me included–ever.  While I was most skeptical about the crust, the end result was a delicious, sweet, flaky crust that was not at all soggy.  I think my gut instinct re: the amount of juice in the pie as well as the wonderful heat conductive properties of my new pie plate were the primary causes of the delicious crust.  The filling was, in a word, perfect.  Tart, sweet, with soft but not gloopy fruit.  Just enough texture to tell the difference between a berry and ‘barb (rhubarb, get it?).

I am posting the recipes below as I made them.  If you try this recipe, please let me know how it works for you, and what tweaks you added.

P.s. I have since made a second fruit pie with a variation of the following pastry recipe, and I think I have completely cured this dough of its utter unmanageability.  🙂

Classic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

Adapted from For the Love of Food
3 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
3 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 – 2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, mix together all filling ingredients except butter.  Set aside until ready to use.  For best results place in prepared pie crust and bake within 20 minutes.

Sweet Pastry Crust
Adapted from Life’s A Feast
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
14 Tablespoons butter, chilled
2 large eggs, beaten

Combine flour and sugar in medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse sand.  Vigorously stir in beaten egg until a dough ball forms.  Cut the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.  (The larger dough ball will become the bottom crust).  Wrap and chill until ready to roll out.

Preheat oven 425F.  Oil or grease your pie plate.  Rolled larger ball of chilled pastry dough into a large circle, about 2 inches larger than the top of your pie plate.  Working quickly, place pastry into pie plate, smoothing wrinkles and filling in cracks or holes with extra dough.  Trim the edges of the crust to just over the edge of your pie plate.  Using your fingers, make a decorative edge.  Or, just use a fork to pressthe crust lightly against the edge of the pie plate.

Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust.  Pour filling mixture into prepared crust.  If your filling as released a lot of juice, scoop the fruit into the crust and then add the juice just until your pie plate is nearly full.  Do not overfill with juice!  Dot top of filling with the 1 Tablespoon of butter.

Roll out the second ball of pastry.  Cut into strips for a lattice, or other shapes such as circles.  If using circles, arrange them over the top of the filling so the edges touch but so there are enough vents for steam to escape.  If doing a lattice crust, weave alternating strips across the top of the filling.

Place pie in center of preheated oven.  Bake at 425F for the first 25 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375F and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  Pie is done when crust is golden brown and the filling juices are bubbly and thickened.  For best results, allow pie to cool completely to room temperature before serving.

Classic Lemon Bars

I absolutely adore lemon bars.  Sadly, I have had my fair share of icky lemon bars, both homemade and store-bought.  Sometimes these summery treats are too tart, while others can be sickeningly sweet.  Oftentimes the crust is thick and hard, while the lemon filling is merely a Pledge-flavored film across the top.  The perfect combination of tart lemon, sweet powdered sugar, and butter crust is, apparently, the Holy Grail of baking.

Friends, I’m here to say that if these bars aren’t the Holy Grail, they’re awful close.  I found this recipe at Baked Bree, one of my favorite food blogs.  My criteria for a new lemon bar recipe is based on past experience.  Lemon bars should have a thick but delicate cookie crust.  The lemon filling needs to be curd-like, thick, and rich, without becoming “overset” and rubbery.  The lemon filling must NOT get a tough skin after baking.  And, finally, the lemon filling must be at least equal to but preferably a third again the thickness (height) of the cookie crust.  I have this down to a science, people.

I chose to try Baked Bree’s recipe for two reasons.  First, her lovely photographs hinted that her lemon filling might meet the height criteria.  And second, the use of confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar in the crust promised a crumb more tender than my previous recipes (which all used granulated sugar).

The recipe did not disappoint.  These bars are exactly the right thickness in both crust and filling.  The lemon filling was wonderfully lemony without being too tart or too sweet.  The crust was, as I envisioned, thick but delicate, with a wonderful buttery flavor.  Without question I can tell you that this recipe will now be my go-to for lemon bars.

I only made two tweaks.  I omitted the lemon extract (none on hand) and replaced it with a teaspoon of lemon zest.  Also, I don’t have a food processer, so I made the crust by hand and the filling in my blender.  These technique modifications appear to have had no ill effect, as I made these yesterday and of the entire pan there are only 4 small squares left.  Make that 3…

Classic Lemon Bars
Adapted from Baked Bree
Makes one 9″x13″ pan

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
A pinch of salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter

4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
The juice of two lemons
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9″x13″ baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Press crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until light golden.  Remove from oven and let cool a bit.

Meanwhile, place all the filling ingredients except the baking powder in the blender.  Blend until smooth and well-mixed.  Add the baking powder and blend well right before you’re ready to pour the filling into the crust.  Pour filling into the warm crust.  Return to the oven and bake another 25 minutes or until the filling is set in the center.  Let cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into squares, and serve.

Strawberry Shortcakes

As promised, friends, here is another blog update.  I apologize for the lapse in posting.  Once again, the demands of grad school have eaten up all my time.  I have, however, had enough time to draw you this fantastic graphic to illustrate that point.

Anyhoo, I have been craving my most favorite summer dessert: strawberry shortcake.  After perusing my foodgawker feed for recipes, I settled on this one from food republik.  The lemony biscuits were what intrigued me.  My previous exposure (considerable though it has been) has been limited to the standard buttermilk biscuit or the buttery pound cake as the canvas upon which the strawberry deliciousness can be displayed in all its wonderment.

Yeah, anyway.  I followed this recipe pretty much as is.  The biscuits were scrumptious.  The berries, however, did not need the lemon juice.  Who puts lemon juice on strawberries?  I knew better than to add it, even thought to myself “What are you doing?!?” as I squeezed a lemon over the berries.  Oh well.  They were still yummy, but the berries were too lemony for my taste.  I think the lemony biscuits got overshadowed by equally lemony berries.  Next time I will make the lemon biscuits and the whipped cream, but I will continue to use my old strawberry topping recipe: berries, sugar, and a dash of vanilla.

A serving side note: My family’s tradition with shortcakes, crumbles, crisps, cobblers, and fruit pies is to serve the dessert in a bowl of regular milk.  This goes way, way, waaaaay back, and it’s so delicious I have no intention whatsoever of deviating from tradition.  When I serve this shortcake, I break a biscuit into 2 or 3 chunks and place it in a bowl.  Then I pour on some milk, add the berries on top, and finish it off with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.  Scrumtrillescent!

Lemony Strawberry Shortcakes
Adapted from food republik, who adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6

Sweet Lemon Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 scant tsp baking soda
2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk (make sour milk by adding a scant Tbs of vinegar or lemon juice to 2/3 cup milk)
Extra buttermilk or regular milk, about 2 Tbs (for brushing tops of biscuits)
Extra sugar, about 1 Tbs (for sprinkling)

2 pounds ripe strawberries, washed and hulled
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Whipped Cream
1 cup chilled whipping cream
3 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the lemon zest and buttermilk. Fold gently into dry ingredients until incorporated.
Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat (with floured hands) into a circle about 1.5 inches thick. Cut dough into 6 wedges and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush wedges with extra buttermilk (or regular milk) and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into middle of biscuits comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cut the strawberries into quarters (or halves if they’re small), and mix with the sugar and lemon juice. Let macerate for about 15 minutes.

Beat the whipping cream with the sugar until it forms soft peaks.

When biscuits are done, let them cool about 5 minutes, then cut them in half (or do what I do–simply tear biscuits into 2 or 3 chunks and place in bowl, to be topped with a heaping spoonful of berries). Pile with strawberries and whipped cream, and serve immediately.