Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recipe: Lemon-Blueberry Shortcakes with Whipped Cream

This is what I do when I am stressed- I bake. I bake a lot. It relaxes me and keeps my mind off all the things which tend to stress me out since I must concentrate on the task at hand, everything must be perfectly measured and precise. I get to totally control the result- which of course gives me a great deal of satisfaction, I express a little creativity and I get a yummy sugar fix along the way- what more could I want? (actually, a great deal but I wont bore you with that today).

So enough about that- let's move on to the lemon-blueberry shortcakes. I adjusted my biscuit dough a bit by adding a little sugar to it, but they are as flaky as ever. The blueberry compote was quickly put together with a little lemon juice and sugar. I used a pint of blueberries, cooked 1/2 of them in the sauce then added the rest after the removing it from the heat. I added the berries in two additions in order to have more texture, while I wanted a sauce, I also wanted the flavor and texture of fresh berries. I always cut my biscuits with a small cutter, but you may make these as large as you wold like. I think it's hard to tell in the photo, but they are only 2" in a diameter, quite a bit smaller than usual- this of course is to justify eating more than one!


2 -1/4 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling tops
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) cold and cut into 1/4" pieces
1- 1/4 cups buttermilk

Blueberry Compote

1 pint fresh blueberries/ divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 cup heavy whipping cream (very cold)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 450 F


1. In a small non-reactive pot, combine 1/2 pint blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium heat stirring, just until sugar is completely melted. Do not overcook. Remove from heat and add remaining berries mix and set aside.


1. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and mix in with a pastry blender until the butter resembles the size of small peas. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

2. Add buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with a fork until just combined. Scoop dough out of bowl and lay on a floured surface. (it will be quite sticky)

3. With floured hands pat dough into a 1" thick rectangle. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough and fold over from short end three times. Repeat this process three times. Cut out biscuits with a floured cutter and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle shortcakes generously with sugar and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Whipped Cream:

1. In a large bowl, whisk cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form.

Assemble shortcakes by splitting in half, spooning blueberry compote and topping with whipped cream. Garnish with additional lemon zest curls if desired.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blackberry Hand Pies

There just has not been enough dessert around here lately! Which also means I have not had enough dessert- life gets crazy sometimes. We all know what a priority sweet stuff is to me so today we are back on track with these little blackberry hand pies. I know it's not quite summer yet- actually it even isn't quite spring yet, but in 80 degree weather blackberries seem quite seasonal. A friend gave me a basket of berries and I knew exactly what I would do with them as soon as I tasted one. The recipe was inspired by one I had spied in an old Gourmet magazine, I remember thinking what a great idea the addition of grated apple was. The pastry recipe is a good one- it allows for re-rolling of the dough, it is one of the flakiest pie doughs I've had. Let the dough rest a little while before the second roll so it wont be too elastic and want to shrink back. Allow the filling to cool well before assembling the hand pies, this will keep the butter in the pastry from melting before they go in the oven. Parchment paper is a must-have for this recipe, the filling sometimes runs out of the pies making a big sticky mess. The recipe yields 8 hand pies and can be easily doubled.

Blackberry Hand Pies

1 cup fresh blackberries (1/2 pint)
1/2 cup grated apple
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
milk for brushing tops
additional sugar for sprinkling tops

1. In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat cook blackberries, apple, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Hand Pie Pastry Dough

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold, cut in small cubes
2 tablespoons shortening
pinch salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water

1. In food processor or by hand, blend flour, butter, shortening and salt until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and has some pea sized pieces of butter left in it.

2. While pulsing add water a little at a time until dough comes together when pinched in your hand. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 1 day.

Assembling Hand Pies:

1. Roll chilled pastry out on a lightly floured surface into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle. Cut 5 inch squares or circles with pastry wheel. Place the circle in your hand and fill with about a mounded tablespoon of filling. Seal shut pressing the edges well with your fingers. Fold edges over in a decorative shape or seal with the tines of a fork. Re-roll dough scraps to make up to eight circles or squares, allowing it to rest about 10 minutes between rolling.

2. Place hand pie on parchment lined cookie sheet. When all the pies are on the cookie sheet brush with a little milk and generously sprinkle with sugar.

3. bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown, rotating cookie sheet half way through baking. Store at room temperature.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring Greens Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette and Gorgonzola Dolce

You may have noticed I like small meals, specially when I can make them in a small amount of time and still get something interesting and flavorful. I eat a salad almost every day, at the restaurant it is definitely my go to meal for lunch- it's a good thing to balance out all the desserts and chocolate I enjoy so much. I made this spring greens and herb salad after finding a beautiful bag of Mache' greens at the farmers market. I also added herbs from my very early spring garden. Nasturtium leaves which are quite peppery, fresh Thyme and some Greek Oregano. The Greek oregano is doing so well in it's new spot in the garden, I am having to prune it just to keep it from taking over- it's amazing. I made a Sherry vinaigrette which I love, added Thyme and garlic to it and a little honey to cut down on the acidity, then topped the salad off with some yummy Gorgonzola Dolce. The vinaigrette and the gorgonzola Dolce are also quite good with roasted or blanched asparagus.


For the salad use your favorite baby greens and herbs, here are some ideas: Mache', Frisse', Red Oak, Green Oak, baby Romaine, baby Spinach, Radicchio, Clover, and Dandelion greens. For herbs I like to add Nasturtium leaves and flowers, Oregano, Mint, Flat leaf parsley, and my all-time favorite- Thyme.

I added tomatoes and avocado because it's what I had on hand, but bell peppers, carrots, radishes, and cucumber would be great additions as well.

4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce, crumbled

Sherry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients together in a small jar with a lid (I use a jelly jar). Shake well until emulsified. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. (about 1 teaspoon sea salt and 3 turns of the pepper mill) Store in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Drizzle lightly over greens top with Gorgonzola Dolce and serve.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cucumber Sandwiches with Dill and Creme Fraiche

The Silver Spoon, began as a tea room and gourmet food shop 15 years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, when I used to wake every morning and make dainty sandwiches, pastries and scones. I have many fond memories of the tea room, mostly having to do with the great little sandwiches we used to make. When the restaurant outgrew the location we were in and we moved, tea service was no longer the focus and was eventually phased out. This did not exactly break my heart, preparing for afternoon tea day in and day out had become a chore. But, I've had enough of a break from it to start missing it. Well, let me clarify- I don't miss serving tea, I just miss the food; specifically the tea sandwiches. I was talking to my friend Sharman last week about the tea room days, when she suggested I post about the tea sandwiches- (what a wonderful idea!) So in light of that, I will start a tea sandwich series, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

It seems fitting the for the tea sandwich series to begin with the most classic tea sandwich of all- the cucumber sandwich. This is by far one of my favorites and I have been known to consume them in mass quantities. Like every other food I really like, it has it's rules: I like my cucumbers seedless and sliced velum paper thin. The bread must be white, soft and crust-less and the spread must be flavorful and savory. This is a sandwich I eat fairly regularly- with or without tea. The tea-less version I make for lunch is stacked with cucumbers and bread, while the Tea version is dainty and cut into shapes. My most common use for cucumber sandwiches these days are for wedding and baby showers- just the right thing when I am looking for dainty food. When my roses are blooming I either garnish the platter or sandwiches with fresh rose petals. Tea sandwiches tend to dry out quickly, they are best eaten on the day they are prepared. I sometimes cut the bread and store it in a plastic bag until ready to assemble the sandwiches.

Cucumber Sandwiches

1 Loaf white sandwich bread
fresh Dill for garnishing sandwiches
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
about 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Dill
1 medium seedless cucumber, sliced thinly

1. Remove crust from bread with a sharp knife and cut into shapes,triangles, squares, rectangles, hearts, or circles with cookie cutters.

2. Place creme fraiche, garlic powder, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon dill in a small bowl- stir to combine. Spread lightly on bread, top with cucumbers and garnish with fresh dill sprigs. (Can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in the refrigerator).

3. Cover with a damp paper towel until ready to serve to keep the sandwiches from drying out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Citrus Cakeletes

I haven't been doing much posting lately as a result of a short little trip to Virginia to visit my dear friend Sharman. But, I am back, totally energized and full of ideas for the blog and work. I came up with citrus cakelet idea after looking through one of Sharman's Martha Stewart cookbooks which I fell in love with. She was sweet enough to send the book home with me, so today I set out to make the cakes. The recipe originally called for Strawberry jam, I substituted orange marmalade and added the zest of a beautiful bright orange tangelo I found at the market. For the icing, I used the juice of a couple of tangelos mixed with some powdered sugar.

Citrus Cakeletes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1- 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated tangelo, mandarin, or orange zest
6 tablespoons Orange marmalade or preserves of your choice

6 tablespoons Tangelo or Orange juice
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes.

2. Add egg yolks, one at a time, blending well between each one; beat until incorporated.

3. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Add flour and milk to butter mixture and beat until incorporated.

4. Transfer the batter to a large bowl, wash the mixer bowl, then in the same mixer bowl beat egg whites until fluffy at medium high speed.

5. Fold a little bit of the egg whites into the batter at a time until incorporated. Grease and flour a jumbo muffin tin (6). divide half of the batter evenly in the tin, add a tablespoon of preserves or marmalade then cover with additional batter. Make sure the preserves are completely enclosed in the batter so it does not leak out.

6. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Cool on a rack. When muffins are completely cooled through, combine sugar and tangelo juice and spread on tops.

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