Category Archives: Sweet

My Take on Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake is a summer dessert staple here in the south. Even more so here in Florida where some of the best strawberries you could ever have are grown in state. Heck, we even have a festival for it. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. However, all this strawberry pride has led to some overly processed sugar bombs that don’t even deserve the shortcake name. I wanted to do away with all that and bring the focus back where it needed to be – on the strawberries.

The base of my dish is a slightly sweet black pepper biscuit. It might seem a bit odd, but the tiny bit of heat you get from the freshly ground pepper goes wonderfully with the sweetness from the cream and the berries. Also, I do acknowledge that there is a bit of sugar in each component of this recipe, but I tried to use it in a way that enhances rather than overpowers. Don’t let the multiple components throw you – the biscuits are the only tricky bit to this recipe; everything else is super simple.

Biscuits (makes 9-12 depending on size)
Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp organic sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees F
  2. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together with a fork.
  3. Pour cream into well in the center of the dry mixture and stir gently with the fork until the mixture begins to come together.
  4. Turn contents of bowl out onto a floured surface and shape into a rough ball.
  5. Fold the ball in half and press out with the heel of your hand. Turn 90 degrees and repeat eight more times.
  6. Pat mixture into large disk approximately 1/2 inch thick
  7. Use a glass with a greased rim to cut out biscuits (do not twist or the edges will seal and prevent biscuit from rising).
  8. Once you’ve cut out all of the biscuits you can, place them on the baking sheet and combine remaining dough and make another round of biscuits. Repeat until dough is gone.
  9. Bake biscuits for 13-15 minutes.
  10. Place on rack to cool completely before using.

Strawberries
Ingredients:

  • 1lb ripe strawberries
  • 1 heaping tbsp organic sugar

Directions:

  1. Slice strawberries
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries and sugar tossing to coat the berries.
  3. Store mixture in refrigerator for 2 hours to allow juices to collect.

Whipped Cream
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsps powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Chill mixing bowl in fridge for 1 hour prior to making the whipped cream.
  2. In chilled bowl, combine sugar and cream and whip on high until soft peaks form.
    *Do not over whip or mixture will begin to turn into butter.

Assemble components and enjoy!

So there you go – simple, special, and perfect for summer.


Mexican Hot Chocolate Inspired Brownies

Most of the baking I do is for funsies, but right now I am working on recipes to use for an international inspired dessert buffet. I still have a few weeks to figure everything out, but I want to do a trial run of as many recipes as I can before we hit crunch time. While taste is obviously first and foremost, this time around I need to figure out how to make things easy to eat, simple to make, and ideally something that stores well so I am not trying to make everything the day of. The first item I decided to work on was brownie bites inspired by the spice and richness of Mexican Hot Chocolate. I’d found a few recipes online, and while I could certainly cobble together a recipe to suit my needs from scratch, I really wanted something that would tick the “time” and “ease” boxes if at all possible. Enter box brownie mix. I picked one of my favorite brownie mixes (both rich and fudgy like the hot chocolate) and added the spice elements I wanted to highlight, poured it in my mini muffin tin, and checked it every five minutes until the brownies were set. We had a winner! There will need to be a little tweaking to the spice level, but all in all, I consider this a solid option and can check one more thing off my list.

Ingredients:

  • Ghirardelli Supreme Brownie Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup veggie oil
  • 1/4 tsp of orange zest
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 tsp cheyenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Grease mini muffin tin and set aside.
  2. Dissolve espresso granules into the 1/4 cup of water and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and stir until completely incorporated.
  4. Fill muffin wells half way with batter and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before gently removing from tin. Enjoy!

* If you choose substitute in another box mix, be sure to choose one without chocolate chips or pieces added. It’ll throw off the balance of spice, and with the bites being so small, you run the risk of the chips burning against the sides of the tin before the brownie is set. 


Back to Basic: Blueberry Muffins

For the last couple of years, my yearly lists of goals have included trying a certain number of recipes from a cookbook I’d purchased. This started in part because I was one of those people who bought books and very seldom used them, and also because I wanted to be more intentional about the things I was bringing into my life (books included). For years 30 and 31, I picked books that would force me to stretch my abilities and push me further out of my comfort zone, but this year I wanted to try something different. With me starting to write recipes of my own, I wanted to go back to the basics and really work on refining my scratch baking. Also, regardless of how I look, I am southern, and I think it’s a bit embarrassing that I bake and I’ve only made biscuits once or twice. So I took to Amazon and found Muffins and Biscuits, and just a few days after my 32nd birthday, I tried my first recipe: Blueberry Muffins. I am hoping to alternate and make their basic biscuits the next time around.

Notes:

  • Yummy, yummy muffins! And the streusel recipe for the topping!? These are great without it, but it really elevates the whole muffin.
  • I split the difference between 12 regular muffins and 6 jumbo muffins, and settled on 9 muffins in a regular tin, but just really full. My baking time increased by 5ish minutes, but they turned out just fine.
  • Don’t be afraid to really layer in the fruit. I got a bit jumpy, and I didn’t use the full 2 cups of blueberries because everything was looking a bit crowded as I assembled, but they puffed up quite a bit and, while delicious, would have benefited from the additional fruit.

Vegan Banana Coconut Custard Pie

With my birthday mere days away, I had to write one more recipe to cross #7 off my 31 before 32. This weekend’s trip to the VegFest inspired me to create a vegan dessert. I did some research, cobbled together bits and pieces of some things that I found interesting, and came up with this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of full fat unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 1/3 cup melted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat over to 350 F and spray pie tin with nonstick spray.
  2. Crush all the cookies into crumbs and mix with the vegan butter.
  3. Pat the crumb mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. While your crust cools, pour the coconut milk into the pan and heat, ultimately to a boil.
  5. As your coconut milk heats, combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the heating milk.
  6. After the cornstarch has completely dissolved,  add the sugar and stir.
  7. Right as your coconut milk beings to bubble, whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
  8. Once the mixture again reaches a boil, remove from heat and whisk for 2 minutes while it thickens. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. While your “custard” cools, slice your bananas and layer them on your cooled crust.
  10. Pour the custard over your sliced bananas and place the entire pie in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  11. Enjoy!
    * To take your pie to the next level, sprinkle with toasted coconut when you serve it 😉

All in all, not bad for my first vegan custard.


Lightly Lavender Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I consider myself a fairly competent amateur baker, and I have made some really delicious things, but every once in a while I surprise even myself. That’s how I feel about these Lightly Lavender Lemon Meringue Cupcakes I made this weekend. I’ve wanted to frost something with simple meringue ever since I tried this recipe a few weeks ago. The meringue was so pretty and glossy, and the flavor was lovely on its own. Perfect for a spring cupcake. We all know lemon is a time honored companion for meringue, so figured that would be a safe bet for my main flavor. Last year, I  had lavender in lemonade so I decided to make that the “something special” that would take these cupcakes up a notch. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever made, and my taste testers RAVED about them.  I am so excited to share this recipe with you guys, and I hope you love them as much as I do.

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 1 box King Arthur Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp veggie oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lavender extract (optional)
  • 2 tsp chopped or pulverized lavender buds

Filling:

Frosting:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar

Special equipment: Kitchen torch

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Combine cake mix, butter, veggie oil and eggs in mixer until combined.
  3. Mix in zest, milk, extract and mix until thoroghly combined
  4. Fold in chopped buds.
  5. Fill cupcake liners
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow cupcakes to cool.
  8. Using a knife or a cupcake corer, create a hole in the center of each cupcake.
  9. Transfer lemon curd to ziplock bag and clip off one corner. Use to fill cored cupcakes.
  10. In a double boiler, heat 2 inches of water in the lower pot. When water boils place top pot over boiling water carefully so that the boiling water doesn’t touch the bottom of the upper bowl.
  11. Combine egg whites and sugar in top bowl.
  12. Whisk gently over heat until mixture become slightly more opaque and the sugar has fully dissolved.
  13. Transfer the mixture to a mixer and whip on high for 10 minutes until it doubles in size and reaches stiff peak stage.
  14. Pipe your meringue onto your filled cupcakes.
  15. Toast meringue lightly (and carefully) with kitchen torch.
  16. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • I’ve doubled the amount of lavender called for in my first trial. Lemon is a strong flavor, and my first batch only had the passing hint of lavender. Don’t over do it though; too much lavender will leave your cupcakes tasting like soap.
  • I recommend chopping or pulverizing the lavender buds before incorporating them into your batter. A whole lavender bud in a single bite can be off putting for a lot of people. I usually crush mine with a mortar and pestle. Same flavor, just a little more diffused throughout the mix.