Strawberry Shortcake

strawberriesIn my world, strawberry shortcake means and says summer:  it brings to mind hot summer days with picnics, barbecues, 4th of July celebrations.  There is nothing like the taste of a strawberries freshly picked from the garden or the local farm stand:  they are small, plump, red and have the sweetest smell.  The beauty of strawberry shortcake is that from one party to the next it will taste different according to how the host flavors the strawberries, the whipped cream and what biscuit recipe is used.  I have yet to meet a person who does not like strawberry shortcake.  Here is my version … Happy 4th of July!shortcake making

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed and halved
  • 1/4 cup lemon verbena simple syrup
  • one recipe whipped cream
  • one recipe baking powder biscuits

Half hour to 45 minutes before you will serve dessert, mix the strawberries and the syrup. If you do not have the syrup, mix the berries with 3 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Let sit.

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS (makes about a dozen)  I get my recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.photo-106

  • 4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted  butter (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • one egg wash (one lightly beaten egg)

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  in a large bowl. whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.biscuit making

Pour in the heavy cream; using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface.  With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 1 1/4 inch thick, pressing any loose bits.  Do not overwork the dough.  Use a floured 2 1/4 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits as close as possible, using one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.shortcakebaking shortcake

Place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Before baking, brush rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)strawberries and cream

In a large bowl whipped the heavy cream until soft.  Slowly mix in the rest of the ingredients   and beat until a bit more soft but not stiff.

When ready to serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife.  Place the bottom part of the biscuit on a plate, spoon a dollop of the cream, spoon some strawberries and accumulated juice and cover with the biscuit top.  Serve with remaining cream and strawberry mixture.strawberry shortcake

NOTE: If you do not have a biscuit cutter you can use a glass but make sure to do a clean cut without twisting the glass in the dough as it will stop the biscuit from rising when baking.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Clafoutis aux Apricots / Apricot Clafoutis

apricotsGoing to the market toward the end of June can be a great source of inspiration.  The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and beautiful produce begin appearing on the shelves. Among the cherries and local strawberries, one will find apricots.  If you are lucky you might even find  black velvet apricots.  I cannot resist them: poached, grilled, simply cut in yogurt in the morning, and this time… a clafoutis.black velvet apricots

The best part about this dessert is that you make it in a blender… so easy and not a lot to clean up! My mother is a great baker and I grew up eating the classic clafoutis, one made with cherries.  I am a bit more of an adventurous baker thus the apricots.

CLAFOUTIS AUX APRICOTS

  • 10 to 12 ripe apricots, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/3 plus 2 tablespoon sugar separated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • confectioner sugar for dusting

clafoutis ingredientsPreheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Butter  a 10 inch quiche/tart pan 2 inches high (NOT a removable bottom tart pan).  Line the bottom of the pan with the apricots and dust with the 2 tablespoon of sugar.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, until all the ingredients are blended into what will look like a homogeneous smoothie like substance.making clafoutis

Slowly pour over the apricots (it’s ok if some of the fruits are not totally covered). Bake for 45 minutes in the middle rack of the preheated oven.

When ready: the clafoutis should be golden, puffy and a knife inserted in the middle should comes out clean, let rest 10 minutes. Sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner sugar and serve. Clafoutis are best eaten warm or room temperature.dusting apricots with sugar

NOTE: Experiment with other stone fruits : cherries, regular or italian plums when in season.apricot clafoutis

from my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Flan au sirop d’erable / Maple flan

maple syrupA couple of weeks ago we caravanned to Montreal with a group of friends.  We were on our way to Martin Picard’s  La Cabane a sucre du Pied de Cochon.  Cabane a sucre / maple shack is a big Quebecois tradition.  We are proud of our maple syrup and no other one will do! Chef Picard has Le Pied de Cochon restaurant in Montreal and la Cabane outside of the city.  I had made the reservations back in December crossing my fingers we would get in and found out in February that yes! we did get a table.  The whole experience was worth the wait!cabane a sucre pdc

Growing up in Montreal, the Cabane a sucre was a yearly tradition; one of family times as well as school field trips.  My husband has seen his share of cabanes when we were first married and lived in Montreal, but with my children born and raised in the U.S. it was a real treat to have them experience this food extravaganza for the first time in their lives.

Needless to say when we came back we were on a vegetable-only diet for a while but maple syrup kept being on my mind.  We even ended up smoking our ham for Easter and basting it with a maple glaze, but that is another post.  In the meantime enjoy simple, easy-to-make Maple Flan.flan maple

FLAN AU SIROP D’ERABLE / MAPLE FLAN

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoon maple syrup divided
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.

In a medium size saucepan combine the sugar with 3 tablespoon maple syrup and cook on medium heat until the mixture is thick , bubbly and amber color.  The mixture will be very hot and you will have to work quickly.  Pour into a flan pan : I use a 10 inch round about 1 3/4 inch high pan.  With oven mitts (remember the mixture is very hot!) quickly swirl the mixture to cover the entire surface of the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

It is very important while making the caramel to NOT stir the mixture constantly as it will burn and get hard.  Stir to start and then just let it be.  You want to pour it in the pan when it is all melted and amber.  Be quick as it can go from amber to burnt!

In the same saucepan you used for the caramel, quickly pour the cream and milk and return to the stove and heat up but do not bring to a boil.flan

In the meantime, in a large bowl whisk the eggs, yolks, vanilla and remaining 3 tablespoon of maple syrup.  Slowly pour the hot milk/cream mixture and keep whisking until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the caramel coated pan and set the pan in a large sheet pan or roasting pan.  Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up half way up the sides of the flan pan.  Cover loosely with foil and bake for an hour or until the custard is firm to the touch.

Take the pan out of the water bath and let it cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chill, about 3 hours.

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, cover with a large shallow plater ( as you will have a fair amount of syrup coming out of the dish) and quickly invert the flan onto the platter.  Slice onto plates and make sure you spoon lots of of the syrup with each serving!flan

NOTE:  Please! do NOT use fake maple syrup !!! it will ruin the taste , if you do not have maple syrup, use honey: for the caramel part, add 2 tablespoon of sugar to the one cup and for the custard substitute honey for maple syrup.  One more note, I could not go to the Cabane and not have my picture taken with Martin Picard.  Merci  Chef for your generosity and for being such a source of inspiration!!martin picard

Brownies

brownies on pewter pedestalWe have all made our share of brownies. In fact, it was the first dessert I ever baked.  I was too afraid to make a cake and deal with frosting, and preferred being rewarded by a chocolate success that everybody is more then happy to devour.  Some people like their brownies “cakey” others “gooey” – I like mine à la Nigella.  When I got her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess back in 2001 I discovered her brownie recipe and have been using it ever since.  Everybody I have served them to exclaims how wonderful “my” recipe is and all I can say is Oh! Thank you Nigella for turning me into a domestic goddess!  Try it and judge for yourself, I’m sure you too will make it your brownie recipe.brownie ingredients

BROWNIES (by Nigella Lawson)

  • 1 2/3 cup soft unsalted butter (3 sticks and 3 tablespoons)
  • 13 ounces BEST bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a brownie pan (13 x 9 x 2.5 inches) with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, set aside and let cool.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and sugar.  Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.brownie making

Transfer the cooled chocolate into a bowl.  Beat in the eggs/sugar mixture and then the flour.  Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape into the lined pan.brownies

Bake for about 25 minutes.  When it’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark, dense and gooey.  And even with such a big batch you do need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.

NOTE: I like my brownies plain but you can add 1 1/3 cup of walnuts or other nuts, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries or shredded coconut.brownie and milk

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Poached plums

plumsTwo weeks ago while visiting my daughter in Montreal we both decided to have a “family” dinner with her roommates and a few friends.  One of my favorite things to do while away from home is going in farmer’s markets and grocery stores.  I get inspired by what is available and current in the city or region I am visiting.  While going down the aisles we came up with a menu: crabmeat stuffed fillet of sole, pears wrapped in prosciutto, haricots verts… As we were leaving the produce section I spotted our dessert! Beautiful plums on sale! They are not in season but a trip to the liquor store will take care of making a tasty dessert.

POACHED PLUMS

  • 6 medium plums
  • 1 1/2 cups of red wine ( I like to use Malbec)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • one pinch of ground cloves

Wash and cut the plums in half.  With the help of a small spoon, remove the pit. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the wine, sugar and spices to a boil.  Give the syrup a stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved.    Put the plums in the pan making sure they all get covered with the liquid.  Bring the temperature down to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes uncovered.  The plums are ready when they feel soft when pierce with a knife.poached plums

Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.  Serve with ice cream , whipped cream or on their own for dessert.  They are also great with yogurt or on french toast, waffles and pancakes for breakfast.

NOTE: The cooking time will depend on how ripe the plums you purchased are.  Make sure not to overcook them as you will end up with mushy broken plums.breakfast

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Blood orange sherbet

blood orangesBlood oranges are in season and since it is a short one, I can’t resist buying them.  They are wonderful eaten as is, in fruit salads or on a bed of greens.  They are not as acidic as regular oranges and their sweet juice makes wonderful cocktails.  I love them as a soda : Orangina Rouge and the Sanpellegrino Aranciata Rossa being two of my favorites.  Trying them as a sherbet was even better! The dramatic red of the juice turned into a beautiful pink frozen dessert so light and refreshing, the perfect ending to our Sunday meal.juicing blood oranges

BLOOD ORANGE SHERBET

  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 blood orange juice (from about 10 to 12 oranges) cold
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan mix the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure the sugar is totally dissolved.  You will have what is called a simple syrup.  Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until cold (about a  hour).simple syrup ingredients

In a large measuring cup with a spout, mix the cold syrup, juice and heavy cream.  Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manuel ‘s instructions.

Once processed, transfer the sherbet into a freezer safe container and freeze for about 6 hours or overnight .  When ready, just scoop and eat.  The sherbet will keep in the freezer for about a week.blood orange sherbet

NOTE:  you can make the recipe without the heavy cream, you will then have a sorbet as sherbet usually has dairy and sorbet is fruit juice or puree with simple syrup.  I just like that creamsicle taste and feel, thus the heavy cream.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du bouchersherbet and scoop

Chocolate Truffle Cake

chocolate chunksWhen we think of love the following icons come to mind: flowers, pink, red, Cupid and…. let’s not forget,  Chocolate!  For this Valentine’s day I offer you Chocolate Truffle Cake.  Flour-less, part cake, part truffle, it is the easiest cake ever! The hardest part is to get it out of the pan!  This cake has been part of my go-to dessert repetoire for 20 years and is always a great success, especially with the chocoholics in my life.  It came from the Maida Heatter’s Best Dessert Book Ever and the recipe is said to come from the famous Hotel de Crillon in Paris.   It is so rich it can easily serve 12 to 16 guests.  Served with a soft whipped cream infused with your favorite liqueur it will be the perfect ending for that romantic dinner come Valentine’s day.chocolate cake ingredients

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKE

  • 8 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into four pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Prepare an 9 inch round cake pan by buttering the pan liberally and by lining the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.  Butter the paper and dust with a mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder.  Set aside.cake pan

In a double boiler melt the chocolate, butter and sugar together over medium heat.  Stir frequently until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is smooth with no trace of grains of sugar  Remove the top pan from the double boiler and off heat beat the eggs one at a time with a whisk making sure the mixture stays smooth.

Transfer the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan.  Place the pan into a sheet pan/jelly roll pan and place in the oven.  Add a couple of inch of hot water to the pan and bake for one hour.melting chocolate

Carefully remove the cake pan from the hot water and let cool completely.  Once cool, loosely cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 3 hours or overnight .

Now, is the hard part: to remove the cake from the pan, run a very thin knife around the pan to release the edges.  Run some hot water in the bottom of the sink and let the pan stand in for a bit; not too long as the cake will melt.  Cover the pan with a cutting board and turn the pan upside down and bang the pan a few times.  The cake will finally come out.  The cake will be very thin, about 2 inches.  Put back in the fridge without removing the parchment paper until ready to serve.chocolate cake

When ready to serve, peel the paper from the cake.  Do not worry if the cake looks messy and wrinkled, that is when the cocoa powder comes handy.  Transfer the cake to a serving plate or platter and, with a fine mesh sifter, sprinkle the cocoa powder covering the entire surface of the cake.  Let sit 30 to 45 minutes before serving.

Serve with a soft whipped cream sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoon rum , you can also use Grand Marnier, Kahlua or Cognac

In a cold bowl and beaters from an electric beater, beat the heavy cream and sugar until it holds its shape.  You want more of a “sauce” then whipped cream.  Fold in the liqueur of your choice and refrigerate until ready to serve the cake.chocolate cake slices

NOTE:  should you have cake left, you can cut into individual pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze as you would chocolate truffles.  Just bring back to room temperature before eating.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucherroses