Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings Read more…

NY Style Bagels

Amy's New York Style BagelsWho Needs Noah?
NY Style Bagels have been a popular topic lately. The rise of the Boichick Bagels from Berkeley (as well as the article in the New York Times) have led to bagel lovers searching far and wide to get a taste of what the Times called the best bagels in the country. That’s what they said. I’m not trying to start a fight. I know how adamant people can be about their bagels. I do, however, propose another way to enjoy a great bagel.

Many of us in the last year have turned to bread making—as anyone looking for flour and yeast last April can attest. Thousands of people were introduced to the world of sourdough. I myself got back into bread making but I went a different direction. A few months ago, I had this idea that I wanted something different for breakfast that weekend, but I was tired of the usual sweeter stuff. My daughter had been making some soft pretzels that she saw online. And, watching her prompted me to want to learn about making bagels. (The concept is somewhat similar)

The idea may sound daunting but it’s really not. It does require an overnight rise in your fridge. So, planning ahead is key. Admittedly, the process would have been harder had I not seen a video on YouTube from NY Times contributor Clair Saffitz. As a visual learner, watching this video made the whole process easier. If you are interested in trying to make bagels, I highly recommend you watch this 10-minute video first.

When making bagels, be prepared for a workout. You will be kneading this dough for at least 20 minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to miss arm day…

My first batch of bagels was kind of wonky. I followed Claire’s recipe exactly and while they tasted good, even though I left them in the oven a couple minutes too long, I struggled with shaping them. Ultimately, I gave up on the rope/snake version and tried shaping by making a hole in the middle of the dough ball and stretching it out. (She mentions that method briefly in the video) The result was a puffy, perfectly chewy bagel that looks more like the bagel shape I am used to seeing. (Not sure if that makes it any less authentic?…) This has remained my go-to method of making bagels ever since.

I have yet to make my bagels with toppings on them like everything seasoning or sesame seeds. Personally, I prefer a plain bagel so that I can go savory or sweet depending on my mood. Also, you may or may not get a full dozen out of the dough. I weigh all of my ingredients on a scale and I have never had the same quantity result. Don’t worry if that happens to you. It is what it is…

I have also learned that doubling the batch is a requirement if you have teenage boys in your home. A single batch is great if you just want bagels for a Sunday morning. If you want to have some, say for the week, it’s best to make a double batch. Whatever you don’t eat that day can be sliced and put in the freezer. All you do is grab one and throw it in the toaster for a perfect weekday breakfast.

Another word of advice? Line your cookie sheets with parchment and/or spray them lightly! The water and malt syrup bath can make them stick to the sheet, which is a bummer.

NY Style Bagels Recipe
Adapted from the New York Times Cooking
Yields 12 bagels (most of the time)
Read more…

Amy’s Almost Battenburg Cake

Amy’s Almost Battenburg CakeBattenburg Bunny
When I think of Easter baking two things come to mind: Hot Cross Buns and Carrot Cake. They are two undisputed staples of the Easter celebration. But, as much as I enjoy a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes you just want to do something different. Be a rebel. Take a walk on the wild side. (Okay, wild might be a bit strong.)

My issue is while I know I want to something different, I’m just not sure what that might be. My strawberries are starting to bear fruit—but not nearly in the quantities I need for a dessert for a crowd. There are enough for a nice little snack while watering the garden, though.

Something lemony is always a good idea. The bright yellow color and bright lemony flavor are perfect for a Spring /Easter brunch or dinner. But, finding something new was challenging until I remembered a cake from one of my favorite TV show binges from this past year.

My mother-in-law had been telling us to watch the Durrells in Corfu on PBS for the past couple of years…well before lockdown. So, my husband and I decided to take the plunge out of a desperate need for entertainment. And, we were very glad we did. It’s hilarious, and made even more so because it was way too similar to how my husband was brought up.

Battenburg cake has a reoccurring part in the show. So, of course I was intrigued. I have never made one nor have I ever tasted one. But, there’s no time like the present…right? I found a recipe on Food 52 and have adapted it with lemon rather than marzipan and a buttercream frosting. So, while it may not actually be a Battenburg cake, it will still look like one!   Read more…

Olallieberry Scones

Olallieberry Scones

Berries A-Go-Go
I am a big fan of portable breakfast. I mean I also love pancakes and waffles and French toast. But, there is something about grabbing something personal-sized with a cup of coffee that is just too stress-free to pass up. And really, who doesn’t like a fresh croissant or a well-made scone? Or two…

I try to make muffins, or banana bread, or whatever every Sunday so that there is something to grab that is quick and easy Monday morning when no one in my house is really ready to face the new week. Now that spring has arrived my mind is turning towards the berries that should be available soon, most notably the olallieberries.

I became an olallieberry fanatic while going to school in Oregon. The berries there are ridiculous and you will find them everywhere in everything. I once enjoyed an olallieberry scone that was life-changing while walking to class one morning. I have been trying to reproduce it ever since. And, I’ve come close but haven’t gotten it right yet—but the fun part is in the trying.

As the days get warmer the local berry patches will start opening for U-pick. I plan to be first in line. While they may not be quite the same experience as their Oregon relatives, our local berries are so so good, especially warm from the vine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it—and about my next attempt at those magnificent scones.

This is one time where substituting frozen berries for fresh won’t work. The frozen berries would add too much liquid to the scones. So, it looks like you might just have to spend a beautiful day outdoors in a berry patch (or, yes, you could buy them too). It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Olallieberry Scones
Yields 8 American-style scones Read more…