The BEST Lemon Cake Recipe and Berries, Cherries, and Pies (Oh My!)

The BEST Lemon Cake Recipe and Berries, Cherries, and Pies (Oh My!)

Spring means berries and cherries and all the delicious baking that goes with it! Even if you can’t go to the farm, let the farm come to you by way of your local grocer and get ready to cherry and berry. Click to skip to the recipe

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

 

When I think of Spring, I think about berry pickin’. When I was little, my grandparents had a huge garden. (They also raised pigs and chickens… but that’s another story.) In the garden we picked ripe strawberries from vines for Gram when asked.

We usually ate more than we turned over for Gram’s famous berry pies as was evidenced by our stained (and somewhat guilty) smiles.

At the end of Gram and Gramp’s long, dirt drive was a hedge of berry bushes. I think they were huckleberries, but they could have been blackberries. I remember my brother and sister and I would pick the berries and thread them onto long straws and then eat them like an ear of corn. Yumm! Many of these didn’t make it to the pies, either.

Luckily, Gram had nine grandchildren, and even given our full bellies, pies were baked!

Today, I love to take my grandkids to a strawberry patch at this time of year, but, in this climate of social distancing, the patches are devoid of pickers, yet abundant in berries. I recently bought a box of over-sized deeply red, ripe, strawberries from my grocery store. The handwritten sign told me that they came from a local farm, not but five miles away.

Which leads me to my berry recipes! The first is not a recipe. It’s a “just a little extra’ to your everyday standard.

I’m talking about blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup.

Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Sauce

easy blueberry pancakes with blueberry sauce

I add a dash of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my standard boxed pancake batter. Then I substitute melted butter for vegetable oil. This creates rich batter for your cakes.

I reserve about twenty blueberries from a pint. The rest I place into a deep saucepan. Pour maple syrup over the berries and simmer on low until the berries break down. Be careful, the berry syrup can bubble up if you’re not watching. Turn off the heat so that the syrup cools down a bit.

Make the pancakes as you normally would, but place a few of the reserved berries onto each one before you flip it over. Stack the blueberry pancakes on a plate. Top with a dollop of butter and ladle warm berry syrup over the top. The cakes absorb the berrieness from inside and out! It’s a treat.

As you might imagine, I can find myself with a bunch of leftover berries. These, I freeze and use to make smoothies and sauces. My lemon cake is the perfect foil for an easy berry sauce.

Glazed Lemon Cake With Very Berry Sauce

Serves:

Time:

A crowd

30-Minute Cuisine, Plus 1 Hour Baking

Ingredients

This lemony cake with berry sauce is just puckerable enough to make it into the lip smackin’ category.

For cake:

1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup butter, 1 ½ sticks, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

¼ cup sour cream

Zest from 2 lemons, about 2 tablespoons

Juice from 2 lemons, about ¼ cup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon cream

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For berries:

4 cups assorted berries (I used frozen left-over berries)

½ cup granulated sugar

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9” x 5” loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Fit a piece of parchment paper into the pan with some of the sheets overlapping so that you can use the paper to remove the cake after baking. Then spray the paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and 1 cup sugar until creamy and smooth. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the lemon zest and juice from 2 lemons, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the flour about ½ cup at a time, until the batter is just mixed together. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 to 60 minutes. Cool the pan on the rack for 30 minutes, then transfer the cake from the pan to the rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, juice from 1 lemon, cream, and vanilla. The glaze will be thick, but pourable. Place the cake onto your serving platter. Pour the glaze over top.

Place the berries and ½ cup sugar into a deep saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat. Cook the berries until they break down and are soft and mushy. Cool to room temperature. Place a colander into a larger bowl. Push the berries through the colander, using the potato masher. You want most of the pulp and seeds to stay in the colander. Transfer what’s left in the bowl to a small pitcher.

Drizzle the sauce onto a plate. Top with a slice of cake and a few extra berries for garnish.

Best Cherry Tart Recipe

I have a thing with cherries. I love cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry chutney. Just eating freshly pitted cherries with grandson, Ben, is a blast. He loves the pitting!

On the flip side, I deeply dislike canned cherry pie filling; Don’t get me started!

So, I came up with a way to satisfy my cherry pie craving, using fresh cherries and time-saving refrigerated puff pastry dough. It’s easy and delish!

Serves:

Time:

Makes about 20 palm-sized tarts

30-Minute Cuisine

Ingredients

These little tarts are best warm from the oven. You can make them and freeze them and bake them off when you’re ready for a treat!

For cherry filling:

2 pints fresh cherries, pitted about 3 cups

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

Zest from 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon

Juice from 2 lemons, about ¼ cup

For pies:

1 (13.5-ounce) refrigerated package puff pastry dough

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used raspberry flavored coarse sugar)

Mini Cherry Tarts

Place the cherries into a deep saucepan. Add the sugar and splash in about 2 tablespoons of water. Heat the cherries over medium heat until they begin to breakdown and the sugar dissolves, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir together the cornstarch, lemon zest and juice until smooth and pour into the pot. Continue simmering until the cherries begin to bubble up the sides of the pan. Use a potato masher to mush together the cherries in the syrupy sauce. Continue simmering until the mixture resembles fruit jam. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Place the dough onto your floured board or work surface. Roll out the dough to a rectangle about 15” x 18” and about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into four equal strips, horizontally and 5 equal pieces, vertically. You will end up with about 20 squares.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Place a colander into a larger bowl. Pour the cherries through the colander, using the potato masher to squeeze out as much of the juice as possible. Place a tablespoon of cherry filling on each square of dough. Fold the dough over and seal with the tines of a fork. I folded mine into triangles, but rectangles or squares are fine too! Place each tart onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each tart with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until the tarts are puffed and golden, about 15 to 18 minutes.

My Taste of Italy!

My Taste of Italy!

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy. We visited Sorento and the Amalfi coast and then motored our way north to the region of Tuscany. Most of us on the trip took in the sights and attractions, but I focused on the food and wine.

We interspersed multi-course meals in Michelin star restaurants with neighborhood trattoria’s (many of which offered menus featuring pages of pizza and pasta choices). I came away with three favorite dishes.

At the Don Alfonso 1890 Ristorante in Sorrento you can choose from several pre-set menus, starting with three courses and adding up to an astounding seven! My favorite course was dessert, a large platter filled with bite size pastries from truffles to cookies to nut-coated cake sticks, all set atop a smoke filled background. It was something! I’m posting a video to my social media on this one!

Just a quick nine minute helicopter ride from Sorrento you are transported to cliff side gardens and vast views of the Amalfi coast in the quaint city of Ravello. The Belmond restaurant in the Hotel Caruso sits at the top of the village and offers an outstanding dining experience. The menu features fresh Mediterranean cuisine, starring seafood from the coastal waters.

My favorite dish was an elegantly presented tuna tartar infused with fresh peaches. It was almost too gorgeous to eat, but I took one for our team and devoured every bite.

My final meal was a delicious lunch at Osteria di Passigno in Tuscany. The restaurant sits next to an ancient abbey house where a few monks still reside. The fields are filled with grape vines. A few varieties of wine are grown here, but the pride and joy is the Chianti Classico, a designation of wine that is solely made in this area.

After a quick tour of the winery and gardens, we were treated to a multi course meal that started with an extra virgin olive oil tasting and finished with pear-filled puff pastry drizzled with locally grown honey.
My favorite dish was a brothy fish stew accented with shaved vegetables that rose like stalagmites from the center of the dish.

I arrived home after a lengthy day (I mean 24 hours) of traveling. After a day of emptying suitcases, petting the parent-deprived dog and checking in with pals, I found myself in the kitchen. Inspired as I was, my first dish was neither pasta nor pizza. Instead, it was the delicious Mediterranean inspired fish dishes that won me over.

It took only a quick trip to the market to come up with the ingredients for one of my favorite dishes from SUNDAY BEST DISHES, Puttanesca Poached Cod. I share it with you, not only because it is a simple, yummy dish, but also, because it might inspire you to make Italy a destination in your travel plans.

 

Puttanesca Poached Cod

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies packed in oil

1 (14-ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, about 8 to 10 medium size, sliced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 cup red wine

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 (4 to 6-ounce) fillets of cod

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Lemon wedges

Place the olive oil and anchovies (with oil) in a skillet over low heat. Cook until the anchovies begin to melt. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic and capers. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the wine. Cook until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cod into the sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until the cod just begins to flake, about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Season the top of the fillets with salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Serve the cod surrounded by the sauce and lemon wedges.

 

 

Sammy’s Doughnut Factory!

Sammy’s Doughnut Factory!

That

That’s my grandson. livin’ it up in his Happy Place!

One of my grandson’s favorite things to do with his Papa is to visit the doughnut factory! This, if you haven’t guessed yet, is Krispy Crème. There’s something about watching the dough fry in the hot oil, and then travel through that sugar shower that no six-year-old can possibly resist!

With the addition of my new fryer, I’m experimenting with all sorts of fried delicacies. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I can’t match Papa’s doughnut factory experience, but I’ve come up with my own… guaranteed to catch the delight of my grandson and my adult pals as well.

Welcome to my Churro Shop. With just a bit of effort, you can set up your churro shop at home too! Give it a try!!

Churros with Cinnamon Sugar & Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Serves a crowd

30 Minute Cuisine

You cannot eat your way through Spain without finding your way into a Churro shop. Kinda like Krispy Crème, these doughnut-like wedges are served warm, right out of the fryer. They differ in that they are doused in cinnamon sugar, and served with a pot of warm chocolate for dipping. It’s pretty darn delicious.

For Churros:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

Vegetable oil for frying

For coating:

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For Chocolate Sauce:

½ cup heavy cream

12-ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat 2 cups water, butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a deep saucepot over medium-high heat until the butter is melted about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour into the wet ingredients until it forms a dough ball. You want everything mixed together well. Let the dough cool to room temperature, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use an electric mixer to combine the dough with the eggs.

Transfer the dough (in batches) to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until you are ready to fry.

Mix together ½ cup granulated sugar with ground cinnamon in a bowl. Transfer this mixture to a sugar shaker if you own one.

Heat heavy cream with chocolate chips in a bowl in the microwave, cooking 1 minute at a time. Stir in between cooking, until all the chocolate is melted.

Heat the oil in a fryer or deep pot to 375°. Remember to make sure that the oil only comes ⅓ up the side of the pot. The oil will bubble up when you add the churros. Cut the piped dough into 4 to 6-inch long pieces. (Basically, churros can be as long as you like, if they fit into your fryer). Place the dough lengths into the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon to gently move the churros in the oil. Cook until just golden brown. Transfer the churros to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Generously sprinkle the hot churros with cinnamon sugar. Serve with hot chocolate for dipping.

Cookies Made for Dippin’

Cookies Made for Dippin’

I’m a few weeks early for a Fall vibe, but I’m ready for autumn already 🙂

You’re craving a cookie. You run to the panty, mix up a batter, add in all the chocolate pieces and nuts you can find. Next, you scoop them onto a baking sheet and voila… you have a cookie!

Hold your horses! What if you bake the cookie two times? Whaaat!? But why? I’ll tell you why. These cookies get a crispy outer crust (with a chewy center!), and hold up to a swim in a deep, dark cup o’Joe! I’m talking about biscotti.

Italian biscotti is a twice baked crisp biscuit, designed to be served for dunking – in coffee or your favorite dessert wine.  When I’ve got a friends coming over, I love to “roll out the welcome”, as you can see in the photos below – check out the ingredients going into this light and fun dessert. It’s a little different than your traditional Italian recipe.

Traditional biscotti is flavored with anise seeds and hazelnuts.  You can make your biscotti even more exotic by dipping the ends into melted chocolate.  Here’s one of my favorite recipes from my book Fresh Traditions: Classic Dishes for a Contemporary Lifestyle. I broke it down into numbered steps this time.

Macadamia and Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Use this recipe as a guide to create your own favorite biscotti.  Substitute your favor nut, white or milk chocolate – or eliminate both and add a tablespoon of your favorite liquor, or a touch of almond extract.  It’s all good!

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt
  2. Use an electric mixer to combine the sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Stir in the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture.
  6. Stir in the macadamia nuts and chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the dough in half.  Wrap each half in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the dough from the freezer.  Use your hands to form each piece into a log, about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide.  Place both logs on a Silpat (or parchment) lined baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven.
  9. Reduce the oven temperature to 300.  Cool the logs for 15 minutes.  Use a serrated knife to cut each log into diagonal ½-inch slices.  Lay the slices onto the baking sheet.  Bake until the biscotti is golden and dry to the touch, about 30 more minutes.

Yield:  3 dozen

Preparation Time:  20 minutes, plus refrigerating the dough and 1 hour total baking time

Summertime and the Peach Desserts are Easy…

Summertime and the Peach Desserts are Easy…

Summer screams for ice cream, and ice cream screams for bold new flavors. While walking through the Farmer’s Market last Saturday, I came to a popsicle stand advertising the most interesting flavors: Lavender Chocolate, Roasted Blueberry, Thyme & Lime. It was fascinating! Inspired by these unique combinations, and having just bagged loads of juicy, fresh peaches, I embarked on a little ice cream screamin’ myself!

First, I decided to roast the peaches. Since I never roasted peached before, this was a bit of a trial. I preheated the oven to 400°, and divided my sliced peaches into groups. I placed half on parchment paper (on a baking sheet), and the other half on the sheet itself. Here they are in glorious detail:

Then I divided these groups, and sprinkled half with brown sugar. I placed the pan in the oven and waited. After 5 minutes, the peaches began to break down, but did not appear to brown. I waited 5 minutes more, and noticed that the peaches with brown sugar were beginning to brown. After a total of 12 minutes, the group with brown sugar looked perfect. Success!

Now for the ice cream! In my book, Sunday Best Dishes, I have a recipe for Salted Caramel Ice Cream. It involves caramelizing the sugar before you mix it into the custard. It sounds hard, but it’s really not. I made the caramel ice cream base (without the salt) and stirred in the peach puree. Let me just tell you I am really delighted with the results. And, I think you will be too.

What this recipe really shows is first how easy it is to make ice cream at home and secondly, how easy it is to make your own inspirational ice cream at home, using your favorite flavors and whatever is in season. I encourage you to give it a try and share your screamin’ ice cream with your fellow foodies here at Jorj.com.

Roasted Peach and Caramel Ice Cream

Serves a crowd

30 Minute Cuisine plus cooling and chilling

Roasting fresh picked peaches intensifies the flavor and gives them a hint of smokiness. Caramelizing the sugar intensifies the sweetness. Seems to me, it’s a match made in ice cream heaven!

6 to 8 medium peaches, peeled and thinly sliced

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 cups half and half

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup granulated sugar

6 large egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the sliced peaches onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the peaches, and gently toss. Roast the peaches until they begin to break down and turn golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the peaches to a blender and puree. You will get about 2 cups of really yummy peach puree.

Heat the half and half, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat, until little bubbles begin to form on the sides of the pan, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Heat the sugar in a separate saucepan pan with ¼ cup water, over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Increase the heat and bring the sugar to a boil. Continue boiling until the sugar begins to turn caramel in color, about 8 minutes. Gently swirl the pan to make sure that the sugar colors evenly.

Now, here is the tricky part. SLOWLY pour the warm half and half into the caramel. As it first blends, the hot caramel will bubble up and expand up the sides of the pan. Stop pouring until the bubbles settle down, and then pour in the rest of the half and half.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. Carefully pour about ¼ cup of the caramel half and half into the eggs, whisking constantly. This will temper the egg yolks and help to prevent them from scrambling. Pour the tempered egg yolks into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, and stir until the caramel custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour the custard through a fine sieve (or colander) into a clean bowl. Stir in the peach puree. Place that bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes. Chill the peach custard, stirring occasionally, until it comes to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Cover the custard with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Place the custard into the bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions for your machine. Serve immediately, or place the ice cream into an airtight container in the freezer. When you serve it it’ll look like this, PEACHY KEEN: