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
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
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
30-Minute Cuisine, Plus 1 Hour Baking
This lemony cake with berry sauce is just puckerable enough to make it into the lip smackin’ category.
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
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Juice from 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups assorted berries (I used frozen left-over berries)
½ cup granulated sugar
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!
Makes about 20 palm-sized tarts
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!
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (I used raspberry flavored coarse sugar)
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.
If there is a Facebook Quiz that analyzes your personality traits and tells you what color you are, I would be YELLOW. It’s my favorite color. I love all things yellow; yellow blouses, yellow tulips, yellow dishes, yellow gift wrap, yellow lemons…… yellow everything! Yellow is so not brown. Yellow is not red hot. Yellow is not calmingly green. Yellow is not a sad shade of blue. Yellow is perky and optimistic and bright and personable and…. well… me!
So, while others were hording toilet tissue, I was hording sunflowers (for my kitchen vase), eggs (sunny side up of course), semolina flour (that’s for my brand new pizza oven) and lemons. Lots and lots of lemons. Sure, lemons are sour, which is why God gave us sugar!
The combination of egg yolks with the zest and juice of lemons, produces a custard with a consistency between pudding and jam. You can spread lemon curd on your English muffin, swirl it in the center of a pound cake, whip it into a mousse, transform it into ice cream or make lemon curd parfaits for a light, airy and bright spring dessert.
And that’s what I did here. Enjoy!
Lemon Curd Parfaits
with Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream
30 minute cuisine, plus 20 minutes for biscuits
For lemon curd
3 large lemons, about 2 tablespoons zest and ½ cup juice
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ pound butter, room temperature, 1 stick
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint strawberries, stemmed and cut in half
For mascarpone cream
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cream
¼ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup shortening
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Zest the lemons and place into a bowl with the sugar. Use a fork to combine. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the lemon-sugar, which you will need later when you assemble the parfaits. Pour the remaining lemon-sugar blend into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the butter and mix until creamy. Add the egg yolks, the juice from the lemons and the salt.
Heat water to a simmer in a pan (some bubbling, but not a mad boil). Place a heat proof bowl over the simmering water. You can use a double boiler for this. Pour the mixture into the bowl. Stir and simmer until the curd thickens, about 10 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, you can make sure your curd is plenty thick when it reaches 170°. Cool the curd and then transfer it to a jar or plastic container. You can refrigerate the curd for up to 2 weeks.
Place the strawberries into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the reserved lemon-sugar. Stir and set aside. You can chill the berries for up to several days.
Place the mascarpone cheese, sour cream and vanilla into a small bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture together until smooth and creamy.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and ½ cup sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix together. Take off the lid of the machine. Pinch the shortening into small pieces on top of the flour mixture. Return the top to the machine. Pulse until the flour turns into coarse crumbs and begins to climb up the side of the bowl. With the machine running, slowly pour in the buttermilk/eggs. The dough will clump together and begin to wrap around the blade.
Dump the dough onto your floured work surface. It will be soft and sticky! Dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Use your hands to pat the dough down to about ½-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round biscuit cutter (or top of a glass) to cut 12 circles from the dough, reusing the scraps. Place the dough circles onto the baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits begin to rise and turn golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemon-sugar into the melted butter. Remove the biscuits from the oven and brush with the sugared butter. Cool to room temperature.
To assemble the parfaits, cut one biscuit in half. Break a biscuit half into pieces and place into the bottom of a glass (or container of your choice). Spoon some of the strawberries over the biscuit. Add a spoonful of mascarpone cream and a large spoonful of lemon curd. Repeat with the other half of the biscuit, strawberries, cream and curd. You can drizzle some of the sugared berry juice on the top. Place the remaining 6 biscuits into a resealable plastic bag. You can keep these in the fridge or freezer.
Here’s a tall tale for you: I was hiking the Profile Trail in Pisgah National Forest, when I ran smack dab into a budding blueberry bush, that sent me down an exciting path with black bears, and ultimately led to the baking of my Blueberry-Lemon Sour Cream Cake. That’s a fairy tale, here’s the truth:
Actually, I was poking around the woods (behind the Ninth Green), looking for my lost golf ball, when – scout’s honor – I crawled under a blueberry bush with little green blueberries budding on the branches. The ball was lost, but the inspiration was found!
It will be a while before those blueberries are ready for pickin’, so a quick trip to the farmer’s market (or grocery store) is just about all you need for this yummy snack. I stick the blueberries in the middle and top of the cake, but you can stir them right into the batter if you like.
The only thing you absolutely cannot do, is NOT bake this cake! I won’t make you eat the whole thing instead, BUT I WILL suggest you bake the cake, and take half to a pal who needs to smile. You never know when even a small act of kindness can make a large difference in someone’s day! It’s perfect for a morning snack with your piping hot cup of coffee, an afternoon bite with a chilled glass of lemonade, and an after-dinner treat with a soothing cup of tea. Guess this makes it a must-bake cake for all occasions.
Blueberry-Lemon Sour Cream Cake
serves 8 to 10
15 minute cuisine, plus about an hour to bake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
Juice from 1 Meyer lemon, about 2 tablespoons
Zest from 1 Meyer lemon, about 1 tablespoon
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375°. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the eggs with the granulated sugar until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Mix in the sour cream, oil and vanilla. Stir in the lemon juice and zest. Stir the dry ingredients into the batter.
Stir the cornstarch into the blueberries. Pour half of the batter into a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment paper. Top with half of the blueberries. Pour the remaining batter on top and sprinkle the rest of the blueberries over the top. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out with crumbs, (it will mostly come out with melting blueberries, but you can see crumbs rather than batter) about 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.
This cupcake has it all: a graham cracker crust, chocolate cake, and what seems like a mile-high scoop of marshmallow soft, gooey, vanilla frosting, charred on the peaks. It was an oooow ahhh kinda moment when a friend of mine introduced me to this scrumptious dessert. We were listening to 70’s disco music on my Echo Show (don’t you just love these new-fangled gadgets?) when I got a call from my pal, inviting us to dinner the following evening. She’s a great cook, so of course I said yes. It also helps that she and her hubby, George … yup, another one… are terrific people who have an amazing wine cellar, not to mention a very interesting group of friends.
And then this happened.
I offered to bring something, knowing full well she would have it all under control. But, she said, “Sure. Why don’t you bring along dessert?”
As you all know, desserts are not my forte, although I make a valiant attempt and never, ever post a dessert recipe until I’ve tried it a couple of times to make sure it works! That night, I rose to the challenge, fueled by sweet memories of a friend who wowed her dinner guests, myself included, with a Smore’s cupcake.
Here’s how it came to pass. I combed the internet for recipes and found a few. I combined the best of them, adding coffee to the chocolate cake (makes it even more decadent), and then loaded up my butane torch. Well, it was FUN, and they were delicious. Rest assured, I have made sure that these cupcakes are easier than they look. I’ve checked the cooking time and counted out the graham crackers. Give my recipe a try and tell me what you think! You might want s’more……
Makes about 18 to 20 cupcakes
60 Minute Cuisine
One bite and you are pulled back to that campfire you remember as a child. Everyone passed around charred marshmallows, squished between chocolate and graham crackers. This is a decadent cupcake made better with the addition of brewed coffee, enhancing the chocolate cake. Dolloping a huge scoop of the marshmallow-like frosting, and toasting just the tips has everyone smiling!
2 sleeves graham crackers, about 72 crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted, ½ stick
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup butter milk
1 cup brewed coffee
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners.
Use a food processor to pulse the graham crackers into crumbs. Pour in the butter and add the sugar. Continue to pulse until the crackers come together to form coarse crumbs. Spoon 2 tablespoons of crumbs into the bottom of the cupcake papers. Press down gently with the back of the spoon. Bake until the crumb crust is just beginning to turn brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Whisk together the flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Pour in the buttermilk, coffee and vegetable oil. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Continue to whisk until the batter is smooth and shiny. Pour the batter on top of the graham cracker crusts to about ¾ full. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes to room temperature.
Place the egg whites, 2 more cups granulated sugar and cream of tartar into a bowl, sitting over simmering water (double boiler). Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the eggs are warm, about 5 minutes. Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the warmed egg whites starting on low and gradually increasing the speed to high, until the frosting is shiny and peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the vanilla. Use an ice cream scoop to dollop a scoop of frosting onto each cupcake. You can use a kitchen torch to gently brown the tips of the frosting to resemble roasted marshmallows.
Standing at the farmer’s market last Saturday, I found myself caught between two stalls. The first held six-dollar bags of yellow or white peaches. The second held a bin full of paper wrapped, fried hand pies. I admit, I was hungry and those pies are really inviting – especially when the guy next to you forks over a couple of bills, peels down the paper and takes that first crunchy, flaky bite. Stare, stare…. Drool, drool.
And then I remembered about this new product I wanted to experiment with. It’s Wewalka, European-style fresh bakery dough. I had previously tried the pizza crust, and loved the simplicity of rolling out pizza dough that was already on parchment paper. You simply lift the dough onto a baking sheet and build your pizza.
With fresh bakery dough stored in my fridge, I opted for the bag of fresh peaches and made my way home. Later that evening, my pal, Jenny (the one who cans her own marmalade) decided to make fried peach hand pies. Talk about a perfect compromise!
From family to family, here in the South, there is debate about how to make a traditional hand pie. There is agreement that the original pies were made with dried fruits, reconstituted to avoid a leaky, wet filling. Today, when fresh is best, the wet filling problem is solved by adding a generous amount of thickener to freshen the fruit and control the filling to dough ratio. Hand pies are primarily deep fried in a fryer or large pot of boiling oil on the stove, but they can also be fried in a cast iron skillet and even baked! The dough is usually lighter than pie dough… more like a rolled biscuit dough because it holds up better in the fryer.
Jenny and I absorbed all the hand pie info we could find, and decided to modify a peach pie recipe for the filling using our prepared puff pastry dough. Well, I’m telling you, the results were well worth the investigation! Our hand pies were puffy, golden, crisp and a perfect ratio of crust to fruit filling.
My pies looked like a puffy, jelly doughnut and smelled like hot beignets. But they tasted and satisfied like a pie. We topped them with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon, and served them with vanilla ice cream.
I wouldn’t hesitate to make these hand pies with any fruit you like, or a combination of fruits and fresh herbs. Truth is, I wouldn’t hesitate to make these pies. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!
Handy Fried Peach Pies
30 Minute Cuisine
Fried hand pies are a Southern favorite. Using prepared dough helps jump start the process, making this dish as easy as … well, as easy as pie!
5 to 6 ripe, fresh peaches, peeled and diced, about 5 cups
Place the diced peaches into a bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and flour. Stir and let sit while you prepare the dough.
Cut 4-inch rounds from the pastry dough. Cut as many as you can, about 8 per sheet.
Heat vegetable oil to 375°. If you are using a large pot, pour the oil ⅓ way up the side of the pot, and use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature. Remember the oil will bubble up the sides of the pot when you add the pies.
Place one round of pastry dough onto your work surface. Use a slotted spoon to place 1 to 2 spoonfuls of peach filling into the center of the dough. Leave a border around the edge. (You want the peaches, not much of the liquid.) Take another round of dough, and place it on the top of the filling. Use a fork to crimp the edges together. Repeat with the remaining rounds.
Gently place the pies into the hot oi. Cook until golden on one side. Use a slotted spoon or wire basket to carefully flip the pies to cook until golden on the second side. This whole process will only take a couple of minutes. Transfer the pies to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and a bit more cinnamon.
After Market Leftovers
You are going to have extra scraps of dough, and perhaps some extra peaches left over. Tear the dough into scraps and fry them up! Sprinkle with sugar and set them in a bowl. I guarantee you, they will be gone before you turn around…. But if not, store them in an airtight container. They will stay crisp for several days!
Same goes for extra peaches. Place them into a pot and add maple syrup. Heat the peaches in the syrup until bubbling, about 5 minutes. Pour the hot maple/peach syrup over pancakes, waffles or French toast.