Archive for Fruity

Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake

The other morning I woke up and decided that I needed to have cheesecake. I’d recently been to a party that had mini cheesecakes baked in cupcake wrappers but it didn’t quite do the trick for me. So I woke up and craved, needed a proper  cheesecake. I needed gobs of serious cream cheese laced with sugar. I need it to be fruity because fruity means “guilt-free” but chocolatey means “get on the treadmill.” And since I cancelled my gym membership for my impending room, treadmilling was not an option.

Is my thinking delusional? Nahh.

So with reckless abandon I forgot all the errands I had planned to run, did a quick scan of the world wide web, ran to the supermarket (because who keeps 3 blocks of cream cheese around?), ran to fetch my springform pan 20 minutes away, room temperaturized my cream cheese in record time (cheese in ziploc, ziploc in cold water, cold water in bowl), and made a cheesecake!

Run-on sentences are the bomb diggity.

 

This cheesecake was everything I wanted it to be. It was reminiscent of summer with the fresh strawberry topping and delicious coconut crust. The filling itself was not too dense, just how I love it. (Is it blasphemous not to love thick dense cheesecakes if I’m moving to NY?) All in all, a win.

Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake
adapted from epicurious

Ingredients

For crust:

  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled (toast on foil at 400F for 5-10 minutes until browned – be careful not to burn it!)
  • 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/8 c sugar

For filling:

  • 24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 c sweetened cream of coconut (ie Coco Lopez)
  • 1/4 c coconut rum (ie Malibu)

For topping:

  • 2 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 c strawberry jam (seedless preferred)
  • 2 tbsp water

Instructions
For crust: Preheat oven to 350F. Brush springform pan with approximately 1 tbsp melted butter. If needed, line with parchment and brush parchment with extra butter. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining butter, coconut, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar until well moistened. Press into bottom of the springform pan and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges. Cool and reduce oven temperature to 300F.

For filling: Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, cornstarch, and sugar until well combined. Add eggs in one at a time, scraping and mixing completely. Beat in cream of coconut and coconut rum. Strain mixture through a sieve and pour into cooled crust. Bake in a water bath at 300F for 1 hr 40 min (epicurious had all these instructions for covering with foil etc but I omitted and had no issues). The cake should jiggle a bit when done and be browned on the edges. Once done, turn oven off, crack oven door open, and let sit in the oven for 30 minutes before taking out to cool completely in the refrigerator (5 hours or more, preferably overnight).

For topping: Simmer jam and water in a saucepan until combined. Layer strawberries atop cheesecake and brush with glaze. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Can be assembled 8 hours in advance.

Do you ever crave?

Crostata

Is it possible to have too much fun? These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of graduation events, parties, BBQs, and weddings. I think I’ve had more alcohol this past week than plain old water (which, if you know me at all, is not something I normally do). Is that bad?

Consequently, blogging has hit the backburner as I slowly make it through the flurry of goodbyes (many of my friends are leaving the area, myself included, and moving elsewhere for residency) and soaking up the last bits of free time we’ll all have in a long time. I apologize. I’ll try to post consistently but the commenting thing may not happen until I’m settled in July. Be patient.

In the meantime, this crostata was an easy dessert to prepare for my family when time was short. It tasted of summer without requiring any completely fresh fruit (is anyone else terrible at picking out the sweetest fruit from the stand?). You can substitute any jam/preserves you wish making this insanely adaptable to your pantry! Can you really go wrong with Giada?

Crostata with Raspberry Preserves
adapted from Giada at Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp ice water
  • 12 oz (3/4 c) raspberry preserves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
  • powdered sugar, optional

Instructions
In a food processor, blend flour, sugar, and lemon zest. Add in butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add salt and continue pulsing. Add water one tablespoon at a time until dough begins to form together when pressed with your fingers. I used 3 1/2 tablespoons in total. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a round, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, approximately one hour.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 400F. Roll dough out into an 11-inch round on a piece of parchment cut to fit your baking sheet. In a small bowl mix together preserves and lemon juice. Spread over dough, leaving 2 inches all around. Fold over crust, sealing gently, to create an 8-inch round. Place parchment on baking sheet and bake 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. When cooled, sprinkle toasted almonds and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Pig Cake

I have been ridiculously MIA from blogging this past week. As we approach the end of an era (my formal education years), it’s getting quite hectic and I’m trying desperately to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible before my job (JOB! WOOHOO!) starts in June and I move away (not far away but away) and spend sleepless nights at the hospital.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Match Day, or the day all graduating medical students across the country find out where they’ll be working this coming year, was this past Thursday. It was nerve wracking, anxiety inducing, makes-you-need-to-pee-and-want-to-vomit-all-at-the-same-time, and all around torture. But we all got through it. I got my number 2 choice in New York if you’re all wondering. I’m quite happy. Boy is too (he also got his number 2, also in New York, but different institution).

To celebrate, I quickly whipped up this Pig Cake before we all went out for an evening of bad decisions. It was everything I wanted to be. Very few ingredients, meaning less time at the grocery store, whipped up in a matter of minutes, meaning more time hanging out, and tasted wonderfully. Also, it was a single layer cake, perfect for large crowds and for even less kitchen fuss. The cake itself was moist and light and just a bit tropical tasting with the addition of mandarin oranges. The topping was a pure dream. It, too, was light and fluffy with scrumptious chunks of pineapple. The whole cake was sweet but not too sweet and fit in perfectly for the joyous occasion. This will definitely be made again and again without hesitation. I don’t know why exactly it’s called Pig Cake (PW doesn’t either) but I can only surmise that it’s because it’s so incredibly delicious you can’t help but be a little piggy eating more and more!

Sorry there’s only one picture! I was too busy drinking champagne.

Pig Cake
adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

For cake:

  • 1 box Yellow Cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 14 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained, 1/2 c juice reserved
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For topping:

  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, drained, juice reserved
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 4 oz Cool Whip
  • extra mandarin oranges for garnish, optional

Instructions
For cake: Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9×13″ baking pan.

Using an electric mixer, combine cake mix, butter, reserved juice, eggs, and vanilla on medium-high (start out slow to prevent cake mix from flying everywhere) for 4 minutes. Add oranges and beat until they are broken up into small pieces. Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely.

For topping: Mix together vanilla pudding mix and reserved juice. Add powdered sugar followed by the whipped topping, mixing to combine. Stir in pineapple. Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate several hours before serving. Serve with extra mandarin oranges if desired.

What’s your reason to celebrate this week?

DB November – Chocolate Fruit Crostata

 

So how did it go, everyone?

Lots of family, friends, and love? Some turkey with stuffing?  Mashed goodness? Sweet goodies in crusts?

I was lucky this year and celebrated two Thanksgivings, once with my friends and once with my family. That meant double the fun, double the cheer, double the poultry, and double the dessert. So this month’s Daring Bakers challenge could not have come at a better time! This way, I could make the challenge for one Thanksgiving and make the dessert of my choosing for the next. And ohhh how excited I was to make this challenge! It was actually quite easy and I imagine it won’t be the last time I attempt to make a lovely crostata with some minis for snacking.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Chocolate Fruit Crostata
adapted from the Daring Bakers website and Dorie

Makes 1 crostata.

Ingredients

For Pasta Frolla:

  • scant 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For Chocolate Pastry Cream:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp white granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small piece

For Assembly:

  • fruits of your choice, sliced if necessary

Instructions

For Pasta Frolla: [I made mine using a food processor but see the DB website if you are making it by hand.] Pulse sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor to mix. Then add cold butter and pulse until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal. Empty contents of the food processor onto your work surface.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the beaten eggs.  Using a fork, begin to combine the eggs with the dry ingredients then use fingertips to finish. Knead until a ball forms – do NOT overknead as the cold butter will get warmed by your hands and you will lose the flaky crust – and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, patting into a round disk. Chill for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out dough to about 1/8 inch or 3 mm and place in tart pan (or pie plate which is where I made mine). Cut off excess around the edges. Place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil large enough to cover the dough and hang over the edges and place in pan. Fill with dried beans or rice in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes. Take off weights and foil/parchment and bake again for 5 more minutes. If the dough begins to puff up without the weights, gently push it back down with the back of a spoon. Allow shell to cool completely before filling.

You can use leftover dough to make cookies or these little fruit crostatas I made by spooning a bit of strawberry jam atop rounds of dough followed by a lazy lattice (not woven) of dough strips on top.

For Pastry Cream: Heat milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until thick. Whisk in about 1/4 c of the hot milk, stirring constantly so as not to cook the eggs. Then, slowly add the rest of the milk while whisking constantly. Heat this over medium heat and bring to a boil while continue to stir constantly. Once at a boil, continue to cook while whisking constantly for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate and let sit for five minutes. Then, whisk in the butter until fully incorporated. Cool the custard either by refrigerating with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface or using an ice bath and stirring occasionally.

To Assemble: Whisk cream briefly, then spoon into pastry shell. Smooth top with back of spoon. Layer fruit however desired.

PS. Don’t forget about the giveaway!

Apple Crisp + Review

The quest for America.

The quest to land on the moon.

The quest for a map of the human genome.

The quest for the cure for AIDS.

The quest for the perfect apple.

One (and only one) of these things concerned me this weekend.

I went apple picking! (Incidentally, do you enjoy these pictures of yours truly? Do they add to the experience? Or no? I appreciate the feedback.)

It was a gorgeous day in the TriState area so Boy and I took a little trip down to an orchard for some afternoon fun in the sun with some apples.

And I’m sure we’re not the only people who suffer from this problem but we really got into the quest for the perfect looking apple and would pick, and pick, and pick to our heart’s content until the bags got a little too heavy for even Boy to carry. (My heart soared when he grabbed my bag early on in the picking. That meant one hand for pictures and one for apples! Yay!) Then we realized that the two of us had to eat two entire bags of apples. Oh goodness. We picked Granny Smith, Winesap, Fuji, and Empire apples and I couldn’t wait to get started on some fall baking!

I had gone apple picking a few years ago with different friends from school and afterwards held a get-together at my place. I spent the afternoon baking an apple pie and an apple crisp and I think Boy started his crush on me when he bit into that crisp. He couldn’t get enough!

So this year when we finally got around to doing it ourselves, I knew it was the first thing I had to make.

It also nicely coincided with the arrival of my new apple peeler from cookware.com!

Take a look at this little beauty:

Oh baby. I am on a roll with this thing! I was peeling, coring, and slicing apples like no one’s business. It definitely makes the process go a lot faster and it’s actually kinda fun to use! You just crank the apple through the device and it takes care of the rest. All you have to do at the end is make a cut down the middle of the slices to separate them and you’re good to go. Perfect for making pies, crisps, or even just to slice an apple for a snack. I also loved the suction bottom so the device wasn’t slipping and sliding all over the place. You can use it for potatoes etc too. I’m looking forward to trying that out! I highly highly recommend this product. It’s my apples’ new best friend.

 

So, after processing all my apples in under 5 minutes, I got to work on my favorite crisp recipe. Ina Garten is one of my favorite Food Network hosts. Her recipes never cease to impress and they’re often quite simple with perhaps a little twist for an extra oomph. The oomph in this case is the addition of citrus. The result is a wonderful tang to the crisp that’s perfectly offset by the crumbly topping which also has its own oomph in the form of kosher salt though I’m sure sea salt would be extra fabulous!

Apple Crisp
adapted from Ina Garten

Makes one 9″ x 14″ baking dish’s worth of crisp.

Ingredients

For filling:

  • 5 lb baking apples, peeled, cored & sliced (I used Winesaps & Granny Smiths in about equal proportions)
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

For topping:

  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 c oatmeal
  • heaping 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and diced

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9″ x 14″ baking dish.

For filling, Toss apples in the remainder of the filling ingredients. Pour into baking dish.

For topping, pour all topping ingredients into a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is somewhat uniform. Alternatively, use a pastry cutter or two butter knives running in opposite directions (which is what I did) until the same endpoint is reached. Scatter over apples in the baking dish.

Bake on top of a foil-lined baking sheet in case of spill for 1 hour or until brown and bubbly.

Heaven.

What are you making with your fall apples?

White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

REMINDER: CUPCAKE HERO JULY [COCONUT] ENTRIES DUE JULY 17TH!! Email me at smalltownoven[at]gmail[dot]com!

JULY 17TH!!!!!!

ENTER NOW!!!!!!

The weather has been absolutely disgusting this week.

Hot.

Humid.

Muggy.

Gross.

For the better half of the week, it was just terrible. You’d march out the door, walk five steps, and immediately want to go back inside where it’s air-conditioned and your anti-perspirant isn’t 500% necessary.

Today, however, it was beautiful out.

The sun shone, the air was clear, and life was good.

I delivered 4 babies today. That may have helped. Two of those were twins. That may have helped too.

I sutured, I stapled, I came, I saw, I conquered.

Today was a bright spot in a dreary week (well, a dreary week that included meeting Alec Baldwin).

The only thing that kept me going this week in the grossness that was NYC?

These strawberries.

I kid you not.

I’d run home after work and go straight for the refrigerator. Right to these here strawberries.

My only regret is that I only made a pint.

Next time, there will be more.

Heaven.


White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
adapted from epicurious

Ingredients
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp lemon zest
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 pint ripe strawberries

Instructions
Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Rub the sugar and zest together with fingertips until moist and fragrant. Set aside. Melt white chocolate either over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in the microwave. If melting in the microwave, make sure to heat in small increments to prevent freezing up of the chocolate.

Dip strawberries into chocolate to coat 2/3 of the berry. Shake excess into bowl. Sprinkle citrus sugar on top of the chocolate. Place on prepared sheet. Once all the berries are dipped, chill in the refrigerator until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Hope you’re surviving the heat/cold or whatever you have where you are 🙂

– Sharlene

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes

I was going to write about how I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend (I still do hope that by the way) and tell you all about my own weekend which went by too quickly given I was on call Saturday so it mostly just felt like a normal weekend having Monday off.. except now I’m an extra day into the week when I have a bajillion things to do.. so the Monday off threw me for a loop and now my post has gone in a completely different direction.

To be honest, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. It’s the tail end of third year and I have one more major exam to round out the year. The only problem is that I haven’t been studying like I usually do. It might be the weather, it might be the produce in stores which inevitably finds its way into my kitchen to be made into something delicious (we hope), or it might just be “senioritis.” Either way, it’s not good.

Because I have to do well on this exam.

It’s not just that though. There are graduations (such as little brother who’s going to law school this fall yippee skippee), baby showers, and the casual BBQs that I always want to attend even though I probably shouldn’t. It’s all sort of just added up to the point where I’m completely underwater and struggling to stay afloat.

Friends out there, do you have days/weeks/times like this? When you just don’t see how you’re going to get everything done and you can’t figure out where to cut corners? What if you don’t want to cut corners? What if all your corners are important as in your best friend, your boyfriend, your family, and then school/your career? It feels as if I’m the piece of paper and those are my four corners and if I cut one of them, I cut off a piece of me (temporary, yes, but still). Is this all a little too heavy right now?

Well, that’s how I’m feeling.

In contrast, these cupcakes are light and fresh. They tasted, dare I say, like summer. Even better after they had been refrigerated for an hour or so before eating. This past weekend I chose my family and baked these for my brother’s going-away/Memorial Day BBQ (he’s attending a summer session that will allow him to have to take less credits in the fall). They’re a wonderful pick-me-up. I wish I still had some left over but they went quickly!

My only note is that I strongly suggest using Champagne mangoes. They’re yellow-skinned and can often be found in the Asian food markets. I find them to be much sweeter than the red/green ones I usually find at the supermarket and while you can attempt to use those, I think these really made the cupcakes. Let me know if you try them either way!

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes
cake adapted from Annie’s Eats; whipped cream a STO original

Makes 30ish regular cupcakes or 60 mini-cupcakes.

Ingredients
For the cake:
2 1/2 c cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c buttermilk
1/4 c oil [I used olive oil.]
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c chopped strawberries
1 c chopped Champagne mangoes (approximately 2 mangoes)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar, more to taste
1 ripe kiwi, pureed
1/2 Champagne mango, pureed

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pans with appropriate liners.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl and using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Then add the rest of the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil and vanilla) and combine.  Add flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in chopped strawberries and mangoes.  Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake accordingly: 18-22 minutes for regular sized cupcakes, 8-10 minutes for mini-cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before adding topping.

For the topping, whip the heavy cream using a hand or stand mixer on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Slowly add sugar while mixer continues and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in the kiwi and mango. Taste and add sugar if desired (this will depend on the sweetness of your fruit). Pipe or dollop onto cupcakes.

A tiny bite of freshness!

– Sharlene