So, today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day. How are you celebrating?
My suggestion? Don your Strawberry Shortcake cartoon character tee from the 1980s, work up an appetite, and make a big batch of Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake.
The biscuits in this version take a flavor (and, if desired, color) cue from the classic Southern cake, making use of buttermilk, cocoa and red food coloring, which lends a subtle sweetness which works wonderfully with freshly made whipped cream and strawberries, and makes for a very pretty presentation.
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So, today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day. How are you celebrating?
You probably don't think of peanut butter cookies as a slice-and-bake refrigerator cookie, but you should.
I was immediately intrigued when I discovered this recipe in my beloved Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. And, upon testing out the recipe, ultimately rewarded. These cookies have all of the sweet-and-salty flavor that make peanut butter cookies so deliciously addictive, but with a subtle, mellow dimension from the honey, and a more delicate texture than their classic counterpart. The verdict? These fat, chewy, and lightly crumbly cookies are beyond welcome to co-exist peacefully with the flattened-by-fork tines variety in my cookie jar.
And based on how quickly they disappeared when I put them out at my shop, I'd say that the public agrees. Well, either that, or people will eat anything when it's free.
Note: The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. I split the difference and used a cup-and-a-bit extra of chunky peanut butter--this kind, if you're curious. Also, I used more baking powder than specified in the original recipe.
Honey Peanut Butter Refrigerator Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book
- Makes about 30 cookies -
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey or corn syrup (I used honey)
- 1 cup (and maybe a spoonful extra) chunky peanut butter
- 1 egg
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Mix butter, sugar, honey, peanut butter, and egg thoroughly.
- Mix your remaining dry ingredients together, and then stir in bit by bit to your wet ingredient mix. If it is too dry, add a few drops of milk or cream until it is cohesive.
- Roll into a couple of logs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.
- Heat oven to 400 F. Cut dough in fat slices (I did about 1/2 inch) and place about 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown on the edges. Let cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
There's a reason why you've never tried a Red Velvet Cake Shake.
That reason, of course, is that the recipe relies on you having an extra slice of Red Velvet laying around, and as anyone knows, this is a highly unlikely occurrence.
However, after this weekend's Red Velvet Cake tasting, I found myself in such an unlikely situation. And given some time to consider it, a beautiful phrase came to mind: Red Velvet Cake Shake. Could it possibly be as good as it sounded?
The answer, of course, is yes. This shake is basically made of awesome: it has tangy cream cheese frosting, rich, moist cake, and sweet, creamy ice cream--all mixed into one pretty pink parfait.
Of course, if your instinct is to cry "too much", I do have a suggestion: call it a smoothie. No, this doesn't actually alter the recipe, but don't you feel healthier already?
Red Velvet Cake Shake
- 1 slice Red Velvet Cake
- 2 big--and I mean big--scoops of ice cream (I used strawberry; I think that vanilla would also work well)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cups milk
Put all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until the shake has reached your desired consistency--shorter if you like little bits of cake in your shake, longer if you like a smoother texture. Add more ice cream for a thicker shake, more milk for a thinner one, as needed.
When readers Denise and Steve came into my store, they told me that they had been on a 30 mile bike ride that morning. My response was something along the lines of an aghast "on purpose?". But I quickly forgave them for their inherent sportiness, because guess what: they brought me banana bread. With big ol' chunks of chocolate. Even the vaguely healthy applesauce in its construction couldn't cancel out that decadence.
Well, Mr. Spy and I deemed this an ideal breakfast bread, and I eagerly set to recreating the magic in my own kitchen, this time made with butter, chunks of milk chocolate, and a mix of walnuts and pecans. I really don't have to tell you it was delicious, do I?
It's a very easy recipe to personalize and make your own; here's Denise's base recipe so you can choose your own adventure with it.
Oh, and by the way, here's the cute custom painting I did for Denise and Steve while we talked about our favorite pastries!
Dense, Delicious Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
With serious thanks to Denise and Steve
- 1 1/2 c flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour, or you can do a mix of 3/4 c white flour and 3/4 c wheat flour)
- 1 tsp sea salt (kosher salt is okay too)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 c mashed banana (3-4 very ripe, Denise usually uses 4 for extra moist
- 1 c sugar (can reduce to 3/4 c, or 1/2 c)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c melted, cooled butter (I use canola oil, or a heaping 1/3 c apple sauce to be really healthy! and do use a little extra apple sauce to keep bread moist)
- (optional) 2/3 c chopped nuts (I used a mix of pecans or walnuts)
- 2/3 c chocolate chips for banana chocolate chip bread (Denise lists this as optional--I vote necessary)
- Mix all of the above together in a big bowl. Don't overmix--just mix until incorporated.
- Bake at 325 degrees F for around an hour, check center with toothpick; if toothpick comes out clean, it's done.
It began, as so many excellent things do, on Twitter.
Now, as Red Velvet challengers go, Lorna Yee is a formidable one: her recipe comes from her recently published book, The Newlywed Kitchen (which contains this recipe for Chocolate Mudslide cookies, btw), has received rave reviews.
The only way to figure out this battle? A Red Velvet Smackdown, natch!
With the Kingfish Red Velvet Cake in one corner, and Lorna's Red Velvet in the other, we set up a tasting at CakeSpy Shop, with talented photographer Jackie Baisa to document every sweet minute. Of course, cute husbands Danny (aka Mr. CakeSpy) and Henry were on hand to help out.
Lorna was also kind enough to bring a large batch of cupcakes to share with customers at the shop. She ran out of red food coloring at a certain point, so a lucky few actually got Blue Velvet Cupcakes.
So how did these ladies in red stack up?
Well, on the one hand you've got the Kingfish Cafe Red Velvet, which is something of a Seattle standard. It's dense, it's sweet, it's rich...but depending on what day you buy it, sometimes it can be a little dry. Still, I wouldn't kick it out of bed for leaving delicious little crumbs.
But then you've got Lorna's triple-threat of awesome. Equally dense and rich, this is nonetheless a very different cake, with pronounced contrasting flavors: a very tangy and only lightly sweet, very cream cheese-y frosting and a rich, extremely moist cocoa-infused cake. All of the tasters, who were cut generous slices, zeroed right in on the compelling flavor contrast, and were more than happy to wax poetic about the sweet subtleties in flavor--but perhaps even more telling, everybody cleaned their plate.
Similarly, customers who came in and sampled the cupcakes were thrilled with their sweet treats, and Lorna not only sold through her stock of books but also raided nearby Elliott Bay Books for more.
The final word? You should still order the cake if you go to Kingfish, but for your next special occasion, bake the one from Lorna's book. People will remember and love you for it.
Want to see more awesome photos of this event? Visit Baisa Fotograferie (photos coming soon!)
On the occasion of her recent birthday, Megan Seling provided a dessert spread of epic proportions at her party.
And while usually I would object that the birthday girl shouldn't have to lift a finger on her special day, opting to simply eat cakes that others have made, I have to admit that as a guest, I was kind of glad that she did. Because it was a most delicious spread.
And the highlight of the table? In my humble spy's opinion, the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. Made of a light cake filled with lightly tart and very flavorful lemon curd, these cakes were capped with a punk rocker hairstyle of a meringue topping which tasted just as good as it looked.
Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup butter, cubed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup lemon juice
- Zest of 3 lemons
- 10 large egg yolks
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
Prepare the Lemon Chiffon Cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare pans with cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, and half the sugar together into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer and reserve. In another large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, water, vanilla, and zest. Mix with a handheld mixer or whip attachment until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg yolk mixture gradually to the dry ingredients, mixing with a handheld mixer or whip attachment on medium speed until a paste forms. When a paste has formed, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and continue adding the remainder of the yolk mixture until it is all incorporated. Beat for an additional 2 minutes on medium speed. In a separate mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with a clean whip attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar while beating the egg whites and continue to beat until medium peaks form. Gently blend one-third of the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake at 375°F until the top of the cupcakes spring back to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling before decorating.
Prepare Lemon Curd. Combine half of the butter, half of the sugar, the lemon juice, and zest and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the remaining sugar. Temper the mixture by gradually adding about one-third of the lemon juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whip. Return the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the whisk leaves a trail in the curd. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining butter. Strain the curd into a shallow container or bowl. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd. Cool over an ice bath. Store the curd, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Prepare Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Put the egg whites and sugar in the clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and stir together until the sugar is blended into the egg whites. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir frequently until the sugar dissolves and the mixture reaches 140°F. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and beat on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and has a stiff peak.
Finish the cupcakes. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip two-thirds full with lemon curd. Insert the tip as far as it will go inside the center of the cupcake and apply gentle pressure. Try not to squeeze too hard or lemon curd will squirt out the top of the cupcake. Stop filling once you see any lemon curd around the base of the tip. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes. Clean the piping bag and tip and fill it two-thirds full with Swiss meringue. Pipe a large pearl of meringue on top of each cupcake. Use the back of a spoon to lift up areas of the meringue, creating spikes. Lightly toast the meringue with a kitchen torch or under the broiler until the tips of the meringue are golden brown.
Just in case you'd ever wondered: as it turns out, stuffing cinnamon rolls with chocolate chip cookie dough really does make them more delicious.
I know this because yesterday, finding myself with a free coupon for some Pillsbury Sweet Rolls, I went to the store and picked up a pack of Orange Cinnamon Rolls with which I set to experimenting. Now, I'm not adverse to enjoying these sweeties in their natural state, but while preparing some cookie dough for my annual Memorial Day Cookie Cake Pie, it occurred to me that stuffing them with cookie dough might just make them even better.
And you know what? They were amazing: gooey, high-fat, high-carb heaven. But don't worry if you're counting calories: I'm pretty sure that the orange glaze made them healthier.
Here's how you do it at home.
Glazed Cinnamon Rolls Stuffed with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- 1 package Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with glaze (I used orange sweet rolls)
- 1 teaspoon chocolate chip cookie dough per cinnamon roll (if uneasy about if it will cook thoroughly, use an egg-free version)
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Unwrap the roll of cinnamon rolls until you get that jarring "pop" that means the feast has been unleashed.
- Separate the rolls, and unroll each one gently.
- Roll each teaspoon of cookie dough into a thin log (use floured hands), slightly thinner than the thickness of the unrolled cinnamon roll.
- Place the log of dough on top of the unrolled cinnamon roll, and gently re-roll. Repeat with the rest of the rolls.
- Place the rolls in a lightly greased pie plate (it keeps it all contained) and bake according to the package directions, 15 minutes or so.
- Once the rolls are out of the oven, gently heat the glaze in the microwave for about 10 seconds, or until pourable. Liberally glaze your cinnamon rolls with it.
Ever since I heard that it was one of Dolly Parton's favorite things to eat, I've been obsessed with the very idea of biscuits and chocolate gravy. So when I recently made Biscuits with Sugar Butter from the new Rosanna Bowles Cookbook , I took advantage of the moment and saved a few biscuits so that I could try this sweet dish for myself.
Although there are plenty of recipes out there for chocolate gravy (isn't life wonderful?), I decided to go the easy route and used the bittersweet chocolate topping from Sassy Sauces. When lightly heated and generously poured on top of the biscuits in a viscous, chocolatey mess, it might not have made for a beautiful dish to serve, but it sure was delicious. I'm sure that the hot fudge sauce of your choosing would work beautifully as well, if you're not inclined to make the gravy yourself.
For the Paula Deen version of this dish, you can find a recipe here; for my version, combine the biscuit recipe from this posting with a big ol' jar of warm bittersweet chocolate sauce by Sassy Sauces (it's tasty), or a generous heaping of your favorite (preferably very thick) hot fudge sauce. Top with some shredded coconut or sprinkles if you're feeling festive.
With her book Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, author Rosanna Bowles (who, in addition to writing books, also owns a dishware empire--and yes, that's her real name) has a mission: to bring people together through real, live, human connection--by establishing year-round traditions, many of them featuring delicious food.
And the first tradition I'm ready to embrace? Biscuits with Sugar Butter.
As the recipe intro states,
This recipe has its origins in the pioneer era and has been handed down through four generations in my family. My mother's classic biscuit is very much like the version that is eaten widely throughout the South. I believe that the sugar butter may come from Virginia, where my great-grandparents settled after emigrating from Wales. Like many truly great recipes, this is one that has survived many generations and carries with it the love with which the food is made.
And after preparing it for breakfast, I can firmly attest that these lightly salty biscuits smothered in sweet, praline-y butter is the type of stuff that glues families together, makes people fall in love, and makes bellies very happy. Ready to taste the love? Here's the recipe.
Pat's Biscuits and Sugar Butter
Adapted from Coming Home by Rosanna Bowles
For the biscuits
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, plus three tablespoons melted butter (for glazing the biscuits)
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk
- pats of butter, for serving (in case the sugar butter isn't enough)
For the sugar butter
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (more if necessary, to your desired consistency)
- Preheat oven to 450. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
- Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the room temperature butter with two forks (pie crust style!)--or go ahead and do this with a food processor if you've got one, mixing until the mixture is about the consistency of cornmeal.
- Add 1/2 cup milk and mix (or pulse) until combined. Add more milk if needed until the dough has reached a consistency where you can form it into a large, soft ball (it will be sticky; handle with floured hands on a floured surface).
- Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface for 30 seconds--about 10 folds. The dough should be fairly moist and light--overworking will make the biscuits tougher (though still pretty tasty!).
- Form a ball with the dough, and then roll it out into a half-inch sheet on your floured surface using a well floured rolling pin. Using a biscuit cutter, larger cookie cutter, or a mid-sized drinking glass, cut into rounds or shapes. I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, because I, you know, love biscuits.
- Put the biscuits on your prepared sheet. Brush the tops with the melted butter and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, but keep the biscuits on the baking sheet until the sugar butter is ready--this will keep them warm. Nom.
- Prepare the sugar butter. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the brown sugar and cook until the mixture bubbles. Add the cream, and turn down the heat to keep the cream just below a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes on low heat, ur until the sugar is dissolved, the mixture has started to reduce and thicken, and the flavors are working for you (you'll have to taste it for this part. Be brave.)
- Add a bit more cream if the sugar butter is too thick for your liking and stir to combine.
- Get ready to serve. Put a pat of butter on top of your biscuits, and ladle a big ol' spoonful of the sugar butter on top. Enjoy.
With my first attempt at baking from the new book Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison, I managed to do something rather unlikely: I made a dessert which contained absolutely no fruit, seasonal or otherwise.
What I did, of course, was I flipped right to the back of the book where there is a section entitled "cakes to go with fruit"--and I chose the most rich and delicious-sounding one, the Brown Sugar-Ginger Cream Cake, which was described as having a "poundcake-like personality". Sold! I baked it up, using part almond flour for fun (it made the texture slightly more coarse, I think, but not in such a bad way), and it came out beautifully.
But how to top it? Flipping to another section of the book, I came across a recipe for Candied Five-Spice Pecans, suggested as a great accompaniment to ripe pears; they sounded good, so I made a batch and put them on top of the cake, completely ignoring that pesky and vaguely healthy-sounding pear part. And oh, are they divine on top of the buttery, rich cake.
But ultimately I realized it wouldn't necessarily be honoring the book's, ah, entire mission, to not include fruit, so I sliced up a ripe Washington pear in a skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, stirring frequently over medium heat until the liquid had reduced and the pear had been battered into sweet, buttery submission.
And you know what? The fruit made it even better, and made me feel a whole lot better about eating it for breakfast (It has fruit! And nuts! It's practically health food!)
Here's how you do it at home.
Brown Sugar Ginger Cream Cake with Five Spice Pecans and Caramelized Pears
For the cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour (you could use cake or all purpose flour here instead, the original recipe called for 3/4 cup each AP and cake flour, respectively)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the five spice pecans
- 1 cup pecan halves or pieces
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspon five-spice powder
For the caramelized pears
- 1 large ripe pear, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Butter and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom and ends with parchment paper (it will make your life so much easier). Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; whisk together. Make a well in the middle.
- Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the eggs till foamy, then add the cream, sugar, and flavorings. Beat until you have what resembles a soft whipped cream. Pour the mixture into the center of the flour mixture and whisk together just until well combined and lump-free. Scrape batter into the pan and even it out.
- Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes (original recipe called for 50-60 minutes, but I think using the almond flour might have altered the baking time).
- Let cool for about half an hour in the pan before loosening the sides with a knife and turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Prepare the candied five-spice pecans. Adjust the oven to 300 F. Toast pecans until they are fragrant, about 15-20 minutes. Turn them at about 10 minutes to ensure that they brown evenly.
- Heat your butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add your pecans, and sprinkle the sugar on top. Stir and cook until the sugar melts and covers the nuts. Remove them to a bowl and toss with the five-spice powder. Gently put them on top of the cake (it's ok if the cake is still warm); they will crisp up a bit as they cool.
- Go ahead and use the same skillet and melt some more butter over medium heat; add your slivered pear pieces, and once you've turned the slices once or twice and they're a bit wilty around the edges, add the sugar. Continue to heat until the juices have begun to reduce and the mixture is thick and caramel-y. Serve on top of cake slices.