New Hampshire Pie

fruit

Recently, I acquired some early New Hampshire grown peaches and some late New Hampshire grown blueberries. (Thanks mom!) The  peaches were really ripe and soft – too delicate to eat without dripping juice all over everything. The blueberries were dwindling in amount after being added to morning smoothies. So I decided to combine efforts and put them both into a pie. Because everything is better with butter and brown sugar right?

filling the pietopping on pie

I simply combined the roughly cut up the peaches (4) and the 1/2 pint of blueberries and added the “universal pie mix” of:  a bit of brown sugar, pinch of salt, teaspoon of cornstarch, a healthy shake of ground cinnamon and a good squirt of lemon juice.

Into my store-bought pie shell (don’t judge – it was easy) and I made the effort to create a streusel topping out of cubed butter, flour and lots of brown sugar with a pinch more of ground cinnamon and a tiny bit of ground cloves!

I baked it in a hot oven (400 degrees!) for 35 mins or so. Tip: you may want to cover it with a loose piece of foil for the first 25 mins so the top bits of exposed sugar don’t burn too quickly. Notice that I did exactly that. Not.

slice to eat

If can you stand it – let this pie cool at least 40 mins before slicing into it!

Patriotic Dessert

What is more American than apple pie?

A “red, white and blue” berry dessert of course!

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Served in a little mason jar for fun and enjoyed in the most beautiful dining room!

or if you want to be a little fancier you can break out a pretty dessert bowl…

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…and yes that is a bit of cubed pound cake you spy. Think “trifle” in a personal size.

Production notes

Strawberries were lightly sweetened with honey and mashed just a bit to get them nice and juicy. The whipped cream (homemade) is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and agave. The blueberries didn’t need a thing. The pound cake was purchased and cubed up. The mason jar version could be made ahead ( not too far – but like a couple of hours) and stored with lids on, in the refrigerator till party time.

Or what about using ice cream instead of pound cake?

It’s All About The Frosting

Obviously right?

When it comes to cupcakes, it is definitely about frosting. Wedding cake – definitely the frosting (and the many layers of it in between). What about the glaze on the coffee cake: usually the best part. I consider finding a cake (or cupcake) that is actually moist and delicious, along with its wonderful frosting, something along the lines of hitting the lottery. When I have a sweet tooth, the high standards come out to play!

That is why I generally don’t bake. I like to leave it to the pros. (Quick shout out to my neighbor Meaghan who leaves those cupcake chains in the dust with her skills!)

But every once in a while I get my “Betty” on and whip up a baked good. This time I combined a craving for orange juice and walnuts.  I was shooting for “orange-walnut sour cream coffee cake” and ended up with “not really what want I wanted but totally awesome cream cheese frosting.”

I basically checked out a few versions of the cream cheese frosting online and saw that most involved cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar. I threw in some chopped walnuts for crunch. YUM!

As for the cake… I am not  even going to bother finding the scrap piece of paper around this house somewhere with the cake recipe written on it, because it just wasn’t that good.

But the frosting…..

Enough frosting can save any cake!

Enough frosting can save any cake!

Impossibly GOOD Coconut Pie

And impossibly EASY.

In fact that is the name of the recipe: Impossibly Easy Coconut Pie. Which I got here.

Thank you Betty!

Think "cheesecake consistency with out all the heaviness, tanginess and the guilt!"

Think “cheesecake consistency” without all the heaviness, tanginess and the guilt!

 

This mixes up in about 4 minutes and bakes up perfectly in a glass pie dish. You can just serve warm slices from that.

However, I made it a day ahead and let it cool completely and was able to flip it out and onto a nice plate/platter for presentation, garnish and refrigerate until serving time. If you make ahead and platter it like I did, I would bring it out of the fridge about 20-30 mins before serving so it will be cool but not cold. Cover with plastic wrap while hanging in the fridge so it stays moist.

Although delicious plain, just as is, I added extra shredded coconut on top for garnish and heated some frozen mixed berries with a little honey to serve warm on top. But this would also be very delicious with chocolate sauce. Or maybe pineapple sauce. The combinations are endless.

Just try it. You will love this EASY dessert!

(Betty – you can feel free to contact me via email to “thank me” for endorsing your recipe/product! ;-) )

Sadie Sprague

I have never met Sadie but she gave me something special once a long time ago…

…Her banana nut bread recipe via my 1982 edition of  “Just For You…A Cookbook” published by the First Baptist Church of Weston, Massachusetts.

I can’t even remember how I acquired this cookbook. Perhaps we randomly stopped in at the church fund-raiser/rummage sale as we were passing through? More likely I picked it up at a yard sale in New Hampshire where one of the former church members must have relocated. No matter how I got it – I love it. From Janet Yurkus’ spinach dip to Sylvia Akers’ sweet-n-sour pork to Mary D’s lemon squares.

And of course the banana nut bread. Sadie’s recipe.

There isn’t any crazy ingredients or techniques – just a simple, reliable recipe. Sometimes I add the nuts and sometimes I don’t. When I want it to stand in as the dessert I add a dash of vanilla and a generous shake of cinnamon. Other times I cut back on the sugar just a tad and let the natural sweetness of the fruit do the talking. That is the thing about recipes – they are personal.

As for Sadie, a quick check on the internet, indicated she might still be alive at the ripe old age of 99 years old, right there in her same hometown. Probably still cooking banana nut bread for the church fund-raisers every year.

Thanks Sadie!

Banana Bread as dessert this year at the Thanksgiving day table. I got a little fancy on top with a split banana and some brown sugar!
 

The Recipe

(Adapted from Sadie.)
 

1/2 cup Salted butter, fully softened

1 cup Regular white sugar

2 Eggs beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups AP flour, sifted

1/4 tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Baking Powder

2 Large Ripe Bananas, mashed

1 Large Banana, split length-wise

Tablespoon of brown sugar to sprinkle on top

Nuts optional – 1/2 cup chopped walnuts is always nice.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and mix 30 secs more. Sift together the flour, soda, powder and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and stir well. Add 2 mashed bananas and nuts if using. Turn into a greased loaf pan. Place the split banana on top and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. (Keep an eye, depending on whether you are using glass or metal pans you may want to pull out at 50 mins.) I like to turn mine out to cool a bit and then you can return to the baking dish for storage or wrap tightly for transport and gift giving. Best served slightly warm, slathered with butter.

 

Dad’s Pear Tree

There is a pear tree in my parent’s yard. It has been there forever. I don’t know if my dad planted it or if it was there when they bought the property and built the house over 40 years ago. It’s just always been there.

It has seen some history: I wiped out on my bicycle on the driveway below it and I am sure I had some near misses with it as a new car driver. I know my dad bit into a pear every year only to be disappointed in its impossibly tough and sometimes wormy interior. He would complain and ponder why such a promising fruit tree never amounted too much.

Then my dad passed away in early spring 2011 and that very year and this year too it made the most wonderful pears. Large and unblemished. He would have loved them.

So when my mother brought down a whole bag full on recent visit to my house, I decided to bake with them.

There is nothing easier than pulling open the freezer and grabbing a package of pre-made dough rounds, otherwise know as “discos.” So I mixed up the diced pears with a little brown sugar, ground ginger, dash of ground nutmeg, dash of salt , bit of cornstarch and a pat of butter for each little pear turnover.

Brush them with a little melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar on, bake them at 400 degrees until done. Don’t burn your mouth on the hot filling!

He would have loved these!

Birthday à la Julia

When I was little the fanciest things always came from France.

That meant when your parents took you out to dinner on your birthday, of course you ordered the “chocolate mousse” right? Because it was fancy and from France! Now that I am all grown up I realize that fancy can be from anywhere and French food doesn’t have to be complicated!

August 15th was the 100th birthday of Julia Child. A person who demystified all that fancy, french food for home cooks everywhere. And through the magic of reruns, YouTube and food blogs – she’s still doing it!

I thought I would join in with other food bloggers (read more about her and this at PBS Food) and make something from my 1961 edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Who doesn’t like chocolate on their birthday? It had to be “mousseline au chocolat!”

I put some chocolate on to melt and got started! Not being much a dessert-maker, never mind a direction-follower, I really had to focus on this! But I followed the directions exactly and made only one minor alteration… I left out the orange liquor because I am not a big fan of that combination. I did splurge and made real whipped cream!

Bon Appétit & Bon Anniversaire!

If you are in Boston today you can join in a few local celebrations. If you visit Cambridge you can stop in and read all about her at the Schlesinger Library.

Cobbled Fruit

While I wait around for this year’s annual peach, I thought I would make something with the nectarines that were on sale at the store recently.

Pie always has a lot pressure to be perfect and a “crisp” is only about apples for me. So cobbler just seemed like the perfect thing to make with 2lbs of nectarines.

As usual I decided to just make the recipe up as I went along. After all, just reading the cookbooks is kinda like cooking from them right? I figured I have read enough cobbler recipes to handle it without actually following one.

I started by spraying the baking dish with non-stick spray and then layering in about 3/4 cup of light brown sugar that I mixed with a couple teaspoons of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt first.dish prep

With sliced butter pats at the ready (don’t panic -it was a big pan of cobbler – 16 pieces of butter for 16 halves of fruit) I started to lay the nectarine halves face down with the butter nestled in the hollow of the fruit. I was thinking “upside down fruit dessert” at this point.

But my fruit was slightly under ripe so I ended up slicing them into wedges. I layered the fruit wedges on top of the sugar bottom, distributed the pats of butter and sprinkled a dusting of cornstarch across the top. Next came the cobbler topping. In this case a standard biscuit mix. I sweetened the mix up by adding a bit of sugar and flavored it with a dash of vanilla. Think “strawberry short-cake biscuits.” If you really wanted to get crazy you could cut in some more brown sugar with biscuit dough topping for more of a sweeter, strudel effect. I didn’t do that because I wanted the fruit to shine.

This turned out to be a delicious, not-too-sweet, dessert…if such a thing exists! However a little ice cream wouldn’t hurt next time!

Year of the Dessert

Like most savory cooks, dessert is not my specialty. I usually leave that up to the experts. But I have been inspired this year to try my hand at some fancy but simple desserts as I did on Thanksgiving.

Christmas day was no exception.

Mini Coconut and Raspberry Cheesecakes

I was inspired by and adapted this recipe from Giada. I changed out the maple syrup for some raspberry syrup that I had in my freezer. I had made it from last year’s “pick-your-own” harvest. I used it as an ingredient and a sauce.

I also changed out the mascarpone for low-fat cream cheese. Just because that is what I had on hand. I switched the heavy cream for unsweetened coconut milk because I wanted to infuse that coconut flavor. I used the sweetened shredded coconut garnish because it looked like snow, but purists and healthy folks among us could use dried unsweetened coconut shavings.

Fresh raspberries made a nice garnish instead of the cranberry/orange compote but that would have been good too!

Other than those “minor” differences I followed her recipe exactly.

It was a big hit and the individual servings (muffin pan size) made it easy for people not to overindulge.

Okay, okay …maybe it just made over indulgence look prettier!

But Don’t You Think Dessert is The Best Part?

Maple Custard with Cinnamon Whip Cream and Toasted Hazel Nuts.

Thank you to Three Clever Sisters for the recipe!

I just “gilded the lily” by adding the homemade whipped cream and nuts.

Delicious and EASY and only 3 ingredients. (not counting the whipped and nuts.)

Make the night before and wrap with the plastic wrap directly touching the custard.

Add toppings just before serving.

Pastry Love

Who doesn’t love puff pastry?

I don’t care if you tell me that you are not a big “sweets” person – They don’t have to be sweet. A savory puff pastry is delicious too. You could probably put an old shoe in puff pastry and it would probably taste good!

I think putting random ingredients together in puff pastry is a perfect “cabinet stew” situation. I just keep a box of those pre-made, perfect-every-time puff pastry sheets in the freezer. You know the one from the “farm.”

Just take it out and look around for stuff to put in.

This one, shaped into a “beggar’s pouch” style is filled with:

Raspberries - just cleaned out the last of the frozen supply bought in-season and on-sale last year at the farmer’s market.

Hazelnuts – small leftover amount from some cookies (Go Bruins!) hanging out in the freezer

Brown sugar – ’cause sweeter is better.

Cornstarch – to make the juices all thick.

Butter – just a tiny bit, just because. (like pie)

Pinch of salt – because sweet always need a bit of salt.

Not All Peachy

I was reading one of those free magazines from the grocery store the other day and there was a recipe for a vanilla peach cobbler in it. I was immediately inspired to get up and make it. But of course I had to tinker with the recipe.

First of all I didn’t have the low-sugar, apricot preserves it called for, so I used full-sugar, orange marmalade and cut back on the sugar in the batter.

Secondly the only kind of yogurt I had on-hand was thick Greek style and not the regular it called for, so I added some milk to thin it out.

Thirdly it called for an almond and granola topping but I decided to use toasted,  almond slivers and two packages of instant oatmeal instead.

So I dusted off my baking equipment and proceeded to make my own version.

I actually think it came out really yummy. But I learned a few things along the way:

1. My husband doesn’t like almonds.

2.Never substitute in baking unless you really know what you are doing.

3. When the recipe suggest a sheet pan underneath to catch the juice boiling over the edges – it is a good idea to follow that instruction rather than set off the smoke alarm.

Dessert is kinda like pizza – some is better than others, but there is really never a bad dessert.