Category Archives: fruit

cherry rhubarb crisp

cherry rhubarb crispLet’s discuss some big events, shall we? My high school graduation, this blog’s not 1st, not 2nd, but 3rd! birthday… and throwing-in of the towel by the hard drive that houses oh, thousands on thousands on thousands of photos. In my defense, they’re not all mine, but you better believe there are many blurry, unfocused, repeat shots of food. Didn’t you know you always wanted 15 near-identical shots of blurry muffins? Yes, you’re welcome, family.
pretty rhubarb pile of cherries
sweetening the fruitadd butter topping crisp is ready to be bakedBut the reason I bring this up is just to say that you were supposed to have this tantalizing cherry rhubarb crisp in front of your eyes about a week ago, but the hard drive up and quit. How rude. After some boring file transfers to an external drive (thanks Dad), you get crisp at last.
cherry rhubarb crisp cherry rhubarb crisp, close-up And a delightful crisp this is. I hacked Mark Bittman’s recipe for straight-up rhubarb crisp, primarily because I just didn’t have enough rhubarb, instead adding fresh cherries. I’m so glad I fiddled, because this crisp is just on point. The crisp topping itself is bountiful (great news if you’re like me and try to inconspicuously pick the tasty toppings off food) and perfectly crisp-y and crunchy atop the pretty reddish-pink fruit. Notes of lemon, cinnamon, and ginger round it out but don’t take over the poor fruit. If you like cherries, if you like rhubarb, if you like crisps, if you like eating, make this.
little bowl, all for me overhead close-up

Cherry Rhubarb Crisp 
heavily adapted from Mark Bittman’s Rhubarb Crisp via the New York Times

The major change I made was to swap cherries for half of the rhubarb, which created a delightful balance of texture and complemented the rhubarb quite well.  Other changes included swapping ground ginger (which plays so nicely with rhubarb) for half of the cinnamon, adding more salt, increasing the amount of lemon zest, adding 2 tablespoons more sugar (you could omit if desired), and adding cornstarch to the fruit to thicken it up a bit. Feel free to fiddle with this recipe, I certainly did.

Topping
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Fruit
1 1/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 pound cherries, pitted (about 3 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Heat oven to 375° F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking or gratin dish with a softened butter.

In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Toss in the cubes of butter, and work the butter in with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles peas and just begins to clump together roughly.  Add oats and pecans and mix in to combine.

Toss rhubarb and cherries with white sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest, and spread in baking dish.

Crumble the topping over rhubarb and cherries and bake until the topping is deep golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for as long as you can stand until devouring.

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cranberry shortbread

cranberry orange shortbread, overhead I know, I know. We’re in the doldrums of January (nearly February), not the festive holiday season. And this is the second consecutive not just cranberry but cranberry orange recipe I’m sharing. I am done with your cranberries and citrus, you say.
cranberry orange shortbread about to slice I disagree. Look, I know I seem like I’m on a crusade for the sake of this combo, and maybe I am a bit, because it’s one of my favorites. Plus, the fact that we’re in the midst of winter makes it even more necessary for a bright, cherry-tasting treat.
crumbly and jammyAs shortbread bars with a jammy fruit topping, this cranberry orange rendition is the wintry cousin of this strawberry shortbread. Here, buttery, crumbly, lightly sweetened shortbread is baked to a deep golden brown, topped with a quick cranberry jam, and then adorned with lacy strands of orange zest. Yes, we’re making the cranberry jam (if it can even be called that, more like a jammy topping), but don’t run: it’s low-maintence and can be cooked up while the shortbread is baking. The topping is only lightly sweetened, and the short cook time means that the cranberries retain their tartness and bite, which I love. The buttery shortbread juxtaposes nicely in texture and flavor with the jammy, tart topping. Christmas it may not be, but vibrant cranberries and curls of orange zest sure do brighten up a polar vortex.
festively arranged

Cranberry Shortbread
adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2012

The cranberry topping may seem like it’s not enough, but just keep spreading it out, working it over the shortbread to make it as even as possible. If you want, you can use 12 oz cranberries and then adjust the other ingredients (increasing sugar by 1 tablespoon and orange juice by 1/2 tablespoon should do it nicely).

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 10-ounce bag fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
1/4 cup fresh orange or grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon grated orange or grapefruit zest, using a five-hole zester to create the pretty ribbons rather than a microplane

For the shortbread: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal with some larger bits scattered throughout.

Using your fingertips, press the shortbread dough evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan (using the bottom of a flat measuring cup also works well). Poke the dough all over with a fork.

Bake shortbread until cooked through and pale golden, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let it cool completely in the pan.

The shortbread can be made 3 days ahead. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

For the cranberry topping: Bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups cranberries, and orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst and mixture is syrupy, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in remaining cranberries and cook until skins begin to split, about 3 minutes. Let cool.

The cranberry topping can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Spread cooled cranberry topping over cooled shortbread. Scatter orange zest over. Using paper overhang, lift shortbread from pan and transfer to a cutting board to slice the shortbread. I cut mine into 15 rectangles with 3 extra little slivers (“to make sure they’re edible”).

Storing: These bars do best the day they’re made so the textures are preserved. If you need to make them ahead of time, make and store the shortbread and topping separately. Any leftovers should be refrigerated.

cranberry orange baked french toast

cranberry orange baked french toast As I see it, the ideal Christmas morning (or holiday morning, as in New Year’s Day, as in tomorrow) breakfast should be festive tasting, not requiring too much effort, and do-ahead, if possible. (Although I certainly don’t regret the New Year’s Day I made glazed doughnuts for breakfast.) I’ve made this baked french toast several times before, as it is a perfect do-ahead, delicious crowd-pleaser. This time, I included a few twists: boosted its festive appeal by adding orange zest, almond extract, and nutmeg to the custard, making it reminiscent of eggnog; dotted the french toast with tart, jewel-like cranberries; and added wintry spices to the streusel. You’ll notice that baked french toast is suspiciously similar to bread pudding, so it tastes accordingly decadent.
behind the scenes of the chaos[Above, behind-the-scenes of the chaos. Please note the stray cranberries and disheveled background. Christmas morning at its finest.]
streusel-ed and ready to be baked Today is the last day of the year, which means that everyone gets sentimental and says that this year has had its ups and downs but has truly flown by. Which, I must say, is true. Goodbye 2013, and cheers to a great 2014.
that went fast Christmas morning breakfast

Cranberry Orange Baked French Toast
adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon baked french toast

As I’ve said, this is an excellent do-ahead; in fact, you must refrigerate it a couple hours for the bread to soak up the custard mixture, so overnight is perfect. I scattered the cranberries on top in the morning, but you could just as easily scatter them in the pan with the bread cubes if you want them more evenly dispersed. However, with the sprinkling-on-top method, I liked that the cranberries stayed tart.

Makes 9 x 13 pan of french toast, around 8-12 servings

1 loaf French Bread, or another crusty bread*
6 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (half-and-half also works)
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh orange zest, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2  cup (1 stick) cold butter, cubed

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, orange zest, nutmeg, and salt. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Toss butter cubes into the dry ingredients and cut and rub them into the mixture until it starts clumping together and resembling streusel. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

When you’re ready to bake the french toast, preheat oven to 350° F. Remove french toast from the fridge and sprinkle chopped cranberries and the crumb mixture over the top. Bake for around 1 hour or until browned on the top and set in the middle.

*The bread is best if stale, as it’s better able absorb the custard mixture. If your bread is fresh, as mine was, stale by popping it in a low oven for a few minutes.

blackberry granita

blackberry granita, mine
In New Orleans, snowballs reign supreme in the summer. No, NOT snowcones. Or shaved ice, or any other coarse, crunchy ice in a paper cone that you could probably just blitz in your food processor. The New Orleans snowball is a completely different animal. The ice is the defining factor– it must be so fine that it melts in your mouth (the best ice goes to Hansen’s). Next, the flavors. Great snowball stands don’t just have the classics, they have everything from bananas foster cream (at Plum Street) to Pink Squirrel and Robin (at my neighborhood stand, Sal’s). The syrup is poured liberally on the snowball, and voila! Summertime bliss.
blackberriesdark purple pureescrape scrape scrape But granita? I was suspicious, as it always seemed to me to be just a pale imitation of a snowball. However, I’ve come to acknowledge its place. Granita can exist in an entirely separate world than snowballs, as they’re different animals. In this recipe, over a pound of blackberries gives the granita its concentrated flavor and beautifully rich dark purple hue (don’t be like me and wear white shorts when you make/eat this…). Mascarpone cream gives the granita what it lacks by itself—a rounding out of the textures (not so crunchy). Then top with lemon zest and some blackberries, and you’ve got the prettiest dessert.
blackberries, lemon zest, and a dollop of mascarpone creamblackberry granita

Blackberry Granita
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013

Makes around 6-8 servings

I liked that this dessert was well-balanced, in texture (icy granita + mascarpone cream + juicy blackberries) as well as flavor. That being said, I’d advise you not to skip the mascarpone cream, as it adds greatly to the dessert.

Granita
4 cups blackberries (about 18 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur; optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt

Lemon cream and assembly
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus more for garnish
1 1/3 cups blackberries (about 6 ounces), cut in half crosswise if you’re feeling fancy like Bon Appetit was

For granita: 
Purée blackberries, sugar, crème de cassis, if using, lemon juice, salt, and 1 cup water in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan (preferably metal, as it will freeze the granita quicker than a glass pan will), pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

Freeze mixture until edges begin to set, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the freezer, and using a fork, scrape to break up frozen portions. Freeze, scraping and breaking up mixture every 20-30 minutes (or sporadically every 45ish minutes, if you’re a granita-neglecter like me), until mixture resembles fluffy shaved ice, 2-4 hours.

For lemon cream and assembly:
Just before serving, whisk together mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.

Serve granita topped with lemon cream, halved blackberries, and more lemon zest.

Storing: The granita can be made several days ahead and kept frozen, covered. Scrape with a fork before serving.

berry hand pies

berry hand piesWhile we’re on the subject of neglecting foods/ingredients (see previously: chocolate), pie has been utterly passed over in my kitchen this summer. Why? Not for any particularly noble reasons, but mainly because pie does requires time and care. Pie is commitment, whereas there are a plethora of other ways to use up fruit that are much more easygoing. (I’m looking at you, cobbler.)
pie doughblueberries and raspberriesadd lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, saltmound the berriesBut I got my act together for the Fourth to make some patriotic red raspberry and blueberry hand pies, which, by the way, are essentially the pastry form of a personal pizza. Genius. They’re also an ode to all the crust-lovers out there, as the ratio of crust: filling is most definitely skewed towards the former.
freshly bakedhand pies, cooling on a rackberry hand pies, coolingmineI made these on an impulse, before getting overwhelmed by all the Pinterest-y perfect red, white, and blue concoctions out there, and somehow managed to shoot down my typical scruples about such a recipe– too fussy? (who am I kidding, this is a baking blog, after all), too much crust? (not a bad thing), all too likely to drive me crazy striving for perfectly formed and crimped pies? (perhaps, but I just accepted defeat in the form of misshaped pies). Glad I did, since these were new winners in my book that even passed the patriotic test.
golden brown crustberries oozing + crisp, buttery crustalmost gone

Berry Hand Pies
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013

As noted, hand pies definitely have more crust and less filling than traditional pie, so all the more reason to master your skills of making great homemade pie dough.

I made 1 1/2 the recipe and used 2 cups blueberries and 1 cup raspberries (see footnote).

Pie Crust (makes enough for 6 hand pies)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
Around 1/2 cup ice water

Stir together flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss the butter cubes into the flour mixture. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, rub or cut butter into flour until the texture of very coarse meal. You should still have some large clumps and flakes- don’t overwork the dough. Add 1/4 cup ice water and stir the dough together with a rubber spatula, adding more water if dry, until dough comes together. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Crust can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Hand Pies
Pie crust, above, chilled
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)*
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15 x 12 inch rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.

Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Brush edges of rectangles with water; mound some blueberries in the middle of one side of each. Fold dough over, and use a fork to seal the edges. Place on the prepared baking sheet, brush each with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits in tops with a sharp knife.

Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*As noted above, I used a mix of blueberries and raspberries. You can use any combination of blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries (maybe slice them if they’re large).