Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Days, Summer Fruits, Summer Tastes....Forever....

I was sitting here absorbed in my daydreams (yes, I dream about food and possible recipes.... ) and it occurred to me that we're still in Summer which means.... Summer Fruits! Wonderfully ripe, juicy, sweet goodness that can bring on big-time nostalgia musings for some, memories of childhoods past (if you were lucky enough to grow up with a baking Mom....) and just full-out flavor locked in great goodies!....Mmmmm.....

I've always been a sucker for baking and I've been sabotaging my family's diets for years with heavenly aromas from my kitchen when the oven is doing it's thing.... I love to bake so I'm forever thinking up ways to fill up those "holes" in your soul with baked wonders. This is the ultimate comfort food, folks.... But I don't need a particular season to bring all this on as Winter is also a perfect time to put the oven to work and greet you as soon as you come in from a cool winter day; nothing like baked goods to let you know you're home......

I guess you could call me the Postal Service of Baking: "Neither rain nor sleet nor dead of night will keep me from my appointed baking duties".... No siree, Bob..... Love baking!

But back to my recipe results and planning for summer treats galore. Here are some great examples to make a memorable Summer and maybe create not only a memory or two but turn some of these into Summer Traditions as well......

Berry Ice Cream Cake.- You can do this from scratch or just put it together with store-bought items, either way it's great! (look in my archives for decadent old fashioned pound cake):
1 loaf pound cake, sliced horizontally into thirds
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup strawberries (or whatever combination you like, can be peaches, nectarines)
1/2 cup blueberries
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
Confectioners' sugar, for serving

Place bottom layer of cake on a large piece of foil or in a loaf pan of equal size. Sprinkle half the fruit over cake, spread evenly with half the ice cream, and top with another cake layer. Repeat with remaining fruit, ice cream, and cake. Wrap with foil and freeze at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove cake from freezer about 30 min before serving. Serve dusted with confectioners' sugar.
Fruit Puffs.- Here's another quick and easy treat for you to try:
All-purpose flour, for work surface
1 sheet puff pastry (about 8 to 10 oz, can be frozen or you can use croissant or biscuit cans)
3 cups blackberries (or your favorite fruit or a mix)
3 tbl sugar
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pastry to a 10 x 12 in. rectangle. With a sharp knife, trim edges and cut pastry into eight 3 x 5 in. pieces. Place pastry on a large baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 15 min.
Transfer sheet to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 min. Let cool, then split each pastry horizontally.
In a bowl, mash blackberries (or fruit) and sugar with a fork until juicy but still chunky. Spread mascarpone (or cream cheese) on pastry bottoms. Top with blackberry or fruit mixture and pastry tops.
Note: if you like your cream to be sweet, go and add 1-2 tbl of sugar and whip.
Strawberry Tart with Crème Patisserie .- I changed this a little to my taste, I think it's perfect! The addition of the crème patisserie is fantastic since this is the one used in traditional French desserts like profiteroles, or cream puffs, Napoleons, éclairs, tarts, and Génoise cake. It can also be flavored too! Makes 1 large or 2 medium tarts, or you can make individual ones.

8 oz (2 sticks)butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tbl confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting (optional)
2 large egg yolks, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/4 tsp salt
3 pints (6 cups) perfect strawberries, hulled
3 cups strawberry preserves (two 12-ounce jars) or extra fresh ones to boil up and mash with 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

For the Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbl plus 2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy. Add yolks, and beat until just incorporated. Add flour and salt, and beat until just incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
Roll out each disk into an 11-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit each round into the bottoms and up the sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Prick the bottoms of dough with a fork, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush crusts with egg wash. Bake, pressing down crusts if they start to bubble so watch while baking, until golden brown, about 20 min. Let cool completely, and remove from pans.

Trim strawberries to about the same height. Heat preserves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until loose. Strain through a fine sieve. You will have about 1 cup of solids. Cool. Spread 1/2 cup solids over bottom of each tart. Make and Spread pastry cream of bottom of tarts. Arrange strawberries in a single layer over the top, placing cut sides down. Brush strawberries with just enough warm glaze to make berries shiny. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired. Chill.
Beat cream with remaining 2 tbl sugar just until thickened. Cut each tart and serve slices topped with whipped cream.

French Pastry Cream
In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.

Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 min, until the custard reaches 170F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and chill before using.
Buttermilk Pie with Fruit Sauce.- A lovely summer pie with a flavorful topping!
1 prepared 8-inch graham-cracker crust (or make your own, see my archives)
1 large egg white, beaten until frothy
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tbl all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk, well shaken (or use heavy cream with 2 tbl of vinegar)
3 tbl butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 pint (1 cup) raspberries (or other fruit like blue or blackberries)
2 tbl granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place crust (in its pan) on a baking sheet. Brush crust lightly with some egg white; discard remainder. Bake until crisp and slightly darkened, 6 to 8 min. Set aside to cool.

Make the Filling: In a food processor, process sugar and flour until well combined. Add eggs; process until smooth. Add buttermilk, butter, and salt; process just until blended. Pour into crust. Bake until filling is almost set but center still jiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, 35 to 40 min.

Make the berry Sauce: Combine berries, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Lightly mash about half the berries with a fork. Let sit at least 10 min to allow juices to release. Transfer pie to a rack; cool completely. Cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. To serve, slice pie and drizzle slices with Berry Sauce.
Old Fashioned Country "Fool".- Whipped cream and fruit make a "fool", make them in any fruit flavor for a quick and cool treat!
1/2 pint fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbl granulated sugar, or to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbl confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a small, nonreactive saucepan, combine blueberries, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and 2 tbl water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until blueberries begin to break down and juices boil and thicken, about 5 min. Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl. Place bowl in a larger bowl of ice water, and stir mixture occasionally until cold.

In a separate bowl, combine cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form; fold in 1/3 cup of the blueberry sauce. Divide among four dessert dishes, and spoon remaining sauce over tops.
My Version of an English Trifle.- Cake, Syrup, Fruit, Whipped Cream and Pastry Cream, how could you go wrong with that?
1/2 cup plus 2 tbl sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
4 cups raspberries (or mixed berries)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 lbs favorite pound cake
1 recipe French Pastry Cream (see above), chilled

In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and lemon juice to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, 1 to 2 min. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine jam with 3 cups raspberries, mashing slightly. In a large bowl, whip cream and 2 tbl sugar to stiff peaks. Have pastry cream ready and chilled. Slice pound cake 3/4 inch thick; brush both sides of slices with lemon syrup.

Fit 1/3 of cake slices snugly in the bottom of a 4-quart trifle dish or other glass bowl, trimming edges if necessary. Spread 1/2 of the pastry cream. Then gently spread with 1/3 of raspberry mixture. Repeat to make two more layers but put 1/2 of the whipped cream on top before putting the last cake layer on; finish with a cake layer, pastry cream layer, fruit layer and whipped cream layer. Garnish with remaining fruits. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 24 hours.

Note: You can also drizzle the cake layer with some Rum, Brandy, Cognac or Amaretto for a different flavor combination which is really nice too.

I hope I've tempted you to bake during the Summer and celebrate sweet fruits and their full flavors.... Have a lovely summer creating memories to last forever!

So whether you're grilling in the backyard, having a pool party, making a beach soire, relaxing in the porch on the "sliders" or just having a relaxing evening at home with the family or an informal get-together with friends..... any time spent sharing company can be made special with some simple touches from your imagination and some summer recipes..... make your "stay-cation" something to remember and enjoy a wonderful summer!

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