Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The perfect bite of Spring

I look forward to Spring every year. The warmer temps are great but I really get excited about fresh strawberries! I come from a family of strawberry fanatics. Well, we all love strawberries but my dad is the true fanatic. He started growing organic strawberries on his farm, on a commercial level, about 5 years ago. This time of year my mother becomes a strawberry widow. Dad spends the entire strawberry season with his plants. If you ask what he's doing he says they need cleaning, to be checked for diseases, picking...etc. It's always something. Mom swears he's out there talking to the plants. We're not sure what he does, but we enjoy eating them and as you can imagine, we eat LOTS of strawberries.
I particularly look forward to fresh strawberry pie. It's got to be one of my all-time favorite desserts. Strawberry pie is like taking a bite of Spring. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!
My mom has been making this pie for as long as I can remember. When I asked for the recipe she said "mash up some berries cook them down a bit with some sugar, a couple tablespoons of corn starch, and lemon juice. throw them in your pre-baked crust and let it get really cold." I asked how much sugar she added she said it depended on how sweet the berries were. So this is the recipe I came up with from those instructions. If your berries aren't very sweet add up to 1 cup of sugar.
This is a great pie. The only thing that can make it better is a dollop of lightly whipped cream...the perfect bite of Spring!

Fresh Strawberry Pie (Printable Recipe)
makes one 9"  pie
1 pre-baked 9  pie crust  (you can use your favorite pie crust recipe.)
I used this sweet dough for mine and made them into 4" individual pies.

Deluxe buttery flaky pastry dough
Ethan Becker and Maria Guarnachelli

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon 
powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water
Yield: Two 9-inch pie crusts
This recipe makes enough for two pies. You can half the recipe but I like to make the whole recipe and freeze half of the dough. Then you can just thaw, roll out, and your ready for another pie!
In a large bowl mix together, purpose flour, white sugar, powdered sugar, salt
Working quickly to prevent softening, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, cold unsalted butter
Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or two knives, chop the butter into pea-sized pieces. Add vegetable shortening
With a few quick swipes of the pastry blender, cut the shortening into large chunks and distribute throughout the bowl. Continue to chop with the pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Do not let the mixture soften. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over the flour.
Cut ice water in with your pastry cutter or knives until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls.  If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle more of the ice water over the mixture.
Then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.

Pre-Baking your pie crust: 
This is the method of pre-baking your pie crust before adding the filling is also known as "blind" baking.
Pre-heat oven to 350F
Roll out the pastry and line pie pan carefully, making sure there are no holes. If there are, patch them with some of the leftover pastry dough. Crimp the edge, if desired. Using a fork, prick the crust lightly all over. This will keep the dough from puffing up. Line the pastry with parchment or waxed paper and fill with pie weights, if you have them. If not, you can use any dried beans or rice. I save my beans and use them over and over. Bake the pastry at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove the paper and beans, and allow crust to cool. After crust has cooled completely, pour your filling into pre-baked pie shell.
For the Filling
2  cups  ripe strawberries
1/2  cup  water
2/3  cup  sugar
2  tablespoons  cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
4 cups ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced (if your berries are small you can leave them whole if you prefer.)

 Mash 2 cups strawberries with a potato masher. Combine mashed strawberries and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine 2/3 cup sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl; add to strawberries, stirring well. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, and cook 2 minutes or until the corn starch loses it's cloudiness. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and zest. Allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.
Gently fold 2 cups of the sliced berries into the the slightly cooled cooked strawberry mixture. Reserve remaining berries to arrange on the top of your pie. Spoon strawberry mixture into the pre-baked pie crust. Arrange the remaining strawberries on top. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake


Sorry for the lack of posting but life has gotten in the way as of late. I'm hoping to get things back on track! One of the things that kept me from blogging last week was catering for a bridal brunch. I made this smoked salmon cheesecake as part of the brunch menu. It's a savory version of a dessert cheesecake. This was the first savory cheesecake I've ever made and I loved the end product. It even has a "crust" made from dry breadcrumbs!  The cheesecake is filled with smoked salmon, dill, scallions, and capers. It's all the things you love on your morning bagel, baked up together. This savory cheesecake makes an elegant addition to any party. 

I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of the inside  of the cheesecake but I don't think the hostess would have appreciated a missing slice!

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

(printable recipe)
(Source Women's Day December, 2006)


1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs

3- 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened 

3 large eggs 

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream  

2 Tbsp flour  

11/2 tsp grated lemon zest  

1/4 tsp each salt and pepper  

4 oz sliced smoked salmon, coarsely chopped  

6 scallions, thinly sliced  

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill  

1 Tbsp capers, chopped  


Heat oven to 325°F. Coat bottom and sides of an 8-in. springform pan with nonstick spray. Add bread crumbs; tilt and rotate pan to cover bottom and sides with crumbs. Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed 1 minute or just until smooth. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended. Beat in sour cream, flour, zest, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in salmon, scallions, dill and capers. Pour into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake 40 minutes or until center is just set. Remove pan to wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate covered. Shortly before serving: Remove side of pan. Place cheesecake on serving plate. Cut in wedges. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette.