April 28th, 2016

Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Cake

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It’s been a long while since I’ve made a big beautiful delicious cake, but the stars aligned last week. Gigi’s “double nickel” birthday and our “last—for a little while” community potluck fell on the same day: April 21st.

Time to celebrate changes and celebrate BIG.

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Yes, our community potluck is taking a hiatus. For almost 7 years, we’ve been gathering on the third Thursday of each month, sharing good food and fellowship. Things are changing in our household a bit faster than we anticipated. Our home of 16 years is under contract and we will soon be moving. This is not completely unexpected. We are building a smaller home (fit for our down-sized life!) and had always planned to sell.

Just not this fast.

But when the right person comes along with the right offer, well, you do the right thing.

And this means shift our gears and start packing. There’s one hitch:construction on our new home won’t be complete until late fall, like after Thanksgiving. Our plan? Put our stuff into storage and find a “Svaha” place to live.

Do you know the word “Svaha?” It’s a native American term that means the undefined place between two defined places, like what occurs between the flash of lightning and roll of thunder. The unknown in-between. Who knows where we’ll end up? Guess we’ll be gypsies.

Enough about change and moving and gypsy possibilities—let’s get to the heart of the post, this marvelous cake. The cake itself gets its richness from butter, eggs and Greek yogurt in the batter.

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You spread both custard and fruit sauce onto each layer, which seeps into the cake, making it exceptionally moist and delicious. I got the idea, and first made this confection using Florida strawberries while we were in DC for Easter. Everyone loved it.

I baked it again for our potluck-birthday-farewell feast, this time doubling the recipe for a towering dessert, and pairing local berries and rhubarb in the fruit sauce.

Raves around the table, my friends!

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If you don’t relish the puckery taste of these ruby stalks (rhubarb is actually a vegetable), try ’em with strawberries. It could change your ways.

As potlucker Rhonda noted, “I can’t believe it. I ‘m making friends with rhubarb.”

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The Cake (makes a grand 4 layer cake)
1 pound butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fiore di sicilia (optional)
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 10 inch cake pans (or springform pans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the cake pans with parchment and coat with butter or baking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then beat in the Greek yogurt and extracts.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients—flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing into a smooth batter.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes–until top is golden and set.

Remove and cool on a baking rack.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 pound rhubarb, washed and chopped (like celery)
1 quart strawberries, washed, capped, and coarsely chopped

Place a 2 quart saucepan on medium heat. Pour in the sugar, cornstarch and water. Stir well until sugar and cornstarch is dissolved. Add the chopped rhubarb. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the strawberries. Cook for another two minutes, stirring well.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake. (This cane be made ahead of time.)

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Custard
1 quart half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, beaten

Pour the half-and-half into a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch. Place on medium heat. Stir constantly, making sure the sugar and cornstarch are well dissolved.
When small bubbles form along the rim of the pan, remove from heat.
Add a small amount of liquid to the egg yolks and beat well.
Pour the egg yolks into the saucepan. Place on low heat. Continue stirring (I use a whisk or wooden spoon) Mixture will thicken, and coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake. (This can be made ahead of time.)

Chantilly Cream
3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the ingredients into a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to ice the cake.

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ASSEMBLY
Split both cooled cakes in half, creating 4 layers.

Spread the first layer with strawberry-rhubarb sauce, followed by custard. Top with another cake layer and repeat this process until all four layers are spread with sauce and custard and stacked.

Place into the refrigerator for an hour to set up.

To finish the cake: cover sides and top with whipped cream. Garnish with fresh strawberries and flowers, if you like. Serves 20-25.

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Posted in Desserts, Fruit, Recipes | 19 Comments »




May 20th, 2014

One-Hour Cheese! review, recipes, and a giveaway

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It wasn’t just the allure of this gluten-free, no-bake tart, coupled with the fact that local strawberries are here at our markets, ready to spill their juicy sweetness over its top.

It’s the homemade cheese that fills it: Fromage Facile. That’s French for “Easy Cheese.” Soft, slightly tangy, fresh—and ready to spread into that tart, in about thirty minutes. I was sold.

But, there’s more.
Delicate Chevre kisses laced with lavender and thyme, spiced twists of Oaxacan cheese (quesillo) to pull and melt over flatbread, rounds of burrata filled with brown butter and cream.

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Chevre. Mozzarella. Burrata. All wonderful cheeses—can you imagine making them yourself in under an hour?

Claudia Lucero says absolutely! and demonstrates 16 different varieties simply, beautifully, in her new book, One-Hour Cheese.

I’m a novice in this field. I have experimented, with some success, making ricotta and mascarpone . But I want to know more. How do you hand-stretch mozzarella? Why do you use citric acid and vegetable rennet? How do you form that purse of burrata and fill it with cream? What can you do with all that leftover whey? Can you really make a smoked cheddar wheel in just 60 minutes? (You can, although its name, “smoked cheater,” tells you it is not a true smoked cheddar—-but it’s incredible, nonetheless.)

One-Hour Cheese provides the answers to these–and many other cheese making questions.

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Even though I wanted to leap to the more complicated recipe, Burrata, for my first try, I decided to begin with Fromage Facile. This super-simple and delectable cheese is ideal for anyone’s initial foray into cheese-making. It provides a luscious blank canvas, ready to accept sweet or savory applications. And, you don’t need any extraordinary to make it. Likely you already have everything you need in your pantry.

The ingredient list? Whole cow’s milk, buttermilk, lemon juice and salt.

Supplies of Note? Cheesecloth and a reliable thermometer.

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The process is quick: gently heat the milk to 175 degrees. Stir in the buttermilk and lemon juice. Watch the curds form before your eyes.

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Strain, to separate the whey. Lightly salt. Form into a ball. Ta-Dah! Fromage Facile.

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Claudia gives many enticing recipes, to accompany each of the cheeses in the book. Tapenades and dried fruit-nut pastes to flavor the farm-fresh rounds. Vibrant herb-olive oil marinades to cloak bocconcini–little bon-bons of mozzarella. Spiked and peppered melts for pizza and quesadillas.

The photographs are appealing; the steps involved are clearly illustrated; interesting tips are posted throughout. Claudia’s style is upbeat and fun. You’ll want to make these cheeses. And, you can.

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This No-Bake Tartlette? You can whip it up in the time it takes for the Fromage Facile curds to drain. The crust has only 3 ingredients: toasted nuts (I used walnuts, but almonds or pecans would work well.) combined with dates and a pinch of salt. That’s it.

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Press the mixture into the pans. Swirl a little honey into the Fromage Facile, and spread into each tart shell. Top with the Fruit of the Moment.

Right now, the strawberries in Nashville are out of this world. Slice a few and sprinkle a little raw sugar over these gems–it coaxes out the juices. Add some furls of basil or mint, if you like. Spoon over the tart. Serve immediately—or chill for 30 minutes. Either way, it is simply delicious.

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Now, for the fun part: The Giveaway. You are going enjoy having this book as a part of your culinary library.

Post a comment below, telling about a favorite cheese, or a cheese making experience. On June 1st, I will announce the winner, chosen at random.

You can also follow Claudia’s book-blog tour—next up is Texas Farmer’s Daughter and Butter Me Up, Brooklyn. Check ’em out.

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FROMAGE FACILE from One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero
1 quart whole cow’s milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 cup cultured buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon flake salt (or to taste)
Fresh Herbs (optional)

SUPPLIES
Medium colander or mesh strainer
Fine cheesecloth
Large heat-resistant bowl
2 quart stockpot
Cooking thermometer
Large mixing spoon
Measuring cup and measuring spoons
Parchment

1. Line the colander with cheesecloth. Place a bowl underneath to collect the whey.
2. Pour the quart of cow’s milk into a pot. Place over medium heat, warming the milk until it reaches 175 degrees. Stay close by to monitor the heat, stirring to prevent the skin from forming on the top or sticking to the bottom.
3. When the milk reaches 175 degrees, add the buttermilk and lemon juice. Stir well. Remove from heat and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
4. You will see separation of curds and whey. Stir the curds gently to check the texture. Pour into the cheesecloth-lined colander.
5. Allow the curds to drain until they resemble thick oatmeal, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the salt.
6. Pack the cheese into a paper (or plastic) lined dish to form a wheel.

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NO-BAKE STRAWBERRY-CHEESE TARTLETS adapted from One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon salt
Fromage Facile
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh ripe strawberries
fresh basil or mint

Place walnuts and dates into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add salt. Pulse and process together to form a crumbly crust that will stay formed when squeezed.

Press the crust into tart pans.

Fold honey into fromage facile. Spread into tart shells. Chill for one hour.

Slice strawberries and place into a small bowl. Chiffonade (finely slice) basil or mint and toss into berries.
Top the tarts with berry-mint mixture and serve.

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Posted in Egg/Cheese Dishes, Fruit, Gluten Free, Recipes | 25 Comments »




May 4th, 2010

The Strawberry Special

bills 60th b-day cake

Life is full of cycles and surprises.

Of late, my family circle has been experiencing a birthday cycle of the zero years, the “round birthdays,” as friend Lee calls them. It began with Madeleine’s 30th last September, followed by
my mom’s 80th in February, and now, gasp, Bill’s 60th.

For a man who 1. needs nothing and 2. is rather chagrined at the sound of …utter it in low, almost inaudible tones…Sixty, this particular birthday presented a bit of a challenge.

How to make something new…different…memorable?
A bonafide surprise party , that hadn’t been done for the man!

We did manage to pull it off, no easy feat. I had Bill convinced that while I had planned to give him a dinner party at our home on his actual birthday–a Monday—too many friends were unable to come that night. Jenn had to study for an exam, for starters. Wendy and Jim had to meet up with the relatives from Tupelo, no getting out of that.

” We’ll do it Friday, instead, when everyone can come. You don’t mind, do you?” I said.

A shake of the head. No.

“Roger invited us to the Indian restaurant,” I continued. “It’ll be fun.”

A smile and a nod.

Everyone was instructed to show up at said Indian restaurant at 6pm, with cars parked out-of-sight and a toast or a roast in hand. We’d arrive at 6:15.

It all worked like a symphony.

In the meantime, I had to furtively make this singular cake that ended up showcasing two of Bill’s faves: strawberry and chocolate.

To be truthful, I had started out to make a fresh strawberry cake, which would have been perfectly delicious in and of itself. But, then I remembered a lone layer of chocolate cake in the freezer—wouldn’t that be scrumptuous sandwiched between two strawberry ones?

Sometimes I surprise myself.

slice of strawberry cake

slice of strawberry cake

The strawberry cake is simple to make—and perfect timing:local berries are just now coming in. It is especially nice with cream cheese icing, recipe found here. If you add a chocolate layer, some chocolate ganache icing, and strawberries in syrup spread over the dense cake will push it over the top.

strawberry cake ingredients

Strawberry Cake
3 c. fresh Strawberries
11/2 c. Sugar
1 c. Butter, melted
1 c. Milk
1 t. Vanilla
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour, sifted twice
1 T. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
4 Eggs

2 9″ cake pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse strawberries in a food processor fitted with a swivel blade until pureed.
In a mixer, whip together strawberries with sugar, milk, vanilla. Beat in eggs., then flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour in melted butter and beat well. Pour into 2 (” cake pans that have been coated and lined with parchment. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove, cool on racks.

strawberry batter

upright strawberry cake slice

overhead strawberry cake

Post Script: What a difference a week can make: Nashville and surrounding counties have all been inundated by drastic rainfall–over 15″ in only two days. We had a flooded basement-about 8″ of water in Bill’s studio, but got it pumped out. Many, many friends have experienced much worse. A flood of historic proportions affecting unlikely, unforeseen places. All kinds of surprises in life—and all best thoughts to those who lost so much.

Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes | 21 Comments »