Strawberry Shortcake

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As you may have figured out by now, my birthday gifts to my friends and family members usually end up being the birthday cake of their choice – no cake too elaborate, no tower of layers too high. We have had a few memorable ones over the years, but this one sticks out because when I asked Atlas which cake she’d like for her birthday a couple weeks ago, she said she wanted a strawberry shortcake. And I realized that I had never actually ever made this classical and simple dessert delight. So I decided to go right back to the cake’s roots and make it as classic as possible, following this recipe from Fine Cooking.

Strawberry shortcake, in its traditional form, is not really a cake at all. It’s more of a sweet sandwich in a biscuit (“short” cake indicating that the cake isn’t really made with any leavening agents and ends up pretty dense and flat). This recipe also doesn’t really lend itself well to making ahead, as it must be assembled immediately before cooking, but it’s simple enough that this is not a huge deal.

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Let’s start with our dough, shall we? I did make the dough ahead of time, and kept it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, until I was ready to bake it.  Grab 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder,  and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (leavening agents, I know, but give me a break). Whisk those around in a bowl until they’re nice and mixed.

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Now grab yourself 1/2 cup cold butter and cut it into little cubes. Tip the butter into the flour and use a pastry cutter to blend it all up until you have a mess of coarse-looking flour with pea-sized bits of butter throughout.

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In another bowl, mix together 1/4 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk (why oh why don’t they sell buttermilk in smaller cartons?), and 1 large egg.

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Make a well in the centre of your flour/butter mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.

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Stir that around with a fork until you get a shaggy dough.

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Then knead it a little bit with your hand until it all comes together.

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At this point I wrapped it tight in plastic wrap and shoved it in the fridge overnight, but if you want to bake it right away you totally can.

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Ideally the biscuits are made so that they’re still slightly warm when you assemble them with the strawberries, but you can make them up to four hours ahead of when you need them. Just make sure to col them completely and then shove them in an airtight container until they’re needed. So when you’re ready to bake,  preheat your oven to 425°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly flour a nice surface to work on. Grab your rolling pin as well.

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Roll the dough out into a rough rectangle about 3/4″ thick. The original recipe calls for making six biscuits from this dough but those seemed absolutely ginormous so I cut the rectangle into eight biscuits instead and even then they were pretty big.

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Lay the cut biscuits on your baking sheet and brush with a tablespoon of whipping cream and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.

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Bake those for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

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While they’re baking and cooling slightly, you can do your strawberries. You can prepare the strawberries a couple hours ahead of time as well, because they need to macerate (i.e. sit cut up in sugar) for at least 30 minutes. The recipe calls for 1lb fresh strawberries, but I probably used about 1 1/2lbs, and we all agreed later that I could have used the whole 2lbs that I bought. You can never have too many strawberries in strawberry shortcake.

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Anyway, wash and hull the berries, and then take about one third of them and use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mush them up in the bottom of a bowl.

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Slice the rest of the berries and plop them in the bowl with the strawberry mush.

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Tip in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and give that a stir. Leave that to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. At this time you might as well also chuck a bowl for whipping cream into the freezer, along with whatever beater you are going to use. Cold utensils make for a better whipped cream.

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Now you’ve finished your lunch or dinner and it’s time to assemble the cakes. Grab your bowl and beaters out of the freezer and pour in 1 1/2 cups whipping cream. Add vanilla and sugar to taste. I don’t have any photos of this because the Pie did it while I was doing other things.

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Use a serrated knife to cut all the biscuits in half horizontally and set the bottoms of the biscuits on your serving plates.

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Spoon on a generous amount of strawberry goo. It’s okay if it spills off the edges – it looks all artistic that way.

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Add a generous dollop of whipped cream to the mix.

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Then plop the biscuit top on.

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Add another scoop of strawberry goo, followed by more whipped cream.

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Admire your handiwork.

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Then serve immediately! Yum!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Mix

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There’s a joke going around that you can tell it’s fall on college campuses because all the undergraduate girls are dressed in yoga pants, wearing Ugg boots, and hefting pumpkin spice lattes.

Fall College Girl Uniform of Black Yoga Pants/leggings and Uggs with whatever kind of top
Photo borrowed with thanks from John Paul Sullivan

When I was in undergrad, yoga pants hadn’t yet become the lazy fashion statement they are today, Ugg was something you said when someone punched you in the stomach, and the pumpkin spice latte was just a twinkle in the eye of the corporate coffee giants.  In fact, I have only recently discovered the pumpkin spice latte.  AND IT’S AWESOME.  Still, you’d have to pay me quite a bit of money to wear yoga pants outside the house these days …

Anyway, if you think that makes me seem old, let me tell you more.  Back in the early nineties, when Starbucks was just starting to become trendy on the Canadian west coast, the latte was a new beverage to be reckoned with.  My mother and I taught ourselves how to make them, just to see if we could (you see where I get it from?).  We used one of these fantastic wee espresso pots.  Total old school.

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Now, I had not used my latte-making skills in over twenty years, until I was scrolling through my Feedly and came across Just a Smidgen’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Mix recipe.  Upon finding this I knew that I had to dust off my skills (and my coffee maker) and git ‘er done!  And if you’d like to grown-up-ify this recipe, try adding a bit of fall spirit!

The mix itself is super easy to concoct: stir together 4 tablespoons pumpkin pie purée (the plain stuff we keep on hand to feed to Gren), 3 tablespoons sugar (or the sweetener of your choice, adjusted to taste), 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (you can get My Baking Addiction’s recipe here), and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Shove that into a glass canning jar and chuck it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

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Now for the latte.  If you’ve got a fancy espresso machine with a fancy milk foamer/steamer, then by all means go ahead and use that sucker.  I don’t drink these things often enough to justify losing that much counter space to another machine, so I have my ancient espresso percolator, which is easy peasy to use.  Just fill the bottom section up with water.

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Then take the mesh cup and fill it with ground espresso.

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Then screw on the top piece.

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Plop it on the burner (if you’re using gas like me you’ll want to make the flames the same size as the bottom of the pot, else you may burn yourself horribly).

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For each latte you want to serve, plop 2/3 cup milk (your choice as to what kind) in your steamer or in a small pot.  Add in 1 heaping teaspoon of your pumpkin spice latte mix for each latte you are serving and whisk it in.

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Heat the milk until it’s steaming (don’t let it boil or you’ll get skin), whisking to keep it frothy (or use your fancy machine).

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Your espresso ready?  Good. Add a couple shots to your mug.  I’m feeling feisty so mine’s a double.

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Add in your pumpkiny milk.

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I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream on beverages, but if you want to get luxurious with this puppy you should add some to the top of this, sprinkled with a bit more pumpkin spice.  And that’s it!

**EDIT: And if you’re feeling adventurous, I’ve just discovered that it makes a great addition to your morning porridge!**

Fun with Gelatin: Coffee and Cream

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Still so much gelatin and condensed milk to get rid of!  This idea came from the Pie as I was bemoaning the large bottle of Camp coffee extract I hadn’t yet had a chance to use and wouldn’t be able to move.

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This, therefore, is what we’re gonna do.  And I hope it works.  Also, it’s sort of a commemorative thing for Cait, whose birthday was yesterday (Happy Day!), and whose love for coffee is surpassed only by her love for her dog.  And for me (I hope, but all bets are off).

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In one small bowl, plop about 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle that with 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin.  This is for the cream layer.  In a slightly larger bowl, repeat the process with 1/2 cup cold water sprinkled with 2 envelopes gelatin.  The slightly larger bowl is for the coffee layer.  Let both of those sit for about 5 minutes.

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Now, whether you use your microwave for this or your stove is up to you, but you’re gonna need two different hot liquids on the go here.  And the order of how you do this of course depends on whether you’re planning to unmould your gelatin or leave it in its container.  If you’re planning to unmould it (inverted), do the cream layer first.  If you want it to stay in the container in which you put it, do the coffee layer first.  The end result of what you’re looking for is a dish composed of about 2/3 coffee layer on the bottom and 1/3 cream layer on the top.

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For the cream layer, heat 1 cup water to boiling, and stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated.  If you’d like, you can add a few splashes of Irish cream liqueur (but not too much, because alcohol will hinder the gelling process).  Pour that hot mess over your gelatin in the smaller bowl and stir until everything is dissolved and smooth.

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Distribute the mixture evenly amongst your moulds and chill them for at least 25 minutes.

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For the coffee layer, you’ll need 3 cups hot coffee (fresh or reheated or instant, it’s up to you).  Add whatever sweeteners you like and a few splashes coffee extract (if you have it) to intensify the flavour.  Pour that over the gelatin in the slightly larger bowl and stir until everything is dissolved.

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Let your coffee mixture cool a bit (you can always divide the liquid and have half of it hot and half of it cold to cool it faster).

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Distribute the coffee mixture evenly amongst the moulds (either on top of the chilled cream layer or at the bottom if you’re not unmoulding), and chill for at least 4 hours (or 25 minutes if you’re layering with cream on top, then reverse the whole thing … you know what I mean).  I found that if I just poured the liquid in, it punched a hole through the cream layer (which isn’t entirely solid at this point), so I ended up spooning it in gently with a measuring cup and pouring it against the side of the mould.

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I think the very topmost layer of cream gelatin also dissolved into the coffee layer, which makes it more opaque than it was originally.

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To serve, immerse your moulds in hot water for a few seconds, then tip them out onto a plate.  If you were stupid and used plastic cups, like I did, you’re probably going to need a knife and a bit of persuasion to get them out.

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Maybe a dollop of whipping cream on top would go over nicely, or some grated chocolate?

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Confession time: I messed up this recipe when I made it the first time and didn’t use enough gelatin in the coffee layer.  So it didn’t gel.  So the coffee layer tipped out like this:

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And the cream layer stayed in the cup like this.  But was oh so tasty.

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So I froze it in order to get these pictures.  And if you do it that way (with only 1 envelope of gelatin for the coffee) and freeze it, it’s quite nifty: more of an Irish cream panna cotta on top of a nice espresso granita.  Sounds fancy.  Tastes delicious!

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Fluffy Lemon Creamy Pie Thing

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This dish is actually known as “Dairyman’s Delight” but that seemed a little sketchy to use as a title.  So obviously I went with something equally vague and sketchy of my own devising.  Way to go Ali.  I think in essence it’s a lemon chiffon pie of sorts, but having never had one, I could be wrong.  Either way, this is a good way for me to use up extra cream cheese, condensed milk, and gelatin that I have hanging around.

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In a bowl, stir together 1 cup whipping cream with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice and let that stand for about 10 minutes.

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In another bowl, plop 1 8oz (250g) package plain cream cheese.  I find that the closer to room temperature the cream cheese is, the smoother it ends up being.  Give it a bit of a beating to even it out. I confess here I wasn’t as diligent about my mashing and room temperature-ing as I should have been. Sue me.

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Gradually beat 1 can sweetened condensed milk into the cream cheese mixture.  Leave that alone for a few minutes so you can do other things.

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Sprinkle 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin over 1/4 cup cold water in a heatproof bowl.  Let that sit for 5 minutes (you can do this first so it sits while you beat up your cream cheese and stuff).

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Once it’s sat for a while and bloomed, set the heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water (or sit it in a sink of hot water) and stir until it’s all dissolved and incorporated.

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Now, whip that lemon-cream mixture (that has been waiting so patiently for you) until it starts to stiffen.

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Pour that creamy goodness into your cream cheesy goodness and continue to beat until it’s all well-blended. Stir in your gelatin as well as 2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Pour the whole thing into a 10″ deep dish graham cracker pie crust  (I bought this from Sobeys but you could make your own) and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. My pie pan wasn’t deep dish, but the filling has enough structure that you can kind of mound it into a little hill on top and it will stay.

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Serve with fruit on top.  Enjoy!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Raspberry Ice Cream Meringue Sundae

Snow Day Dinner

This was dessert when Fussellette came to dinner last week.

Started first with a meringue (my recipe is from The Joy of Cooking, but you can see a chocolate version here).

We plopped on the meringue some raspberry ice cream (see post here, but minus the vinegar).  Then we topped it with whipped cream, melted chocolate, and fresh blackberries.  Sweet and simple.

Snow Day Dinner

Spiced Cider Gelee

Winter

Winter is a time for cooking comfort food.  Things are warm, spicy, and, usually, on the thick, rich, and heavy side.

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Why not try something a little different?  How about winter flavours with a lighter twist?

We served these gelled desserts after Christmas dinner, but they would be a great finish to any winter meal.  I don’t have too many pictures of the process, because, well, it was Christmas and I was busy doing other things.  But it’s a simple idea.  It comes from the Holiday 2011 issue of LCBO’s Food & Drink Magazine.

In a small pot, pour 1/4 cup apple cider and sprinkle it with 1 envelope unflavoured gelatin. Cook that over low heat, stirring all the while, until the gelatin has completely liquefied.  Set that aside for a spell, and don’t fret if the gelatin starts to set while it’s waiting.

Apple Cider Gelatin

In a larger pot, stir together 2 3/4 cups apple cider, a cinnamon stick, one 1/4″ thick slice of fresh ginger, 10 black peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon corriander seeds.  Bring that mixture to a boil, then turn it down to medium and simmer it for 10 minutes or so, until the mixture is spiced and reduced down to 2 cups.

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Pour the spiced cider mixture through a sieve into the pot with the gelatin and stir until it’s all combined.  Pour into four little cups (we used some demitasses we had in the basement), and stick a cinnamon stick into each one.  Chill for 2 hours, or until set.

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To serve, garnish with whipped cream mixed with maple syrup and a dash of ground cardamom or garam masala.

Have you tried Fussell’s?

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This is how Fussellette got her name.

She was sitting in the MUGS room with the Pie, talking about, of all things, pie (we don’t call him that because he’s sweet and flaky, after all).  They were discussing the merits of ice cream versus whipped cream as a topping.

Fussellette, a native Newfoundlander, mentioned that growing up, she had always had Fussell’s on her pies and desserts.

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The Pie’s first reaction was along the lines of, “what on earth are you talking about?  Fussell’s?”

I’ve never heard of it either.  So Fussellette bought us some.

Apparently it’s a sterilized thick cream in a can, a Newfoundland staple.  Ostensibly it’s from the Golden Butterfly Brand, but on the back you can see it’s distributed by Smucker’s, which is part of Nestlé.  Globalization …

It’s rather clotted and yellowish, but tastes just like what it is, thickened cream.

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We plopped it on our pie.  It was good.

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