Sometimes the best ideas come from happy accidents. I had set out to make blueberry sauce for the boys’ pancakes, instead this purple, berry-stuffed cake materialized. I’d been testing a recipe for the perfect white cake, which I am always on the hunt for. (I think, in my humble opinion, I have the world’s best Devil’s Food Cake, but a simple white cake is still out there to be created.) Whenever I get a new baking book I make the white cake to see if the author nailed it. It has to be moist, but not dense and has to taste like warm vanilla. The cake I was testing that morning is from Vintage Cakes. I won’t stop looking for the perfect cake, but this one is pretty close. The boys never did get pancakes that morning, but they did get to eat purple cake for breakfast. They were thrilled. (more…)
I’m not sure anyone would describe me as a perfectionist? My house is neat enough, but it is clearly lived in. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who irons my sheets, my table clothes or even my clothes, but so far it’s just a fantasy. The only place I admit to being really obsessive is my work. I’ve been known to make a recipe over and over and over, until I am happy. It also has to pass the test of the François family, which can often feel like an episode of Chopped. They are neither shy, nor sparing with their criticism (and praise), but it seems they enjoy the criticism even more and I’ve come to trust and rely on their opinions. So, when I cut into the first round of this cheesecake, they didn’t hesitate to tell me it was “WAY TOO SWEET!” None of us are a big fans of cloyingly, teeth-on-edge, sweets. We prefer to taste the vanilla, the berries and even a touch of sour cream in cheesecake. After a bit of adjusting and a lot of testing, I’ve got it “Just right!”
Red (raspberry), white (vanilla bean) and blue (blueberry) layers of distinct flavors, all work beautifully together in this 4th of July Cheesecake. The fresh blueberry topping is held together with just enough gelatin to give it a gorgeous, glossy look and makes it easy to cut. In order to achieve the clean layers you’ll need to have some time to let each one set, so it isn’t a recipe for a last minute dinner party. It’s super easy and completely worth the extra time to present such a fun dessert at your holiday party. (more…)
I had a forehead thumping moment recently when a friend asked me for a blueberry muffin recipe. In all the years I’ve been doing this site, I’ve never posted the most basic of breakfast treats. How did I get away with this, especially when they are one of my favorites. For me the perfect blueberry muffin is light, fluffy and bursting with blueberries. I added a touch of ginger because it perks up the flavor of the berries, but not so much that it’s overpowering. The topping is buttery, sweet and bakes into a lacy crust. I like to bake them in large “Texas-sized” muffin cups, so there is lots of muffin top and just as much of the berry center. They are great small, but I am always left wanting for more and for some reason I feel less guilty eating one big one, instead of two little ones. (more…)
Yesterday was the official end of summer in my house. Back to school for both boys, and I spent the day wishing they were home again. “Seriously?” You may ask. I spent the past several weeks anticipating the beginning of school with a certain glee, which may have bordered on unhealthy. I couldn’t wait to have peace and quiet in my house, for hours at a time. I looked forward to doing my work without interruption, sans little fingers dipping into the bowl. But, when it came to the actual day, I missed them and couldn’t wait for them to get off the bus.* Instead of pathetically staring out the window waiting, I decided to bake them some bars. Every MN kid loves bars.
For those of you from the coasts, I am referring to a layered dessert baked in a pan resembling a brownie/cookie/pie, but can be made with fruit, caramel, chocolate or anything else your pantry contains. Then they are cut into neat bars. I was first introduced to this concept when I moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago. Bars are generally served on a buffet table with lots of crock pots filled with “hot dish.” Every family has their own recipe, usually a tightly held secret, mostly kept from the neighbors.
Just a couple of weeks ago Stephanie Meyer asked me to judge a MNFoodBloggers Bar Bake-Off. It seems the quintessential task of any MN food blogger, baker or non-baking type, to create the perfect bar. What I forgot when I took on this responsibility is how many members the MNFoodBloggers has and how many bars I would have to eat in one sitting. Luckily, I was not alone in my task, Stephanie March from Mpls/St.Paul Magazine and Joy Estelle Summers from City Pages joined me. We consumed 13, or was it 16, different MN Bars. Some were traditional recipes from grandma’s kitchen and others were a daringly new take on the MN dessert. The winner was Kelli Abrahamian from IHadaDelicousTime.com with her Rosemary Apricot Bars (picture below). Her fantastic herby crust and fruit filling were my inspiration for my Blueberry Bar recipe. (more…)
The patriotic colors and summery flavors combine to make this the perfect 4th of July dessert. Red raspberries, white chocolate pastry cream and blueberries top an almond shortbread crust. Add a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and you have an easy, yet elegant pastry. Given the holiday I made the tart in a rectangular pan to mimic the shape of the flag, but it also works well in a more traditional round pan or even as individual tartlettes. Later in the summer try this same dessert, but switch the berries for fresh peaches or plums.
Related post: Blueberry Cobbler with White Peach Ice Cream
I have to admit this recipe was an accident, a happy one, but a mistake nonetheless. I was going to post on shortcakes, with balsamic roasted strawberries. I was mixing up the biscuits and got distracted, probably by something I read on Twitter. I added way too much buttermilk to the dough and they were no longer useful as biscuits. How disappointing to have a recipe in mind and then blow it. These weren’t just any biscuits, they were made with cheddar cheese, so they would have a slight sharpness to them, which I find a perfect compliment to the sweet berry filling. What to do, there was no way I was tossing these beauties, but they were too soft to work with in the traditional way. Then it hit me, COBBLER. All the same ingredients, but baked together at one time, even better. I added blueberries, fresh ginger and lemon zest to the strawberries and topped it with my sticky biscuit dough. Thanks to my inability to focus yesterday, I have a new favorite dessert! (more…)