raspberry-swirled cheesecake cupcakes

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I did a lot of things I’m proud of this weekend. I didn’t have to work Friday, so I kicked off the three-day weekend with the second-longest run I’ve ever done, and the longest run that wasn’t part of a big race. Then I made Dave give me hourly high-fives for the rest of the day.

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The next day, I had my first-ever paid baking order. A coworker hired me to make a dozen each of two different types of cupcakes for her daughter’s wedding. Two dozen isn’t a lot of cupcakes, but I wanted to get them just right, with great taste and beautiful garnishes.

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Less than an hour after I dropped those off, we had a bunch of people over to watch football – the first time Dave and I have entertained more than a couple friends at a time since we’ve been married. By keeping things casual (or at least, my version of casual), enlisting a lot of help from Dave, and being creative with what I already had around, I managed to entertain the way I like to – with a lot of food, of course – but without a lot of stress.

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One of the ways I made the most of what I had available was to make extras of these cupcakes. The wedding’s colors were black, ivory, and red, so the bride chose these raspberry-swirled cheesecake cupcakes drizzled with chocolate and topped with raspberry truffles, as well as chocolate cupcakes with champagne frosting topped with chocolate-covered strawberries. While I was at it, I went ahead and made extra chocolate-covered strawberries and raspberry truffles for my friends too.

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Both sets of cupcakes turned out every bit as good as I’d hoped, and that never happens! The swirls on the cheesecake were pretty and not sloppy, the drizzle didn’t cover up as much as the swirls as I was worried about, the fresh raspberries fit nicely onto the tops. The chocolate cupcakes rose into a perfect mound, and the swirls of frosting didn’t look too amateurish. My first time making chocolate-covered strawberries went just fine, even the stressful part that involved melting white chocolate. I dropped the cupcakes off and then entertained guests all evening, only spitting half-chewed chips on someone once! This is about as successful as my life gets.

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One year ago: Croissants (Tartine Bread)
Two years ago: Coffee Break Muffins
Three years ago: Green Chile Huevos Rancheros
Four years ago: Pan-Seared Steak with Red Wine Pan Sauce

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Raspberry-Swirled Cheesecake Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes via Annie’s Eats)

Makes 32 cupcakes

The truffles and drizzle make for a nice presentation, but the swirled cupcakes are plenty tasty and pretty on their own.
For the crust:
1½ cups (about 8 full crackers) graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

For the raspberry swirl:
6 ounces (¾ cup) frozen or fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the filling:
4 (8-ounce) cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line 32 muffin wells with paper liners.

2. For the crust: In a food processor, process the graham crackers and sugar until evenly ground. Add the butter and pulse to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Press 1 tablespoon of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of each liner. Bake until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, maintaining the oven temperature.

3. For the raspberry swirl: Combine the raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, then pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. (Or press the raspberries through a food mill, stirring the cornstarch and sugar into the puree.)

4. For the filling: Beat the cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and salt, then the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

5. To assemble, spoon 3 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner. Dot ½ teaspoon of the raspberry puree in a few dots over the cheesecake filling. Use a toothpick or a wooden skewer to lightly swirl the puree.

6. Bake until the filling is set, about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Raspberry Truffles (seen on Annie’s Eats, but I didn’t use the same recipe)

6 ounces fresh raspberries
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2½ tablespoons heavy cream

1. Gently wash and dry the raspberries.

2. In a small heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. (Do not rapidly boil.) Pour the cream over the chocolate. With a fork, gently stir, starting in the center and working toward the edge, until the ganache is smooth.

3. Let the mixture stand at room temperature until it’s thick enough to hold a shape, about 45 minutes, then, using a pastry bag with a small opening, pipe into the stemmed opening on the raspberries.

Chocolate Drizzle (adapted from Tartine’s Chocolate Friands)

I didn’t make this separately, I just stirred in more cream to the ganache leftover from the raspberry truffles. I’m offering it here separately as a good chocolate drizzle recipe.

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅓ cup heavy cream

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. (Do not rapidly boil.) Pour the cream over the chocolate. With a fork, gently stir, starting in the center and working toward the edge, until the ganache is smooth.

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For the chocolate cupcakes, I used this recipe for the cupcake portion; this champagne buttercream for the frosting; and this method for the chocolate-covered strawberries.

chocolate oreo blackberry cake

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I know there are bakers out there who are sad when their birthday rolls around and none of their friends offer to bake them a cake, because their friends are all used to the baker making the cakes. Or maybe their friends don’t feel like their cake could ever live up to one of the baker’s cakes. But even if the baker is the one known for their delicious and beautiful birthday cakes, a birthday cake is more than dessert, it’s a gift, so I understand why people are disappointed when no one makes them one.

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But I am not one of those bakers. Without family or a large group of friends nearby, my opportunities to make dramatic layer cakes are few and far between. My birthday is one of those rare chances, and I soak it up for all its worth. For me, letting me bake my own cake is the gift.

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This year, I did have someone to share that cake with, when my family celebrated my birthday on vacation last week on the beach in Mexico. Vacation baking holds its own challenges, but I can adapt. I did as much as possible at home – mixing up the dry ingredients, measuring and crushing the oreos, and making and freezing the buttercream. The cake itself is an easy one to mix up, no mixer required, but the swiss meringue buttercream needed to be re-whipped after defrosting to restore its smooth and airy texture. My original intention was to smooth the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake and coat the cake with a glossy and dramatic chocolate glaze, but with the scalloped edges of the disposable pans I baked the cakes in, that seemed like a messy prospect. Fortunately, I love the look of an open-sided cake like this.

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With eight people to share it with, this cake went fast! It probably doesn’t hurt that chocolate and berries are such a great flavor combination, not to mention that everyone loves moist cake and fluffy frosting. And the best part is that, since my family celebrated early and this cake was gone by my actual birthday, I get to make another cake just for me!

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One year ago: Pesto
Two years ago: Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Three years ago: Lemon Meringue Cake
Four years ago: Black (and Pink) and White Chocolate Cake

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Chocolate Oreo Blackberry Cake (cake adapted from Dessert for Breakfast; buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart)

Makes one three-layer 8-inch cake

Note that the 8 ounces of blackberries is before straining. You should end up with about ¾ cup (which is 6 ounces both by weight and volume) of puree.

Cake:
2 cups (8 ounces) cake flour
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup hot coffee

Buttercream:
8 ounces (by weight; about 1¼ cups) blackberries, pureed and strained
3 egg whites
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
18 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For assembly:
18 Oreos, coarsely chopped or crumbled

1. For the cake: Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round pans.

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, oil, and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until evenly distributed. Pour in the coffee and mix until smooth.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cakes cool for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the sides of the cakes from the pans, then invert the cakes onto the wire rack and remove the pans. Cool completely before frosting.

4. For the buttercream: Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bowl from heat and attach it to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. With the mixer on low, add the strained blackberry puree, mixing just until incorporated. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

5. To assemble the cake: If necessary, trim the top of each layer to make a flat, even surface. Transfer one layer to a cake plate or large platter. Spread one-third of the buttercream over the cake, then distribute one-third of the crushed cookies evenly over the buttercream. Repeat the layering of cake, buttercream, and oreos twice more. Serve immediately or loosely cover for up to 8 hours.

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strawberry white chocolate brownies

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I know white chocolate isn’t as sexy as its darker sibling, but I think it has its own charm. It’s not much beyond sweet and soft, which could be boring, but you can use those traits to the advantage of the treat you’re making with it. Mixed into a batter, it adds a little more interest than plain white sugar would, although I think you’d be hard-pressed to pick out the white chocolate flavor if you didn’t know it was there.

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That being said, while I expected these to turn out quite nice, they exceeded my expectations. I reduced the sugar from the original recipe, suspecting that the white chocolate would contribute plenty of sweetness, and that, combined with an extra dose of salt, resulted in the perfect balance. Bright, juicy strawberries added a welcome flavor and texture contrast. Forced to choose between these and my favorite dark chocolate brownies would be a tough call, but these tamer white chocolate brownies would stand a good chance.

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One year ago: Pizza Bianca with Goat Cheese and Greens
Two years ago: Garlic Mustard Glazed Skewers
Three years ago: Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies
Four years ago: Vanilla Ice Cream

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Strawberry White Chocolate Brownies (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

Makes 16 squares

1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅓ teaspoon salt
5 ounces white chocolate, chopped fine
5 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 ounces strawberries, hulled and quartered

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

2. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan containing one inch of simmering water. Add the chocolate and butter; stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth, then remove from the heat. Whisk in the sugar (the mixture will appear curdled), then add vanilla and the eggs one at a time, whisking constantly.

3. Switch to a rubber spatula and add the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in the strawberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it into an even layer.

4. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack; cool completely. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into 2-inch squares. (The brownies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

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strawberry rhubarb pie

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My parents have a cabin in the mountains in Colorado, where they have a neighbor who is officially a Mountain Man, with a long scraggly beard, horses running around on his property, and the requisite amount of woman trouble. One day the Mountain Man and I got to talking about pie. He declared that pie is simple – it’s a mixture of fruit, flour, and sugar baked in a crust. I don’t recall whether we discussed his crust recipe, but I have to believe it comes from a vacuum-packed tube.

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While I can agree that fruit pies are, at their most basic, a mixture of fruit, sugar, and thickener, I would disagree that that makes them simple. In fact, it makes them particularly tricky. First, the best thickener for each fruit varies – is it flour, cornstarch, tapioca, or something impossible to find in the average grocery store? Second, and worse, is that the perfect amount of thickener will vary depending on how ripe the fruit is. Exceptionally juicy peaches will need more thickener (and less sugar) than just barely ripe peaches.

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I’ve gotten strawberry rhubarb pie wrong at least as often as I’ve gotten it right. Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for it that starts with sautéing the rhubarb with sugar to get rid of some of the excess liquid. I did make an awesome pie with this recipe, but it resulted in the worst burn I’ve ever had when a chunk of super hot sugar-coated rhubarb landed on my foot. Plus it’s a hassle – who wants to deal with pre-cooking the filling in addition to rolling out dough and chopping filling ingredients?

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I tried Deb’s recipe last year, which calls for tapioca as the thickener, but didn’t like the bits of gelatinous tapioca mixed with the fruit filling. I thought the answer was grinding the tapioca to a powder with a spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) until I saw Cook’s Illustrated comment (in The New Best Recipe) that tapioca and rhubarb don’t make a great pair. I happen to have arrowroot powder in the cabinet, so I used that instead.

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And what I got was a perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. When the first slice was removed, the filling didn’t flow in to fill the void, but it wasn’t dry. It was just sweet enough. I didn’t use flour in the filling, but I still think that even Mountain Man would approve.

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One year ago: Whole Wheat Almond Bread
Two years ago: Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Three years ago: Strawberry Tartlets
Four years ago: Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I used Deb’s recipe for pie crust.

If you can’t find arrowroot powder, use ¼ cup of tapioca, ground in a spice grinder.

Baking the pie on a baking sheet catches any drips; preheating the baking sheet helps the bottom crust become crisp and flaky instead of soggy.

dough for a double-crust pie, rolled into two 13-inch circles and refrigerated
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) light brown sugar
¼ cup arrowroot powder
¼ teaspoon salt
24 ounces (about 3½ cups) rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
16 ounces (about 3½ cups) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if small
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg beaten to blend with ¼ teaspoon salt (for glaze)

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix the sugars, arrowroot powder, and salt. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice; stir to combine well.

3. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one round of dough. Transfer the filling to the lined pan. Scatter pieces of butter over the fruit. Top with the second round of dough, sealing and fluting the edges. Cut 8 slits in the top crust and brush with the egg wash.

4. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

5. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool at least 4 hours before serving.

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roasted rhubarb jam

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One of the things I’m trying to do with my rhubarb surplus this year is not mix it with strawberries. (Please disregard this statement when my next post is strawberry rhubarb pie.) It isn’t that I have anything against strawberries and rhubarb together. Those two are often paired up for reasons beyond their aligned seasons. Sweet strawberries are a natural match for sour rhubarb.

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But now that I’m starting to realize how much I enjoy rhubarb for its own merit, I want to use it more often by itself. Mixing it into batter for muffins was a good start, but a simple mostly-hands-off jam is an even more direct way to enjoy rhubarb. All it takes is cutting it up, mixing it with sugar, and giving it a few stirs while the oven softens and sweetens the stalks.

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I used a spatula to mash up the roasted rhubarb, but if you wanted something smoother, you could puree it in a food processor or press it through a food mill. The chunky version would go wonderfully with tart plain yogurt, especially with some crunchy granola on top. And I can guarantee that it makes the perfect topping for brown rice pudding – along with some sliced strawberries, of course.

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One year ago: Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones
Two years ago: Croissants (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
Three years ago: Rhubarb Scones
Four years ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

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Roasted Rhubarb Jam (from hogwash)

2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
Pinch salt

Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch dish, mix the ingredients. Bake them, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft enough to mash into a spread, about 1½ hours.

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watermelon agua fresca

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This is the first watermelon I’ve ever bought. The thing is, I don’t actually like watermelon. Because it tastes like water. And if I want water, I’ll just drink some; no need to eat faintly sugary overly soft fruit.

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But, I see now – sugary water, isn’t that the perfect base for a drink? It isn’t quite enough on its own; after all, watermelon is bland. But with some tart lime juice to brighten it up and maybe some mint, now we’re talking. Basically, think of the most supremely refreshing ingredients you can, then blend them up and serve them over ice.

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This is so good that Dave had to verify with me that there was no alcohol in it. Yes, a refreshing summer citrusy drink without tequila or rum! I will be buying many, many more watermelons.

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One year ago: Strawberry Cream Cake
Two years ago: Turkey Burgers
Three years ago: Potato Galette
Four years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

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Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted slightly from sunny vegan)

6 servings

8 cups cubed, seeded, peeled watermelon (about a third of a medium watermelon)
6 tablespoons lime juice
4 sprigs mint (optional)
ice
sparkling water

In a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon, lime juice, and mint. Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer (or a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth); set aside for 30 minutes for the liquid to drain, stirring occasionally. Discard the solids in the strainer. Serve the remaining liquid over ice, topped off with sparkling water.

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meyer lemon semifreddo

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I traveled to Santa Fe last month for work, and while I didn’t love the day-long meetings all week, it was worth it to eat at Santa Fe restaurants and shop at Santa Fe grocery stores. I stopped at Whole Foods before I even checked in to my hotel, picking up some healthy snacks for the week and some sushi for dinner. I got pizza the next night (pizza – good pizza! – that I didn’t make myself!), but it was back to sushi the third night. The last day, after only six hours of meetings instead of the usual eight, I drove home, but not before making stops at both Whole Foods (where I got, you guessed it, more sushi to snack on during the drive home) and Trader Joe’s.

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Whole Foods had what must have been the last Meyer lemons of the season, and I couldn’t resist buying a few, even though I already had a bag of organic regular lemons in my cart. I could not, however, decide what to make with them. Like the last time I bought Meyer lemons, well over four years ago, I wanted something that would showcase their flavor so I could figure out just how much different they are from regular lemons.

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I diluted the flavor only slightly by mixing it with heavy cream, sugar, and egg yolks to make semifreddo. And if you’re paying attention while eating this dessert, the flavor has a little extra something, even beyond the sweeter orange hint of Meyer lemons. However, if you’re distracted by the light and airy texture that comes from freezing whipped heavy cream, I won’t blame you. And this indulgent dessert with a popular but elusive ingredient is all thanks to a week of meetings; traveling for work has its advantages.

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One year ago: Barbecued Pulled Pork
Two years ago: Grilled Artichokes
Three years ago: Basic Lentil Soup
Four years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Balsamic Vinegar

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Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 8 to 10

While the recipe indicates that you can use Meyer or regular lemons interchangeably, Meyer lemons are significantly less sour than regular lemons. I used Meyer, but if you use regular, you should probably increase the sugar.

I used a round pan instead of a loaf pan, but other than that, followed the recipe exactly.

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1¾ cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 large egg yolks
½ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)

1. Line a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. Sprinkle almonds evenly over the bottom of the pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate the whipped cream while making the custard.

2. Whisk 1¼ cups sugar, the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in a large metal bowl to blend. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 170°F, about 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the simmering water. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in the chilled whipped cream. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan; smooth the top. Tap the loaf pan lightly on the work surface to remove air pockets. Fold the plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. Freeze the semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. (Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

3. Gently mix the berries and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.

4. Unfold the plastic wrap from the top of the semifreddo; invert onto a platter and remove the plastic wrap. Dip a heavy large knife into hot water; cut the semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates; spoon the berries alongside and serve.

strawberry lemonade bars

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I’m always trying to find desserts that Dave will eat because they’re so good he can’t resist, and not just to be polite. It isn’t that those desserts don’t exist – crème brulee, eclairs, and tapioca pudding come to mind – it’s just that the desserts he loves don’t require me to use the mixer, and where’s the fun in that? So the real challenge is finding a dessert that Dave loves to eat as much as I love to bake it.

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Strawberry lemonade bars weren’t a sure thing, but it was a good bet, I thought. He does like lemon bars – not as much as, say, snickerdoodles, but more than brownies at least. And his favorite ice cream flavor is strawberry, so strawberry lemonade bars seemed like they’d have potential.

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The browned flaky crust, taken from my lemon bar comparison last year, didn’t hurt, and neither did the creamy filling. The filling was not just a lemon bar filling with some strawberry juice added; it incorporated a generous portion of flour, necessary to hold all the extra liquid together. The result was a bar that was soft and gooey (maybe I should have cooked it longer) and tasted perfectly of lemons and strawberries. I loved the bars, and as for Dave – he liked them enough to eat a couple to be polite.

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One year ago: Caesar Salad
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Brioche
Three years ago: Blueberry Crumb Cake
Four years ago: Spinach Feta Pine Nut Tart

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Strawberry Lemonade Bars (adapted from Annie’s Eats via Sophistimom)

For the crust:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
⅓ cup (1.33 ounces) powdered sugar
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

For the filling:
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
⅔ cup (3.3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons lemon zest (from 3 lemons)
⅛ teaspoon salt
1½ cups (8 ounces) frozen strawberries, thawed
3 large egg whites
1 large egg
⅔ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and salt, mixing just until incorporated.

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan, pressing into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for about 25 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven, maintaining the temperature.

4. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Combine the sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt in a blender. Add the strawberries; blend until smooth. Add the egg whites and eggs; blend until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, processing just until evenly mixed.

5. Pour the filling over the crust and bake until the center is just set and no longer jiggles when gently shaken, about 30-40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar before cutting and serving.

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double coconut muffins

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A friend of mine recently became, as she calls it, a “part-time vegan”, which I take to mean that she avoids eggs and dairy when she’s in charge of what she eats but will eat them if someone else prepares food for her. This started me on search for vegan cookie recipes. Most of what I found called for Earth Balance, but all I could find in my town was a whipped version for spreading, which I didn’t think would take well to baking. Instead, I bought coconut oil.

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And then I got busy with other baking projects and set that one aside. That’s where it still sits – “aside.” But unlike my plans to make vegan cookies, the coconut oil is no longer forgotten. And maybe this is a better introduction to a new ingredient – using it with similar flavors.

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In these muffins, the coconut oil is combined with shredded coconut to make an intensely, but not overwhelmingly, coconut muffin. In fact, I found that the tanginess of the Greek yogurt was at least an equal player. It was a nice combination with the tropical coconut.

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The texture was spot on as well – tender and moist, like the best muffins are. I suppose that makes sense, since these are slightly higher in fat than many muffins. But it’s vegan fat, and that has to be better than butter. I still have half a cup of coconut oil in the fridge, and while I probably should make my friend some cookies, I’m tempted just to make more muffins.

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One year ago: Citrus Sunshine Currant Muffins
Two years ago: Honey Ginger Pork Tenderloin
Three years ago: French Yogurt Cake
Four years ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

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Double Coconut Muffins (rewritten but not changed from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 10 muffins

8 tablespoons (½ cup; 4 ounces) virgin coconut oil
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup (2.4 ounces) whole wheat flour
¾ cup (3.25 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, divided
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (8 ounces) Greek-style yogurt, room temperature
⅓ cup (2.33 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray 10 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line them with paper liners. In a small saucepan, warm the coconut oil just until it melts; don’t heat it until it’s hot.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, ½ cup shredded coconut, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, coconut oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Add the coconut oil mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

3. Divide the batter among the 10 prepared muffin cups. Top each muffin with about a teaspoon of the remaining shredded coconut. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack; cool 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan. Serve warm.

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raspberry ricotta scones

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I’ve largely gotten out of my scone phase from a few years ago. Back then, I was making a new scone recipe almost once a month. One batch of scones, frozen before baking, would last a couple weekends, which made for some wonderfully relaxed weekend mornings, with nothing to do but turn the oven on, transfer the frozen scones to a baking sheet, and boil water for the French press. Twenty minutes later, I’d sit down with a scone, a mug, and a food magazine.

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The problem with this scenario is that there’s very little nutrition in a scone. I’m not against a little butter for breakfast, but as we’ve become more active lately, we require breakfasts that fill us up and provide energy. I don’t want to imagine Dave on one of his weekly racquetball marathons with nothing but butter, flour, and sugar for fuel.

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On quiet mornings when we don’t have a busy day ahead though, scones hit the spot. And this one is even better, because it does have some extra health benefits from protein-rich ricotta and fiber-rich whole grains. Moreover, this is one of the best scones I’ve ever made.

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I’ve admittedly become more and more enamored with whole grains and the nutty depth of flavor they add to baked goods, and this was a perfect example of how a portion of whole wheat flour isn’t a sacrifice to be made for health reasons, but an improvement in flavor. I think this recipe has me headed toward another scone phase.

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One year ago: Corniest Corn Muffins
Two years ago: How to adapt any bread to be whole wheat
Three years ago: Lemon Cup Custard
Four years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Printer Friendly Recipe
Raspberry Ricotta Scones (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 9

Baked scones are best fresh out the oven. If you want to make these in advance, form and cut the scones, then transfer the unbaked scones to a ziploc bag to freeze. There’s no need to defrost before baking, but you will need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour, which I prefer in quick breads. But if you only have regular whole wheat flour, I’m sure it will be fine.

¾ cup (6.5 ounces) whole milk ricotta
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 cup (4.8 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup (4.75 ounces) raspberries, fresh or frozen

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and heavy cream.

2. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. Add the raspberries and pulse a few times to break them down. Add the ricotta mixture; pulse just until the dough is evenly moistened but still looks crumbly.

3. Transfer the dough to a work surface and pat into a ball. Knead the dough a few times, then pat it out into a 7-inch square that is about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into 9 squares.

4. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown around the bottom edges, 16-20 minutes. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool about 10 minutes before serving.

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