pasta with asparagus and goat cheese

I feel like I used to have this room (my life), and it had some stuff in it; mostly stuff I liked (cooking, reading, teaching, gardening), although of course there were things I didn’t (cleaning). My main problem was that it was too empty. There was too much space, and I could never get it arranged in any pleasing way. It made me frustrated and unhappy, and I took less enjoyment even from the things I did like.

Then I added this huge, I don’t know, piece of furniture or some other room-dominating thing (a full-time job). And now the room is too full. I like it more overall, I just don’t know where to put everything. Some things I’m willing to give up (hours mindlessly spent searching the internet), but the rest I’m trying to rearrange. Where does exercise go? What about blogging? Keeping in touch with friends, spending quality time with my husband, learning new things? I know there’s room for them all, I just have to find out how to make it work.

I’m not going to stop cooking, obviously. But I will change the way I cook most nights of the week, keeping things simple. This dish, with only a handful of ingredients and one ingredient to chop, is a perfect example of how easy meals can still be tasty meals. This meal definitely fits into my crowded new room, and it leaves me plenty of space for exercise, a full day of work, a long chat with a friend, and even a batch of brownies. A life too full is certainly better than a life too empty.

Two years ago: Kung Pao Shrimp

Printer Friendly Recipe
Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

16 ounces pasta
salt and pepper
2 pounds slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
8 ounces soft goat cheese

1. Bring at least 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta until it is almost tender, about 2 minutes short of the package instructions. Add the asparagus and cook until it is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and asparagus.

2. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot and add the oil, zest from the whole lemon, juice from ½ the lemon, goat cheese, a generous grinding of pepper, and ½ cup pasta cooking water; stir until the goat cheese melts. Taste and add salt (you’ll probably need some), freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice if necessary. If the sauce becomes thick and sticky, stir in more pasta cooking water.

tender shortcakes

Dave and I ate dessert first this weekend, but not in the fun-loving, live life to its fullest, carefree kind of way. More in the ‘it’s too hot outside to grill dinner until the sun goes down’ kind of way. 110 degrees, people. I told you I live in the desert.

But whatever, I got to eat strawberry shortcake for dinner, so I’m not complaining. With a tender biscuit, sweet berries, and silky whipped cream, what is there to complain about? Especially since we have air conditioning. Otherwise I have a feeling I’d be doing a lot of complaining, shortcakes for dinner or not.

Cathy chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used cake flour for half of the flour and doubled the salt.

One year ago: Parisian Strawberry Tartlets
Two years ago: Strawberry Tart

I see a pattern here…

grilled artichokes

When it comes to groceries, I’m not particularly thrifty. I don’t know if my old grocery store (the much-missed Wegman’s) even had sales, and if they did, it wasn’t on anything I was buying. I see more sales at my new grocery store; I don’t plan my shopping around them, but I can’t always resist them either.

Fresh artichokes for 69 cents each! That is a deal that is not to be passed up, especially when I was keeping an eye out for some fancy sides to compliment my celebration lamb.

When Dave and I grill, we like to cook the whole meal on the grill, so I definitely wanted to grill the artichokes. Katie’s recipe uses the perfect approach, because the artichokes are steamed in foil packets first, and then unwrapped and seared over a hot flame. The artichokes end up both perfectly tender and decorated with beautiful grill marks.

Artichokes aren’t as time-consuming to prepare as I used to think, but they’re still pretty messy to eat. You remove individual leaves and scrape the meaty edible part off with your teeth, until you get to that delicious heart. Artichokes are good on their own, but they’re even better with a decadent dipping sauce; we used the sauce that was served with the lamb. It made a perfect compliment to perfect artichokes that accompanied a perfect meal.

Two years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans

Grilled Artichokes (adapted from Good Things Catered)

Katie added extra lemon to the packets and served the grilled artichokes with cherry tomatoes. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but didn’t compliment the flavors I was serving these with. However, it serves as a great example of how easily this recipe can be adapted to the meal you’re serving.

Serves 4

8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 globe artichokes
salt and pepper
1 lemon, quartered
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Prepare a two-level fire, where one side of the grill is hotter than the other.

2. Tear off four 12-inch pieces of aluminum foil. Place two cloves of garlic in the center of each square of foil.

3. Working with one artichoke at a time, cut the stem off and the top 1½ inches of leaves. Cut the sharp tips off of the outside leaves. Halve the artichoke and carve out the fuzzy purple choke. Place the artichoke halves in one square of foil, season with salt and pepper, squeeze one lemon quarter over it, and drizzle with about 1½ teaspoons of oil. Enclose the artichoke in the foil. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

4. Place the foil packets on the cooler side of the grill and cook, rotating occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until the center of the artichokes are tender. Remove the artichokes from the foil and place, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes, until seared.

5. Serve immediately, with a dipping sauce if desired.

home corned beef

Can someone explain to me why the only way I can buy brisket in my tiny town is to get the whole brisket? (And why are there no dried currants? Or mini-cupcake liners?) I didn’t even know what a whole brisket looked like before last month. First off, it’s huge. Who needs to buy 15 pounds of meat at a time? Second, half of that 15 pounds is fat. I actually weighed the fat after I spent an entire hour aaaargh! trimming it off the brisket. An inch-thick layer of fat, yum.


monkey peeler for scale

And why is brisket so much more expensive to buy than prepared corned beef anyway? Corned beef is just seasoned brisket. I didn’t corn my own beef because I have a problem with the store-bought versions of corned beef; it’s just that…I can’t help myself. Homemade corned beef sounded fun.

I tried it a few years ago (back in the glorious days when I could buy pre-trimmed brisket in reasonable sized roasts), using Cooks Illustrated’s dry rub recipe. In that one, a mixture of salt and other seasonings is rubbed onto the brisket and left to set for several days. It was good, because it’s salty brisket, but I didn’t think it was significantly better than what I could buy.

I started out this time using Alton Brown’s recipe, which is a wet brine similar to what is often used for chicken. However, I balked when I was supposed to add 2 pounds of ice to 2 quarts of water to make the brine for four pounds of brisket. That seemed like an excessive amount of liquid per meat; I’m not sure I have the fridge space for all that. So I halved the liquid, but that means that my brine was far more concentrated, and the resulting corned beef was not-quite-inedibly salty.

I tried again (after all, I still had plenty of brisket in the freezer), dialing back the amount of salt by half. And what do you know? Perfection. Dave is already requesting more reubens, so it looks like I’ll use up 15 pounds of brisket after all.  Maybe next time I can get the butcher to trim it for me.

One year ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Two years ago: Red Beans and Rice

Printer Friendly Recipe
Corned Beef (adapted from Alton Brown)

6 to 8 servings

The use of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is up to you. Its purpose is to make the meat pink; without it, it turns the purpley gray that you see in my pictures. Cooks Illustrated’s corned beef write-up reported chemical flavors whenever they used saltpeter, and I couldn’t find it anyway, so I left it out, and truthfully, I quite like the color of the meat at the end of cooking.

4 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon saltpeter (optional)
½ cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice berries
6 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
4 quarts ice
1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed

Place the water in a 5-quart pot along with the salt, sugar, saltpeter (if using), and spices. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the ice and let set the mixture until the ice is mostly melted. Once the liquid is cold, place the brisket in a 1-gallon zip-top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a 9×13-inch pan. Refrigerate for 5 days, turning occasionally. After 5 days, remove the meat from the brine and rinse it under cool water. Cook using your favorite recipe. (I like to keep it very simple, just simmering the brisket in water for a few hours until it’s tender, adding potatoes, carrots and cabbage near the end.)

tortellini soup with carrots, peas and leeks

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It turns out that pea-picking is way more fun than strawberry picking. For one thing, it isn’t nearly as crowded. Shocking, I know, that strawberries are more popular than peas. There’s also nothing squishy lurking under the foliage, and the peas are plentiful and just demanding to be picked. And pick we did, far more than we needed for this soup.

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I know, it’s July, and you’re not interested in soup. Rest assured that I tried it both ways, and it’s just as good with frozen peas, so you’re free to wait until the weather cools down a bit. Either way, it takes all of 15 minutes to make. Even better, it covers all of your nutritional bases, making side dishes unnecessary, although we found that a chunk of crusty bread is a welcome addition.

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It comes together like any soup, starting with sautéing aromatics, adding broth, then tortellini, and finally the peas near the end. Pour it into bowls, top with some parmesan, and enjoy an assortment of light, spring flavors.

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One year ago: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas and Leeks (from Fine Cooking, November 2006)

I doubled, or maybe even quadrupled the carrot. Also, the second time I made it (when I took photos), I didn’t have leeks, so I had to use red onion instead.

2 medium leeks (12 ounces untrimmed)
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
½ medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (2 tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-salt canned chicken broth
8 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

1. Trim the roots and dark green leaves from the leeks. Slice the white and light green part in half lengthwise and then slice the halves thinly crosswise. Rinse well and drain.

2. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, leeks, and carrot. Season with a couple pinches of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. (It’s fine if the vegetables brown lightly.) Stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook for about 20 seconds, then add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the peas. Continue to simmer until the tortellini are cooked, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Portion the soup into warm bowls, top each with some of the cheese, and serve.

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strawberries and cream pie

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Those U-pick places tend to be better in theory than in practice for me. I do like knowing that my food is picked at its peak ripeness. It makes for some wonderfully sweet strawberries. On the other hand, ew, bugs. And thorns, and rotting berries that you can’t see under all the leaves and you don’t find until you reach under to grab for a nearby berry and squish!

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Not that you shouldn’t try it! Or you could just buy the pre-picked cartons in the farm store right nearby.

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It was worth it in the end though, because I love this pie. I’ve managed to make it once each spring since I found the recipe. And Dave and I managed to eat three-quarters of it within 24 hours this year! That’s something to be proud of.

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The thing is, I can’t resist cheesecake batter (sugary cream cheese!), and that’s mostly what this pie is. Cream cheese is mixed with sugar and a bit of almond extract, then whipped cream is folded in to lighten it. (I love when heavy cream is used to lighten something.)  The cream filling is topped with strawberries, which are kept whole for maximum visual impact, and then a bit of dark chocolate is drizzled over the top for some contrasting color and flavor.

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You don’t need fresh-picked strawberries for this pie. The little raspberry-sized berries we picked made it a little easier to cut nice slices, but bigger strawberries require less hulling.  And anyway, it’s hard to mess up this pie, with the sweet, creamy filling topped with slightly tart strawberries and just a bit of bitter chocolate, all supported by flaky pie crust.  This is the only strawberry dessert I make a point to make every single spring.

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One year ago: Poached Eggs with Arugula and Polenta Fingers

Strawberries and Cream Pie (adapted from Pillsbury’s Complete Cookbook)

Serves 8-10

You could definitely use the full cup of cream in the filling (which is what the original recipe recommends) if you have more cream around for the chocolate, but I didn’t and I kicked myself for not saving a bit of the 1-cup container of cream I’d brought. I used butter with the chocolate instead, but the chocolate hardened too much when it was cold and broke apart into shards when I cut slices.  Cream will keep it softer.

1 cup cold heavy cream, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
¼ to ½ teaspoon almond extract
1 pie crust for a 1-crust pie, completely baked and cooled
2 pints fresh whole strawberries, hulled
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a medium bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of the cream on medium speed. When the cream is frothy, increase the speed to high and whip until the cream holds firm peaks.

2. In a separate large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it’s soft and creamy. Add the sugar and extract and continue beating until combined.

3. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cream cheese to lighten the mixture, then add the remaining cream and continue folding until it’s incorporated. Evenly spread the cream mixture in the pie crust. Arrange the strawberries, pointed side up, over the filling.

4. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 1 tablespoon cream over very low heat, stirring constantly, or in the microwave on medium power, or in a double boiler. Drizzle the chocolate over the strawberries. Refrigerate the pie until set, about 1 hour.

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pork tenderloin with rhubarb sauce

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For years, before I had a food blog, I primarily cooked Cooks Illustrated recipes. I did worry about whether I was relying on them too much and if I was creative enough, but because I was making great food and learning useful tricks, I didn’t think too much of it. The main problem I had was that CI’s schtick is to perfect common recipes, so while I was making very good versions of familiar foods, I rarely tried unfamiliar flavor combinations.

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To solve this problem, I bought their Restaurant Favorites at Home cookbook. And then I started a food blog, found other fun recipes to try, and this cookbook mostly got ignored. Feeling uninspired recently, I did a quick flip through it and lucked into something perfect – an opportunity to use rhubarb while it’s in season, plus a type of meat that I underutilitize.

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Pork tenderloin seems underappreciated, considering that it’s the pig version of filet mignon. Plus one tenderloin is such a perfect serving size for two people, and it’s easy to cook. Season, set in a hot pan, flip. Then maximize flavor by using the fond in a sauce – a sauce with reduced port and rhubarb.

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As much as I do like sweet sauces with pork, the ratio of rhubarb to meat was too much for me. I’d prefer about half of the amount of sauce because it overpowered the meat. The other, less important, change I needed to make was to cook the rhubarb for a lot less time, previous to adding it to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Reaching the recommended “softened but still retains its shape” texture took about half the time as the recipe implies.

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With those very easy adjustments, this was a simple and elegant seasonal main dish. I love rhubarb, so I’m happy with any chance I get to eat it, and especially with one of my favorite cuts of meat.

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One year ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Sauce (from Cooks Illustrated’s Restaurant Favorites at Home)

6 servings

This is the original recipe. Next time I make it, I’ll halve the rhubarb and the sugar (using 3 stalks of rhubarb and 6 tablespoons of sugar) and keep a close eye on the rhubarb while it cooks in Step 1, counting on it being tender after about 15 minutes of cooking. Also, I found it unnecessary to pound the meat – I just squashed it down a bit.

6 large rhubarb stalks, cut into ½ inch dice (about 4 cups)
¾ cup sugar
3 small pork tenderloins (12-16 ounces each, for a total of 2.5-3 pounds), trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup ruby port
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1. Cook the rhubarb and sugar together in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until the rhubarb has softened but still retains its shape, 25-35 minutes.

2. Cut each pork tenderloin crosswise into six 2-inch-thick slices. With a cut side facing up, lightly pound each slice into a round ¾-inch-thick medallion. Season the medallions generously with salt and pepper.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Lay 9 medallions in the pan and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the medallions and cook on the second side until lightly browned and nearly cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a clean plate and keep warm in the oven. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining 9 medallions. Transfer to the plate in the oven.

4. Add the port and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the port is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and any accumulated rhubarb juices and return to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture is thick and has reduced to about ½ cup, about 12 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork medallions and heat through, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange 3 pork medallions on each of 6 individual plates and spoon about ¼ cup of the rhubarb sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

parisian strawberry tartlets

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Once I started making an effort to eat seasonally, I realized that apples were my best bet for a large part of the year. By the end of winter, I’m impatient for strawberries to kick off the farmer’s market season. I try to avoid apples in the spring and summer, because it’s nice to take a break when I can, and then I get to look forward to them in the fall.

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So I didn’t want to make the apple version of this dessert. Most of the other fruits that Dorie recommends are stone fruits that won’t be in season for a month or so. I thought that strawberry mini-tarts would work though.

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This recipe is very easy. Quartered fruit is positioned in the middle of a round of puff pastry, sprinkled with sugar, dotted with butter, and baked. I skipped the butter and added a pinch of salt.

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I made even miniaturer tarts too, each topped with a single raspberry, but those didn’t work quite as well. The pastry puffed the berries right off. I sort of balanced the berries back on the pastry after baking, and all was good.

The tarts were great. The flaky, buttery pastry was a great base for the sweet berries.

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Jessica has posted the recipe for this easy, tasty, impressive dessert that she chose for Tuesdays with Dorie.

One year ago: Pita Bread

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strawberry cake

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I do not like oddball mixing methods. In fact, unless they’re explained, my habit is to ignore them completely. I know that muffins are sometimes mixed like cakes and that there are different types of cookies, but in general, I’m familiar with the normal mixing methods, and if something strays too far from what I recognize, it annoys me and I adapt the recipe to what seems more sensible.

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The first strawberry cake I made has a weird mixing method. You mix the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl, then add strawberry puree and softened butter and beat the mixture until it’s fluffy. Only then do you add milk and the egg whites in a few additions, mixing just until they’re mixed in.

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The egg whites are added at the end? Bizarro.

*Disclaimer: I accidentally added the milk with the strawberry puree. I don’t think this would have a significant effect on the outcome, but I can’t be sure.

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The cake was good, but, to me, not perfect. My mini cupcakes were a little sticky, or maybe gummy is a better word. What’s stranger is that all of the cupcake wrappers detached themselves from the cupcake within a few hours of baking. The flavor was great though, and every time I opened the lid to the container, I got a nice whiff of strawberries.

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The other recipe I tried, from Good Things Catered, is similar to Cooks Illustrated’s white cake recipe, which I have previously enjoyed, with strawberry puree substituted for a portion of the milk. This recipe also has an unusual method – dry ingredients, then butter, most of the eggs + liquid, and then the rest of the eggs and liquid, followed by about a minute of beating the batter.

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This cake, I have to admit, seemed a little dry. On the other hand, I did refrigerate it almost immediately after cooling, and then it was in and out of the freezer as I tried to neatly frost it, so perhaps I was a little too rough with it.

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Both cakes were good. The strawberry flavor is definitely noticeable, which is nice. If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the first one, from the Sky High cookbook, because it seemed more tender. However, what I really want to do is try the ingredients of the first one with a different mixing method. I have a feeling you can’t combine those ingredients and end up with anything that isn’t good, but I love to experiment.

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One year ago: Baba Ghanoush and Fafafel

Pink Lady Cake (from Sky High via Smitten Kitchen)

Keep in mind that Sky High designs recipes for big cakes. If you’re not feeding a crowd, don’t be afraid to cut the recipe in half, which will yield the same amount of cake as most other cake recipes. Divide the batter between two 8- or 9-inch round pans and bake for 23-25 minutes.

All of the cupcake pictures are of this cake.

4½ cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups pureed frozen strawberries (from about 12 ounces of strawberries)
8 egg whites
⅔ cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, optional (to make the pink color more intense)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

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Strawberry Cake (adapted from Good Things Catered and Cooks Illustrated’s Classic White Layer Cake)

All of the layer cake pictures are from this cake.

Serves 12

Nonstick cooking spray
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
¼ cup whole milk, at room temperature
¾ cup strawberry puree (from about 6 ounces strawberries)
6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1¾ cups granulated sugar (12¼ ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

1. Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

2. Pour milk, strawberry puree, egg whites, and extract into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

4. Add all but ½ cup of strawberry mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of strawberry mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

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rhubarb scones

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Scones get a seriously bad rap. People think they’re bland, dense, and/or crumbly. People think you can only enjoy them if you have a mug of coffee or tea with them. Branny told me that her husband thinks they taste like chalk. And these people aren’t completely wrong – some scones are pretty terrible. As for the whether they need to be accompanied by a hot drink, I happen to think that everything even a little sweet is better with coffee or tea.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy a cookie without coffee.

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Like a lot of foods, you might have to make scones yourself to get good ones. I can’t personally attest to the scones at coffee shops, but if they’re on par with every other baked treat I’ve ordered from a national coffee shop chain, they’ll be stale and bland. Don’t judge scones based on this example.

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Scones are similar to biscuits, although many scone recipes have eggs included, which is rare in biscuits. In both, the dry ingredients are mixed first, and cold butter is cut in, then cold liquid is gently stirred in. Compared to the last scone recipe I made, this one has less butter, but richer dairy (cream as opposed to yogurt + milk).

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The cream changes the texture from flaky to melt-in-your-mouth tender. They’re sweet, but only slightly so, and studded by juicy, tart bits of rhubarb. There’s nothing bland, dense, crumbly, or chalky about these scones, and while I enjoyed mine with my Saturday cup of coffee, a hot drink is not required to appreciate these. If you think you don’t like scones, try these.

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One year ago: Kaiser Rolls – I have to admit that I’ve made these twice and have decided that they’re just not worth the effort.  I like using this much easier dough instead.

Printer Friendly Recipe
Rhubarb Cream Scones
(adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)

I only used 1½ cups (2 stalks) of rhubarb, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I would even err on the high side of 2 cups.

Update 5/8/2012 – While many people have had good results with this recipe, a few commenters have complained that their dough was too wet. This might have to do with imprecise volume measurements of flour, variability in rhubarb juiciness, or perhaps the size of the eggs used. Regardless, start with ½ cup of cream, then add more until the dough comes together but holds its shape. It might be sticky, but you should be able to pat it out with floured hands.

2½ cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar (3.5 ounces) plus 3 tablespoons
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 cups diced rhubarb (¼-inch cubes), about 3 stalks
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream (see update)

1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Adjust a baking rack to the middle position. In a small bowl, mix the rhubarb with 3 tablespoons sugar.

2. In a food processor, pulse the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt a few times, just to mix. Distribute the butter evenly over the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Stir the rhubarb into the flour mixture. Lightly beat the egg, yolk, and cream together in a bowl (use the same one you used for the rhubarb), then add this mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

4. On a well-floured surface with floured hands, pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter). Using a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour, cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.  Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool slightly before serving.

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