Cherry Clafoutis (meh)

Cherries are in season! They’re one of my favorite fruits, but sadly we have discovered that my daughter has an allergy to raw stone fruit– pretty common, apparently– so I feel bad eating them in front of her. I decided to try using them in a baked recipe, and since no one else in my family seems to like pie, I tried my hand at clafoutis.

Cherry clafoutis is a classic french dessert– basically an eggy pancake batter poured over cherries and baked. Traditionally the cherries are unpitted, supposedly because the pits will infuse an almond flavor into the dessert. While I’m doubtful about this rationale, I gave it a shot (and added almond extract in case it didn’t work).

The finished dessert was tasty, with a nice almond flavor that worked well with the cherries, but I couldn’t really get behind the texture– it was kind of a cross between creamy and rubbery, and not my favorite. I do wonder if it would have been better when fresh out of the oven– I let it cool completely to make it easier to slice, but that may have been an error. It’s definitely better warm than at room temperature, and like I said the flavor was good, but I think in the future I’ll just eat the cherries plain and hide them from the kid.

That being said, I’m glad I tried it, if only to say that I did! Maybe you’ll have better luck!

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Texas Sheet Cake

I’ve got to say, this recipe is perfect for parties. Not fancy dinner parties, but the kind of party where everyone brings a dish and plops it on a big table, and people wander around and occasionally dig in. The kind where kids will sneak extra desserts when they think their parents aren’t watching, then run off to eat them, sans utensils, and come back with their faces covered in tell-tale chocolate smears. And believe me, this Texas Sheet Cake will prompt even the most well-behaved child to do just that.

Texas Sheet Cake is a thin, tender cake, and the boiled frosting– poured over the hot cake and left to set– forms a fudgy layer on top that’s simultaneously firm and gooey, and incredibly addictive. In fact, I only make this for parties, because otherwise it’ll sit in my fridge for days, slowly dwindling as I cut off sliver after sliver… I will actually note that while the cake is a little delicate to eat out of hand when it’s warm or room-temperature, it firms up nicely when refrigerated, and I actually like it best frozen– the chewy texture of the frosting is to die for, and the airiness of the cake makes it easier to bite into than most frozen cakes, so feel free to serve it chilled!

As an added bonus, it can be made with pantry staples and without specialty equipment of any kind. You’ll need a saucepan, a bowl, a whisk, and an 18×13″ half-sheet pan– that’s it. Talk about easy!

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Pumpkin White Chocolate Snickerdoodles

It’s no secret that my favorite muffin recipe is this pumpkin white chocolate muffin— I make them regularly for my daughter to take to school for afternoon snacks, and given that she’s been taking snacks daily for almost six years now, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve made many, many batches of those muffins. That being said, unless I want to make a double batch (which I don’t always have room for in my freezer), I end up with half a can of pumpkin leftover. What to do with the extra?

Enter the Pumpkin White Chocolate Snickerdoodle. All the delicious fall flavors of the muffin, but with just a bit more decadence and flair. They may not be as pretty as some cookies– mine refused to puff and thus also refused to crack nicely on top as they cooled– but they’re moist and chewy (unlike some cakey pumpkin cookies), full of flavor, and with a nice crackly outside that contrasts with the creamy white chocolate. As an added bonus, there’s no softening or creaming of butter necessary, though you do have to chill the dough for half an hour.

Definitely adding these to my list of cookies to make on a regular basis, especially if I’ve got leftover pumpkin!

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Blueberry Breakfast Buns

Breakfast at our house is usually pretty simple– cereal or toast, or on occasion a poached egg– but sometimes on weekends we like to splurge a little and have waffles or pancakes. Sadly, both of those require someone to stand at a hot waffle iron or stove and make them, while the rest of the family eats– it hardly seems fair. Breakfast casseroles are a great way to deal with this issue, especially where (as in this recipe) all the prep is done the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is pop it into the oven and wait!

I created this recipe on a whim because I saw a bag of dinner rolls on sale at the grocery store– day-old bread is probably the best because it’ll soak up moisture more easily, but you can use pretty much any kind of roll or bready item. The end result is basically French toast, stuffed with a cheesecake-y filling with nice pops of flavor from the berries. You could use raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries if you like, but I like the blueberry-cream cheese combination the best. And since we’re right in the middle of blueberry season, I recommend you take advantage of it!

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Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles

What does one do with leftover buttermilk? I mean, other than make biscuits, which is a delicious but extremely risky course of action, because if you put a tray of freshly-baked biscuits in front of me I may just devour them before I remember that I’m supposed to be eating healthier…

Anyway, when I found myself with half a carton of buttermilk in the refrigerator and nothing to use it for, I decided that the hot weather warranted a batch of popsicles. Tangy, lemony popsicles that I put together in minutes with nothing more than sugar, water, a lemon, and the aforementioned buttermilk. And they were fantastic.

Seriously, these popsicles had the perfect texture– icy but not too hard to bite into– and were mouth-puckeringly tart in the best possible way. It’s almost enough to make me want to buy another quart of buttermilk, but since my freezer can only hold so many popsicles at a time, perhaps I’ll wait for more leftovers.

In any event, if you’re a fan of lemon you should definitely make these this summer. I know I will!

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Peach Melba Popsicles

You need to make these– they’re so easy, so delicious, and honestly so pretty, that they’re easily worth the 10 minutes of time out of your day. I actually started making these last summer, and was shocked to realize that I’d never blogged about them!

Peach Melba is a classic dessert made of a poached peach half with vanilla ice cream, topped with raspberry purée. Being so simple and so focused on fruit, the combination translates beautifully to popsicles. I’m sure these would be delicious with fresh raspberries and peaches, but honestly I find it easier (and often cheaper) to use frozen fruit instead. Swirl in a few scoops of grocery store vanilla ice cream, and you’re basically set! The taste, combined with the beautiful marbled effect, will make everyone think you’re a culinary genius!

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Garden Focaccia

Okay, I admit it, I got suckered in to the trend of vegetable-decorated focaccia– it’s just so pretty that I had to try it! I dipped my toe into the technique with my parsley-topped cheese biscuits, and they were adorable, so since I was already planning on making focaccia for a barbecue, it was the perfect time to give it a shot.

This particular attempt at the focaccia from Smitten Kitchen (which she got from Alexandra Stafford) is actually my second attempt– the first one failed miserably, refusing to rise at all and forcing me to make a last-minute trip to the grocery store for ciabatta to make the sandwiches I’d planned– so I had my fingers crossed that it would work this time. Happily, it rose beautifully and tasted fantastic– this will definitely be my standard focaccia recipe from now on.

I will note that the vegetables definitely look prettier before baking than after– especially the shallots, which lost pretty much all their color in the oven. Perhaps next time I’ll slice them thicker or use a really small red onion to see if the color shows up better that way. Halved cherry tomatoes still look great, though, as do the bell peppers. Next time I’ll really pile on the herbs– they shrank down a lot in the oven, so I could definitely use more. But overall I’m very pleased with the effect– so pretty and really delicious!

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Creme Brulée Tart

After making pavlova for the first time, I found myself with four extra egg yolks. If it were winter I’d happily mix them into a batch of pasta a la carbonara, but it’s just too hot out to eat something so heavy for dinner– I decided to go with dessert instead. And since I was mysteriously short on ramekins, creme brulée was out… or was it?

I found a recipe for creme brulée tart that looked interesting– shortcrust pastry, layer of custard, and of course the caramelized top– and decided to give it a shot. I’ll say right now that there was a problem with this tart, but I think it was more in my execution than an issue with the recipe– while my crust looked fine (a little shrinkage, but mostly fine) during my blind-bake, for some reason it bubbled up in one spot during the custard-baking session, which made for a very odd-looking surface. It looked fine once I sugared and torched the top, but I had to be careful not to serve the slice with the giant crust-bubble in it, since it was dangerously short on custard!

Aside from that, the tart came together pretty easily. The crust is pulsed up in the food processor, and the custard filling doesn’t need any pre-cooking or thickening before being poured into the baked crust for a last session in the oven. The original recipe called for me to steep my dairy with a vanilla bean for half an hour, but since I used extract I got to skip that step and just warm the cream before mixing.

The tart itself is delicious– rich and creamy, with a nice buttery crust. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the egg tarts you get at dim sum restaurants, but a little less eggy and with the welcome addition of caramelized sugar. I still like regular creme brulée best, but this is a nice variation!

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Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

I remember the first time I had pavlova. I was on a tour of Europe after college graduation, and it was one of the desserts on offer at a restaurant we’d stopped at. I didn’t know what it was, but it looked neat– all billowy cream and luscious fruit– and I assumed it would have cake or something in the middle to balance it out. It did not. Honestly, I thought it was overly sweet, the meringue was hollow and dry, and I didn’t really care for it. But something must have stuck with me, because here I am trying to make my own version, and hoping I get it right.

According to my binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show, pavlova is supposed to have a soft, marshmallowy interior and a crisp exterior. It’s also generally served with something tart to counterbalance all the sweetness of the meringue– I decided on lemon curd. I feel like ordinarily I’d use the extra egg yolks leftover from the meringue to make my curd, but as you recall I prefer the lighter texture of whole-egg lemon curd, so I’ll have to use the extra yolks in something else. I piled on the berries, using a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and just barely sweetened my whipped cream.

The pavlova turned out fantastic– the meringue was sweet and pillowy (though I couldn’t get it off the parchment without risking it breaking, it was very delicate) and the lemon curd added just enough tanginess to cut through the sugar and whipped cream. Really the perfect summer dessert, and it feels light and almost healthy, despite all the cream and the lemon curd. Plus, it’s a real showstopper in the looks department– so indulgent-looking with the mounds of berries and cream! I’m already trying to come up with other flavor combinations, but I suspect that I’ll be coming back to this one time and time again…

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Cacio e Pepe Panzanella

Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.

This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!

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