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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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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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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Strawberry Summer Cake

Strawberries are starting to flood the supermarkets, and not just any strawberries– huge strawberries that are actually ripe and delicious! I bought four pounds one day and had finished them before the week was out. And one of the things I used them in was this cake– billed by one of my favorite food bloggers as “tasting like summer.” I had to try it.

The cake is simple to make and rustic to look at, and uses a full pound of strawberries to really pack in the fruit flavor. While I’d prefer if it didn’t require the use of a mixer to cream the butter and sugar together, I’m willing to do it since the rest of the recipe is pretty low-fuss. The crumb is almost shortcake-y, and the sprinkling of sugar on top makes a delightful little crunch when you cut into it– but the fruit is the star. I’m going to try this next with peaches, but I’ll bet blueberries or raspberries would also be excellent.

The recipe takes almost an hour to bake (50 minutes total for me), and Deb insists that it’s even better the second day, so I’m going to start making this the night before as a breakfast cake. I think it would be excellent with a dollop of vanilla yogurt!

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Tahini Jumble Cake

This cake wasn’t so much a project as a thrown-together amalgamation of the leftovers from my sesame/tahini experiments over the past week. I had a bunch of sesame-caramel ganache from my sesame macarons, plus extra sesame seed brittle from the ice cream I made to go with my sesame chess pie, plus extra egg yolks from that same pie, plus a few extra macarons that I hadn’t gotten around to eating yet… what else could I do but make a cake? (I do have a history of doing this, you know)

I looked hard to find a yellow cake recipe that would use my three extra yolks and no more, and I did find one, but honestly I didn’t care for it– it was an oil-based cake rather than a butter-based cake, and while the oil made for a very moist crumb I just think that the recipe called for too much oil. The batter didn’t fully emulsify and I got small tunnels in the finished crumb, plus the cake was so rich that it seemed heavy. I won’t post the cake recipe here– I need to find a better one for when I have extra yolks– but I will post the fabulous tahini buttercream that I made to go with it, which turned out great. The tahini added a wonderful savoriness to the frosting that worked well with the salted caramel ganache and the sugary macarons.

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Sesame Ganache Macarons

These macarons were the result of my seeing that recipe for sesame chess pie and noting that 1) it would require me to buy sesame seeds and tahini, and 2) it would result in extra egg whites. I figured that I could take advantage of both these facts and make sesame-flavored macarons, which turned out pretty well! I used my standard macaron recipe and technique, sprinkling sesame seeds on top of the batter before baking, but the filling was where the sesame really came out.

The filling is more complicated than a plain ganache– it’s actually a caramel sauce blended with melted chocolate, and then emulsified with butter for a smooth, creamy texture. I got the recipe from Cloudy Kitchen and split it in two so I could try a white chocolate variation on the milk chocolate original, and both turned out quite well (even if it did make a ton of filling– I’ll have to find something else to do with all of the extra!). I would recommend these if you want something a little different and don’t mind multi-step processes!

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Sesame Chess Pie

I’ll confess right off the bat that I’ve never tried regular chess pie before. Heck, I only heard of it recently as basically a sugar pie, like a pecan pie without the pecans, and it sounded too sweet to deal with. But when I came across a recipe for Sesame Chess Pie I was intrigued. I’ve always liked experimenting with adding savory flavors to my sweets, and tahini is like a less assertive peanut butter in that sense. I decided to give it a shot, figuring that I could use the extra egg whites to make macarons later on (more on that later).

The pie itself is a cinch to whip up– especially if you use a store-bought pie crust– and aside from the tahini calls for standard pantry ingredients (at least in my pantry). It puffed and browned beautifully in the oven before settling down during cooling, and smelled delicious.

I served mine with a scoop of no-churn orange-sesame ice cream, which was basically this recipe except I substituted sesame seeds for almonds.

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Chocolate Babka

I’ve had my eye on this chocolate babka recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a while– it has so many elements I love in a baked good: a chocolate swirl, a fancy layered inside, and a burnished, sugary outside. When I accidentally seized some chocolate while melting it the other day, I knew I had the perfect excuse to break out the yeast and make some babka! (Yes, I could’ve made brownies like the praline cheesecake ones I made the last time I had seized chocolate, but where’s the fun in that?)

I’m not going to go through the entire recipe here– Deb does a great job on her own page, and besides I didn’t take many photos of the process. But here are my own notes on the recipe:

  • I let my dough rise on the counter for three hours, rather than overnight in the fridge– since it was significantly warmer on the counter, I got a decent rise out of the dough, which was nice to see. I also followed her instructions about chilling the dough before trying to roll it out, and the chilled dough really did roll out like a dream– no sticking, no cracking, just perfect.
  • While the filling does start off pretty soupy when you first mix it, I let mine rest on the counter at room temperature for about an hour (not on purpose, it was just a timing error), and it firmed up nicely. If it gets too firm you can always give it a few seconds in the microwave and it’ll soften up a bit.
  • Once filled, rolled, cut, and twisted, I expected my dough to rise in the pan during the 90 minutes it sat on the counter. It did not– possibly because it was still kind of cold from being chilled prior to slicing. And while I did get some oven spring, it wasn’t a huge amount, so keep that in mind when you’re filling your loaf pans.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I had a bunch of ricotta left over from making lasagna the other day, and since I can never let things like that go to waste, I decided to try to make cookies out of it. Lemon-flavored cookies, since lemon is always the flavor of spring for me, and we’re finally starting to get some nice weather here! These cookies mainly get their lemon flavor from the glaze, as the lemon zest in the cookie itself is pretty subtle, but the ricotta makes them almost like tiny soft cakes, rather than cookies. They also freeze well (unglazed) if you find yourself with extra ricotta but no immediate need for dessert.

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Flourless Pecan Cake

Pecans are definitely my favorite nuts– they have this wonderfully caramel-y flavor that adds richness to any recipe they’re a part of. Almonds are more versatile, and walnuts are cheaper, but it’s always pecans for me. Which is why, when I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a cake featuring a full pound of toasted pecans, I had to try it.

The recipe uses finely ground pecans instead of flour, with browned butter to amp up the caramel notes, and boy, is it delicious! It’s soft and moist, and intensely flavorful; the pecans add a somewhat rustic texture, but the complex flavor makes it sophisticated. I served mine with whipped cream and berries, but it would be amazing all by itself– I’ll eat mine with a nice cup of tea, but it would go equally well with a glass of dark beer, I think.

If you want to make this yourself, the two steps to watch out for are the browning of the butter– you need to be careful not to let it burn– and the whipping/folding of the egg whites to avoid deflation. The result is totally worth it.

Thanks again, Deb, for an amazing recipe!

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