As you know, I’ve always had a thing for cute desserts, particularly if they’re tiny and pastel-colored. When considering what kind of sweet to make for this year’s historical picnic, I came across a recipe for strawberry lamingtons, and suddenly couldn’t get them out of my mind.
I admit I’d never actually had lamingtons before, much less made them, but they looked easy enough– cubes of sponge cake dipped in glaze and coated in finely shredded coconut. Traditionally the glaze is chocolate, but apparently strawberry is a common variation– and it’s made with jello!
As you may have noticed, I make mooncakes every year– just not in the usual flavors. While I really do like my chocolate-cherry mooncakes and my gingerbread mooncakes, I thought I’d try a new recipe this year and go with something almond-flavored.
For the centers I baked up an extremely moist almond cake. I actually tried two different recipes to see which one I liked better– the first is from Chez Panisse and is mixed in the food processor, and the second is from Amanda Hesser has a bit more flour in it and is made in the mixer. The first one turned out more cake-like, probably due to the fact that it incorporated whole eggs rather than just yolks, but the second turned out moister and squidgier, despite the fact that it had twice as much flour in it. I ended up using equal amounts of each cake, crumbled up together, to make my filling– it was the perfect mix!
I cut the sweetness of the almond cake with a tart raspberry jam center– Smuckers is my favorite raspberry jam, but not the seedless kind!– which I piped into the filling balls before molding the mooncakes.
The other day I was at Roche Brothers in the cheese section, when I spied a jar of jam.
I was immediately intrigued, as my love of the raspberry-rose (and often lychee) combination is well-known. I experienced momentary confusion as to whether it was quince and apple jam (due to the brand name) or raspberry-rose jam, but determined that it was the latter and decided to try it.
It’s really excellent– the raspberry is nice and bright, and the rose comes through just enough to avoid being overly floral. But what to do with it? It seemed a waste to spread it on toast, and I worried that the delicate flavor would be lost if I used it in a layer cake. But then I saw these lovely linzer cookies from Brina’s Bites and knew exactly what to do with it.
After blueberry picking, despite having made Blueberry-Chocolate Pudding and Blueberry Breakfast Cake, we still had a ton of berries left. Luckily, with a picnic coming up and a package of puff pastry in the freezer, I was able to throw together some last-minute pastries to use up another cup or so of berries!
These are actually almost exactly the same, technique-wise, as these Peach Almond Pastries I made at this time last year– and they worked out just as well! In this case the thick blueberry compote (microwaved, not stovetop!) was accented nicely with a layer of almond paste, and provided a nice contrast to the crisp, flaky layers of buttery pastry. Try this recipe the next time you have extra fruit lying around the house– you won’t regret it!
It’s become kind of a family tradition to go peach picking every summer, since my preschooler is fully capable of devouring up to four peaches a day and adores picking fruit of all kinds. However, due to an early frost this year the entire local peach crop was destroyed, so we decided to go blueberry picking instead. She had a great time, eating them right off the bush and “looking out for bears.” (because we’ve read Blueberries for Sal)
Once we arrived home with our giant 5-lb bucket of blueberries, I was informed by my daughter that we would be making pudding. Blueberry pudding. With chocolate. I’d never really heard of a chocolate blueberry pudding before, but hey, we had five pounds of berries, we could afford to give it a shot. I decided to go really simple, with a basic cornstarch-thickened pudding poured over whole blueberries– I could’ve made an egg-yolk-thickened custard with real chocolate and a berry coulis, but we’re talking about a four-year-old here, she wasn’t going to appreciate the finer details and would probably prefer the basic dessert.
I’m a sucker for pastry, especially at breakfast, so when I came across this recipe for King Arthur Flour’s Almond Puff Loaf, which promised a delicious, multi-layered pastry in only a few simple steps, I knew I’d have to try it out. It starts with a base that’s halfway between a biscuit and a pie crust, and it’s topped with choux paste to provide some serious puff. The process reminded me a little of the Gateau St. Honoré, but the finished product was very different– probably because of the different ingredient proportions.
I also decided to add a layer of almond paste between the two doughs, to really amp up the almond flavor– I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking to try this recipe, along with using apricot jam, which pairs perfectly with the almond.
I’ve never actually made jelly before. Compote, yes. Curd, sure. Even jam, way back when I was a kid in my grandmother’s kitchen. But jelly? Never. When I was offered a bagful of tiny crabapples and told that they were “great for jelly,” though, I knew that fate was dropping the opportunity in my lap.
I opened the bag and eyed the crabapples dubiously. They were so tiny (seriously, like cherry-sized)– wouldn’t it be a huge hassle to remove the seeds from each and every one? Happily, online recipes assured me that I wouldn’t need to do anything like that– simply cut the stem ends off and halve them. I’d only be draining the apples of juice anyway, not pureeing them or otherwise eating the solids. It actually sounded kind of fun!