Saturday, May 24, 2014

Strawberry Citrus Trifle

Trifle is an old fashioned dessert hailing from the British Isles. Trifles and related rich desserts making use of stale cakes go back to the 1700's. Fools, Spanish Bizcocho Borracho  and Italian Zuppa Ingles are all related to the same culinary tradition.

A beautiful and showy dessert that can be used as a table centerpiece, Trifle is made with sponge (or pound) cake, fruit, custard and whipped cream.  The components are usually layered in a large serving bowl, but you can also create "mini" trifles in small canning jars or individual dessert bowls. The great thing about trifle is that it serves a crowd and making sure that you add the whipped cream just before serving its fine to assemble the day before, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Trifle is not an overwhelming project - you can simplify the components by using ready-made items (packaged cake, instant pudding, frozen berries, canned whipped cream) or you can bake a cake, whip the cream, cook the custard. The resulting dessert will be beautiful and delicious whether you go for shortcuts or not.

This trifle is made with a citrus-sour cream pound cake (adapted from Norwegian Sour Cream Cake on the King Arthur Flour website), pureed fresh strawberries (jazzed up with a bit of brandy and a small amount of confectioners' sugar), lemon custard (I used a packaged pudding mix) and whipped cream.  Although the cake is dairy, a non-dairy version can easily be created (it's harder to find a packaged non-dairy pound cake). I've included directions for converting the dairy cake to a very tasty pareve version.  Packaged lemon custard or lemon curd is often pareve. Non-dairy whipped toppings are available (although they generally have more chemicals than I'm comfortable with).

These steps can be completed a day or two prior trifle assembly:
*Bake (or buy) the pound cake. If you are baking a cake you can do so a day or two before you plan to assemble the trifle- or you can do as did this time, bake and freeze the cake until you plan to assemble the trifle. At the time you assemble the trifle, cut the cake into small, bite size squares.
*Puree the fruit (I used strawberries, soft stone fruit or berries will work as well....try peaches or nectarines). The puree can be made a day or two before you plan to assemble the trifle.
*Make the custard or lemon curd  (use a "lemon meringue" pie mix or make it from scratch. Cool the mixture.

These steps should be completed at the time you plan to assemble the dessert:
*Slice additional fruit for decorating the top of the trifle.
* Whip cream (or use ready made whipped cream).
*Assemble the trifle. Chill until you are ready to serve.

For the cake: 
2 medium loaf pans or bundt cake pan
measuring cups, spoons
electric mixer (or a sturdy wooden spoon if you are mixing by hand)

For the puree:
A food processor or blender

For the lemon pudding (or curd):
large saucepan (a heavy bottomed saucepan works better)
mixing spoon
measuring cups and spoons

For preparation of the whole fruit:
knife and flat surface

For the whipped cream (if you are making it from scratch) :
Mixer or portable beaters and a large bowl
Measuring spoons and cup


Cake ingredients:
This cake is adapted from Norwegian Sour Cream Cake on the King Arthur Flour website. The cake is made with dairy products, but I've included non-dairy (pareve) substitutions.

8oz unsalted butter (or pareve margarine or coconut oil)
14 oz granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Fiori di Sicilia flavoring (optional, but it really adds a wonderful citrus tone to the cake)
12 oz sour cream (or yogurt, or pareve sour cream substitute combined with 1/2 tsp vinegar)
    Note: you can use full fat or low fat sour cream or yogurt. Yogurt is a bit thinner than sour cream
    so you may find that you'll need to add another tablespoon or two of flour in addition to the
    amount called for in the recipe.
17 oz all purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven. I used 2 glass loaf pans and preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  The original directions suggest a full size tube or bundt pan. Grease two loaf pans with spray oil and shake a tablespoon or two of unflavored breadcrumbs (or a small amount of flour) around the inside of the pan.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time. I break the yolks before adding them into a batter or dough, I find it makes it easier to blend the egg into the mixture. Add the flavoring and salt. Mix.
4. Combine the flour and baking powder. I use an old fashioned metal strainer that I've used for many years.  This step add a minute or two to the process, but you'll never have the bitter taste of baking powder (or soda) that didn't mix into the flour correctly.  You can also use a sifter for this purpose.

5. Add the sour cream (in two additions) and flour mixture (in three additions) alternately to the sugar-egg mixture. Mix until the entire batter is hydrated and mixed. Do not over-mix, the resulting batter will be thick.
6. Add half the batter to each pan, smooth with a silicone spatula and/or your fingers.
7. Bake for 35-45 minutes (check after 35 minutes). The finished cake will be a light golden color.

8. Cool the cakes and remove from the pan.  The cooled cakes can be loosely wrapped and used within a day or two - or you can wrap and freeze to use at a later time.

9. This cake has a wonderful and robust citrus flavor. Use one for the trifle and save the second and serve at another time by itself or with ice cream!

Fruit Puree:
1 lb ripe, hulled and cleaned strawberries
2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
1/4-1/3 confectioners' sugar (sweeten to personal preference)

1. Place the fruit, brandy and sugar in the bowl of the food processor.
2. Pulse the fruit until smooth (don't liquify).
3. Pour into a container. If you are making the fruit puree more than a day or two in advance, cover and freeze. Defrost several hours prior to dessert assembly.

Lemon pudding (lemon curd) :
I used a packaged mix, but if you want to make it from scratch, easy versions can be found at:
David Lebovitz's link or at the King Arthur blog .

The pudding/curd can be made a day ahead.

Sliced Fruit:
Slice 1 lb of hulled cleaned strawberries (or other berries or fruit if you choose). The fruit should be prepared when you are ready to assemble the trifle. Leave a few larger pieces to decorate the top of the trifle.

Whipped Cream: 
1 large can whipped cream or 2 cups sweetened home made whipped cream.
An easy recipe with directions for making whipped cream from scratch can be found at the Land o' Lakes website .  The proportion is 1 c whipping or extra heavy cream, 1/4 c sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  You can use 1 tsp vanilla sugar instead of the extract.

Home made whipped cream can be prepared, covered and stored in the refrigerator a day or two before assembly.  Canned whipped cream is squirted directly over the assembled dessert just before serving.

To Assemble the Trifle: 

Building the trifle takes about 30 minutes.
1. Slice and dice one of the pound cakes. Set aside.

2. Have the prepared lemon pudding (lemon curd), pureed fruit (defrosted if you have prepared it previously) , sliced fruit and whipped cream ready.

3. Use half of each the ingredients to create the first layer: cubed cake, pudding, fruit puree and sliced fruit. Repeat to make a second complete layer. Top with whipped cream and decorate with the larger pieces of fruit you set aside. Serve in small portions using a large serving spoon - the trifle is rich and will serve a crowd.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Savory Cornbread on the BBQ

This Savory Cornbread is made in a cast iron pan on a gas grill. 
The recipe is adapted from 
Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins Hot & Sassy Cornbread in The New Basics Cookbook 

It's bbq season and in our house that means cook whatever you can on the grill and keep the kitchen as cool as possible. This recipe can be made in a baking pan in the oven, but it's much more fun to make it directly on the grill. Serve it directly from the pan or slide it onto a serving platter. 

This is a quick bread, mixed in one bowl, blended by hand with a large spoon and baked (or in this case roasted) in a cast iron pan. The batter can be cooked in 2 smaller cast iron pans or a 12-14 inch pan. 
The seasoned pan must be pre-heated on a gas grill, a small amount of oil added to the pan and the batter poured into the heated pan. The entire process, from start to finish will take about 45 minutes. 

Large mixing bowl and mixing spoon
Measuring cups and spoon
Well seasoned cast iron pan* (s) - you can use 2 cornbread pans (wells for forming individual portions), 2 eight inch pans or one large (12-14 inch) pan 
      *if you plan to bake the cornbread in a traditional oven, you can use the cast iron pans or
        a 9x13 baking pan 

1 cup stone ground corn meal (white or yellow)
1 cup white whole wheat flour 
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt 
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp chili powder (or a bit more if like things spicier)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar 
1/2 cup soy milk 
1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt (soy or coconut) or non-dairy "sour cream" 
1/2 tsp vinegar 
2 large eggs 
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil 
10 oz frozen corn kernels 
3-4 Tablespoons diced sweet pepper (any color) 
Several thin sliced of pepper (optional) 
small amount of oil for greasing the pan 

1. Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir to mix
2. Measure the eggs and liquid ingredients into a bowl. Before mixing the dry and liquid ingredients, place a dry cast iron pan on the grill, lower the cover and heat the grill to between 400-450 degrees.

3. Combine the dry and liquid ingredients. Stir well. Add the corn and diced green pepper 
2. Add 2-3 T oil to the hot pan and distribute the oil
evenly around the bottom of the pan 
3. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth out so that it forms a 
large pancake. If you want, press pepper rings decoratively around 
the batter. Close the grill top and bake for 15-20 minutes (check after 15 minutes, the top of the bread will be dry to the touch, but will not brown in the way it does in the oven. Remove the pan from the grill
      * If you are baking the cornbread in an oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, grease a baking pan          and bake the cornbread for approximately 25 minutes, until a cake tester (or tooth pick) comes            out dry 

Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-5 as a side dish. 
Serving suggestion: BBQ or Beer Can Chicken 
and for dessert try my

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chicken Stew with Okra and Herb Dumplings ("Chicken in the Pot")

It's been a long cold, wet spring on the East Coast. This dish would normally, to me, make a great fall/winter dinner. Since it's cold and damp, there's one last chance to prepare stew (and fresh sour dough bread!) for dinner.

This chicken dish is not the traditional chicken in the pot with egg noodles and matzah balls. The dish is made with a liberal amount of green herbs, roughly chopped vegetables and okra. The vegetables, except the okra, which helps to thicken the stew, can be varied to your taste. This is an easy to prepare comfort food that is easily adaptable to personal taste. The stew will serve 4-6 people.

It is easier to make this stew if all of the ingredients are prepped and ready to add. The use of ready made chicken broth makes this an easy to prepare dish. It is tastier if made a day ahead, chilled and then skimmed of residual fat before re-warming. The liberal use of fresh herbs give the stew a fresh flavor which dried or frozen herbs cannot provide.

Large stock pot
Cutting board, sharp knife
Vegetable peeler, sharp knife (for cutting up vegetables, dice herbs)
Measuring spoons
Kitchen scale

For the "stew" 
4 lbs cut up chicken (this is an approximate weight, I prefer to use thighs, drumsticks and wings)
1-2 Tbsp oil (I use olive, but any cooking oil will work well)
2 large onions (roughly chopped, approximately 4 oz)
4-5 medium carrots (peeled and cut into thick slices, approximately 6 oz)
3-4 stalks celery (cut into thick slices, approximately 6 oz)
8 oz white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1- 6 oz can tomato paste
8 oz okra (trim off stem edge, leave whole)
1/4- 1/3 cup mixed chopped herbs (use any herb combination you like.  I use parsley and dill)
1 quart chicken broth (prepared or home made)
3-4 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For the dumplings
1/4 c chopped herbs, any mixture you like (I use parsley and dill)
1/2 c melted solid shortening /oil (I use coconut oil)
1/2 c liquid -coconut milk, soy, water or broth (I use fat-free coconut milk)
1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 c (6 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

1. Prepare the chicken pieces, vegetables, chop the herbs.

2. Add a small amount of oil to the stock pot and begin to saute the chopped onions. Add several pieces of chicken and cook for a few minutes, turning over as the skin and surface begin to cook. You are not browning the chicken, but rather sauteing a bit on all sides. Remove partially cooked chicken pieces from the pan and continue to add other pieces until all of the chicken is partially cooked.
You will probably not need to add any more oil, as the chicken will release it's juices and the fat will begin to render and melt.

3. After the chicken is cooked, add the carrots, celery and mushrooms to the stockpot. Cook over medium high heat for a few minutes. Add the okra, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes more.


4. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth and bay leaves. Return the chicken to the pan. Add a bit of salt and pepper - you will be able to correct the seasoning later.

5. Cover and simmer  slowly for 30-40 minutes.

6. While the stew is simmering, prepare the dumplings. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Melt the shortening, combine with the liquid, salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Mix in the flour, stir until thoroughly mixed. Chill the mixture for 15-30 minutes.

7. The chicken should be completely cooked through by this time. Remove the chicken from the pot and  continue to heat the vegetable mixture at a slow simmer. Stir the dumpling dough with a soup spoon and drop pieces of the mixture by the spoonful into the simmering soup. You'll have 12-15 dumplings. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes.

8. If you are serving immediately place a piece or two of chicken in a bowl, add a dumpling or two and ladle some of the remaining stew mixture on over the chicken and dumplings. If you are going to chill the stew first, cool the stew in the pot and pour over the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Skim any fat off before re-warming the stew.