Lemon Curd

Spring and warmer weather has finally arrived in Wisconsin. It always feels great to see sunshine, birds and green grass. And nothing says SPRING better than lemons. The bright yellow color of the rind and the fresh citrus flavor make your taste buds sing!

If you haven’t tried lemon curd before, it’s a “must try” item. Think of it as creamy, slightly sweet, lemon jam. “What do you put lemon curd on?” you might ask. It’s great on pancakes, waffles, pound cake, angel food cake, and for a British flair, try it on scones. It’s even great on a spoon, right out of the jar.

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It’s a perfect recipe to use up left over egg yolks from making Angel Food Cake. And lemon curd happens to go great with Angel Food Cake so it’s a match made in heaven. Now if you want to give this recipe a try, put down the bottle of lemon juice! For the love of curd, please do not use store-bought, bottled lemon juice. The fresh lemon juice in this recipe makes all the difference. Give it a try, enjoy!

Lemon Curd

Yields: 2 cups of curd

Ingredients:20180218_120707-1.jpg

  • 3 lemons (will use for juice and rind)
  • 1/2 cup fresh, strained lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 stick)

Directions:

1.) Combine sugar, yolks, lemon juice, salt and zest in top of double boiler. Cook at medium-low heat, whisking frequently for 10 minutes or until mixture coats the back of a spoon.

2.) Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time until well incorporated. Remove pan from heat.

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3.) Let mixture cool off the stove; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover lightly with plastic wrap so it touches the surface of the curd. This prevents a skin from forming on the top. Once fully cooled, store in tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator.

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Notes and Tips:

  • Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor.
  • To get the most juice from your lemons, give um a squeeze! Place lemon on counter and “roll out” a few times. Or you can microwave the lemon for 10 seconds.
  • If you want super smooth curd, feel free to run mixture through a fine, mesh strainer for a silky consistency.
  • If your curd curdles slightly, you may be able to save it by straining out the cooked egg bits.
  • Store curd in tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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Sweets of Italy

Buon giorno! I just returned from 10 days in Italy which included 10 days worth of Italian sweets and amazing food! We had an unique opportunity to enjoy three cities in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice.

Italy has many exciting sites to see including: the Colosseum, Roman baths, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, canals in Venice or Duomo in Florence. However, the food and dining is an experience all in itself. Italians take their food seriously and dinner usually consists of multiple courses, laced with wine, and topped off with something sweet. Dinner starts at 8 or 9 pm, and don’t expect to eat and run! Enjoy a glass of wine or a spritz and take it all in.

Antipasto: This literally means before (anti) the meal (pasto). Common options for this course are cheese plates, meat plate, olives, bruschetta, or salads. Also small baskets of bread and/or bread sticks are served. The fresh mozzarella is out of this world!

 

Primo Piatto: This is the first (primo) course (piatto), and is almost always pasta but can also include risotto or gnocchi. The serving size is typically appropriate for a second course which leaves enough room for the other two.

 

Secondo Piatto: The second (secondo) course (piatto) is the protein course of meat or fish, sometimes with a small side of vegetables.

 

Dolce: The best course of all, dessert. Because of all the previous courses, Italian desserts are usually fairly light. After dinner, it’s common to enjoy a drink a digestif, like limoncello (lemon liquor), or an espresso to help digest the meal they just enjoyed.

Tiramisu: a classic dessert with ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese and dusted with coco powder.

Sfogliatella (lobster tail) and Cannoli:  Sfogliatella is an incredibly flaky, shell-shaped pastry, usually filled with cream (pictured below with strawberries on top). Sfogliatella means “small, thin leaf/layer”, as the pastry’s texture resembles stacked leaves. Cannoli are tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough and are filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta filling (pictured below with powdered sugar).

 

Torrone and Meringue: Torrone is a soft nougat confection that is typically made of honey, sugar and egg whites, with toasted almonds or other nuts. It’s usually shaped into either a rectangular or round cake (pictured on the left). We saw these all over sold in slices and in a variety of flavors. Meringue is a light, airy and sweet confections made from egg whites and sugar (pictured on the right). There were large piles of meringue sold in pastry shops in various flavors.

 

Gelato: The crown jewel (in my opinion) of Italian treats. Gelato started in Italy and can now be enjoyed all over the world. It is made with a base of milk, cream and sugar. It is lower in fat, but higher in sugar, than other types of ice cream. Gelato typically has less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a rich and dense flavor. This is why the serving sizes are typically smaller than what you would see in the US and they serve it with a tiny spoon. Common flavors are: Cioccolato (chocolate), pistacchio (pistachio), nocciola (hazelnut), crema (like vanilla), cocco (coconut) caffè (espresso), fragola (strawberry), limone (lemon).

 

If you are considering taking a trip overseas to Italy, I would highly recommend it. It’s worth the gelato alone. Save travels- ciao!

 

Strawberry Shortcake

It’s summertime in the Midwest and we’ve hit the high season for fresh, sweet strawberries. Farms in my area allow families to go out to the fields to pick their own berries. I wasn’t that adventurous this year, but I was inspired by others to get some fresh, pre-picked berries of my own.

Strawberry shortcake is a classic, summer dessert that is quick and a tasty use of fresh berries. Feel free to swap out the strawberries if a different fruit fits your fancy. The slightly sweet shortcakes have a wonderful, light texture and pair well with juicy berries and homemade whip cream. Give them a shot- enjoy!

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Strawberry Shortcake

Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens

Yields: 8-10 individual cakes

Ingredients:20170625_150338

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 6 cups sliced, fresh strawberries
  • Whipped Cream

Directions:

1.) Cut off tops of strawberries and slice into quarters. Add 1/4 cup of sugar to the berries and mix well. Set berries aside.

2.) Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, flour and baking powder in a medium size bowl. Cut in cold butter pieces using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

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3.) Add the milk and beaten egg to the flour mixture and combine just until moistened and all flour disappears.

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4.) Use a cookie scoop, or spoon to drop 1/4 cup of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the dough in a circle that is about 3/4 inch thick. If desired, add a sprinkle of coarse sugar on top of each cake.

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5.) Bake shortcakes at 450° F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. The tops will turn a very light brown. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

6.) To serve the shortcakes, cut each cake in half horizontally. Scoop a few spoonfuls of berries onto the cake and top with whip cream. Add the top layer of cake back on.

Notes & Tips:

  • For a real showcase dessert, you could use a 8 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan to make one large shortcake. Bake at 450° F for 15-18 minutes. To serve, cut the cake in half horizontally and layer with berries and whip cream; serve in wedges.
  • I found it easiest to use a cookie scoop for the dough to create evenly sized shortcakes.
  • If you are not a fan of strawberries, you could use other fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.
  • For the whip cream, you can make your own or just get some right from the can. No judgement here!
  • Feel free to top the cakes with a sprinkle of coarse sugar for some extra sweetness and crunch. Also, who doesn’t love a little sparkle?

 

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Apple Hand Pies

The holidays are quickly approaching which means lots of friends, family and good food. For every holiday gathering, there are the traditional standby dishes that you have each year. This year I would suggest adding in a new fav- these mini, hand-held pies. They are the perfect portion for one person, are less messy than a slice of pie, and they travel and store well.

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Now making crusts has never been my strong suit so I “cheated” and used store bought crust. It speeds up the recipe but if you are a crust master, go for it! Also if apples aren’t your thing, you could use your favorite filling. Enjoy!

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Apple Hand Pies

Makes: 12-14 hand pies

Ingredients for Pies:wp-1479140050830.jpg

  • 1 box of refrigerated pie crust or your favorite recipe for 2 pie crusts
  • 2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (about 2 large apples)
  • 1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for Icing:wp-1479079564887.jpg

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Directions:

1.) Peel, core and dice apples into small pieces. Combine apples, sugar, flour, cinnamon wp-1479517617613.jpgand nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside apples and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2.) Roll out pie crust on floured surface. Using a 4 inch, round cookie cutter, cut out circles of pie crust. You will need to combine the dough scraps together and roll them out to get a few more circles.

3.) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place one circle of dough on the pan. Place a wp-1479080462485.jpgspoonful of apples in the center of the dough and fold in half. Seal edges together with a fork or fingers. Poke tops of pies with a fork to avoid explosions. Lastly, brush tops of pies with beaten egg.

4.) Bake pies at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.

5.) While pies are baking, whisk together milk and powdered sugar in a bowl until glaze is runny.wp-1479079566014.jpg

6.) When pies are done baking, remove from oven and dip each hand pie into the glaze. You can use a spoon to help fully coat each pie in sweet glaze. Place pies on cooling rack or parchment paper to cool for 10 minutes. Pies can be stored loosely covered in wax paper.

Notes and Tips:

  • If you are not a fan of apples, you could fill the pies with cherries, rhubarb, or blueberries. Let you taste buds make the decision!
  • Do not overfill the pies with filling. I was tempted to fill each pie to the brim but it made it hard to seal the edges of the dough.
  • Be sure to seal the edges of the pies well so the insides don’t spill out while they are bakin’.
  • You can cut fun designs out of the pie dough scraps to adorn the tops of the pies. I used small cookie cutters to cut out shapes but you could free hand leaves or other shapes as well.

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Sweets of Norway

I recently returned from a vacation abroad in Norway! The scenery was picturesque in every city and all the seafood was so fresh. Traditionally Norway is not known for gourmet food, however the basic flavors were a refreshing change from the norm.

One of my favorite sweet treats from the trip was “soft ice” that was sold in most ice cream shops and a few tourist areas. The soft serve ice cream could be eaten plain or dipped in one of three flavors: sweetened coco powder, rainbow sprinkles, or strawberry flavoring. I had my first cone rolled in coco powder and I was hooked. I had more of these cones throughout the 8 days in Norway than I care to admit!wp-1470361038226.jpg

Another favorite treat was a simple cake we discovered in a diner- it was a lemon cake with frosting that had the density of pound cake and the light flavor of angel food cake. But was so tasty I had to get a second piece for later. See below for all of the tasty treats of Norway! Enjoy!

 

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 “Formkake Med Sitron” -Lemon Pound Cake with Vanilla Icing  (Oslo, Norway)

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Chai Latte with cinnamon sprinkle (Voss, Norway)

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Norwegian Cronut from the grocery store (cross between doughnut and croissant)

 
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Apple Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream  (Bergen, Norway)

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Strawberry Mousse with White Chocolate Ice Cream, garnished with dried raspberries (Grand Hotel- Oslo, Norway)

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Cream Puff Cake filled with pastry cream and topped with icing (Bergen, Norway)

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Soft Ice with Sweetened Coco Powder (Bergen, Norway)

Apple Roses

Once again Fall has moved into the Midwest and I found myself in the middle of apple picking season. After a few bouts of picking, the overabundance of apples had me searching for fun, new apple recipes. My brother sent me a video of these Apple Roses being created and I decided to give them a try!

The Apple Roses look complicated to make, but the recipe is very simple and the results are stunning. They would make a great addition to any party or an alternative to apple pie at Thanksgiving. Because they are so beautiful, you may be hesitant to take a bite. But don’t be shy- dig right in! They taste like a delicious, mini apple pie. Give them a try, enjoy!

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Apple Roses

Yields: 10 Roses

Recipe adapted from: http://thelovenerds.com/2015/05/apple-rose-pastries-recipe.html

Ingredients: 

  • 3 medium appleswpid-20151010_180616.jpg
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Caramel
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions: wpid-20151010_181442.jpg

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the apples in half and remove the core and seeds. Using a mandolin or knife, slice apples into very thin slices.

2.) Place apple slices in a microwave safe bowl with the water and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help to keep the apples from browning. Microwave the apples for 4 minutes, or until slightly soft and pliable. You don’t want the apples to be too crisp when you roll them into the roses, or the slices will crack and break.

3.) Drain the water from the apple slices and let cool.

4.) Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the thawed puff pastry. Cut pastry into 4 to 5 strips (depending on the size of your apples) withwpid-20151010_190723.jpg a pizza cutter. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. For each pastry strip, sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and a smear of caramel.

5.) Place apple slices on the top half of the strip of puff pastry and overlap each slice. Be sure that some of the apple slice is sticking up over the top of the pastry. Fill the whole strip of puff pastry with apple slices and then fold up the bottom half of the pastry over the apples.wpid-20151010_191453.jpg

6.) Starting at one end, tightly roll up the pastry to create the rose and then seal the end of the pastry. Lightly grease a muffin tin and place each rose in the tin.

7.) Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until pastry is lightly brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes. Then remove roses from pan and cool on a rack. To serve, sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar and/or powdered sugar.

Notes and Tips:

  • Use a mandolin to slice apples very thinly or take your time to do it by hand. I was quick to slice the apples and they came out a little thick.
  • Feel free to get creative with the ingredients that you add to the inside of the puff pastry. You could add nutmeg as another spice or use apple butter, caramel, butterscotch…
  • Store completed Apples Roses in a covered container.

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