Tea With Grandma

Two weeks ago, we went to Delaware to visit Eric’s Grandmother. She is a wonderful woman who has traveled the world and I love getting a chance to talk with her about her travel adventures. One of the main topics of conversation during this visit was Eric’s Grandfather. He served in World War II as an Army Ranger (famous for scaling the cliffs at Point du Hoc) and Signal Corps seargant and was a part the D’Day Invasion. He went over the English Channel in a fishing boat the night before D’Day and hid in a manure pile until morning, when he worked to set up communications lines. He was a part of Patton’s 3rd Army and fought all over Europe, earning 3 purple hearts and a bronze star.

When we travel to Normandy this Fall, we want to make sure we visit the beaches that he fought on and find his name in the war memorial. Eric’s grandparents also traveled to Normandy 2-3 times after the war and we wanted to get the skinny on their adventures; those details will help us plan our trip.

Eric’s Grandmother grew up in Delaware but has English heritage and relatives that she has kept in touch with over the years. She has been to visit them in England many times and in the same way, they have come to visit her as well. She has an extensive tea set collection and always tells me how to make a “proper” pot of tea.

When we decided to visit her, I wanted to make her some tea cakes and scones. After some research, I went with a lavender tea cake and strawberry basil scones. I’m never actually baked with lavender before and was excited to try that tea cake recipe. I’ve also never made scones before, I was intimidated since they required kneading and cutting, but in the end both were simple and delicious.

The lavender tea cake initially sounded interesting but I was nervous that it would come out tasting like soap. Most of the lavender in my life is not in cake form but more soap, dried herbs and even herbs de Provence.

The recipe stated that I could use either the purple flower part of the lavender or the silvery, green leaf part. I cut a little of both from my garden and followed the rest of the baking instructions, adding the lavender last and gently mixing it into the light cake batter.

Bake the cake in a loaf pan and cool slightly before popping it out of the pan and drizzling it with glaze, the cake should still be warm when you glaze it.

After all that, slice the cake and you’ll see this:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It was light, fluffy, slightly sweet with just a hint of lavender at the end. The texture of the cake was so nice that I kept going back for more. I’ll admit it, I was a little sad when Eric’s grandmother asked me to leave her the last few pieces of cake; I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, while my lavender is still blooming.

The other recipe I made for the visit were Strawberry Basil Scones. I got my last quart of local strawberries, for the season, and mixed up a batch of these babies:

 I liked that this recipe had you roll out the scones in a circle and then I cut it like a pizza to make my perfect triangle scones.

It was so much easier than I thought! In the end, the scones were crumbly and delicious with lots of strawberry chunks and the light hint of basil. The flavors were great together.

The scones keep for about a week, but make sure you store them in the fridge, they will get moldy quick.

 

As always, our visit with Eric’s grandmother was too short, the afternoon went by so quickly but we were able to see a bunch of photo’s that Eric’s grandfather took during WWII, I loved the ones of Paris! We heard his grandmother’s account of D’Day, from Eric’s grandfather, read letters that he had written to Eric’s grandmother during the war and got to hear about all of their travels later in life. They had so many great adventures and were such great friends. I hope that my marriage is even half of what they had for 60 years.

We’re looking forward to our next visit already but in the meantime, here are those tasty recipes:

Lavender Tea Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain or lowfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lavender leaves

Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla until well-blended.
  2. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
  3. Sift flour and combine with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in lavender.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until a sharp knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients. Spread on the warm cake. Cool in pan 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

 

Strawberry Basil Scones

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (I used half all purpose flour and half cake flour for the best results)

1/3 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries (we preferred them cut into 1/2-inch or 1-inch pieces)
2 T snipped basil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup half-and-half

Half-and-half or milk
Sugar
slivered almonds, optional

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently toss in fresh strawberries and basil. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together eggs and half-and-half. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Using a large spoon, gently stir just until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it 5 to 7 times, turning the dough one quarter turn after each fold. (If it is too sticky, add flour from the extra 1/4 cup as needed to make it workable.) Transfer to a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat or lightly roll dough into a 3/4 inch thick circle. Cut circle into wedges and pull apart slightly.

Brush wedges with additional half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar and almonds (if using). Bake about 14-16 minutes or until golden. Serve dolloped with whipped cream. Refrigerate any leftover scones.

It’s Going to be a Hot One

How are you guys today? It’s going to be insanely hot here and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. This morning I woke up at 5am to get in a nice run before the heat index went off the charts and the air quality became to poor to run outside, and even at that early hour the humid stickiness had already set it. All I want to do is sit in front of of my air conditioner eating ice cream; what I don’t want to do, is use my stove. At all.

As you got to see back in March in my house tour post, I live in an old house. A house built in 1880, very old for the USA. It’s a wonderful house but like all houses, there are things I’d love to add, air conditioning is one of the things I’d love to have in our home. But at $10K and up, we can live with window units for a while. The problem however lies with the kitchen. There is but one kitchen window and its directly over the sink, where I stand more than anywhere else in the kitchen.

Putting a A/C unit there would not be a good idea, I’d probably catch pneumonia standing in front of it with wet hands for hours a day. The kitchen is cut off from the rest of the first floor and noticeably hotter, turn on the stove or the oven and forget it, it becomes a sauna.

This Summer, I will attempt to cook inside as little as possible on these hot days, this means some major grilling will occur or we’ll be eating something cold. Ice cream really isn’t a completely bad dinner or better yet, frozen yogurt… How will you guys be beating the heat the next few days? Are you like me and don’t have central air?

I have some great posts in my queue that need to be finished for you guys but stay tuned. I’ll be recapping our trip up to Vermont this past weekend as well as giving you some great new recipes.

Lastly, don’t forget to check your local orchards for their fruit ripening dates. I just saw that tart/pie cherries are just coming in season and they only last about a week around here. You don’t want to miss that fresh cherry pie!

Strawberry-fest

I’ve gotten some great feedback about the strawberry cake I posted last week. Lots of you have printed out the recipe and some have already made it and fallen in love with it! This is why I blog. I love sharing recipes that become successful for others; there truly is nothing that bring people together more than food.

The strawberries are still around at our Lancaster Central Market and for me, they are irresistible. Since they have such a short season and taste so incredibly compared to the year-round California strawberries you can always find overpriced at the grocery store, I feel like I must eat as many as possible so that I can last until next year. As I walked through rows of stands at market last week, eyeing up the pretty produce and the first ears of corn I found myself buying another quart of those sweet red berries, with no clue what I was going to make with them. The answer ended up being an deliciously elegant strawberry tart!

I’ve mentioned my love for Paris and all things French before but I’ll mention it again; I’m a francophile. I spent a Summer semester in Paris in college and began taking French lessons in the 3rd grade. Eric and I have been fortunate enough to go back to Paris 2 times since we’ve been married and we just booked are 3rd trip this November! We’ve also spent time in Toulouse and Provence and fell in love with each region. This upcoming trip will take us to Normandy for a few days and back to Paris to enjoy the city. All of these things have been fresh on my mind lately with the trip planning and so when I found those strawberries immediately this image and more like it popped into my mind:

I thought of French pastries and how much I miss them sometimes, even just walking by the colorful windows on my way to somewhere else. They are so beautiful with so many colors and creations but most specifically I thought of these:

The gorgeous little strawberry tarts that can be found in pastry windows all over Paris. They’re light and rich at the same time with the perfect balance of custard and fruit. I’ve always wanted to make one but thought they looked complicated. This time I decided to go for it.

I was right, they are complicated but if you break down all the steps and do a few ahead of time, the process seems much more manageable. I used Julia Child’s Strawberry tart recipe and mixed up the tart crust dough and the custard  the day before we were to eat the tart.

The following day, about 2 hours before I wanted to eat the tart (because you don’t want it to get soggy) I rolled out and baked the tart shell completely. When it was cool, I brushed it with glaze to create and extra seal and prevent additional sogginess and then filled the shell with the custard.

I placed the strawberries on top of the custard and then brushed them with the glaze to make them shiny and beautiful. The final result was this:

 

I actually needed more strawberries, I thought a whole quart would be enough, but was very wrong, I think needed a second whole quart to really cover the top! No matter, we ate the tart for dessert and it was perfect. Took me straight back to a pastry shop in Paris.

Here’s the Julia Child Recipe:

Strawberry Tart
Print
Author: Julia Child
Prep time: 3 hours
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 3 hours 25 mins
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • PATE BRISEE SUCREE
  • Sweet Short Paste
  • For the Pastry Shell)
  • For an 8 to 9-inch shell, proportions for 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup flour (scooped and leveled)
  • A mixing bowl
  • 1 Tb granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 1/2 Tb fat ( 4 Tb chilled butter and 1 1/2 Tb chilled vegetable shortening)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tb cold water
  • CREME PATISSIERE
  • Custard Filling)
  • For about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups boiling milk
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 to 3 Tb kirsch or cognac
  • TARTE AUX FRAISES
  • Fresh Strawberry Tart – cold)
  • A 10-inch fully baked pastry shell
  • 1 quart large, ripe strawberries (washed, halled and dried)
  • 1 cup red currant jelly
  • 2 Tb granulated sugar
  • 2 Tb kirsch or cognac
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chilled crème pâtissière
Instructions
  1. PATE BRISEE SUCREE
  2. Sweet Short Paste
  3. (For the Pastry Shell)
  4. Place flour, salt, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes.
  5. Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Then press the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not sticky.
  6. Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches. This constitutes the final blending of fat and flour.
  7. With a scraper or spatula, gather the dough again into a mass; knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball. Sprinkle it lightly with flour and wrap it in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 2 hours or over night.
  8. Rolling out the dough after taking out the fridge to cover and press into the base. Press a decorative edge around the rim of the pastry with the dull edge of a knife. Prick the sides and bottom of pastry lightly with a fork.
  9. To keep the sides of the pastry shell from collapsing and the bottom from puffing up, line the pastry with buttered, lightweight foil. For a fully cooked shell, bake 15-19 minutes until the shell is very lightly browned.
  10. CREME PATISSIERE
  11. (Custard Filling)
  12. For about 2 1/2 cups
  13. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks in a mixing bowl by a wire whip or electric beater and continue beating for 2 – 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms the ribbon.
  14. Beat in the flour then gradually pour on the milk in a thin stream of droplets
  15. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and set over moderately high beat. Stir with wire whip, reaching all over bottom of pan. Turn down to low heat until the sauce becomes lumpy and beat for another 2 – 3 minutes to cook the flour.
  16. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, then the vanilla extract and liqueur and set it aside to cool
  17. TARTE AUX FRAISES
  18. (Fresh Strawberry Tart – cold)
  19. Boil the currant jelly, sugar and liqueur in a small saucepan until last drops from spoon are sticky. Paint the interior of the shell with a thin coating of the glaze and allow to set for 5 miniutes.
  20. Spread a 1/2 inch layer of crème pâtissière in the bottom of the pastry shell. Arrange a design of strawberries over the cream. Spoon or paint over them a thin coating of the glaze, and the tart is ready to serve.

Strawberry Cake

We’re now at the tail end of strawberry season and this year I found an amazing recipe for strawberry cake. It’s not a traditional cake with icing but more of a coffee cake like cake. I love it because it has wonderful texture and flavor, uses lots of fresh strawberries and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes plus baking time. It also looks beautiful. It was so good that last week I made it two days in a row! I made it to take to dinner with some friends on Saturday and we left the rest of the cake with them to enjoy but it was so good that the next day I used my left over strawberries to whip up another just for us. Eric has been away on business all week so I’ve been eating a slice each night after dinner and it lasted me until last night! I love having something homemade to look forward to after dinner.

Originally, I found this recipe from Pinterest and printed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and then I tweaked it. The recipe called for all white sugar and after thinking it through, I’m a brown sugar kinda girl. I love how it adds flavor, especially when using it with fruit so I opted to halve the sugar and add half brown sugar and half white sugar to the batter. It was a good way to go. The batter had a hint of chocolate chip cookie dough taste to it when I tested it and that can never be bad!

Begin the recipe by hulling and slicing the strawberries in half.

Cream the sugars and butter. Mix up the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Add vanilla and egg to the creamed butter and then the milk.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients just until combined, be careful not to over mix.

Pour the batter into a buttered spring form pan.

Place the strawberries lightly into the batter, cut side down. Lay them out and fill the entire pan. Try not to layer them too much but if you must to fit them all on, that’s OK. Sprinkle the top of the cake with 2 tablespoons of white sugar (when it bakes, this turns the strawberries into a gooey jam!).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature down to 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Once the cake is cool, pop it out of the spring form pan and put it on a pretty plate. Right before serving, dust the top with powered sugar. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Like I said, so easy, so pretty and so delicious. Plus, you can use strawberries that are a little too ripe, once baked down they taste great!

Happy June everyone, where did May go?!

Here’s the recipe:

Strawberry Cake
Print
Author: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 10 mins
Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan.
  2. Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
  3. Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
  5. **Do ahead: Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered.**