Sunshine on a winter’s day… Lemon bars drenched in tangy-sweet raspberry jam
I love chocolate – in every form, flavor, and dish. I love dark, white, and milk chocolate. Except for a weird, avant-garde chocolate bar infused with pepper (??), I can’t think of a chocolate creation I haven’t enjoyed. Almost neck-in-neck with chocolate are desserts made with lemon. The difference with lemon is that it not only has a wonderfully tart flavor, but it also has a strong seasonal connection to summer. One bite or sip of lemon brings me back to sunshine splashed afternoons and evenings cooled by gentle breezes sitting in our little piece of paradise behind our home in California among Meyer lemon trees. When we moved to Alaska, I even made up a gallon’s worth of Meyer lemon simple syrup in order to ease the separation from those prolific trees.
As we hit the middle of March, our minds drift toward Spring! In our former life, I would be itching to get the planting pots and garden beds ready. In Chignik Lake, I’m ready to pull the Pack Rafts out and head down nearby rivers. Mother Nature has had three little words in response to these inclinations…”Not. So. Fast.” All the snow we didn’t see this past winter has been just now swirling around our windows and creating lovely white drifts. Our lake iced over, started to thaw, and is now covered in ice again.
As Jack tends to his culinary diversion, a slow-cooked moose roast, I decide on my own diversion…one that will bring a little sunshine into our home. I took a tried and true lemon curd bar recipe from my Williams and Sonoma Baking Book and adapted it with items from my bush pantry. All I can say is Wowee! After the initial mix of sweet and tart lemon, you are rewarded with a blanket of pure raspberry bliss. A definite blast of summer, in the best way possible.
Raspberry Lemon Curd Bars
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- pinch cinnamon
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- pinch salt
- 3 large eggs (I used powdered eggs)
- ½ cup lemon juice (I used good quality bottled lemon juice)
- 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- Raspberry jam (I used freezer jam which has a much brighter color and flavor)
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Make crust.
- Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).
- Grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish.
- Mix crust ingredients together.
- Press dough into bottom of baking dish.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Crust should be a pale golden color.
- Let the crust cool in the baking dish on a wire rack while you prepare filling.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325° F (165° C).
- Whisk together filling ingredients.
- Pour the mixture over the baked crust.
- Bake until filling is set, about 20 minutes. It may slightly jiggle when dish is shaken.
- Let lemon bars cool in the dish on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan. Cut into 12 or 16 rectangles.
- Remove from dish with a spatula and place pieces to be served on a serving dish.
- Spoon desired amount of jam on each piece.
- Dust each piece with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.
This delicious little dessert was supposed to be for two. Fudgy, chocolatey, with a nutty crunch and a hint of caramely bourbon. Maybe it wasn’t enough!
We had just finished dinner – bowls brimming with homemade clam chowder served with a hunk of toasted garlic sourdough on the side. The forecast was for snow, but instead Chignik’s famously howling winds were slamming our house with torrents of icy rain blown sideways. Soup alone was not enough in the face of such weather.
We had a stash of chocolate squares to nibble for dessert, but even those didn’t sound satisfying. Something quick and freshly baked might do the trick, I thought. Armed with a six-inch cast iron skillet, a few tablespoons of this and a dollop that, 25 minutes later all that was left was the two bites you see above. Well, that’s not true. We paused for a photographic intermission and then devoured the last two bites. Now that was satisfying!
Bourbon Pecan Mini Skillet Brownie for Two
- 5 tbsp all purpose flour
- 6 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 ½ tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
- pinch salt
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil, we use canola
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp bourbon
- 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup pecans, chopped coarse
- Heat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 6” cast iron skillet.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
- Add in oil, egg, and bourbon.
- Stir until well mixed.
- Fold in chocolate chips.
- Fold in pecans.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Center should look done. Cook a little longer for a more well-done brownie. We like ours nice and fudgy, so 20 minutes was perfect.
- Let cool for 10 minutes and then dig in!
Moist chocolate cake infused with orange topped with super creamy rich chocolate buttercream frosting…. happy birthday to me!
Another stellar recipe from my Williams-Sonoma Baking book. I can’t say enough good things about this cookbook. Every recipe is great. In addition to being great recipes, they are also great bases to build from or tinker with. For my birthday, I had narrowed down my celebratory dessert to three chocolate wonders from this cookbook. The combination of chocolate and orange is my all-time favorite, so the chocolate orange cupcakes won. The picture says it all – these delicious little cakes will start a party just by showing up.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- 3 tbsp Dutch processed cocoa powder
- ¼ cup hot water
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ unsalted butter, melted, at room temperature
- 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
- In a small bowl, stir cocoa with hot water until it is dissolved. Set aside.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
- Mix orange zest into flour mixture. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs and granulated sugar together.
- Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla.
- Whisk in cocoa.
- Whisk in melted butter.
- Stir in flour mixture.
- Spoon batter into each muffin cup. Fill each cup about ½ full.
- Bake cupcakes until puffed and a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Let cool completely on wire rack. Remove cupcakes when pan is cool.
- Make frosting. Put chocolate chips in top of double boiler. Melt chocolate over simmering water. Let cool to room temperature.
- Beat butter and confectioner’s sugar until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Beat in melted chocolate until well-mixed.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 12mm star tip (1/2 inch) with frosting.
- Pipe a spiral on top of each cupcake.
- Refrigerate the cupcakes until 30 minutes before serving to set the frosting.
Tis the season for decadent desserts! Imagine a bite of smooth, sweet almond swathed in fresh raspberry jam atop flaky layers of buttery piecrust. Oh yeah!
Sure, our Thanksgiving always ends with Jack’s pumpkin pie. It’s a delicious tradition we don’t skip. When we plan the big feast, one dessert never seems to be enough. Some years, the second dessert has been a caramel apple pie, a lemon meringue pie or even a chocolate layer cake. This year, I really wanted to use almond paste that I sent out in our annual shopping. It’s an ingredient I rarely use, but love so much. Many years ago, when I first discovered bakeries and baked goods, I would always go for almond croissants. The combination of the sweet, smooth almond paste and the buttery, flakey croissant were irresistible. This tart has the same elements along with an added bonus – homemade raspberry jam. Some of the jam I made this year was a freezer jam. In other words, it wasn’t cooked. The fresh berries are stirred with some sugar and pectin and put straight into the freezer. This method of making jam preserves the fresh bright flavor of the raspberries straight from the vine.
The tart starts with a buttery, flaky piecrust that is partially blind baked to keep it light and airy. The crust is brushed with jam and then covered with an almond paste mixture, which is the main event. The whole tart is sprinkled with almond slices which provide the finishing touch. What a delicious combination! We all enjoyed the beautiful and delicious addition to this year’s table. Sadly, it is now just a fond memory.
Raspberry Almond Tart
- pie dough for one crust
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 oz. almond paste, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup good quality raspberry jam
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds
- Roll out dough to a 12-inch disk. Cover a 9 ½ inch tart pan or a 9 inch springform pan.
- Trim off excess if using a tart pan. If using a springform pan, trim off dough 1 ½ inches up the side of the pan. The dough will shrink when baked, so make sure to extend the dough higher than you want your end product.
- Freeze the shell for 30 minutes or until firm.
- Place oven rack in lower third of oven. Preheat to 375° F.
- Partially blind bake shell for 20 minutes. Shell will be done when it is pale gold and dry looking.
- Remove pan from oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.
- In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth.
- Add almond paste, a couple pieces at a time. Continue beating until smooth. Add more pieces and repeat beating. Continue with remaining almond paste pieces.
- Add sugar to almond paste mixture and beat until smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Stir in flour.
- Spread jam evenly on base of tart shell.
- Spoon almond mixture atop jam. Smooth the top.
- Sprinkle almond slices evenly over tart.
- Bake until filling is golden and the middle is firm, 35-45 minutes.
- Cool on wire rack.
Serve at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book
The addition of sourdough gives these bagels texture and flavor.
I’m been really happy with my sourdough starter. I’ve used it for pancakes, waffles, and English muffins. Every week, I use this delicious starter to turn out two beautiful loaves of sourdough bread to accompany many of our meals. Recently, I finished a batch of homemade lox. I wondered what would happen if I included some of my trusty starter in my bagel recipe.
Wow. What an improvement. The resulting bagels have a subtle sourdough flavor. But the flavor wasn’t the main improvement – it was the texture. These bagels have a perfectly soft interior and a perfectly chewy exterior. We couldn’t believe the difference from an already tried and true recipe. I’ve made the recipe twice now with the same happy results. It’s a keeper!
Sourdough Chewy Bagels
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105° F/40° C)
- ½ cup sourdough starter
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 qts water
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- toppings such as poppy seeds, toasted onions, sesame seeds, etc. (optional)
- In a large bowl, stir together yeast, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar and water. Let sit for about 5 minutes to make sure the yeast is good. (It will foam.)
- Stir in sourdough starter
- Stir in salt and the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The last 1/2 cup, you will need to knead in by hand.
- Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled, about an hour.
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll pieces into balls.
- Flatten balls slightly.
- Poke your finger through center of each ball and twirl dough around your finger to enlarge the hole.
- Place bagels on parchment-lined baking sheet to rest.
- Bring 3 qts water to boil in large pot. Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.
- Place 4 bagels in boiling water. Boil for 1 minute. Flip bagels and let boil for another minute.
- Place boiled bagels on clean, dry towel.
- Place remaining 4 bagels in boiling water. Repeat boiling process with these bagels.
- Take bagels from towel and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
- Brush bagels with beaten egg.
- Sprinkle desired toppings on bagels (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, charnushka, minced dried onion and minced dried garlic are some of our favorites).
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until browned.
Airy and light, but packing a powerful raspberry punch, this raspberry mousse is a delightful dessert after a rich meal.
Two of my favorite culinary pastimes are making jams and ice creams. We love to pick local berries. The usual varieties around Chignik Lake are blueberries, cranberries, crowberries, currants, and raspberries. Unfortunately, this year was a terrible year for berries. Our usual spots are yielding small amounts or no berries at all. Except for the raspberries. Years ago, someone planted a garden of raspberries and currants. The raspberries, as raspberries do, have spread out from their original patch to a nearby hill. Last year, this hill was crazy with berries. This year, it was the only place we could find a decent amount of berries of any kind. So this winter portends many creations featuring the delicious raspberry.
Today’s recipe stemmed from my other joy – ice cream. Many of our favorite ice creams are the custard type, requiring several egg yolks. This tends to leave us with quite a bit of leftover egg whites at times. What to do? Omelets are good, up to a point. I’ve made batches of meringues, too. But this time, I wanted to do something different. What about whipping the egg whites into a foamy mousse?
This is a simple recipe that can be made in minutes and is best whipped up right before it’s eaten. The first time I made it, I whipped up heavy cream to top it off. That was good, but a little too heavy for this airy-light dessert. Today’s version is topped with a whipped topping made from nonfat powdered milk and ice water. It, too, must be made just before serving. Drizzled with a little raspberry jam, this mousse makes for a light and delicious dessert fit to end a beautiful feast.
Light and Airy Raspberry Mousse
- 1/2 cup egg whites (or whites from 4 eggs)
- 4 tsp granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp raspberry jam
- whipped topping
- Whip egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.
- Add sugar to whites and continue to whip until well mixed.
- Fold in raspberry jam.
- Divide egg white mixture into two parfait glasses.
- Top with whipped topping.
Instant oatmeal packets – overly sticky-sweat on their own – can be transformed into moist, tasty, healthy breakfast treats.
I really hate to see food wasted. So when we recently discovered several instant oatmeal packs fated to be thrown out, I grabbed them up thinking they might make decent breakfast fare for backpacking. Unfortunately, as it turns out the oatmeal is way over-processed and there’s far too much sugar. So I began thinking about how else they might be used. Muffins! I added leftover trail mix to the batter as well as to the topping to add some crunch and flavor. Moist and flavorful, these muffins along with some fruit and freshly brewed coffee make for a quick and delicious breakfast. In fact, we’ve found ourselves snacking on them throughout the day!
Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup nuts, chopped coarse
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 packets flavored instant oatmeal
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp real maple syrup
- 1 cup trail mix, chopped coarse
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 12-muffin cup tin.
- In a small bowl, combine all streusel ingredients. Mix with fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Break larger pieces. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add first 5 muffin ingredients. Mix together using a whisk.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, yogurt, oil, vanilla and syrup.
- Mix wet ingredients into dry.
- Fold in trail mix.
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin. Each cup will be about 2/3 full.
- Sprinkle streusel topping on each muffin.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. When done, a wooden pick inserted into center of muffin will come out clean.
- Let cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.