Friday, May 09, 2008

Luscious Berry Desserts

Both my husband and I love to cook, sometimes fighting over whose turn it is in the kitchen. You can often hear a voice raised in mock anger in our house, "Get out of MY kitchen!", and an arm pointing straight and strong to the other room. Just leave, go, I'M cooking today. Our kitchen is fairly small so it's not often that we squeeze around, doing the kitchen dance to cook together. Riff is the breakfast king and I generally always bow to him when breakfast is in the works, but I am the baking queen, standing tall over my domain. Anyway, (I'm getting away from my point here), I was tickled to death when I saw the post on Ex Libris site for the Soup's On Challenge. Oh, what fun! Another reason to pull out a few of my cookbook's, read them from cover to cover, and maybe add a couple of new one's to the mix. Wa-hoo! I joined right up. Next stop was Powell Books in Portland where I picked up Luscious Berry Desserts. I thought this one was really appropriate for us here in the Pacific Northwest with our abundance of berries and I was not disappointed. should see some of these recipe's. Delicious!

Being early spring, Strawberries are starting to be available in our local grocery stores so the first recipe I picked is Roasted Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla-Scented Biscuits. I had never roasted strawberries before, but they turned out so good. The roasting just inhances the sweet juicy flavor. And those vanilla-scented biscuits? Yum! You need to serve them warm, just as the recipe says, and they don't keep well, so gobble them all right away. I took pictures, but they came out dark and blurry, so I don't have a visual for you today.

Roasted Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla-Scented Biscuits
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tblsp. granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
1 tblsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, plus additional cream or milk for brushing
2 tsp. pure vanilla paste or vanilla extract
2 pints small ripe strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tblsp. confectioner's sugar

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Butter a large baking sheet.

Step 2: Whisk together the flour, the 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, the baking powder, and the salt in a medium bowl.

Step 3: Beat 1 cup of the cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large deep bowl just until it holds soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Beat in the vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the whipped cream, and stir the mixture with a fork just until it begins to form a dough.

Step 4: On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough several times, just until it is well combined. Pat it out to 1/2 inch thick. With a 3-inch cutter, crinkle-edged if you have one, cut out 6 rounds; gather the scraps together and pat them out again if necessary. Brush the biscuits with cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on the baking sheet.

Step 5: Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on the pan on a wire rack. Increase the oven temperature to 450.

Step 6: Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Transfer to a baking sheet with sides. When the biscuits are out of the oven, roast the strawberries, stirring twice, for about 12 minutes, until soft and fragrant.

Step 7: Just before serving, beat together the remaining 1/2 cup cream, the sour cream, and confectioners' sugar with an electric mixer on medium sped in a large bowl until the cream forms soft peaks when the beaters are lifted.

Step 8: Split each biscuit with a fork and place the bottom halves on 6 serving plates. Spoon a generous portion of warm berries over each one, add a dollop of the cream, add the tops, and drizzle with the juices on the baking sheet. Serve immediately.

You're going to love these!

There's a long introduction in this cookbook where the author talks about her love of berries. Really fun to read. A great cookbook for any berry lovers shelves.

'One of my most memorable mornings ever was picking strawberries with my friend Barbara on a warm summer day in Maine. We literally lay down among the berries, picked dozens, and ate more. We were giddy and exhilarated at the thought of actually getting all the strawberries we wanted, and slightly guilty at the pleasure.'
Lori Longbotham

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Across Five Aprils

'Ellen Creighton and her nine-year-old son, Jethro, were planting potatoes in the half-acre just south of their cabin that morning in mid-April 1861; they were out in the field as soon as breakfast was over, and southern Illinois at that hour was pink with sunrise and swelling redbud and clusters of bloom over the apple orchard across the road. Jethro walked on the warm clods of plowed earth and felt them crumble beneath his feet as he helped his mother carry the tub of potato cuttings they had prepared the night before.'
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

Read as my 6th book for the Back to History Challenge.

Across Five Aprils is a book that our 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Pawlson, read aloud to us. I don't remember actually paying attention to it then, but I have just read it for myself many years later and found it a very good read. As the story opens, Jethro Creighton is a 9 year old boy living on his families farm in southern Illinois. The civil war is starting and there is much heated discussion around the dinner table of right and wrong. All of Jethro's older brothers end up going off to war and the only news is the occasional letter and accounts of battles written in the local newspapers. Five years pass, with Jethro having to take on the farm work at any early age. The story touches on brothers fighting on both sides of the war, desertion, death and politics. It hit home to me with one passage how times have not changed so much in the way that we think and talk about the leader of our country. Read on:

'Ed Turner wiped the sweat from his eyes with an angry gesture. "I got no use for McClellan. I don't know what Ol' Abe means - tuckerin' to him like he was some little sawed-off king."
Then Tom Marin from Rose Hill spoke up. "If you ask my opinion of McClellan, I'll tell you I don't think he WANTS to win. I don't think he's EVER really goin' to move in on the Rebs, because their way of thinkin' is his way of thinkin'."
"Oh, I reckon he ain't THAT low. Ol' Abe must not be quite that pore in pickin' his head men," Israel Thomas objected.
"Maybe Ol' Abe aint' losin' HIS breath to lick the Rebs either - did ye ever think of that? Why is it he ain't freed the slaves? Is he afeared of hurtin' the feelin's of some of his woman's kinfolk down in Kaintuck? Why does he put up with this no-account that's runnin' the Army of the Potomac? Does he LIKE seein' Bobby Lee run over us? I got a lot of questions about Ol' Abe that I'd like an answer to."
"Youre doubts ain't goin' to make me down on Ol' Abe, Tom," Israel Thomas answered angrily. "Things is tough right now, but this war is a big thing. It's middlin' easy fer us farmers and the big editors and the abolitionist preachers to run the job of bein' president. Ol' Abe is doin' all he KIN do, I say, and I'm fer him - all the way."'
Sound familiar?

I was really interested to find in the author's notes that this is the story of her Grandfather, written years after he passed away. A very good read told from the viewpoint of a young boy left to take care of the farm while the fighting raged around him.

I remember this same teacher reading us Up a Road Slowly by this author as well. I think I'm going to head over to Amazon and find it...