Monday, April 24, 2017

Strawberry Pie with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

When my neighborhood strawberry patch opens up for the season I know that spring has officially arrived. It is literally a 5-minute drive to get fresh-from-the-field, just-picked strawberries. Oh, how I love them!  I made strawberry shortcake for Easter dinner. This past weekend I made 3 batches of strawberry jam and had enough berries leftover to make a pie. I've never made a baked strawberry pie, I've always made some form of refrigerated pie. I wanted to try something new so got out the pastry supplies and baked a pie! After dealing with numbers and clients for 3 1/2 months it felt so good to get back in the kitchen! I was so happy not to be at my desk and computer that I may have gotten a little carried away with decorating the pie; making a braided edge and flower cut-outs.

A few years back my husband and I enjoyed a strawberry-rhubarb crisp at a restaurant somewhere (I don't remember where!)  It was served with a pink peppercorn ice cream. I had never heard of such an ice cream, much less tasted anything like it.  The combination of a little spice with the sweetness of the fruit was a great combination. I remember coming home and replicating it a few nights later. I thought this ice cream would be great with the strawberry pie, in lieu of traditional vanilla ice cream.  Fruit pies can be very sweet, the slight hotness of the pepper tones that down some.

Strawberry Pie

Pastry for 2-crust pie (either homemade or store bought)
6 cups hulled and halved strawberries
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
3 tablespoons flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll one round of dough to fit inside a 9-inch pie dish.

Combine strawberries, sugar and flour in a large bowl.  Pour in pastry-lined pie dish.

Roll out second round of dough and slice into 10 strips.  Create a lattice pattern on top of pie.  Crimp edges.  If desired, brush top and edges with a beaten egg and then sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake for 60 minutes, until filling is bubbly.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

Though the pink peppercorns resemble a peppercorn both in looks and taste, they are actually the dried berry of a flowering bush. This ice cream isn't something that you would eat a bowl of after dinner but its spiciness and slight floral flavor adds a lot as a side to a sweet treat. In addition to being good with fruit pies and crisps, it's also good with a warm brownie and hot fudge sauce or molten chocolate dish. I usually add a little food coloring to the custard, if not the ice cream is more beige than pink!

Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pink peppercorns, crushed
7 large egg yolks

Bring milk, cream, sugar, and peppercorns to boil in a heavy large saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; let stand at room temperature 1 hour for flavors to blend.

Bring milk mixture to a simmer. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolks.  Return mixture to pan and stir over medium heat until finger leaves a path on back of spoon when drawn across, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into large bowl; cover. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer to container; cover and freeze.  

Recipe source:  Bon Appetit September 2004

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy (Hoppy!) Easter!

With the exception of a few extensions to finish up, I'm pretty much done with the upcoming tax filing deadline. I'm slowly starting to reclaim my life back.  The bedroom carpets were cleaned yesterday, the window cleaner comes next week, we have toilet paper in the house again.  Most importantly, I found the time to make my grandchildren's Easter bags. A few months back, a friend sent me a picture of some painted blocks, made to look like bunnies.  Immediately I thought the same idea would work for bags.  I glued bunny ears, twisted pipe cleaners, made a heart nose and a yarn pom pom tail.  I worked on them, off an on, for a few nights.  It was such a relief from dealing with numbers and stress! 

Easter dinner will be at our house so I will be reclaiming my kitchen again, too! I've not finalized the menu but my nearby strawberry patch has recently opened.  Strawberries will be on the dessert menu!

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Berry-Ricotta Cake

I actually cooked dinner last night.  Except for a rotisserie chicken I bought the night the grandchildren came over, this was the first meal I prepared in over a week.  The hours of tax season 2017 have been long and I've not had a day off since Super Bowl Sunday.  My quilt project is gathering dust, I've barely got one row done on my newest cross stitch project.  We are down to two rolls of toilet paper in the house (Costco, here I come!)  The good news is there is only a week of tax season left and we are in pretty good shape at the office.  Soon I will be back to "putzing" at home again!

While cooking the lone dinner, I had the desire to bake something sweet.  I've been eyeing this recipe from Bon Appetit for a while now. The original recipe calls for raspberries. I didn't have any but I do have some frozen boysenberries left from last summer. The user reviews said any berry would work in this cake so I grabbed a cup of frozen berries and got to work.  It is such an easy cake to make, I mixed it while my pasta was cooking. The ricotta cheese makes this such a moist cake. My husband really enjoyed it, he ate two pieces! The rest got taken to the office and it was gone in a flash. As soon as raspberries are in season I will be making this cake again!

Berry-Ricotta Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen boysenberries, blackberries, or raspberries, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees  Line a 9-inch diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by 3/4 cup berries, taking care not to crush the berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining 1/4 cup berries over top.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.

Top with whipped cream, if desired.