Mixed Berry Streusel Bars

Apologies for yet another hiatus. As I said last time, I’m going through another huge transition in my life; a 2800+ miles kind of transition, and for those of you who have never been through one of those, they are…a lot.

Between crappy moving companies, crowded airports, uncomfortable flights, hot & muggy weather, a whole lot of sweat, and an endless (ENDLESS, I tell you) barrage of cardboard boxes. I am so.over.moving.

The good news is, the move itself is finally done, and we’re finally starting to settle into the new space. It might even start to resemble a real home provided I can muster up the energy (and to be honest, the ability) to actually put together some furniture rather than just continuing to camp out on a mattress on the the floor like a college student.

I do plan on getting back into my full cooking/baking swing in this new space but, in full transparency, today’s post is one I’ve had in the arsenal for a while now, but still haven’t gotten around to posting yet. It still fits the time of year though and looking back at the pictures I’m feeling rather tempted to make it one of the first desserts I make in our new home.

Here’s a pro-tip: just about any summer fruit dessert recipe you can think of, can be adapted to suit just about any summer fruit that you’ve got on hand. So long as the volume measurements match, it’s your world.

For instance, this recipe was originally only supposed to be for blueberries. But at the time, I didn’t just have blueberries on deck; I had blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. So, I used a combination of them all. The only thing that mattered was that what I used came out to equal 4 cups of fruit.

The base of these bars is a basic vanilla shortbread crust that gets pre-baked to a golden brown before the fruit filling is added and topped with an almond streusel. It’s a really simple dessert to throw together that is a perfect blend of sweet and tart.

Mixed Berry Streusel Bars

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

For the Shortbread crust:

  • 14 Tbs. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups, plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Filling

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries or blackberries
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

For Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup, firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbs. chopped raw almonds

Directions

For the Shortbread Crust

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt and vanilla and beat on medium speed until the mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and using damp hands, gently press in an even layer into the bottom of the pan. Using a fork, prick the dough in several places. Bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and let cool completely. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.

For the Filling

in a large bowl, combine the berries, lemon zest, lemon juice and almond extract and toss to coat. In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and toss to distribute evenly. Transfer to the cooled crust and spread in an even layer. 

For the Streusel

in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and almond extract and stir until the mixture is crumbly, with some large chunks remaining. Stir in the almonds. Sprinkle the streusel over the blueberries. Bake until the filling is thick and bubbling and the streusel is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into squares and serve.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #389, cohosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Deep Dish Summer Fruit Pie

Hey y’all, sorry for the extended absence. There’s a lot of change going on in my life right now (again) and I’ve been super busy with getting ready for the transition.

Change is great but it can also be uncomfortable, irritating, overwhelming and downright stressful. I really needed a break from all that, so here I am, taking a few minutes to actually act like I’m a food blogger.

There are very few things that can cheer me up like pie. I love to make and eat it year-round, but especially during the summer time when particular fruits are in season, like stone fruits and berries.

When both became available at my local grocery store, I knew I wanted to make a pie, but I wanted to do something a little bit different with it than the typical 9-inch round with a lattice top or something else like that. I also had a LOT of fruit, that I didn’t think would fit in my regular pie pan.

So, what was a girl to do?

Deep dish pies are a favorite go-to of mine for when you have a lot of fruit you need to use, and when I was deciding how I would make it work for this one, I started wondering if it would be possible to use my 11 x 13 baking dish to make one (a first for me.)

I’m really happy with what I came up with. It’s a variation on several pies and fruit desserts I’ve made in the past and decided to smush together here as a sort of experiment. The bottom crust is a standard, all-butter one you’d find in most pies out there. My filling is a combination of peaches, nectarines, and blueberries, but as I’ve noted in the recipe, you can opt for what you most prefer here.

The top crust of the pie is where I deviated a little bit from the norm. It’s actually the ‘crust’ recipe I use for whenever I make peach cobbler. It comes together in minutes and doesn’t require any resting or intensive labor. You just scoop and plop it on top of the filling. It spreads and puffs as it bakes, creating a fluffy biscuit-dumpling crust that soaks up all the juices from the peaches wonderfully.

I know I talk a lot about certain foods tasting like the seasons, but this really does taste like summer time. The fruit is bright, tart and slightly sweet while the different textures of the crusts give it that buttery richness without overtaking the filling completely.

This was a successful ‘change’ for me when making pie. Here’s to other changes going well.

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Deep Dish Summer Fruit

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

For Bottom Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, frozen
  • 6 to 8 Tbs. (90 to 125ml) ice water

For Filling

  • 3 lb. yellow peaches, peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 lb. yellow nectarines, peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries, blackberries or raspberries (or a mixture of both, it’s up to you)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs. bourbon
  • 2 Tbs. vanilla extract

For Biscuit Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

For Bottom Crust:

 In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt and stir together with a fork. Using a box grater (or use a knife to cut it into cubes) grate butter directly into the dry ingredients. Add 6 Tbs. of the ice water and gently stir together. The dough should hold together when squeezed with your fingers but should not be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more water 1 tsp. at a time, pulsing twice after each addition. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, preferably overnight (the crust will be more tender).

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 20-by-14-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Unfold the dough and press into the bottom and sides of the dish. Trim the edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and fold in the excess dough so it extends just beyond the rim of the dish. Refrigerate the pie shell for 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F

For Filling:

In a large bowl, stir together the fruit, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cornstarch, bourbon and vanilla until well combined. Pour the fruit filling into prepared shell.

For Biscuit Topping:

Into a bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut or grate the butter into small pieces. Add it to the flour mixture and stir with a fork or a pastry blender until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Pour in the cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t overwork; the dough should be slightly sticky but manageable. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls over the pie filling; There can be gaps, the dough will puff up and spread out as it bakes. Brush the top with some heavy cream and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar; put it into the oven on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven 75-80 minutes, until the filling is bubbling, and the top is golden. (You may need to cover the pie with aluminum foil to keep it from browning too quickly.)

Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #386.

Summer Berry Shortcake

So a couple weeks ago after dinner, I got this crazy hankering for shortcake. I really, really, REALLY wanted it.

I know that when a lot of ‘y’all think of shortcake you think of those spongy pre-made mini ‘dessert shells’ with the indent that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store near the strawberries. Y’know the dessert shells that should really just get called by their true name: sponge cake. I’ve seen some that are just straight up angel food cakes. Not that I have a problem with them per se. There’s no judgment here; depending on the company, those can actually be pretty tasty.

But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

In the first place, sponge cake isn’t shortcake. It’s light and airy and spongy. It’s…sponge cake.

All of the above adjectives contradict shortcake by it’s very definition. Shortcakes are actually very similar to an American-style biscuit, both in texture and the baking method. In a sponge cake, egg whites are beaten until they’re stiff to make the crumb as light as possible. The point of a ‘short’cake, is actually to make a ‘shorter’, denser crumb.

If you’ve tried any of my biscuit recipes on the blog already, then this ,method will look very familiar to you. The frozen butter (and we’ve already established why it’s important that it is frozen) is grated directly into the dry ingredients. I used cake flour to give it the best texture, then in addition to the sugar, flavored the dough with vanilla, ground ginger and cardamom. The spices aren’t overpowering–they’re just going to give the shortcakes a little something extra flavor-wise. You’re going to like it, promise.

The result is a shortcake that has just the right texture. It is slightly dense, but it’s also buttery and tender, with enough height to split it in two and sandwich with the good stuff. Now what that ‘good stuff’ is, I’m going to leave entirely up to you. This is summertime, which means there are plenty of delicious fruits that are in season that are perfect for shortcake; strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots. All are excellent choices. I went with the strawberries and blackberries, but it’s your shortcake so go with what you like best. And of course y’all know to make/use a ton of good whipped cream to cram inside and dollop on top.  It’s the summer–get downright nasty with it.

Linking this up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #230, co-hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Summer Berry Shortcake

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Shortcake

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed

For Berries

  • 2 quarts of your choice of berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blackberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Berries: combine the sugar and lemon juice together with the berries and allow to sit for one hour.

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl combine the egg with the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom and sugar—stir with a fork until combined. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir to combine with a fork. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the shortcakes to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut shortcakes, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough.  Place shortcakes slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Just before serving, split open the shortcakes, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining shortcake halves, and spoon on the remaining berries and cream.

Triple Berry Slab Pie

Berry Slab Pie1

When was the last time that you did something that made you really, really, REALLY proud of yourself?

I remember the first time I tied my own shoes when I was a little girl; for a six year old, it was literally one of those moments when it seems like the clouds part and a ray of sunshine shines just on you. I was walking on air from that for days.

I played the lead in an 8th grade musical (“Once on This Island”, in case there are any theater nerds out there like me) and when the sound system suddenly and unexpectedly cut out, I sang my solo song completely accappella. And I nailed it. Got an ovation and everything. That made me feel pretty good.

I made Dean’s List for nearly every semester of my undergrad college years…all while holding down 2-3 jobs (I have no idea how I did this now that it’s over, by the way).

My mom has a specific, rare smile that when she gives me, makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything in the world.

There’s nothing wrong with having those moments of pride; most people spend too much time obsessed with the things that they haven’t done, or are doing wrong. I think we should think more about the things that we’re actually doing right. So why don’t we try to think of the last moment of extreme pride or satisfaction that we had because of something we did. Think of it, then give yourself a pat on the back. Do your own little personal victory dance. Go ahead- you deserve it.

Berry Slab Pie2

These days, most of my moments of pride or self-congratulations come from me doing something new and intimidating in the kitchen, so this exercise is pretty easy for me to do. I was proud the first time I cooked something that came out of a box. I was proud when I first made a yeast bread. I was proud when I first made my grandma’s caramel cake (just WAIT until I share that one with you all, you will die, go to Heaven, then come back to life just to eat it again. No, I’m serious.). Doing new things in the kitchen is such an easy stroke to my ego- there’s no shame in my game about that, either. It’s most likely the reason that I try to do it often.

This is one of those things that I’ve done that just made me feel friggin fantastic about myself, to the point where I felt like I had to share it with you. I’m still giving myself victory dances, high fives, pats on the back and major props for pulling this recipe off, guys. Not just because of how it tastes (which is enough on its own, believe me), it’s also because this is the very first time that I made my own from scratch pie-crust. A very big pie crust at that. As in a 15 x 10 inch double layer pie crust.

Berry Slab Pie3

Pie crust may seem like it’s not that big of a deal to pull off from scratch, but anyone who’s made one before will tell you that it’s actually more complicated than it sounds. Like biscuits, pie dough has to be handled with finesse and care, or there’s a huge potential to ruin it. Which is probably why I’ve avoided it so stubbornly for such a long time. Then I saw this article on Buzzfeed featuring something called ‘slab pie’ that basically changed everything for me.

I had never heard of baking a pie into a sheet pan before, but it seemed (and looked) like a fantastic idea. I mean, just say it out loud will you: Slaaaaaab… Piiiiiie. Doesn’t the sound of it just make you want a huge, thick slab of it all to yourself (pun intended)?

I certainly felt that way. Slab Pie was calling my name. I had to answer. The problem was, I would need a whole LOT of pie crust to pull it off- and I didn’t really feel like buying a whole bunch of store-bought pre-made pie crusts, then trying to roll them all together to make two 15 x 10 inch layers for both top and bottom of the pie. Not when I knew it would be cheaper and more efficient to just try to make them on my own.

I know that by now, you probably want some of this pie. You’re probably thinking about how much of the ingredients you already have at home. If you’ve never made pie crust before, you’re probably wondering if it’s really that difficult to pull off, or that easy to mess up. It’s okay guys. I’ve been in your shoes before. Let me walk you through this.

Berry Slab Pie5

If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that the single most important thing you can do in making  pie crust from scratch is this: freeze your butter.

Let me repeat: freeze… your…butter. Throw it in the freezer overnight. Leave it there until the very moment you’re ready to handle it. Don’t take it out an hour before you want to make the crust to ‘thaw’ or soften. It’s not necessary. All you’ll need to do with it, is use a box grater, then run the ice cold sticks of butter over the large grating grill so that it comes out the other side in solid, curly strands. These strands are going to become your best friends. Why? Because they’re what’s going to keep your pie crust nice and flakey to the point where it will melt in your mouth after it’s done baking, that’s why.. After the butter is grated, the pie crust is pretty simple to put together. If you’re not using a food processor, I would also recommend using a rubber spatula to work the dough together, as hands conduct unnecessary heat into the dough.

Berry Slab Pie6

Guys, this pie came out so good. Really, it did. The making of the pie crust was a little extra labor, but me and my entire family all agree: it was well worth the result. And even though the recipe yields a lot, I still wouldn’t be surprised if you still ran out of it. This is one of those foods that you don’t want to share. You just want to hog it all to yourself to make sure you get as much as possible. Could be why I’ve already made this twice: a triple berry version, as well as an all raspberry version. Both were delicious. Both are all long gone. Guess it’s gonna be time for me to make another one pretty soon, huh? I’m thinking caramel apple. Or maybe strawberry rhubarb. Or how about sour cherry?

I think my favorite part of slab pie is that the recipe makes so much- it’s perfect for a large crows for a barbecue, dinner party, or gathering. So, I’ve decided to bring this over to Fiesta Friday- hope you guys enjoy it. (I told you last week you’d need yoga pants, didn’t I? ;-))

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

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Triple Berry Slab Pie

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups ice water

For the Filling

  • 6 cups of fresh or frozen berries (I used 2 cups each of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

1. Make crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

2. With machine running, add 1 cup ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overmix. Divide dough into 2 disks; wrap each tightly in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to overnight) .

3. Preheat oven to 400°. Make filling: In a large bowl, toss together blueberries, cornstarch, sugar, and lemon zest and juice.

4. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Place in a 10-by-14-by-1-inch rimmed jelly-roll pan. Pour in berry filling, then lightly brush edges of crust with water.

5. On floured surface, roll out second disk to an 11-by-15-inch rectangle and lay over berry filling; press along moistened edges to seal. Fold overhang under, tucking it into pan, and crimp edges. With a paring knife, cut slits on top to vent

6. Place pie in oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature

 

 

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