Fresh Strawberry Biscuits!

What do you do when the world gives you too many strawberries? First, you say “Thank You World!” because really, what a terrible problem to have… too many strawberries! Oh, the horror!

Strawberries

Second, you make these biscuits! They go together so quickly and easily you’ll find yourself making them often. They are especially good for those few extra berries you need to use before they spoil!  You can swap out the strawberries with blackberries, blueberries or raspberries!  Even peaches would be delightful!

Strawberry biscuits

These biscuits are bright and beautiful and with the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon, I needed my world a little brighter today.

Strawberry Biscuits
(recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 cup chopped very ripe strawberries
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter and cut it in to the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the strawberries carefully, so they get coated in the flour mix. This keeps them evenly distributed in the dough later when you add the liquid. Speaking of liquid… add the heavy cream, then gently fold all the ingredients together. You don’t want to overwork the dough, so don’t worry if everything is completely worked in. It will be.

Generously flour your counter or cutting board, then transfer the dough to the board. Flour the top of the dough and with your hands gently press the dough into a 3/4-inch thick rectangle. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter (or even the top edge of a drinking glass) cut circles out of the dough. Press straight down without twisting (this makes for nice layered edges) as you cut. Carefully transfer the biscuits to prepared baking sheet, leaving a few inches between each one.

You can re-roll the scraps of dough, and continue cutting circles, but don’t worry if the dough appears very wet. The strawberries will have already started to release some of their juice. That’s ok though! They’ll still turn out beautifully.

Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly brown at the edges. Cool in pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Biscuits

I made a quick strawberry butter to slather on top of these beautiful biscuits. Just mash up 1/8 cup of strawberries into 4 TBLS soft butter, then freeze for about 20 minutes. (You can do this while the biscuits bake.) It’s a tiny detail that will make a world of difference in flavor.

When I took them to work they disappeared rather quickly and I’m betting they’ll do the same thing at your house! Enjoy my Foodie Friends!!

Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

I love it when things push me out of my comfort zone. I combined three different recipes to create this gorgeous Berry Tart! I’m pretty proud of myself too. It wasn’t without some trepidation and learning though! If you make ganache on a regular basis, please skip ahead and don’t read the following imperfections of a regular non-ganache making person.

Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

Are we alone now? No professional ganache makers among us? Whew! Let me tell you, this one freaked me out a little. I’ve only made ganache in the safety of a cooking class with an instructor ready if I screwed up. This time it was just me, some chocolate, heavy cream and a bit of butter. How hard could it be? Well, let me say, I am thankful for the expertise of Alton Brown and my microwave!

The instructions for ganache are simple: Chop 8 oz of good quality chocolate and put it in a bowl. That’s great, except if you think “Cool! 8 oz is a cup so I only need a cup of chopped chocolate.” Wrong. You need EIGHT OUNCES of chopped chocolate. If you don’t have a digital scale in your kitchen, please go get one as soon as possible. Turns out, eight ounces of chopped chocolate was almost equal to a cup and three-quarters. Lesson learned. We move on to “Sara attempts to make ganache, TAKE TWO!”

The next ganache instruction is “In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a very low simmer.” The cream is used to melt the chocolate and needs to be warm enough to do that and melt butter later. This does not mean, when you see little bubbles around the edges of the pan it’s at a “low simmer.” Little bubbles around the edges of the pan mean you need to let it heat more! Otherwise you’ll be using memories of Good Eats “The Art of Darkness III” and your microwave! My cream wasn’t warm enough so I had to put my chocolate and cream mix in the microwave for just a few seconds, twice, to get the right consistency. I could have saved myself the hassle by simply bringing the cream to the right temperature the first time. Every one of you will do that now, right? I hope you’re nodding because I’m going to invite the ganache makers back to the conversation and we want to be cool.

Ganache lovers! Welcome back! Let’s get to tart making, shall we?

I used my grandmothers Pate Sucree (Pastry made with Sugar) recipe. Then, I followed Joy The Baker’s chocolate ganache recipe, and finally, topped this beauty with tons of fresh berries a simple recipe for sweet cream!

Berry Chocolate Ganache Tart

Let’s start with the tart!

Tart Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 TBLS sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 TBLS unsalted butter, cut into pieces and frozen
1 egg yolk
1 TBLS plus 1 tsp cold water

In your food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the frozen butter, egg yolk and 1 TBLS cold water. Process for 5-10 seconds. If the dough looks too dry, add the additional 1 tsp water, but don’t over process it.

(You can do this by hand, if you don’t have a food processor. Don’t freeze your butter if you do it by hand but it does need to be very well chilled. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the cold butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to mix until the dough resembles coarse bread crumbs. Beat together the egg yolk and the water, then add it to the dough and stir until just blended.)

Pour the dough into a round 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom, or you can use 6 mini tart pans for individual desserts, press dough gently around the bottom and up the sides to form a solid crust. Place the pan it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

While the crust is chilling, make your ganache!

Chocolate Ganache filling

8 ounces dark or milk chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

Place your chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream to a very low simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes. Use a whisk and start stirring in the center of the bowl. Don’t lift the whisk off the bottom of the bowl, but continue stirring from the center out until the mixture is smooth. Add your butter chunks and use a spatula to stir the ganache until the butter is completely melted and your mixture is nice and glossy. Set aside to cool to room temperature and thicken up.

While you are waiting for the tart crust to finish chilling and the ganache to thicken, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

When the oven is hot (AND the hour is up for chilling your tart crust) remove the tart from the refrigerator, place a piece of buttered-foil (butter side down) on the tart (or use beans or a pie chain, whatever you want!) to weigh down the tart and keep it from bubbling while it bakes. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until it’s a light golden brown.

Allow the tart to cool completely.

Berries and Sweet Cream Topping

1 cup heavy cream
3 TBLS powdered sugar
3/4 tsp Almond extract

1 1/2 cups assorted fresh berries

In a medium bowl, using a hand blender (or do it yourself with a whisk!) beat all the ingredients (except the fruit) together until you get soft peaks or it starts to look like Cool Whip! But don’t use Cool Whip, this tastes better!!

To assemble this delicious-ness, spoon ganache filling into the cooled tart shell. Spread evenly with a spatula. Pile the berries on the ganache and top with sweetened cream.

Berry Chocolate Tart

These are well worth the effort to make for that someone special for Valentines Day, or, you know, just because it’s Tuesday. Either way, have fun!

Baked Potato Soup

This delicious soup came from a combination of a late dinner with my husband, a visit to Costco and a brainstorming session during our last camping trip!

Baked Potato Soup

On our way home from Disneyland last month, we were hungry, it was late, and there wasn’t much open in the area but a little steakhouse. We stopped for dinner and my husband ordered soup. A little while later, this delightful baked potato soup arrived at our table. One taste and it was decided we had to learn to make this ourselves.

During our pre-camping Costco visit, one of the ladies had a sample tray with cubes of aged sharp white cheddar. Now, I admit, I am cheese tramp. Good cheese (in jokes and on my plate) makes me happy, That little bite, or maybe three or four, I don’t remember, was delicious! Needless to say, we bought a block and a salami tray to take camping.

Fast forward to that camping trip! Freezing on the beach in our little tent trailer, snacking on salami, aged cheddar cheese and crackers, we started brain storming how to use the rest of the gigantic cheese block! It’s COSTCO people! It’s a two-pound block of cheese!

This is one of several recipes we came up with that day. The cheese is just a garnish, but it TOTALLY makes the soup!

Baked Potato Soup

8 TBLS (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
2 medium size baking potatoes
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
4 pieces of bacon, folded in half and cut into strips
chives, to taste
1 cup aged sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F..

Scrub your potatoes, then dry thoroughly. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Using your hands, lightly coat the potatoes with 1/2 tsp vegetable oil. Sprinkle each potato with Kosher salt. Place the potatoes directly on a rack in the oven. Don’t wrap them in foil! You want the crispy skin with great baked flavor! Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

When the potatoes are nearly done baking, start your soup base. Do this all in one pot, it makes clean-up much easier!

At the bottom of a medium stock pot, fry your bacon strips in 1 TBLS butter. When the bacon pieces are crisp, remove them from the pan and let them drain on a paper towel lined plate. Without removing any of the bacon fat, add the rest of the butter and the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the onion is soft, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. The roux will get very thick. Be careful not to let it get brown.

Slowly pour in two cups of the chicken broth. Use a spatula to scrape up all the little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth and bring the mix to a boil, stirring often.

Chop the baked potatoes (with the skins still on!) into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup. Let the soup simmer gently for 8-10 minutes.

Add the pepper and red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Slowly add the heavy cream. I think the soup is better without it, but by all means, use it if you want your soup to be extra creamy! Either way, it’s going to be thick, delicious and wonderful!

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, chives and cheese. Serve immediately!

Baked Potato Soup

If you’re wondering about the other recipes we came up with, stay tuned! Next month could be very cheesy! 😉

Homemade Ricotta!

You’ll have to forgive me if I repeat myself a few times throughout this post. I made cheese today. How many people can say that? Little old me. I made cheese! In my kitchen with only three ingredients!

There are times I feel behind the rest of the food blogging world. So many people already make their own homemade ricotta. It’s been done before. I’m not the first to share this and I won’t be the last. It may be old news in the world of foodie blog-o-spheres, but it’s new to me! It’s exciting. I made cheese people! I made cheese!

Plus, I deserve bonus points for not to eat the entire bowl! We will never buy ricotta from the grocery again. It’s thick, creamy and I have control over what goes in it. Sure, it’s only good for a few days, but it’s fresh. I can make it to go with sweet or savory recipes. I control the ingredients and it’s MINE! I made cheese!

Researching online, I found very small variations of the same basic recipe. NONE of which were the recipe we got from “Follow That Chef” Jeremy. I briefly debated whether to follow Chef Jeremy’s recipe, or go rogue and try someone else’s. Chef Jeremy won out and here is the recipe and how to make your own ricotta at home! You’ll need plain yogurt, whole milk and heavy cream.

You’re going to toss it all in a pan. Put the yogurt in first so it coats the bottom of the pan and doesn’t burn.
As per Chef Jeremy’s instructions, I added 1/2 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of salt!

Looks delicious, right? Here is the part that was hard for me.. you let this come to a simmer and you leave it alone for five minutes. Don’t touch it. Don’t stir it. Just let those lovely curds separate from the whey. Do you know how hard it is to sit and watch a pan and NOT stir it? Now that I know the delicious results, it will be much easier next time!


When it’s done simmering, you’re going to pour it over a cheesecloth lined strainer in a large bowl.

Now, you just let it drain for an hour or so.

At this point, you could season it with a bit of grated parmesan. The longer it drains, the thicker your cheese will become. I let mine sit for about two hours. Partially because I made it when I got home from work and while it was draining I took a nap. See! I’m so good, I can make cheese in my sleep! haha!
The finished product looks like this and it made almost two cups worth.

Isn’t it gorgeous? That’s my cheese! I made cheese!

Here is the recipe! I expect to hear your excited squeals when you make cheese too!

Ricotta Cheese
Recipe courtesy of Chef Jeremy Grossman
Executive Chef, Sonoma Wine Garden

Ingredients:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 quart whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Pour the yogurt into a pan and let it coat the bottom. Add the whole milk and heavy cream. Season with nutmeg and salt.

Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer and let it simmer for five minutes. Don’t stir the pan or disturb it while it’s cooking.

Pour the liquid and solids through a cheesecloth into a large bowl. Allow the cheese to drain for an hour at room temperature.

Grab a spoon to taste it! It’s good, isn’t it? Now drizzle your spoon with a bit of honey and herbs and take another bite. Cheesy heaven!

Seriously, use your cheese immediately. It will stay good in your refrigerator for a few days too, but fresh is best.

Enjoy!!

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