Monday, February 27, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Bars

Strawberry season is in full swing here in FL.  (Coincidentally, today is National Strawberry Day.)  As soon as I saw them in the store, I knew I had to make something with them.  There is certainly no dearth of strawberry recipes to choose from, which is why I had some trouble settling on just one recipe.  I finally picked this one, because even though there are a few steps involved, the preparation is actually rather easy. And it has an added bonus of using up all those extra egg whites from making custard-based ice creams.   Plus, I'm a sucker for a frozen whipped cream layer thing; it takes me back to the days of frozen jello-Cool Whip creations from when I was a kid.

Honestly, I wasn't sure about these for the first few bites; the strawberry layer stays kind of hard for a bit and the flavor isn't that pronounced.  But after I let the bars stand a few minutes, the strawberry layer softened up and the top layer got nice and creamy - almost mousse-like.  When I was cutting a few pieces to take photos of, I kept eating the little slivers of the edges and before I knew it, I had eaten at least the equivalent of 2 pieces worth. 

This recipe lends itself to multiple variations.  You could certainly change up the berries used; anything with a somewhat tart bite would be good.  Along the same lines, a peaches and cream combo (using the slightly tart Georgia peaches) or an orange and cream combo would be wonderful variations.  Please let me know if you try any of these combos.   

Strawberries and Cream Bars
Adapted from Pip & Ebby, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

I chose not to strain the strawberry seeds as they were quite small, but please do if this is a concern of yours or if you are using berries with larger seeds.  Be sure to let the bars stand a few minutes to enjoy them the best.


2 pounds strawberries, hulled, halved if large (6 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
Coarse salt (I forgot this)
7 large egg whites, room temperature*
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In a large bowl, combine the strawberries and 3/4 cup sugar.  Let macerate until the sugar turns liquid, about 30 minutes or so.  Blend until smooth the strawberries and their liquid plus a pinch of salt.  Strain, if desired.  Either: (1) Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Transfer to freezer and scrape with a fork every 30 minutes until mixture is thick and slushy, 2 hours.  Or,  (2) freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions and then transfer to the baking dish.  Smooth top with a rubber spatula.
    Don't make the topping until the strawberry base is sufficiently frozen, otherwise your super-fluffy egg white mixture will begin to deflate.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg whites on high until foamy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and gradually add 3/4 cup sugar. Return the speed to high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, beat cream and vanilla on high until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes. With rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into egg-white mixture. Pour over strawberry mixture and smooth top with rubber spatula. Freeze until firm before cutting into squares.

    Notes:  This recipe uses raw egg whites; if you're concerned about that, replace with pasteurized egg whites, which can be found in the dairy aisle.  (Although, I'm not sure if they'll whip up nicely, so decide what's important to you.)

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Rice pudding ice cream

    I was a picky eater as a child. Anything that was exotic would always get passed over. I'd only eat plain, bland foods and desserts. My pickiness carried over to most of the foods my Puerto Rican grandmother cooked. I could throw down with some of her fried pork chops (chuletas), beef stew (carne guisada), and rice (but no beans, please). But, no way was I going anywhere near the fried plantains (tostones), cassava (yuca), tamales, and, especially, rice pudding with offending raisins (arroz con leche or arroz con dulce). I know, for shame...

    I have finally stepped out of my picky shell and am definitely making up for lost time! While I still won't go anywhere near those tamales, I love me some rice pudding. I only make it once a year or so because I do it up old school style, which means standing in front of the stove, stirring, for hours. I prefer my rice pudding fairly simple with only a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Oh, and I add raisins now. Tara, on the other hand, likes it plain. Oh, the irony...

    When I saw a recipe for rice pudding ice cream from clumsycookie, I knew I had to get on it. I mean, can you imagine, rice pudding in ice cream form?! I won't be sharing a rice pudding recipe with you today because: Hello? Hours at the stove is just not cute right now.  Use your tried and true version or, do like I did and use some Kozy Shack rice pudding and doctor it up as you like.  The ingredients are fairly minimal and what you'd expect in a homemade rice pudding. You know, things like rice, milk, eggs, and sugar.

    Unfortunately, rice pudding seems to be better as rice pudding rather than rice pudding ice cream. It might have been because I left it plain and didn't add anything to the store-bought stuff. So definitely make your rice pudding how you like it flavored and then amp up the flavors a bit, otherwise it will be rather bland...

    Rice Pudding Ice Cream
    Barely adapted from Clumbsy Cookie

    If you don't have glucose or corn syrup, you can substitute with 4 tablespoons of regular sugar. I have not tried this, so let me know how it works if you do.


    1 cup milk
    3 tablespoons glucose or corn syrup
    2 cups rice pudding

    Optional add-ins (if using store-bought rice pudding):
    1+ teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 cup raisins soaked in rum or vodka


    Mix the milk and glucose (or corn syrup or sugar) and heat just to dissolve the glucose. Combine with the rice pudding and cinnamon, if using, in a blender and mix until you have a thick liquid (you could also use an immersion blender).  Strain to separate any unblended rice grains (these are quite tasty - like a sweet rice cereal).  Cool completely and churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.  Mix in the raisins, if using, just before you transfer the ice cream into a container to freeze.

    Monday, February 13, 2012


    I recently discovered shortbread (I know, what rock have I been living under?) and only because I was looking for prepared cookies with minimal ingredients and none of the "bad" stuff like high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, emulsifiers, etc.  I am always intrigued at how they can taste so good.  And their texture is amazing - they're soft without being too soft and chewy like a traditional cookie, but they also have a slight snap and, yet, aren't crispy.  To satisfy my fix, I buy Walker's Shortbread, but they're kind of expensive.  While they're worth the price, I knew that I could make some at home for much cheaper.  

    These shortbread cookies have all of 3 ingredients: flour, sugar, and butter.  You almost can't go wrong with these.  That said, the first time I attempted shortbread cookies, they tasted really good, but they spread all over the baking sheet.  I was still very much a beginner baker at the time and thought that the problem was with the recipe or that the simplicity of the recipe belied some serious skills needed.  Turns out, the dough just needed to be chilled.  Lesson learned.  

    I originally wanted to dress them up by dipping the ends in white chocolate and then covering that with some chopped pistachios, but the results were rather disappointing and boring.  All the individual flavors were lost.  So, word to the wise, these are best enjoyed plain.

    Barely adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, 75th Anniversary Ed.

    I used regular grocery store butter, but I bet that some fancy butter would really shine in this recipe. 


    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    3 tablespoons granulate sugar
    1/2 cup butter, cold*


    Combine flour and sugar in a bowl or food processor.  If mixing by hand, cut in butter using a pastry blender or two forks.  If using a food processor, add the butter and pulse.  Whatever method you use, combine ingredients until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to stick together a bit. Form the mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8x6-inch rectangle (Get out that ruler to be completely accurate!) that is about 1/2-inch thick.  Using a knife or dough scraper, cut the dough into 24 2x1-inch strips.  Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  If desired, make the "design" on the cookies by gently pressing the flat end of a wooden skewer or a fork into the dough, taking care not to press all the way through the dough.

    If your kitchen or dough is particularly warm, a short 20-30 min chill in the fridge or freezer is super helpful and will make sure that your cookies retain their shape. (I like to put my dough in the fridge, then turn on the oven to preheat.  When the oven is ready, I'll pop the baking sheets straight from the fridge into the oven.)

    Preheat oven to 325F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cookies turn a very light brown.

    Notes: When the type of butter isn't specified, I usually use a mix of salted and unsalted.