Category Archives: desserts

The Lazy Man’s Fancy Strawberry Shortcake

I know, this post sounds like an oxymoron. But ever since I’ve discovered this way of making strawberry shortcake, I have been too lazy to make it from scratch, because it passes so well for made-from-scratch. Now, if you’re really truly lazy, you’ll probably end up making pseudo-strawberry-shortcake, which is that thing where you throw some strawberries on top of those store-bought yellow cake shells and then spray on some whipped cream and call it a day. I think that is so far removed from the original thing that I would call it an entirely different name if I could. I call this recipe a “fancy” strawberry shortcake because it looks like the real thing, and has a good texture and taste that you could definitely serve to your guests for a nice occasion. And it does require a little more work than having everything store-bought, but it is so much easier than making the shortcake from scratch. These strawberry shortcakes helped me use up the first of 2 pints of strawberries, a yummy way to eat my fruit indeed!

lazy man's fancy strawberry shortcake

Anyway, I found the recipe on the back of a box of Bisquick, which I bought to make pancakes on lazy weekends. As it turns out, you can just use the biscuit mix to make the shortcakes, which turn out like big biscuits with a golden crunchy outer crust (actual shortcakes are just the sweeter variation of a biscuit). They also look lovely with their crackly round tops. Just cut them open and fill with macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream, and you have an impressive dessert that was a total no-brainer and put together quickly just before dinner. Yeah… that’s why I have been too lazy to make these from scratch haha.



Lazy Man’s (Bisquick) Fancy Strawberry Shortcake  (makes 6 shortcakes)

Recipe adapted from Bisquick

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar (for macerating strawberries)
  • 2 1/3 cup Bisquick mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar (for the shortcakes)
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Two hours in advance of serving the shortcakes, prepare the strawberries. Wash and hull them, and cut into small chunks, reserving some whole strawberries to decorate the tops of your shortcakes. Stir in 3/4 cup sugar and allow to sit at room temperature in a large bowl for 2 hours. Place in refrigerator to chill strawberries if you have time before serving.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together the Bisquick mix, milk, 3 tbsp sugar, and melted butter, stirring until a soft dough forms.

3. Spoon dough in 6 scoops onto an ungreased baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops are a golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly on baking sheet.

4. Meanwhile, whip the heavy whipping cream with the powdered sugar until the consistency of whipped cream, about 3 minutes.

5. To serve, split open warm shortcakes with a knife, and fill with macerated strawberries and whipped cream. They get a little crumbly when you cut them open, so I like to throw the extra crumbs on top of the whipped cream for decoration. You may save the leftover shortcakes after they have cooled off in an airtight container, and microwave them briefly to warm them up before assembling more shortcakes (my boyfriend’s suggested this and it was great). Delicious and easy!

p.s. You can totally save the juice from the macerated strawberries and use them for other things – drizzled on top of the shortcakes or other desserts, reduced on the stove with the addition of some cornstarch slurry to make a thicker strawberry sauce, or put it into the recipe for a strawberry mousse as I did :)

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Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Okay, I’m not joking when I say that my boyfriend’s condo is overflowing with fresh fruit. I just recently did away with the cherries, as well as 2 pints of strawberries, and now these cheesecake bars are my solution to the giant box of blueberries his parents gave us when they left for vacation last week. We still have an insane number of peaches, plums, mangoes, and apricots. Maybe I can squeeze in something with the mangoes before I leave California this weekend… In any case, my goal was to make a dessert that would use up the blueberries and only ingredients I had on hand, which included a box of cream cheese and a lemon, both things I bought in anticipation of baking and now need to get rid of before I leave. Wouldn’t you know it, Tyler Florence apparently had the same thought I did, and has generously shared with the world a recipe for lemon blueberry cheesecake bars. My lucky day!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

These bars are super easy to make, and has 5 stars with over 100 reviews, so a pretty sure bet if you’re baking for a BBQ or a potluck. My only qualm was that I thought the tartness of the lemon in the cheesecake was a bit much for me, but I’m not a fan of sour things in general, and I cringe whenever I have to eat fruit that is not very sweet and ripe. I don’t even really like sorbets because they’re too sour for me, shrug. But with some good summer blueberries and a heavenly crust, these creamy bars are a wonderful treat. My boyfriend said it tastes just like cheesecake, except it took me so much less effort! I halved Tyler’s recipe because I only had 1 box of cream cheese, and it made 8 bars that were about 2×2″, which I think is the perfect size. I also made a few minor changes, including adding more butter and cinnamon to the crust, using neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese, and adding more blueberries than called for (I was trying to use them up!) It all worked out well, and the crust was sturdy and rich. Just the way I like it!

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars



Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars (makes 8 bars, 2×2″ each)

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

Ingredients:

For the base:

  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 sheets graham crackers
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. (1 box) cream cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat neufchatel), at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ bread pan, and line with parchment, leaving tails to allow you to pull the bars out of the pan later. Press and fold the parchment to make neat corners in the pan.

2. Prepare the crust first – in a blender, grind the graham crackers until you get fine crumbs. Pour out into a bowl, and stir in the 1 tbsp sugar and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. Add the melted butter and stir well to distribute evenly.

3. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the baking pan, and press down evenly with the bottom of a flat glass (I used a shot glass because it was nice and small for getting into corners). Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, stir together the egg, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the room temperature cream cheese, and beat on low with an electric beater until the mixture is smooth. Pour filling into the pan on top of the crust, then sprinkle the blueberries on top. If you are using as much blueberries as I am, you will basically cover the entire top with blueberries. They will sink about halfway into the filling.

5. Bake for 30 minutes at 325 degrees F, or until the center only slightly jiggles (I could not tell with all the blueberries on top, so I just went with 30 minutes, which is 5 minutes less than the original recipe in a 9×9″ pan). Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan. Then place pan in the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.

6. When set, gently remove the bars from the pan by lifting the parchment lining. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar to serve.

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars


Cherry Clafoutis

We are in the midst of summer, and as I am spending some time visiting my boyfriend in California, the fruit here is overwhelmingly sweet and abundant. Cherries are in season, and we had some guests over last week who brought us a big bag of sweet bing cherries, which had us worried because cherries don’t last very long in the fridge. If only I had an ice cream maker, I would have made cherry vanilla ice cream, one of my favorite flavors growing up. My boyfriend asked me what I could bake cherries into, and of course cherry pies and cobblers came to mind, but I remembered a French dessert that I had read about but never made before, the cherry clafoutis.

Fresh cherries

“Kla-foo-tee”, that’s how it’s pronounced in French. The clafoutis is a custard cake baked with fruit, a French countryside dessert/breakfast cake that was traditionally made with unpitted cherries. The pits of the cherries lend the clafoutis an almond flavor, but make it difficult to eat, so these days cherry clafoutis generally uses pitted cherries, but of course lack the almond aroma. The cake is a combination of a custard and crepe batter, baked so that the center is still custard-y and the edges are browned and chewy. It’s a delicious combination of flavors and textures, and versatile enough to be served for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. Its only drawback is that it should be served fresh and warm, because I’ve heard it’s not as good later (I can’t confirm this fact, since… we ate our entire cherry clafoutis straight out of the oven… oops!) Yeah, it was really good warm haha. Making the clafoutis worked out well for our need to use up the fresh cherries – this dessert uses a lot of them (I used up 24 cherries for a 4-serving portion!), and accommodates for either fresh or frozen/jarred cherries. Plus you don’t need any fancy ingredients and everything comes together pretty quickly once you’ve pitted your cherries.

My recommendation, if you decide to make your own cherry clafoutis, is to pit the cherries ahead of time (I did mine the night before while watching TV), so that when you wake up in the morning to throw this together, you’ll have gotten the hard part out of the way already. And if you have almond extract, add a touch of it to really bring out the flavors. Just… don’t forget about your milk on the stove like I did heh, burnt milk is never a fun thing.

Cherry clafoutis



Cherry Clafoutis (serves 4)

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. fresh cherries, a little more than 1 cup or about 20-25 cherries, stemmed and pitted (see step 1 below)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • Powdered sugar for serving

Directions:

1. If you are using fresh cherries, pit them first (unless you want to go traditional, in which case I would warn your loved ones lest they break a tooth). If you have a cherry pitter, well I’m envious lol. Otherwise you can just use your hands, by making a slit at the tip of the cherry with your thumbnail and then digging out the pit. Watch out for cherry juice, it stains pretty well. If cherries are not in season, you can also use pitted frozen cherries or bottled cherries, just thaw/drain and proceed the same way.

Pitted cherries

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9×5″ bread pan (or you can use a 7″ tart or cake pan, as well as smaller ramekins, depending on your preference).Line the bottom of the pan with the pitted cherries.

3. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat on medium heat until just starting to simmer (watch it carefully, it’ll boil over fast!) Set aside.

4. Mix together eggs, flour, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot milk mixture, to prevent cooking the eggs. Stir until smooth, the batter will be thin. Gently pour the custard batter over the cherries in the pan, tap the pan if needed to let the batter settle.

Cherry clafoutis ready to bake

5. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the tops are a golden brown. The clafoutis will puff up in the oven, and the edges may get more browned than the center, but you’ll want to make sure the center starts to just brown lightly so that you know it’s set. The cherries will give off their juice during the baking process as well. Whatever you do, try not to open the oven door, because the clafoutis will deflate when you do. So save that for when you are done baking.

Cherry clafoutis

6. Remove pan from oven, allow to cool for 3 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges to release from the pan (I didn’t even need to do this, the shrinking of the clafoutis did that by itself). Cut into wedges and serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Slice of cherry clafoutis

 


P.S. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, it’s been a busy year of medical school, and only now am I finally finding some time to update. I still have so much that I’ve made that I want to post, and at the same time I am making more goodies, so the posts will trickle in as I find time to squeeze it in. Thanks for reading!


Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Mango and Toasted Coconut

Yesterday, my friend who lives down the hall from me came and knocked on my door. She was holding a can of unsweetened coconut milk that she purchased on a whim because she thought it might be interesting to drink. Heh… after the first few sips I think she realized that this stuff isn’t for drinking :P She asked me if I knew of anything I could make with coconut milk so that it wouldn’t go to waste, so I went about looking for dessert ideas that would not require me going out to shop for ingredients. I wanted the coconut milk to be the star of the show, since I had a whole can to use up, which made an Asian dessert the most likely candidate. I did not have any frozen taro on hand to make the taro sago dessert I have made before, but I did have some mini tapioca balls left over from the last time I made taro sago. A quick search for Thai desserts using coconut milk yielded several recipes for a thick and creamy coconut tapioca pudding with either bananas or mangoes, which sounded divine to me. (The other option was coconut dulce de leche, which also sounds amazing and I bookmarked it for another time, yum.)

Coconut tapioca pudding with mango and toasted coconut

I have never made tapioca pudding on my own before, but there’s always a first time for everything! This recipe is super simple and makes for a surprisingly rich and velvety pudding that leads with its coconut flavor in every spoonful. If you are a coconut lover, I promise you will go nuts for this pudding. I combined ideas from several different recipes I saw online, adapting the pudding itself while adding mango chunks and toasted shredded coconut for a more sophisticated, Thai-inspired flavor. This coconut tapioca pudding is so easy to put together and yet has several components that come together for an elegant and tropical presentation, I’m sure you will impress your guests when you serve it as a finale to your Asian-themed dinner. For bonus style points, I also highly suggest serving it in classy martini glasses!

Coconut tapioca pudding with mango and toasted coconut



Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Mango and Toasted Coconut (serves 4)

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes and About.com

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry mini tapioca
  • 1 can (14 oz.) of unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut cream or cream of coconut)
  • 1/2 cup milk (adjust amount as needed)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed light brown sugar (I would use even less next time)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cubed mango chunks
  • Sweetened shredded coconut for garnish

Directions:

1. Soak mini tapioca in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Strain excess water and place tapioca in a medium saucepot.

2. Reserve 2-3 tbsp of coconut milk and set aside. Pour remaining coconut milk into the pot with the tapioca. Add salt, and gently stir contents while bringing them to a boil on high heat.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tapioca are completely translucent in the center and the pudding has thickened up, stirring occasionally. You may add the milk in small amounts until you reach a pudding consistency that you like. Halfway through the simmering process, stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Note: you may use granulated sugar if you would like your coconut tapioca pudding to be a whiter color, otherwise the brown sugar will make the pudding a light caramel shade.

cooking the pudding

4. Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet with foil and spread a thin layer of sweetened shredded coconut on top. Toast in a 350 degree oven on the lower rack just until most of the coconut starts to turn a light brown (it took about 6 minutes for me). Toss briefly and then remove from oven to cool. Keep an eye on that coconut because it will burn fast if you don’t pay attention! (Also, I never knew that toasted sweetened shredded coconut could taste so good, it’s kind of like crack! Me and my friend who was helping me could not stop munching on it!)

toasted sweetened shredded coconut

4. Once your pudding is done cooking after you have adjusted for taste and consistency with the milk, remove pudding from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

5. Assemble your pudding when you are ready to serve it (it was delicious warm but you may also consider chilling it first also). Spoon the pudding into your bowl, top with toasted shredded coconut and chopped mango pieces. Finally, drizzle on your reserved coconut milk to finish it all off, and serve immediately. Enjoy!!

coconut tapioca pudding with mango and toasted coconut


Ultimate Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened)

Crisp fall weather has set in for good, and Halloween has passed, which means a fast-paced few weeks until that amazing celebration of all things delicious, Thanksgiving. This year, I am extra excited for Thanksgiving, because not only will I get the chance to see my family for the first time since June, but I will also get to see my boyfriend at the same time because he’s flying out to Massachusetts to spend the holiday weekend us! The past two Thanksgivings that I’ve had since starting medical school have been away from home, so I really miss being home with my family and being able to help make Thanksgiving dinner. Just three more weeks, I can’t wait!

A slice of heaven

Whenever I think of fall, Thanksgiving, winter and Christmas all rolled into one nook of the year that I simply consider “the holidays”, the warm spicy aroma of cinnamon is the scent that defines it best for me. It is no surprise then, that the end of the year always feels like the right time to make a big bountiful carrot cake from scratch to share with family and friends. I still remember the first time I was introduced to carrot cake, baked by a beloved woman whose name is also Lucy. We fondly call her “old Lucy”, which is “老Lucy” in Chinese, (versus myself as little Lucy/小Lucy) to differentiate the two of us. Although she is my friend’s grandmother, she is just like another grandmother to me, she watched me grow up and always supported me in my endeavors. She was the first Asian woman that I had ever met in my young life who could bake Western style cakes, since she worked as a housekeeper for a Jewish family at the time. Looking back on it, I really was very impressed by her ability to bake, and unconsciously her skill was probably one that I aspired to. I remember being incredulous as a kid, resisting the suggestion to try this carrot cake, and ultimately realizing that it tasted nothing like carrots at all. In fact, I always remembered it being one of the most moist cakes I had ever tried, no doubt owing to the insane amount of oil used in making carrot cake ;)

In any case, last year I was home visiting the family when I decided that it was finally time for me to tackle my own decadent carrot cake. I’ve made some simple recipes that turned out so-so carrot cake. Especially those “light” carrot cakes that end up tasting more like cardboard than anything else. But this time, I really wanted it to be the irresistible kind you see in a big glass cake stand in the cozy neighborhood bakery, the kind of carrot cake where you just have to get a slice because it practically literally has your name on it. You know who I turn to when I want the best, most indulgent recipes? America’s Test Kitchen. Maybe it’s my Massachusetts hometown bias, since they are based in Newton, MA after all, but I just love how meticulous and well-tested their recipes are. The recipes are shared in their Cooks Illustrated magazine on a regular basis. I found the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, as well as one for a lightened version also done by them, and I proceeded to tinker a little with them to find a happy medium between the two, which I call the Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened). You see, it tastes exactly like an indulgent slice of full-fat carrot cake, but it actually is lightened to some degree, and that’s why “lightened” is only carried in parentheses :P Needless to say, carrot cake isn’t diet food, no matter how many carrots you stick in there. But if you want to make a beautiful, moist cake that will be perfect for the holidays and is sure to please, you just can’t go wrong. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you, this is the ultimate carrot cake we’re talking about, remember? All this good stuff in it is what makes the cake so darned amazing. And pretty please, make it as a two-layer round cake, because it looks that much more incredible (especially if your decorating skills are good, unlike mine heh). Also, the picture below was taken using my dad’s DSLR… I asked him to focus on the tip of the pirouette, and realized later that the front of the cake was out of focus, oops. Still learning!

Ultimate carrot cake with cream cheese frosting


Ultimate Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Lightened) (makes one 2-layered 9″ cake, serves 8-12)

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated original and light recipes, shared on Sunday Nite Dinner.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional, as I didn’t have any on hand)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups carrots (approx 5 medium carrots), peeled and shredded
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 handfuls of sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting: (you may want to make more frosting, as this amt is not enough to cover the entire cake, only top and middle)

  • 8 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup (6 oz.) confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans (or a single 9×13 pan) with vegetable oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment and brush oil on top.

2. In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, granulated and brown sugars on medium-high with an electric beater until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds. Reduce speed to low; with mixer running, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 to 60 seconds longer.

4. Turn off beaters, and using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture into the wet batter until just combined (do not over-stir). Towards the end, stir in the carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins, and walnuts until mixed in.

5. Pour into cake pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. On a wire rack, cool cake to room temperature in pan, about 1  hour.

6. For the frosting, mix cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl at medium high speed with electric beater until well combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until very fluffy, about 1 minute.

7. Run paring knife around edge of cakes to loosen from pan. Invert cakes onto wire rack, peel off parchment, then invert again onto serving platter. Frost cake layers as desired (note the amount of frosting called for above is enough to frost just the top and middle of a 2-layer cake; I would double the frosting recipe if you intend to cover the entire cake).

Ultimate carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Enjoy this ultimate carrot cake with a warm mug of spicy tea (or with a tall glass of milk at midnight if that is your style). The cake layers are moist and fluffy, with an abundance of flavor in each bite being contributed by the carrots, coconut, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts (you can see the ingredients right in the cake in the above picture!) And the cream cheese frosting is amazing… lightened up by quite a bit so that it is not cloying, and instead maintains the wonderful tang of cream cheese with a sweetness that complements the cake such that you’ll want some in each forkful. Dust on some cocoa or cinnamon on top and decorate with some whole walnuts for a nice fall look, and you can even throw on a chocolate pirouette for contrast like I did, or a cinnamon stick would work too. Some flaked coconut would be nice too for winter especially if you decide to frost the sides. Yummm…


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