Category Archives: fruit and nuts

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!

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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


Raspberry and Blueberry Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I had a potluck to go to this past weekend at a relative’s house, and having just finished with finals this year, there was no excuse not to bring some sort of baked contribution. I knew there was going to be a handful of kids at the potluck, mostly under age 10, so I wanted to bring something that would be decadent enough for the adults but also fun for the kids to eat, so something bite-sized would be ideal. And knowing that all the adults were going to be Asian, I knew I would have to go with a recipe that wasn’t too sweet either. Well, out of all those goals, I accomplished them all except for one… the adults ate all the cookies and left none for the kids! Haha so considerate.

raspberry and blueberry jam thumbprint cookies

Jam thumbprint cookies are one of my favorites – my parents used to buy some of the more processed kind from the grocery store when I was little, and I remember I always had a very particular way of eating them. First I would carefully eat the entire rim of cookie that had no jam on it, until I was left with only a disc of jam-topped cookie in the middle. Then I would pop that part in my mouth and enjoy the chewy sweet-tart jam taste at the end. It was almost like eating two entirely different cookies, win-win! Anyway, for the potluck, I had a super simple recipe that I saw on Martha Stewart’s website a while ago. It has only 5 ingredients, is a no-brainer to whip up, and has the most wonderful, buttery cookie base. I also had 2 different jams sitting in my fridge that I had been antsy to use for baking (since I don’t really eat jam on bread), so this was the prefect opportunity, as the recipe will use up practically a whole cup of jam. My selections included your basic Smucker’s raspberry jam, as well as deluxe blueberry preserves with whole blueberries, mmm…

raspberry and blueberry jams

blueberry preserves with whole berries

Isn’t that blueberry jam gorgeous? I made half of the cookies with the raspberry jam, which came out with a smooth and beautiful glossy finish in the centers. Melting the jam before filling the cookies was essential to giving them such a smooth finish – no more of the messy, bubbly-looking jam centers! For the other half of the cookies I used the blueberry jam, portioning 1-2 blueberries into each cookie, which looked a little funny since I’ve never seen jam thumbprint cookies with actual berries in them, but biting into a real blueberry is delightful :)



Jam Thumbprint Cookies (makes 4-5 dozen 2-inch wide cookies)

Recipe adapted from Marthastewart.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature or slightly cooler (note: the warmer your butter is, the more the cookies will spread)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Approx. 1 cup jam, any flavor

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. I did not want my cookies to spread too much, so I softened the butter in the microwave for a little bit instead of letting it all come to room temperature. This cooler butter made it a little difficult to cream with the sugar at first, but after working at it for a minute or two it was nice and fluffy.

3. Add egg and beat until smooth.

4. Turn mixer down to low, add the flour, and mix until just incorporated.

5. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on foil-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Using your thumb, make an indentation about 1/2-inch deep in each ball. Fix the edges of the cookie as needed so that the indentation is round and completely surrounded (to prevent your jam from leaking out later).

6. Melt your jam in a microwave until it is completely liquid (30 seconds for 1/2 cup of jam was enough for me). Spoon 1/2 tsp of jam into each cookie (or enough to fill 3/4 of the indentation you made).

7. Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes until edges start to turn golden-brown. Cool slightly before removing cookies from foil to cool completely (the jam centers are more delicate and if you try to pull them off right away the bottoms might break).

These jam thumbprints will be more crispy when fresh from the oven, and then will soften overnight. They freeze wonderfully – I have 2 dozen in my freezer that I’m enjoying a few at a time :P The buttery aroma of these cookies is so addictive, you won’t be able to stop at one!

raspberry and blueberry jam thumbprint cookies

jam thumbprint with whole blueberry


Peach Dump Cake

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who often craves a sweet bite at the end of a meal or later at night. I fully realize that this isn’t doing me any favors, and so I try pretty hard to prevent catastrophe by resisting from buying any snacks or junk food when I’m at the grocery store. Instead, I buy fruit and tell myself that when I’m craving sweets, I can just reach over and eat a pear or an orange. Right, but I must be delusional whenever I go grocery shopping, because whenever I happen to be actually craving dessert, I never ever feel like having fruit. Let’s not even get into how much of my well-intentioned fruit purchases go to waste. Anyway, I came across a post on Bakerella about peach dump cake (which she politely re-termed “peach crunch cake”), and the fact that it was so incredibly easy to make pretty much sold me on it. The one thing I value the most these days is time, and if I can crank out a dessert with minimal time and effort, then I am a happy camper.

I can’t rave enough about how much of a no-brainer this cake is. Though it’s definitely more like a peach cobbler/crisp than an actual “cake”. But I’m okay with that. All you need is canned peaches, boxed cake mix, butter, brown sugar, and optional nuts (I used cashews because that was all I had on hand, which came out quite nice). Seriously, that’s it. It’s called dump cake precisely because you practically just dump the ingredients in a baking pan, one after the other. Then bake and you’re done! And it was really delicious, especially warm right out of the oven. The only thing I didn’t like about the recipe was that it had too much sugar in it, so it was too sweet, especially when served with ice cream. I ended up eating it with some plain yogurt to help temper the sweetness, which worked out quite well. On the bright side, that meant that only a few bites of the dump cake was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth, and that actually was kind of nice for the purposes of getting that thrill of dessert without really indulging. In any case, I did reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe below. Dump cake is normally made with canned cherries and pineapple, but I liked the idea of canned peaches instead. You can substitute real fruit or other canned fruits of your choice (I imagine cocktail fruit would be great), and mix and match the cake mix as you please. I’ve heard that a black forest version of this cake using canned cherries and chocolate cake mix is delicious, mmm. Enjoy!!

Peach Dump Cake (serves 8-12) adapted from Bakerella

Ingredients:

1 large can sliced peaches in light syrup (approx 29 oz.)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used cashews)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour canned peaches, along with syrup, into a 9×13″ baking pan, leaving out just 1/2 cup of the syrup. Gently cut up the peach slices into smaller chunks, and spread out evenly in pan.

2. Spread the yellow cake mix over the top of the peaches, covering evenly.

3. Cut up butter into 16 pieces and spread over the top of the cake mix.

4. Sprinkle brown sugar and chopped nuts over the top of the cake mixture. That’s all there is to the prep work!

5. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F, and remove to cool slightly before serving.

Dig in! Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or serve plain. The dump cake can be deserved cooled as well, but the top will be most crispy within the first day or two. I had the pan sitting in my room and would sneak spoonfuls of the dump cake whenever I was bored or craving sweets. Mmmm. :)


Bread pudding with Apples and Bailey’s

Last Friday, for the second time in my life, I had the pleasure of trying bread pudding. We were having the usual free Friday lunch at my workplace, and the dessert options are usually fruit or cookies. Well last week the cafeteria decided to give us bread pudding as a special treat, how nice! I was a bit skeptical at first, because it looked a lot like stuffing… but after my first bite I was completely hooked and my first thought was that I must learn to make my own bread pudding! Like no other dessert I've tried before, bread pudding has a mild creamy flavor that simply melts on your tongue, and a unique soft, chewy texture that isn't at all like eating bread. The bread pudding I had that day also had some blueberries baked in, which gave the pudding a wonderful fruity sweetness, since the pudding itself is not too sweet. Just heavenly – my kind of comfort food!

So this weekend I finally went grocery shopping and restocked my fridge (which is why there haven't been any updates this past week… I didn't feel like making more eggless and butterless baked goods). Being a frugal student, I always check the clearance racks at the supermarket, just in case there's anything useful to me. This time I saw a huge loaf of sliced Italian bread on sale for just $1, because its sold-by date was that same day. Well no problem, I could just freeze the loaf and keep it for however long I want – what a steal! I wasn't actually thinking of the bread pudding when I bought the bread, but today the thought came to me and I was simply giddy with the idea that I had the perfect bread for bread pudding. The one thing I didn't have was berries or raisins, which are usually added to bread puddings, so I just used an apple instead. And it being St. Patty's Day weekend, I knew it was the perfect occasion to pull out that Bailey's Irish cream and add a little zing to my bread pudding. The stage was set!

While I was looking up bread pudding recipes, a realization dawned on me – these things aren't so good for you haha. Most recipes called for 4-6 eggs, several cups of milk and heavy cream, and lots of butter. I'm sure it makes for a fabulous bread pudding, but Mah's comment a little while back did remind me that maybe I could make a few modifications for a healthier bread pudding. And I'm proud to report that I did succeed in making a healthier version of bread pudding without sacrificing much at all :) My boyfriend, like the typical guy, was a bit wary of the notion that I'd be making healthy substitutions to a rich and creamy flavored dessert. But after taking a bite of the finished thing, he happily told me that it tasted creamy and custard-y. Success! The secret is in replacing eggs with applesauce, and using low fat milk instead of whole milk and heavy cream. Usually applesauce can be substituted for oil in muffins and breads, but it works great in this recipe in place of eggs because it is not necessary for providing leavening or structure. Of course, I didn't replace all of the eggs… that would probably result in a pretty awful pudding. So remember, no matter what you substitute, try not to get rid of all of it. I used that rule of thumb for my low-fat creme brulee, and it worked really well. Compromise means everyone is a winner right? Haha. Now I share with you how I tweaked the basic bread pudding recipe to get a tasty but not-as-bad-for-you bread pudding :)

Bread Pudding with Apples and Bailey's Irish Cream  (serves 4-6)        adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
10 slices of Italian bread, or any bread of choice (I prefer a crusty bread)
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
4 tbsp salted butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups milk (1%), scalded
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp Bailey's Irish cream
pinch of salt
brown sugar to top

Directions;
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9" diameter round pan, or equivalent square baking pan.

2. Cut bread slices into cubes (don't remove crust). Toss in melted butter, then mix in diced apples. Lay into baking pan.

3. Scald the milk by heating over medium heat until just starting to bubble at the edges (do not let boil!). Remove from heat immediately.

4. Beat together eggs, applesauce, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Slowly stir in milk. Add Bailey's Irish cream and mix well.

5. Slowly ladle the milk mixture over the bread cubes in the baking pan, making sure to coat all the bread. The liquid should come up to just short of the rim of the pan. Let bread soak in milk mixture for 10 minutes.

6. Sprinkle brown sugar over top and bake for 30 minutes, or until bread bounces back and liquid does not ooze out when pushed with a spoon. Serve warm or cooled, with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Having tried the bread pudding both hot out of the oven and later when it had cooled off, I would say that I think I like the texture of the cooled pudding better. That's obviously a personal thing, since I like my bread pudding a bit chewier, whereas others might like it more soupy or soggy. The hot bread pudding certainly has more liquid in it, so it has more of a melt in your mouth, custard-like texture, which my boyfriend really liked. I thought the apples in the pudding were great – they complemented the cinnamon in the pudding, and added a nice little bit of soft crunch and sweetness.

Next time I would add more brown sugar to the top, since it made for a really great crunchy topping. I'd probably also double the Bailey's, since the flavor was subtle here. But I have to say, I couldn't tell at all that there had been applesauce substituting for most of the eggs in this recipe, and I think that the fact that it uses apple as a component hides the applesauce flavor very well. The bread was soft, the flavor was mild and creamy from the milk, and there was just the right amount of sweetness so as to not overwhelm the dessert. It was certainly great with some vanilla ice cream on the side… although I suppose that would negate the strides towards making this dessert somewhat healthy right? Happy eating! ;)


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