Stone fruit season is finally here again! I’ve been waiting a long time to post this recipe until peaches were in season again. I made these for Kevin and his mom’s family birthday celebration last September and they were a delicious hit. Shortbread is absolutely delicious, but I generally find it a bit too rich and heavy during hot months. The peach in this really livened up the shortbread flavor, as did the crumbly topping. Loved these – and they looked pretty too!
2 3/4 C plus 2 T all-purpose flour (or you can measure 3 C and remove 2 T flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 C (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 ripe but firm peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)
Brown the butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, foam, and then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes). Note that once you freeze the butter, the brown bits will sink to the bottom. That’s totally fine since they’ll be thoroughly creamed together with the flour mixture!
[Side note: You don’t HAVE to brown the butter, but it does make a big difference in taste! If you don’t have time for this, just add two more tablespoons of flour (making 3 cups flour total) and cut softened butter into the flour with a pastry blender.]
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Use a pastry blender to blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly.
Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.
According to Smitten Kitchen, these hold up really well in the fridge. She also reckons these would freeze well, between layers of waxed paper, with the container sealed well in plastic wrap. I can’t vouch for any of that because there were no leftovers from the birthday gathering to test this out with!
Now go take advantage while peaches are still in season!
I made these bars so long ago, I can’t even remember what for. I do remember finding the inspiration for them from trying a lavender lemon bar from the bakery case at Surfas when Kelley and I went there a year or two ago. Jennifer got me a sachet of dried lavender last Christmas and I think that’s what prompted me finally get in gear and make them. I’m sure Jenn meant it to be used for other things, but alas, my world revolves around whatever I can eat.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
2. To make the crust, cream together softened butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add flour, lavender, and salt. Mix at low speed until just combined.
3. Press crust into buttered (or foil-lined) baking dish, and bake for 18-20 minutes until light brown.
4. While crust is baking, make your filling. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Add flour, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk until fully combined.
5. Remove crust from oven, and pour filling over warm crust. Place lemon bars back in oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until crust is firm to the touch.
6. Cut bars into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
7. Lemon bars will last sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Ta-da! I’ve had a few floral-inspired desserts before, and there’s definitely a fine line between having that floral essence and…something that tastes like soap. This recipe nicely manages to avoid the latter, but still had that nice lavender smell to it. With the dried lavender in the crust, you didn’t get any of the dried lavender texture in your mouth either.
This is a tale of love and loss, fulfillment and heartbreak, happiness and anguish. This is a tale about my first love…at work.
You meet a lot of people in the workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out who the batshit crazy people are right away and keep your distance. If you’re luckier, you’ll make a friend or two. And if you’re REALLY lucky, you will find a work spouse. Coworkers come and go in our lives but you will never forget your first work spouse.
Oh the fond memories. One of my all-time favorite Kelley stories was when a Chinese filmmaker flew in to the US for a meeting with some of our other coworkers. He sat in our common area and saw Kelley working while he waited for his colleagues. During dinner, he leaned over to one of our coworkers and said, “So I must ask you – WHO is that gorgeous strawberry blonde that works in your office? She looks like a model or an actress!”
It all started over morning coffee. Kelley and I casually complained to each other about how terrible the office coffee was at the time. Neither of us were coffee snobs, but the communal office coffee literally tasted like aluminum sludge. No amount of sugar or creamer could save it. A couple of years ago, Kelley and I started buying and brewing our own coffee. Most of my mornings as of late would start with the instant message “can you go now?”, meaning it was time to rendezvous in the office pantry. Morning coffee quickly became coffee and breakfast, which then occasionally turned into drinks after work and weekend outings. I was in a committed relationship that was martial work bliss.
Naturally, as a little goodbye sendoff, I had to make a batch of “Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde” bars. Kelley had actually sent me a similar recipe from Smitten Kitchen a couple of years ago for Pink Lemonade Bars, but they used raspberries instead of strawberries. I had to go down to San Diego for a work trip the day before her last day, so I picked up a few cartons of fresh strawberries from the Carlsbad Strawberry Company farm on the drive back up. They had BEAUTIFUL and extremely sweet strawberries to choose from.
I tweaked Smitten Kitchen’s recipe a bit to make up for the additional liquid that strawberries tend to produce (versus the not-as-juicy raspberries), and didn’t use the lemon zest in the crust that Smitten Kitchen’s recipe called for. Here’s my take:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice (pulp is fine)*
zest of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (about 3/4 cup hulled berries)**
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
*If you want it to be less tart, use slightly less lemon juice and more strawberry puree, but make sure you end up with the same total amount of liquid or the bars won’t set after you bake them.
**Hulling the berries is really important – you only want the sweet, red part of the strawberry and none of that white bitter center.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
2. Make the crust. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed with a stand mixer (I used a pastry blender in this case), gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake for about 18 minutes, until set at the edges.
3. While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.
4. Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the filling is set. A light colored “crust” will form on top from the sugar in the custard – nothing a little sprinkling of powdered sugar can’t hide!
5. Sprinkle the bars with some powdered sugar. Cool completely before slicing and use a sharp damp knife to ensure clean slices. Store bars in the refrigerator. Makes about 28 2-inch square bars.
Kelley turned about as red as her bars when she opened the box on her last day and read the sign that had her infamous Kelley-isms (as seen below).
I think all approved the out come of the bars. Miss you, Kelley!
I know I recently complained about the New Year Resolutioners that crowd my gym every January, and I’m glad to finally be able to say it’s become a little more normal. Now that I can finally work out relatively in peace, I’ve been trying to figure out some ways to mix up my routine because it’s becoming… well… routine. One can only do weights and cardio on a treadmill or elliptical so many times in one week.
I like to intersperse my regular workouts with group exercise classes and have tried almost every single one 24 Hour Fitness has to offer. I’ve tried Zumba and kick-boxing, but all of the stomping around was really hard on my knees. I am also terrible at Zumba. I’m not a quitter when it comes to exercise, but I tried spin once with a coworker, got through 20 minutes of class, mouthed “I can’t feel my crotch!” to each other, and walked out together. Who the hell does spin class? I mean, are your lady parts made out of leather? How do you deal with that? Should I have lined the seat of my pants with bubble wrap? Now I understand why men don’t do spin.
Pilates and yoga are fine, as is this Nike-sponsored “athletic training” class that my gym offers. But still over a year later, nothing beats The Bar Method in my book despite my self-induced embarassing first experience. It really is my favorite workout class, but I can’t justify the steep per-class pricepoint for something I’d want to do at least 4 times a week. However, I just bought the complete set of DVDs, so we’ll see how that goes.
On the topic of breaking routines, I’ve been writing way too many updates about cookies lately, which basically means I’ve been making too many cookies. Sadly I have a few more cookie posts backlogged on top of a couple more holiday posts! Yikes! So, in the spirit of mixing things up, here’s an update on an Earl Grey Lemon Bar I made last month. I came across the recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine, and have been saving it for an occasion such as… nothing. I guess I made these just for fun.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Earl Grey tea bags, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare crust, line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil that extends 2 inches beyond sides; coat foil with cooking spray. Weigh or lightly spoon 1 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon tea leaves from 1 tea bag (discard remaining tea in bag), and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until lightly browned.
2. To prepare filling, place juice in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tea bag to juice; cover and steep 10 minutes. Squeeze juice from tea bag into bowl; discard tea bag. Combine granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and baking powder in a bowl. Add rind and eggs to juice; stir with a whisk until combined. Add sugar mixture to juice mixture; stir with a whisk until well combined.
3. Remove crust from oven; pour filling onto hot crust. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting foil. Remove foil, and cut into 16 bars. Sprinkle bars with powdered sugar.
The Earl Grey cut some of the tartness of the lemon bar, and gave it a great scent. I think the crust was a little softer than what I personally would prefer. If I made these again, I would probably incorporate the Earl Grey tea leaves into a firmer lemon bar crust!
Shit got real this past weekend. As of yesterday, I am proud to say that I have completed the Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012 (*inserts shameless plugs from 2011, 2010, and 2009 here*). I may churn out a couple more things before the year is over, but will do so leisurely (versus the stressful, intense 14 hours of baking I conquered this past weekend). I decided on a tea theme for this year’s holiday homemade gifting, as I have really been enjoying a warm cup of Earl Grey on afternoons where a low-cal pick-me-up was needed. I mean, who doesn’t love Earl Grey? Even Captain Picard does! The smell is intoxicating!
Andrew graciously and unknowingly was my guinea pig for this new recipe I wanted to try out, since his 50th birthday was conveniently a month before Christmas. I found the recipe on Taste Space but had to convert several of the ingredients from grams to teaspoons/cups, most of which didn’t come out into whole measurements. I had to eyeball ingredients once we got into the decimal range, which is why I wanted to test this out before jumping right in to make these as gifts.
I think they turned out ok! They are much lighter and airy in texture (almost wafer-like?) than your average shortbread cookie – less buttery, too, which I like. Rolling the dough logs in sugar before slicing the cookies added a nice little extra crunch to the cookie, but I found that those coming from the dough that I dabbed in water prior to rolling in the sugar had too thick of a sugar “crust”. The moisture from the cold dough is enough to get sugar to stick to it, leaving just the right amount of sugar around the edges of the cookies, in my opinion! The flavors are also very delicate, and they smell amazing thanks to the bergamot in the tea. The orange zest balances the bitterness of the tea, too.
Here’s the recipe with the converted ingredients!
Ingredients (converted to US measurements):
1/2 C + 2 TBSP powdered sugar1 C butter
0.6 TSP salt (1/2 TSP + pinch works!)
0.6 TSP vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1.585 C all-purpose flour (1 C + slightly heaping 1/2 C)
3/4 TSP baking powder
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 small lime
1 TSP crushed earl grey tea leaves
1/2 C coarse sugar
1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla and zests and continue beating.
2. Add egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl afterward.
3. Add tea leaves and mix together.
4. Sift together flour and baking powder and add to the mix. Blend dry ingredients into wet, only until just combined.
5. Transfer dough to a table dusted with flour and lightly shape into a tube shape. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each piece into 1-1/2 inch diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill in fridge for an hour (or longer).
6. When ready to bake, dab logs with a bit of water and roll in coarse sugar.
7. Slice logs with knife (I used my Chef’s knife) into 1/4-inch slices.
8. Bake on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper or a silpat at 360F for ~12 minutes, or until a light golden colour.
Waking up at practically dawn to see Les Mis again, and then lots of cooking to do! Off to bed!