Posts tagged ‘blackberry’

July 14, 2011

Summer Pudding & Keeping Away the Nargles

I’m sad to admit that the end of Potter Week is near, but undeniably happy to be less than 24 hours away from the long-awaited final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  I have a few more Harry-themed recipes to share, including today’s Summer Pudding, which I just love.

While researching various British desserts for this week, I learned that the common British use of the word  “pudding” is somewhat interchangeable with the American use of the word “dessert.”  Any mention of pudding in the Harry Potter book series and films, therefore, may not actually be a reference to the sweet and creamy custard I’d always pictured.  And “loony” Luna Lovegood, the dreamily carefree, pudding-loving friend of Harry’s, wasn’t constantly craving a heaping bowl of vanilla tapioca or even rice pudding.  Luna, instead, frequently found herself with a bit of a sweet tooth and simply wanted a dessert of some sort (I can relate).  Either way, I still like to imagine Luna happily rushing over to the Ravenclaw table at the Hogwarts feast and scooping herself a large serving of rich, custard pudding.

If you haven’t guessed, it’s pretty apparent in the book series and even more so in the films that Luna is quite fond of pudding.  Upon first meeting Harry and friends in the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna both informs the group of her belief that her odd jewelry charm “keeps away the nargles,” and also expresses her desire for pudding, all in the same breath.

While Luna seems to be quite the pudding-fan, we cannot say the same for Dobby, the beloved house elf.  In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, mischievous Dobby sends evil Aunt Petunia’s “masterpiece of a pudding” crashing to the floor, disrupting a dinner party, and leaving Harry at the scene of the crime, completely covered in sugared flowers and cream.  Regardless of Dobby’s potential distaste, I thought it important to create some sort of pudding for Potter Week, and fell in love with the idea of “Summer Pudding,” a super simple, no-bake, berry-filled concoction.  I think that it would be a beautiful addition to any Hogwarts feast or perhaps ‘Harry Potter Movie Marathon Party’ buffet table…  fit for wizards, house elves, and muggles alike!

Summer Pudding

Inspired by: Luna Lovegood’s favorite (and Aunt Petunia’s ruined) “Pudding”

“I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.  It always does in the end…”
-Luna Lovegood, lightheartedly referencing her missing possessions, hidden by Hogwarts students in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Adapted from Craig Stoll’s
“Summer Berry Pudding,”
Fine Cooking

2 pints fresh strawberries

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 pints red raspberries

2 pints black raspberries

2 pints blackberries

juice and zest from 1 orange

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 loaf fine-crumb white bread

–recipe yield: about 8-12 servings

Hull and roughly chop strawberries into a small dice and place into medium saucepan.  Toss sliced strawberries with the sugar and place over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until berries have broken down into a thick syrup.  Remove and discard any large strawberry pieces, and reduce heat to low.  Add into the liquid the red raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries.  Allow the berries to slightly soften in the hot syrup for about 5 minutes before removing the whole berries from the liquid with a slotted spoon or strainer and transferring them to a small bowl to cool.  The syrup should remain in the saucepan over low heat for about 5 more minutes, allowing it to simmer and reduce.  Then, remove the reduced syrup from heat and stir in the orange juice and zest, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.

As berries and syrup cool, butter the inside of  a large bowl line with plastic wrap. Remove all crusts from each slice of bread. Fit a few bread slices into an even layer lining bottom and sides of prepared bowl, further trimming slices if necessary. Dip slices into the cooled fruit syrup and arrange soaked slices back into the bowl. Spoon about ½ cup of berries into the center of the bowl atop the soaked bread. Cover berries with a few more slices of soaked bread, spooning on another ½ cup of berries onto those slices. Repeat bread-soaking and berry-layering until layers reach near level with the top of bread-lining up the sides of the bowl. Level with side bread-lining, arrange a final layer of soaked bread to cover the top of the berries completely and the entire surface of the dessert.

Cover the surface of the dessert with plastic wrap, and fit a small plate or round cardboard cutout into the bowl on top of the wrapped surface.  Place some slightly heavy objects (canned goods or a few small boxes of sugar, etc.) on top of the round cutout to weigh it down and condense the dessert into a dense solid.  Set the weighted dessert onto a rimmed sheet tray and place into refrigerator to chill overnight.  Invert the chilled dessert onto a serving dish, peeling away and discarding the plastic wrap.  Garish with confectioner’s sugar and/or extra berries if desired, slice, and serve.

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June 2, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part III: Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been going a bit overboard with macaron practice and production lately.  The delicate cookie that I once loathed has recently become my favorite kitchen experiment and my favorite gift to give away.  I’m constantly thinking and talking about them, and I may have even had a few dreams revolving solely around the macaron and its endless flavor combination possibilities.  It became clear to me that it was time to re-visit the chocolate-peanut butter macaron recipe from my very first attempt (emphasis on the word “attempt”) about a month ago.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve been a mac-making machine lately, making chocolate macaron shells still brought about a whole new challenge for me.  The addition of cocoa powder into the batter scared the living daylights out of me.  And as David Lebovitz suggests cutting back on almond flour while Tartelette suggests cutting back on powdered sugar when attempting chocolate macarons, I was torn and confused.  What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa anyway?

Luckily, my chocolate shells turned out very nicely due to David’s recipe (although that doesn’t mean that Tartelette’s wouldn’t have turned out just as well!).  I went with my original inspiration and filled the shells with a salted-peanut butter buttercream, mimicking my sister-in-law’s peanut butter buckeyes.  I kept my promise to my sister-in-law and my brother and made sure that they got to taste these less-fragile, correctly made cookies.

In other (much more exciting) news, Evan’s great friends, Sam and Megan, were married at a gorgeous black tie ceremony in Detroit this past weekend.  Evan selected some really nice wedding gifts to be shipped to their home, but I also decided to bake them something nice and have it waiting for them in their suite after the reception.  I wanted to make them something really special and pretty… something personalized just for them on their special day.  I didn’t even find out until after I’d given them the cookies that Megan just so happens to be allergic to gluten.  Thank goodness I’d ended up making these… one of the few fancy and gluten-free treats that I’ve come to grow so fond of whipping up!

As purple was one of the theme colors of their wedding decor, I chose to make Megan and Sam some violet shells with a blackberry buttercream filling.  I hand-painted some of the macs with tiny designs and flourishes, including one with their initials.  I saw the beautiful couple two days after the wedding and found out how much they enjoyed the cookies.  Congratulations, newlyweds!

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Inspired by: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Chocolate Macaron Shells

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “French Chocolate Macarons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Substituting the vanilla ingredients for the chocolate ingredients and proportions above, follow the French Macaron Shell directions portion of the recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  The cocoa should be added into the food processor and ground along with the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Baking time may need to be increased by an extra minute or so.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

½ cup smooth peanut butter           ½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract              2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

-Optional:

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have assembled and sandwiched with buttercream, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush over top of the shells.  Sprinkle a little kosher or flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies for an extra salty bite.

Blackberry Wedding Macarons

Pretty Purple Macaron Shells

For purple (or any other color) macaron shells, follow the French Macaron Shell recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  Desired amount of gel food coloring can be added to macaron batter just after dry ingredients are sifted in and just before starting to fold dry ingredients into the meringue.  A good way to do this is to squeeze the gel directly onto a clean spatula before using the same spatula to fold the batter.

Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from sammyw‘s “Raspberry Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup seedless blackberry preserves

2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in blackberry preserves and beat until homogeneous.  Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until desired sweetness has been achieved.  Once sugar has been dissolved, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy.

-Optional

To make the designs, I diluted some more of the purple food coloring with a drop or so of water and used a fine paintbrush to apply a small amount of the thick purple liquid to the tops of the cookies in different designs.  Allow painted shells to dry completely before stacking, packaging, handling or serving.