Archive for the ‘Farmers Market Finales’ Category

Queso Fresco

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

I withstood the rain today, meandering through the University farmers market in desparate hopes of a sign of a coming summer, and found it in two baskets of strawberries and a pound of cherries. The first of the year!

The cherries aren’t great, and let me tell you they certainly weren’t cheap! And I’ll bet if I counted, each strawberry ran me upwards of a quarter a piece. It wasn’t only my desperation for anything besides rhubarb that led me to these purchases.

Tomorrow, at noon, I will be the chef demonstrator at the farmers market on the street outside the pike place market. I have been a little nervous, you see. It’s really hard to demonstrate a dessert with out fruit! Last resort, I could have shown off my favorite rhubarb compote. But really, it’s June already, and rhubarb is like, so last season.

Thankfully I spied a table with my strawberries, which disappeared in a matter of minutes, myself taking two of the last four pints. The crates of cherries were going just as fast, but with a truck load carried over from Chellan I wasn’t at risk of missing out. They aren’t yet as sweet as I know they can be, bursting with the intense sunshine they absorb, so they will be treated to a pickle with balsamic and sugar , or a stewing of sorts with their pits.

Ironically, after all this hullabaloo over some fruit, that isn’t the focus of my demonstration tomorrow.

I will be demonstrating a technique for queso fresco. Nothing fancy, but this humble cheese is something I find incredibly impressive each time I do it. This cheese I have seen under many an alias. At Veil we call it Fromage Blanc on our menu, I have often seen it as Farmers Cheese, and the New York Times even featured a similar recipe under the name Ricotta. Press this cheese for a couple of hours, and you have Paneer.

This easy and quick cheese is a product of curdling milk at 170 degrees with an acid and straining the curds from the whey. This preparation varies from most other cheeses by using an acid rather than rennet to cut the casein’s, and break the curds from the whey, but that is a different post, waiting for myself to become better informed. Because an acid is so readily available, and this cheese is meant to be eaten as quickly as you can, it is the most accessible, and therefor humble of cheeses.

My introduction to this process was last summer at Veil, where we traded the milk for half and half laced with tarragon, rosemary, and thyme. This sat between a mascarpone enriched risotto and a veil of shaved parmesan surrounded by a thin drizzle of truffle oil. I have seen it stuffed into all manner of pastas, layered in lasagna’s, used in spreads, and of course in desserts like cheese cakes.

To apply this method to dessert, we will steep the milk with lemon balm before we break it, and serve it sweetened with a drizzle of honey, a scattering of toasted nuts. I chose this recipe because it is the perfect foil for summer fruit. While the New York Times called it bland in a good way, I prefer to think of it as subtle. Either way, it is definately a blank canvas, and can be dressed up or down, being paired with something simple like sliced strawberries tossed with a bit of sugar and black pepper, or something a bit more involved like peaches roasted with honey and chamomile. It could be scattered with fresh raspberries still warm from the sun they collected on the vines in your back yard minutes before, or pickled sour cherries. Sliced nectarines dusted with turbinado and burnt with a torch wouldn’t mind sharing the plate with this cheese, and a sautee of plums and cherry tomatoes a la Claudia Fleming would find a spot next to this cheese just as comfortable.

I am still formulating a dish to feature queso fresco at Veil, although I am sure we will call it Fromage Blanc as we always do. To take this simple summer dessert from the back yard to the white table cloth, I’ll add textural components, fruit components, force the cheese into an obedient shape with two spoons, and then design a beautiful plate to make this as much a feast for the eyes as the palate. Already I see a honey sauce stenciled on the plate, a proud white quenelle of queso fresco broken from sea breeze fresh raw milk, raspberries, crystallized ginger, shards of a cookie of some sort, and petite green leaves of lemon balm scattered.

But who knows where this dish will be by the time the rest of the fruit arrives. I do know that this delicious and amazing fresh cheese will help me and my menu welcome summer and her fruits into Veil.

Queso Fresco

Queso Fresco, or farmers cheese

½ gallon whole milk

2 to 4 oz lemon juice

1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt, or ½ tsp table salt

A handful of lemon balm or lemon verbena, or other fresh herbs

Equipment:

A fine mesh strainer

Cheese cloth

A large bowl

A large slotted spoon or slotted utensil

A thermometer that reads up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit

A large pot

A whisk

1. Prepare the mesh strainer by lining it with 3 layers of cheese cloth large enough to drape over the sides, and set it over the bowl.

2. Place the milk and salt in the large pot with the herbs, and scald. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Insert the thermometer. Bring the milk back to 170 degrees, and begin whisking in the lemon juice, starting with 2 oz and adding more if needed. Whisk until the milk curdles, let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes.

3. Carefully transfer the solid curds to the cheese cloth lined strainer, removing the herbs, and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Alternately, you can carefully pour the contents of the pot into the strainer, slowly and with much caution.

4. When the whey has drained from the curds, remove them from the cheese cloth and transfer to a storage container. Chill for an hour or two before serving.

Farmers Market Finale #4; Butternut Cream Chiffon

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I know there are many of you, like myself, who drag ourselves through the stalls of the farmers market rain or shine. As the season turns from summer to autumn and finally into winter, it takes a real effort to patronize the farmers markets this time of the year. Especially here in Seattle where the perpetual drizzle begins in September and ends in June.

The effort is needed not just in motivating yourself to get there and waltz around in the rain, but also in envisioning the dish hidden in the markets offerings. The produce available takes an additional effort once in your kitchen. No longer is the food ready to eat out of hand, rather we are seeing vegetables that need a lot of heat to be rendered edible, hearty greens, earthy potatoes, and plenty of root vegetables. This leaves a pastry chef with few choices.

Oh sure, there’s honey and hazelnuts, they’re always there, and the apples and pears we have been waiting for all year. But we are looking at a long stretch, and one can begin to tire of these things quickly. This leaves us to wonder, “what else can we make dessert with?” Pumpkin is nice, but what of the other squashes they tumble around the oversized bins with? Is the long necked butternut that much different than our pie pumpkins in flavor?

Not much, but just enough to make a classic thanksgiving pie better.

The flesh of the butternut is a little easier to deal with, and provides a creamier and more flavorful puree for pie. Now I doubt any who eat this pie will be able to differentiate between the squashes. Our palates are so accustomed to the trio of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove spicing pumpkin pie, that it is common to associate those flavors more with pumpkin that the flavor of pumpkin itself. Have you ever had a pumpkin pie latte? No pumpkin there, but it sure tastes like it.

I once read in a magazine that there is absolutely no reason to extract your own pumpkin rather than using canned squash. This statement, said with too much authority, really rubbed me the wrong way. Anyone who walks the farmers market can give you a reason for each beautiful squash spilling out of the cardboard bins. They were correct, however, in assessing the difficulty of making your own puree by comparison to opening a can.

However, roasting the squash makes this task a bit easier. Simply quarter your butternut, rub it with a little neutral flavored oil to prevent the skin from drying, and pop it in a 400 degree oven. Now, walk away for about an hour. When the squash is nice and tender, allow it to cool to a temperature your hands can tolerate, and scrape the flesh from the skin. If you have a food processor, puree the squash for a minute or two, or do your best job with a potato masher. Now, freeze the squash overnight.

This step will add another day to your pie making, but your pie will be better for it. Drawing from a previous post, this additional step is a perfect example of controlling water. When freezing, the water molecules expand, and loosen themselves from the starchy puree. As they thaw and contract, they seperate and bleed out of the puree. If thawed over a strainer, the liquid drips away, leaving us with a thicker, denser, richer puree.

A benefit to taking this extra step in a restaurant, is that I can process a large amount of squash at once, store the puree in the freezer, and take what I need out over the season, ready to thaw.

This puree is going to make our chiffon more intense. A classic American pie, the family of chiffon is lightened with an egg white meringue, giving it the delicate texture it takes it’s name for. While i love the delicate texture, the flavor of the egg white isn’t quite right for me, so I have exchanged the meringue for a light, whipped cream. A caloric increase to be sure, but this pie is a rare treat, coming to us in a season of celebration and reward buffets and gluttony.

A chocolate crumb crust laden with ground hazelnuts holds this chiffon in place, offering a deep, bittersweet balance to the richness of the pie. While on Veil’s menu the dish is accompanied by two sauces, a vanilla bean anglaise and a swipe of nutella sauce, along with hazelnut praline, pie spiced whipped cream, and nutella powder. However, when it makes it to my own thanksgiving table as it has for 3 years now, a simple vanilla whipped cream will be served aside the pie, along with dare I admit, coolwhip, a family favorite with my inlaws.

All in all, this pie should be started the two days before you want to eat it. I know it’s quite a time frame to ask of you, but most of it is wait time. It’s just that time of year, when an effort has to be made for everything from going outside to cooking the seasons offerings. I suppose this pie is a good excuse to stay in!

Butternut Chiffon Pie

One chocolate crumb crust, home made or purchased

One butternut squash, roasted, pureed, frozen, and thawed as described above

1 1/2 cups cream, kept cold to whip

2 cups butternut puree

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp clove

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 sheets of gelatin, re-hydrated in ice water. (approximately 4 tsp granulated gelatin sprinkled over 1/2 cup water until hydrated, and melted over low heat.)

1. In a medium saucepan, cook the squash puree, brown sugar, and spices over low heat. Stir to avoid scorching for about 2 minutes, until the puree is glossy.

2. Transfer the puree to a food processor, and turn it on. Spin the puree for 2 minutes.

3. Add the milk and spin for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the work bowl down and add the eggs. Pulse until the eggs are evenly distributed.

4. Transfer the pie filling back to a medium sauce pan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens a bit, as a custard would, about 3-5 minutes. Add the softened gelatin and cook until it is completely dissolved evenly distributed.

5. Transfer the squash filling to a bowl, and cool it on the counter until it is cool enough to fold in whipped cream without melting it, about room temperature.

6. When the squash filling is cool, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the squash in 3 additions. Transfer the chiffon to the prepared pie crust and chill for 4 hours, or overnight.

Farmers Market Finale #3; Apricot Crumble

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

I called my sister yesterday looking for a coffee house companion, only to find she was working, as she does 4 days a week selling fruit at the local farmers markets. I was mentally preparing for solitude with an afternoon cup of joe when she changed my plans with a single phrase.

“It’s the last week for apricots.”

It hit me all at once. One of my favorite fruits, the tangy apricot had nearly passed me by. How did this happen? Could it be that without Merv, our favorite farmer at Eva delivering boxes strait from his Yakima farm/orchard directly to my arms, I am unable to keep the seasons strait? What else have I lost my chance at this year?

Luckily for me, my sister came to the rescue, sparing me a year without apricots. Once I drove across town to the farmers market she was working at, she gave me a paper sack full of a large, more acidic variety that fits my liking best. More acidic is a relative term as these beauties were so perfectly ripe that their sugar content trumped any trace of pucker.

I ate as many as I could before getting home, where the sack was placed on my kitchen counter for further consumption. However, when I reached in the bag this morning to add an apricot to my Greek yogurt, a treat I had been longing for since the night before, it became evident by my now gooey fingertips that these apricots needed to be dealt with promptly. And a girl can only eat so many apricots.

I began brainstorming, contemplating the best use for ripe, ripe, ripe apricots. One thought of crumble and I looked no further. The apricots would melt beautifully under the cinnamon streusel, textured with a hand full of oats.

As I slipped the flesh from the apricot stones, I tucked the stones aside in a bowl. You see, apricot stones are like gold to me. Inside the thick, brittle stone is an “almond.” A kernel really, with the same intense flavor of a bitter almond. This unique flavor extracted from bitter almonds to make almond flavoring is owed to a single flavor molecule; Benzaldahyde. This flavor is present in bitter almonds, the pits of apricots which are responsible for the liquor Amaretto, and the hearts of all stone fruits. In France, this flavor is given the heading Noyaux, a name that refers to stone fruits. While the flavor of almond is very clear, when extracted from the pit of an apricot, it mingles with apricot essence. Likewise, when extracted from cherry stones, the flavor of almond mingles with a distinct cherry quality.

This diamond in the rough is never spared in my kitchens, every pit saved for use somewhere. For this simple crumble, I chopped the apricot kernels finely and tossed it with the apricots and sugar. In the professional kitchen, these kernels are often steeped with cream and used to make ice cream to top the crumble, or a bavarian or panna cotta to serve with a stone fruit accompaniment. I may also grind the kernels with sugar in a food processor to save for later use in peach pie, nectarine crostada, apricot crumble, or cherry turnovers.

You get the idea. And to Michael and all those who asked of my last post, “what is cherry stone ice cream?” it’s this that I speak of, steeping cream for ice cream with the kernels found inside the hearts of stone fruits to release their almondy flavor.

This is my all purpose crumble topping recipe, developed over time from one my mom handed down to me. She took it from Laurels Kitchen, but as we looked over it together years ago, she followed each ingredient with the alteration she makes. “So you need ¼ cup sugar, well I always double that and use brown sugar. It calls for bran but I always skip that and add more oats. Then I melt extra butter and just add what ever it needs. Oh, and I always double the recipe.”

This recipe can be altered in many ways for use all season. You can play around by changing the sugar to all brown or all white depending on the delicacy of the fruit you choose. The oats can be withheld, replaced by nuts, and the cinnamon can be omitted or changed to any spice you feel fits the bill.

I am topping my own crumble with a healthy dollop of the greek yogurt I spoke of. I have never been a whipped cream kind of girl. Sweetened with a little honey, I use greek yogurt in place of whipped cream nearly everywhere I can.

Apricot Crumble

Roughly 20 to 30 apricots, depending on size

1/3 cup sugar, more if the apricots are tart

2 tbsp. Cornstarch

10 kernels broken free from the apricot pits

 

  1. Half the apricots and remove the pits, setting them aside. Cut the apricot halves into 4 pieces and set them in a large bowl.
  2. With a dishtowel covering the pits, crack them open with a blow from a heavy bottomed pot or pan, or a hammer. Alternately, use a nut cracker. Extract the “almond” like kernels from the center of each fruit, reserving 10 that are of nice size and healthy looking.
  3. Pulse the sugar and apricot “almonds” in a food processor until the “almonds” are finely ground. Alternately, chop them very fine with a knife and toss with the sugar.
  4. Add the sugar and cornstarch to the apricots and toss until evenly coated. Fill the desired shallow ovenproof baking dish or individual ramekins with the apricots and set aside while you make the topping.

Crumble Topping

1 cup butter

2 ½ cups flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

(Optional ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats or chopped nuts)

 

  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. You are just cooling it enough that you can mix it into the other ingredients with your hands and not burn yourself.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss with your hands, breaking the brown sugar up with your fingers while you mix.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the cooled butter in.
  4. Mix with your hands, breaking up any large lumps while tossing until the entire mixture is moist and crumbly.
  5. Top your apricots with this mixture and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. It will be done when the juices bubble and the top looks lightly browned.

Farmers Market Finale #2; black and blue compote

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I was leery last week, as I began a my farmers market finales. I worried that my upcoming travels would make a false start of the new series. However, as quickly as I gathered worries, they were dismissed by the prospect of creating market desserts from east coast markets. My first stop on this trip was a short stay with my Aunt and Uncle in New Jersey, who assured me there was a near by farmers market. It didn’t take much arm twisting to get a ride down, just a promise of dessert. The timing couldn’t have been better, as we were expected at my cousins house for a family barbecue that evening.

We arrived at the Trenton Farmers Market early, just as the vendors were settling in for the day. A year round affair housed in a permanent structure, we found over a third of the stalls vacant, waiting for times of greater abundance. I was told in New Jersey, abundance means corn and tomatoes, of which we saw none yet.

We did find something for dessert quickly, at a table covered in stacked pints of blueberries. I started to collect a few pints to purchase, when my Uncle and I began to wonder why the blueberries we had were costlier than the same boxes on the opposite side of the table. We were told that while they looked the same, they were very different berries. Upon tasting we were quite surprised to find such a difference in flavor between the two. The berries I had initially reached for were of the “Duke” variety, large and sweet but light in flavor, and the pricier of the two. The second variety was smaller, but packed quite a punch of flavor with much more acidity and blueberry notes. “Weymouth” they were called, and we settled on them as we were going to do more than eat the berries out of hand.

We strolled back through the market, making our way to Halo Farms, the dairy next door. We made it to the end of the market before I was detoured by baskets of black raspberries. A deep, musky variety of raspberry, I had my first taste of black raspberries last year in a pie made by Amy McCray, a native to Ohio, a state she describes as over grown by “real” raspberries. It was love at first bite, and I snatch the berries every chance I have, which is rarely in Seattle.

The plan was now forming in my head, and by the time my hands reached for the door to the dairy, it was settled. I would make a compote using a method from Claudia Flemming’s book The Last Course. The black raspberries and half the blueberries would be cooked with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. When they bubbled thick and glossy, they would be pureed and strained of the black raspberries overwhelming amount of seeds, and folded with the remaining fresh blueberries. Alas, a compote featuring the dual flavor of blueberries, cooked and fresh, and deepened with the musky flavor of black raspberries. This compote can be made with just the blueberries and will be equally delicious. I added the black raspberries last minute, letting the “in the moment” quality of the market guide my decisions.

To serve the berries we needed a little more than spoons. For my Aunt Joanne, we purchased a container of Halo Farms vanilla ice cream, a simple foil for the compote that takes no extra preparation on the part of the cook. But just for fun, and to use another ingredient you might find at your own local farmers market, I make a Yogurt Mousse.

The mousse is sweetened with white chocolate rather than sugar. This addition adds a depth to the mousse sugar wouldn’t, along with a subtle richness to counter fresh yogurts tang. When serving this mousse at Eva, I never added white chocolate in the title of the dish, as the cloyingly sweet confection often takes a bad rap. Many white chocolate desserts are so sweet, people eschew them upon any mention of the ingredients addition.   The white chocolate is tamed by the yogurt in such a pleasant manner that it will often go undetected if left unmentioned, and its role in the dessert is as a sweetener, not a costar. If your local farmers market sells fresh yogurt, this recipe is a beautiful way to use it, even if it’s made from goats milk!

You’ll see in the slide show my sous chef for the day, my little cousin Devon. She helped me stir, taste, and did a knock out job separating the blueberries into two piles. One for the dessert, and one for her to eat!

BLACK AND BLUE COMPOTE

4 pints blueberries

2 pints black raspberries

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Wash the berries, reserving half the blueberries for later. Place the remaining berries in a medium sized sauce pan with the sugar and cinnamon, and stir to distribute the sugar.

2. Cook the berries over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the berries begin to release their juices and you have a runny consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes more, until the juice bubbles thick and becomes glossy. Remove the compote from the heat and set aside to cool.

3. When the mixture has cooled, transfer it in the cup of a blender. Process the compote for 1 minute, and strain through a fine mesh strainer.

4. Add to the pureed compote the berries withheld in the first step and stir to coat.

5. Serve over ice cream, or the recipe for yogurt mousse that follows.

YOGURT MOUSSE

2 tsp gelatin

2 tbsp water

8 oz white chocolate

2 cups yogurt, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups cream

1. Bloom the gelatin. Place the cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin over the water evenly. Set this aside while preparing the next steps.

2. Prepare the cream for whipping later. Place the cream inside the bowl you are planning on whipping it in, and place that bowl and the whisk you plan to use inside the refrigerator. Making sure the cream, and the equipment used to whip it are super cold makes a denser whip cream that can add more structure to your final mousse.

3. Melt the white chocolate over a double boiler. This step is done by chopping the white chocolate into small pieces, and placing them in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. The bowl should fit over the top of a wide mouthed pot, which you will fill with 2 inches of water and bring to a low simmer. The steam from the simmering water will slowly melt the white chocolate in the bowl set over the top of the pot. It is always important when melting chocolate over a double boiler that the water does not boil, but it is partularly important with white chocolate. White chocolate is very high in cocoa butter, which will burn quickly even from the steam of boiling water. If the water boils, remove the bowl and let the water cool down a bit, then return it over a low simmer and continue melting.

5. Soften the yogurt. Transfer the yogurt from their containers to a bowl and soften the yogurt with a spatula, smoothing out any lumps. When the white chocolate has melted, stir the yogurt into the white chocolate until combined smoothly and evenly. Set this bowl aside.

6. Melt the gelatin. By this time, the gelatin granules should have absorbed all the water you added them to. They will look translucent and, well, gelatinous. To melt the gelatin, transfer it to a small saucepan, and place it over very low heat. The gelatin should begin to melt very quickly. Attend to it until it is melted, stirring to encourage the process. Gelatin will burn very easily, so watch this step carefully. It won’t take long, so your watchful eye will be gratified quickly. When the gelatin is melted, add it to the white chocolate yogurt mixture and stir it to combine evenly.

7. Cool the the yogurt mixture in an ice bath. This step brings the temperature of your white chocolate yogurt mixture down, allowing the gelatin to begin to set, and the white chocolate to thicken. Take two nesting bowls, filling the larger with ice and water, and the smaller with the yogurt mixture. Place the yogurt filled bowl into the ice water, making sure the water level is not so high it comes over the sides of the yogurt filled bowl. Stir the mixture unitl it resembles the texture of softly whipped cream. This is done because you want it to be of a similar texture to the whipped cream you are about to fold in. Set this mixture aside.

8. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Remove your whipped cream from the refrigerator and whip slowly to soft peaks. This can be done by hand or with an electrical mixer. If done by hand, the naturally slow incorporation of air gives the cream a thicker, denser texture that is desirable. If the cream is whipped with a machine, don’t turn the speed up past a medium setting. You want to add the air bubbles slowly so your cream has more structure to add to the mousse.

9. Fold the cream into the thickened yogurt mixture in 3 batches. Begin by folding 1/3 of the cream into the yogurt mixture carefully, with a large flat spatula. Repeat this step with the remaining whipped cream in 2 more additions.

10. Transfer the mousse. Spoon the mousse into individual serving dishes and chill for at least 3 hours.

Lavender Shortcakes with Strawberries and Honey Cream

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

This is the first installation in my Farmers Market Finales, a series meant to capture the impromptu nature of the farmers market. This dessert features strawberries, and partners it with musky lavender and sweet blackberry honey.

While I did see a few different stone fruits at the market, our local strawberries have just started to arrive. Because their season will end long before cherries and apricots, I chose a basket of tiny ultra sweet strawberries from a nameless booth. It could have been children picking out of their back yard, who knows, but these berries were so sweet I’d buy them off the side of the road.

Strawberry shortcake seems a bit cliche, I know. But by adding lavendar and honey to the dish, we are making it a bit more elegant and using two more wonderful offering from the market. Fresh lavender was stripped form the stem and folded into the shortcake. By using honey rather than the usual granulated sugar in both the shortcake and the whipped cream we add a depth of sweetness to this dish.

When choosing a market honey, I look for the darkest honey possible. The darker honey was gathered from plants that take more mineral from the soil, not only making them more beneficial to our bodies, but much deeper in flavor. My favorite Seattle honey is from the Tahuya River Apiaries, an area on the Olympic Peninsula. Their honey has a deep wild quality that I have found unmatched in this area.

The scone recipe I chose is super simple, using a healty dose of cream mixed with our honey to sweeten. The “dump and mix” method used to mix this dough is as easy as it sounds. The dry ingredients are placed in a mixing bowl and whisked together to thoroughly distribute the ingredients. The cream, honey, and a little vanilla are mixed in a second vessel, then poured into a well in the center of the dry ingredients. To mix, you need to use your hand. When I teach this method in classes, I have the entire class make their bear claws, and growl. It works better if you growl, I think.

The bear claw is pushed into the liquid and dry ingredients until your fingers touch the bottom of the bowl. Then with strong circular motions, mix the wet and dry ingredients together in 10 strokes or less. To avoid over working this dough, you want to mix as quickly as possible. Once the batter has formed a sticky mass, you are ready to bake.

To make things even simpler, to shape the shortcakes I pinched off the dough into round lumps, dividing the dough into 12 pieces. This dough is a bit too sticky to roll and stamp, but just right to use your fingers to portion the cakes. If you want your cakes to look a bit more uniform (I know you are out there) try using a round portion scoop, sometimes labled cookie scoops or ice cream scoops with the ejection button. Fianally, the cakes are brushed with a little melted butter before being baked for added richness.

The strawberries were split in half and tossed with a little granulated sugar. A hint of sugar brings out strawberries flavor and makes them glossy and pretty, but feel free to leave them as they come if you like.

The honey cream is simply whipped cream sweetened with honey rather than sugar. I recommend mixing the honey and cream, then chilling it, if you have the time. You will have a denser whipped cream if this is done. Using a light honey is fine for this, but the flavor of a darker honey will really come through nicely. The light honey I used was faint, and a little hard to detect. Although, my eaters had no problems cleaning their bowls. If anything, using a light honey will still taste like sweet whipped cream!

The start to finish time was under an hour, and a minimal amount of equipment is needed, making this ellegant twist on the classic strawberry shortcake appropriate for almost every kitchen.

Lavender Shortcakes

Serves 6

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
The buds stripped from 8 lavender stems
1 1/4 cups cream, cold
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

approximately 2 tbsp melted butter

1. In a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, place the flour, baking powder, salt, and lavender buds. Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Using your hand, create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and set aside.

2. In a seperate vessel, place the cream, honey, and vanilla extract. Using a fork or small whisk, mix the wet ingredients until the honey has completely mixed in with the cream.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the well in the center of the dry ingredients. With your hand formed like a bear claw, push it into the mixture all the way to the bottom. Your fingers should be touching the bowl. Using strong, confident strokes, mix until a sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough from your hand and add it back to the dough in the bowl.

4. Using your fingers, pinch off pieces of dough just a bit bigger than a golf ball. Place them on a sheet pan, preferable lined with parchment. Brush the tops with the melted butter, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. When done, the tops of the shortcakes will be golden, and the center will be set. To check, give the shortcakes a little squeeze. If they give as though the center is unbaked, then return them to the oven. If you are still uncertain, do as I sometimes do and break one open.

Honey Cream

1 cup cream, cold
1/4 cup honey

1. In a bowl, whisk the honey and cream until peaks form.

To assemble the shortcakes

Place 2 shortcakes in a medium sized dish. Cover with sliced strawberries, and add a dollop of honey cream. Enjoy the assembled dessert right away, or store the components separately for a day.