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Strawberry season-short but sweet

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I really like to bake, and that’s because, in all honesty, I love to eat the finished product. Right now, I can’t think of anything but the red, ripe local strawberries that are coming into season. One of nature’s sweetest signs that summer has arrived, fresh strawberries make everything taste amazing, especially desserts.

It’s no surprise that many creative ideas for outstanding cakes, shortcakes, pies, tarts, sweet snack breads, elegantly layered trifles and ice cream have sprung from a box of just-picked strawberries. I can’t wait to get started, can you?

Alas, strawberry season, like summer, is short and sweet, so get your berries while the getting is good and savor every delectable mouthful.

Strawberry Almond Pie

Crust:

1 1/2 cups crushed shortbread cookies

1/4 cup finely chopped blanched whole or slivered almonds

1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling:

6 cups strawberries, hulled

1 cup sugar

3 T. cornstarch

1/3 cup water

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Sweetened whipped cream

Directions: For crust, preheat oven to 350-degrees. In small bowl stir together all crust ingredients. Press on bottom and up sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling, mash enough strawberries to equal 1 cup. In 2-quart saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in mashed berries and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till mixture thickens and comes to a full boil (8 to 15 minutes.) Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in salt and almond extract. Cool 10 minutes.

Fill baked crust with remaining whole strawberries, hull-end-down; pour cooked strawberry mixture over whole strawberries. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.

To serve, garnish with whipped cream. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Easy Strawberry Cheesecake

Ice Cream

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 tsps. lemon zest

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries

3 whole graham crackers, coarsely chopped

Directions: Mix first 4 ingredients with electric mixer till well blended. Freeze 4 hours or till almost solid.

Beat cream cheese mixture with mixer till creamy. Place berries in electric blender and pulse till nearly smooth. Add to cream cheese mixture along with crushed graham crackers. Mix well. Freeze 8 hours or till firm.

Remove ice cream from freezer 15 minutes before serving; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly before scooping to serve. Serves 8.

Strawberry Cobbler

Filling:

8 cups fresh strawberries, hulled (leave small berries whole but cut large berries in half. Dry well on paper towels)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 T. cornstarch

Pinch of salt

1 to 2 tsps. fresh lemon juice

Biscuit Topping:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

10 T. cold butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 tsps. sugar (for sprinkling over top)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Place oven rack in center of oven. Lightly grease 9×13-inch baking pan.

For filling, in medium bowl, toss berries with the sugar, cornstarch, salt and lemon juice. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

For biscuit topping, in medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the butter pieces and cut them into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or fingers till the butter is in pea-sized or smaller pieces.

Stir in buttermilk till dough is just combined. Mixture may be slightly lumpy. Do not overmix. On waxed or parchment paper scoop out the biscuit dough in 12 even spoonsful. With floured hands flatten each portion and space evenly over the filling. Sprinkle the sugar over dough.

Bake cobbler 20 to 25 minutes till biscuits are golden and filling is thick and bubbly. To test for doneness, with knife, gently lift a biscuit up and away from the filling. If the dough is wet underneath continue baking in 2 to 3-minute increments till biscuits are completely cooked through.

Cool cobbler 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream of vanilla ice cream. Serves 8 to 10. (Recipe may be halved.)

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