Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust

It's just about the end of strawberry season here, so over the weekend, we went picking at our CSA farm (Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA) for one last haul. While we were there, I picked up a quart of sweet cherries, the first of the season. That means one thing: cherry pie!

This is a two-crust lattice pie, which may sound intimidating, but it's pretty simple, actually. The crust is based on Alton Brown's recipe, but I make it with all butter (he uses some lard in his). The most time consuming thing about this pie? Pitting and chopping the cherries. But it's worth it in the end. And if the only cherry pie you've had was made with those cans of pie filling at the grocery store? You owe it to yourself to try this.

For the crust (makes two crusts):

  • 1 C. cold unsalted butter (16 Tbsp. or 2 sticks), cut into cubes
  • 2 C. AP flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. cold water
For the filling:
  • 4 C. pitted, chopped sweet cherries (about a quart of cherries)
  • 1/3 C. sugar (or to taste, depending on the sweetness of the cherries)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • pinch of salt
For finishing:
  • 1 tsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
In a stand mixer or food processor, mix the butter, flour, and salt together, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (you could also do this by hand). With the mixer or food processor running, slowly add the cold water until the dough forms into a ball (you may not need all the water). Divide the dough in half, flatten each half into a disk, and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pit the cherries, and mix them with the sugar, lemon juice, corn starch, and salt. Set the cherry mixture aside until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Remove one of the disks of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the disk and sprinkle both sides with a little flour. Roll the disk into a circle that is slightly bigger than your pie plate (flip the plate upside down over the dough to check for size). I roll the dough with the plastic between the dough and the rolling pin.

Put the dough into the pie plate and pour the filling into it.

Then take out the other disk of dough. Roll into a circle as above. Then cut the dough into thin strips for the lattice - I find a pizza cutter works best for this. Place half the strips onto the pie in one direction, then weave the remaining strips onto the pie in the perpendicular direction. If you have any strips remaining, use them to seal the edges of the crust with the lattice.

Brush the lattice with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake the pie for 45-60 minutes at 375, until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. You may want to put a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie to catch any spillage.

Allow the pie to cool and set before slicing and serving. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Looking for a cherry pie variation? Try my Cherry-Rhubarb Pie.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

These pancakes are fluffy, with a nice tang from the ricotta and a hint of lemon. They are perfect for a sauce made of fresh strawberries (or you could use any fresh fruit). Maple syrup is probably not the best for these pancakes, since it would probably hide the flavor of the ricotta and lemon.

For the pancakes:

  • 1 1/2 C. buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. ricotta
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 C. AP flour
  • butter for the griddle
For the sauce:
  • 1 C. fresh strawberries, chopped
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs into the buttermilk. Add the ricotta and lemon extract and stir to combine. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, and flour, and gently mix, until just combined. Do not over-mix or your pancakes will be tough.

Heat a griddle or large pan over medium heat. Add a pat of butter and melt to coat the surface. Pour the pancake batter by 1/4 or 1/2 cup portions. Cook until bubbles form and break on the surface of the pancake and the edges begin to brown. Flip the pancakes over and cook for about 1 minute more, until lightly browned. Keep warm until serving.

While the griddle is heating, start the sauce. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer until the fruit begins to soften and a syrup forms. 

Serve the pancakes with the strawberry sauce on top. Refrigerate any leftover sauce - it makes a great topping for ice cream!

Makes 12-16 pancakes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No Cook Dinner: Black Bean Salad

When the weather starts to get warm around here, I like to take the occasional night off from using the oven/stove. Here are some of my previous no cook dinner recipes: Cobb Salad; Lentil Salad with Strawberries and Asparagus; Tortellini and Asparagus Salad; Quinoa Salad; Red Pepper Gazpacho; and Tomato-Corn Soup.

This is a super easy tex-mex inspired cold salad. It is easy to customize to whatever you have in your fridge and pantry. I served it with store-bought multi-grain tortilla chips, but if you don't mind using the stove a bit, you could make your own.


  • 1 can of corn, drained and rinsed (or use 1 C. frozen corn, defrosted, or fresh corn, if it's in season)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed (or use 1 C. chopped fresh tomatoes, if in season)
  • 1 can of diced green chiles, mild or spicy (or use 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced, or use a bell pepper)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1 Tbsp.)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hot sauce, to taste
  • sour cream or yogurt, for serving
In a large bowl, combine the corn, beans, tomatoes, chiles, and shallot. Add the cumin, lime juice, and olive oil, and stir to combine. Taste and add salt, pepper, and hot sauce, as desired. If you have some fresh herbs, like cilantro, that would be an excellent addition. Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries

Want to know a secret? I made dessert for Mother's Day this year. Since I don't find cooking to be a chore, and I made it the day before, I didn't mind. Besides, our family celebration included my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister, and my brother-in-law's future mother-in-law (got that?), so it's not all about me. :)

Anyway, I had picked up two huge pints of fresh strawberries at the farmer's market this week, so I wanted to make something that would go well with those and that would be easy to make ahead and transport.

I can't believe I've never posted a recipe for pound cake on the blog before. It's one of my favorites. I use lemon extract to elevate the flavor (by now, I think you know how I feel about lemon in my desserts), but you could easily substitute vanilla extract (or even orange extract). I also use cake flour instead of all-purpose since it makes the final result less heavy.

  • 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 3/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 C. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the milk and lemon extract and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the cake flour, baking powder, and salt, and beat on medium speed until just combined. Over-mixing will make the cake tough.

Pour the batter into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (or buttered and floured).

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or ice cream.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oatmeal-Crusted Brownies

It's teacher appreciation week at the elementary school, and I was asked to make a dessert for the teacher luncheon. I think brownies are an excellent treat for events like this, since they keep well, are easy to eat with your hands, and don't make a lot of mess. But since it's a special occasion, it's nice to gussy them up a bit.

I don't remember when I first had this type of brownie. I'm pretty sure it dates back to my own childhood, when my mom would bake them for school events.

You can use any brownie recipe here - mine is based on the one from KittenCal on You could also substitute a boxed mix, but be sure to read the label first. Most of them have so many preservatives and additives that I don't think it's worth it.

For the oatmeal crust:

  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 C. rolled oats
  • 2 C. AP flour
  • 1 C. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
For the brownies:
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. water
  • 3 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 C. AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Heat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper (or grease the pan).

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, oats, flour, brown sugar, and baking soda, and stir until mixed. Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to be sure the crust is even. Set aside the rest of the oat mixture.

In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, and water until just boiling, stirring to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add 2 C. of chocolate chips and vanilla; stir until smooth. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then slowly add the chocolate mixture and stir gently to combine. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Add the 1 C. of remaining chocolate chips and stir.

Pour the brownie mixture over the oatmeal crust and smooth evenly. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes until just set. Brownies are easy to over bake, so be sure to check them. Once the smell of brownies begins to permeate the house is when I check. There is nothing worse than a dry brownie.

Allow the brownies to cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, then remove and cut (this is why i love the parchment paper). Cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

Tip: Don't use a serrated knife to cut the brownies. It will make them crumble. Use a chef's knife for a clean cut.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Strawberry-Blueberry Tarts

It's May and that means strawberry season is beginning here in the mid-Atlantic. I usually don't buy strawberries unless they're in season, so I tend to go a little strawberry crazy this time of year. For examples, see last year's Strawberry Mojitos and Strawberry Lemonade, Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry MuffinsSingle Crust Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (that last recipe is the most popular one on this blog).

For my first strawberry recipe of 2012, I decided to make individual fruit tarts. The crust is like a shortbread, buttery and slightly sweet, and I added some blueberries for tartness. You could use all strawberries, if you prefer, or another type of berry, or even peaches.

The dough is easiest to make in a stand mixer or food processor, but it can be done by hand, if you like a challenge.

For the Fruit:

  • 2 C. strawberries, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 C. blueberries
  • 2 tsp. corn starch
For the Crust:
  • 1 C. cold, unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small bowl, sprinkle the strawberries with the sugar and stir to combine. Set aside and allow the strawberries to macerate - this will draw out some of the water from the berries and keep the tarts from becoming soupy.

In a stand mixer or food processor, add the butter, flour, sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until the ingredients begin to combine. Then mix on medium speed until the dough comes together in a ball.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. 

Put each ball of dough into an ungreased muffin tin, pressing it evenly into the bottom and up the sides.

There should be several tablespoons of liquid at the bottom of the bowl of strawberries. Strain out the liquid (but keep it, it's great on ice cream). Add the blueberries and corn starch the strawberries and mix to combine. Spoon the fruit into the prepared crusts.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until the dough is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbling. Allow the tarts to cool so that the fruit sets completely. To remove the tarts from the pan, run a knife around the edge of the tart to loosen it first.