Monday, July 23, 2012

Red Currant Jelly

I've been on a real jam kick lately. Every fruit I see, I think about turning it into jam. And since the market's overflowing with fresh local fruits these days it's really easy to just go crazy and buy too I end up with a lot of jam! For now it's mostly for me and the man and to give to friends and family but it might turn into a business someday...stay tuned!
So anywyay, last week-end I got some really beautiful bright red currants for pretty cheap, as soon as I saw them I knew I had to make jelly!! When I grew up we had a few bushes by the garden always full of those berries, and my mom used to make a good pudding with them. That would have been good, yes, but considering my latest obsession...

Making jam and jelly is really not that hard, it just takes time. And a good idea of how much sugar and lemon juice to use according to the amount of fruit...if you're using pectin, just follow the recipe, but if you want a good classic-tasting jam or jelly it's better to just let the fruit speak for itself with the sugar. There will be A LOT of it(sugar), but it's worth it in the taste! Usually it takes about 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar for every cup of fruit. Yes, that's a lot. It's jam, people!
Okay, back on the red currant jelly...

Those little things are very tart so there needs to be a good amount of sugar in there to make it tasty. Plus the berries have a lot of natural pectin so they need that sugar to concentrate that pectin and make the juice gel properly. It's a whole chemistry thing, I love it!
So, first of all, weigh and wash the berries and put them into a large pot (leave the stems! they have a lot of pectin too!). For every pound of fruit you'll need to add 1/2 cup of water. I had 2 pounds, so that's 1 cup water.

Simmer on medium while crushing the fruit to release its juices, for about 20-30 minutes, until the berries seem fully cooked and easily crushable... They will become colorless and the liquid will be like a syrup.

Pour that cooked fruit in a colander/seive lined with 3 layers of cheesecloth WITHOUT PRESSING ON IT and let it sit overnight. (I put it in the fridge because it's very humid here these days I didn't want to attract insects...)

The next day, discard the fruit and mesure the amount of juice. For every cup add one cup of sugar. I got 2 cups of juice, so 2 cups sugar. Also if you feel like it you can give it some spice, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and all-spice got into mine...subtle but brings it up a notch...
Bring that juice to a boil and cook until the gel test says it's, about 20 minutes.
To test for doneness, put a few plates in the freezer before you get started and to test spoon a bit of the jelly mix on one, leave it in the freezer for a few minutes and if you see that the sample is not dripping like water when you tilt the plate, but ressembles a jelly-like consistency on top, it's done. Here I have to apologize I didn't take any pictures of that process. Sorry.

When it's done skim the foam off, strain it again in a regular strainer to get the spices out, pour into hot STERELIZED jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. I'm not gonna get into the whole canning explanation...the web is LOADED with info on that subject!

When it's all done leave the jars cool 24 hours in a draft-free place. If afterwards there's a jar that didn't get sealed put it in the fridge just in'll stay good for at least a month!

Isn't it pretty?

I got a total of 6 cute little 125ml jars of that good stuff. I'm gonna have to make more because it's too good!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Strawberry-Plum Crisp

This is what summer tastes like! Fresh fruit!!
Strawberries are in season and I bought a load of them a few days ago to make jam, but even after a big batch I had a lot of fruit left. And I also had a few black plums lying around that were a bit to tart to eat raw but were getting a bit too soft... So I made a fruit crisp, one of my favorite dessert to eat AND to make, also a good way to save fruit that are about to die... There's no recipe, per say, only instinct and common sense!


For the fruit mix:
3 big black plums, thinly sliced (don't bother peeling them, the peel will get nice and soft)
About 3-4 cups strawberries (maybe 5, made 6 cups of fruit total), hulled and sliced in half if needed (I sliced the bigger ones in half, left small ones whole!=BIG strawberrry chunks!!)
1 cup sugar (more if you like it very sweet...)
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP lemon juice

For the topping:
2-3 cups quick oats
About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup soft butter, unsalted
1 tsp chinese five spice
Pinch of salt

Mix all the topping's ingredient together until it clumps when you squeeze it. If it's to dry add more butter, if too wet add flour.
Mix all the fruit mix stuff, pour in a 8x8in. baking pan.
Spread the topping and press gently to make it even.
Bake at 350 on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, until it starts bubbling and the fruit is fully cooked (poke it with a fork, there shouldn't be any resistance!).

Grab a spoon and dig in!

p.s. starwberries are very juicy, so to prevent a mess in your oven put a sheet of foil on the bottom rack! This one didn't boil over but just in case... ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Peach and Strawberry Coffee Cake

This is what happens when you get a tub of sour cream on special that's close to the 'best before' date but since you usually don't really use sour cream in semi-healthy baking you kinda end up searching through books and magazines for a recipe that uses LOTS of theeeeen you end up with this yummy, moist and soft peachy coffee cake. I got the recipe in a big baking book and changed it up a bit. It originally called for blueberries, but I didn't have any so I substituted for peaches and strawberries. I also switched half of the sugar for brown sugar because peaches and "cassonade" go hand in hand, right?

Here's the recipe:
the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup sugar, half regular half dark brown(pack it well!)
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

the filling:
2 cups frozen of fresh fruit of your choice(i used peaches and strawberries)
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves

the topping:
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 TBSP butter or margarine, melted
1 TSPP flour

Start by turning on the oven at 350 and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Also grease or spray with oil a 9in. springform pan.
Get the fruit mix ready by simply mixing the fruit and the sugar with the cloves and set aside.
Make the topping: mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla and sour cream and mix.
Gradually add the flour and blend it all well.
The batter will be a bit hard, it's ok!

Spread 2/3 of that batter in the prepared pan. If it's too sticky, put some butter or oil on your fingers and press the batter evenly around the pan. POur the fruit mix over and sponn the reaming batter over the fruit. Again, oily fingers will help!! Sprinkle the topping over for the final layer and bake for 60-65 minutes, until a knife in the middle comes out clean.
Cool in the pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then detach the side of the pan to cool completely.
(by the way, I LOVE my springform pan!!! great for cheese cakes! everybody should have one! just saying...)

Oh My!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Raspberry-Cream Cheese-Peanut Butter Brownie.

Please ignore the mention of "healthy baking" at the top of this blog...this is not one of those recipes. This one is decadent, rich and oh so sinful! It's chocolate, cream cheese, peanut butter, jam, all in one. A medley brownie if you will.
I got the recipe in a big baking bible book, I forget the title, and I changed it a bit to fit today's craving of choco-pb&j-cheesy treat.
It requires quite a bit of organisation so it's good to read the recipe first before getting started. Start by turning on the oven at 350. Also get a 8x8 square pan ready, sprayed with oil.
Here's the ingredients you'll need:

for the filling:
4oz. soft cream cheese
4oz. smooth peanut butter(you could use crunchy but I like smooth...)
1 egg
3 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla

-beat the cheese and p.b. together until smooth, add the egg, sugar and vanilla and mix until very smooth. Set aside.

for the brownie batter:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (NOT melted!)
3/4 cup+1TBSP sugar
1 egg
3oz semi-sweet chocolate melted
2oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

-start by melting the chocolates(in the same bowl...), once melted set aside to cool a bit.
-mix the butter and sugar together until creamy.
-add the egg and beat in.
-add the chocolates slowly and mix well.
-add the flour and salt and blend in with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Spread the batter in the pan, leaving 1 cup aside for the topping.
Spread the cheese/pb mix over.
Add a few teaspoonfulls of jam, I chose raspberry. But cherry would be good too, or strawberry, or even marmalade. Drop spoonfulls of the remaining batter on top.
Spread all that goodness around and swirl a knife through the top to make a pattern. It will look messy but the heat of the oven will take care of the final spread...
Pop it in the oven (on the midddle rack)for 35 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and slice.
It's sooooooooooo gooooooood!!!!!