Archives for posts with tag: berries

I’m trying to get my groove back in the kitchen.  Once you’ve lived in one place for a few years, you have your own routine however mundane it is.  You know where you like to buy your tomatoes from, where the best bread is, and that Reinick Farms has the most delicious eggs.  Now that I’m in a big city, I have a lot more to choose from.  Despite this advantage, I’m stumped as to where to get my groceries, which farmers’ markets are the best…I’m giving them all a trial run.  I will soon learn which places fit me.

It’s funny how these things enter some peoples’ minds.  I’m picky about these matters, going into X supermarket isn’t going to cut it for me.  It does make things a little more difficult, but way more fun.  Who doesn’t like to explore a city looking around for the best food it has to offer?  So I’m enjoying myself right now-getting a feel for the city until I find a job.

I picked up strawberries at a farmers’ market.  A fresh strawberry is a thing of beauty.  They bring back many childhood memories for me.  I remember sitting in our garden where wild strawberries would grow, basking in the sun and feasting away on those tiny gems.  Finding local strawberries always excites me, the taste is completely different and on top of the great taste, the little green stems are ever so cute.

I decided to make strawberry crumble bars inspired by a grocery store near my parents’ house in Rhode Island.  Layered bars are a favorite of mine- the different layers, textures, and crunch are quite appealing to me.  These bars are so very delicious, especially with that heavenly dollop of melting whipped cream on top.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Crumble Bars

Makes 9 large bars


for the crust: (adapted from Ina Garten’s lemon bar crust)

1 cup flour

1/4 cup  cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

pinch of salt

for the strawberries:

1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered

sugar, to taste (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup crème fraîche

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the crumble topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup oats (not instant)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of salt


Prepare the crust by combining the brown sugar and flour in an electric mixer on low-speed for a minute.  You should use the paddle attachment.  This can also be done in a bowl if the don’t have an electric mixer.  Add in the seeds from the scraped vanilla bean and then the flour and mix until just combined.  Press the dough into an 8″ by 8″ baking dish and chill for at least one hour.  After it has chilled, bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until it just starts to turn light brown.

While the crust is chilling, prepare the strawberries by heating them in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar and remaining vanilla bean seeds.  Add in the vanilla extract and allow the strawberries to wilt slightly.  Cook for 5-7 minutes.  Let the strawberries to cool and once cool mix in the crème fraîche.  Set aside in refrigerator until assembly.

Before the final assembly; mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and walnuts together.  Using your fingers knead in the butter until the mixture is a crumbly texture.  Set aside.

Before baking the crumble bars preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, Take the prebaked crust and layer the strawberries on top, followed by the crumble topping.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the crust turns golden.  Allow the bars to cool for 15 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream.  They’re also good at room temperature or chilled.


As I mentioned in my last post, we were at my parents’ house in Rhode Island enjoying the New England summer.  During our time there we also celebrated my husband’s “real”  birthday.  I call it his real birthday because on his birth certificate his birthday is listed a week later.  According to his mother, his birth wasn’t registered until a week later (he was born at home in Pakistan).  By the time it was registered they couldn’t use the actual birthday.  Long story.

He gets annoyed at me calling official birthday his “fake” one.  I don’t really see why he’s complaining, this year he got four birthday celebrations and I finally made him rack of lamb on his “fake” birthday after five years of him nagging me to make him some (post coming soon). We had a small party for him with some of my parents’ friends and made a nice spread of some of his favorite foods, excluding the rack of lamb, which was to come a week later.

I ordered him a Passion fruit and Coconut cake from our favorite bakery in Rhode Island, Pastiche.  Ordering a cake from Pastiche and then making your own dessert on the side is a self-inflicted set up for failure.  If any of you know about Pastiche, their cakes, tarts, and all their desserts are gorgeous and the taste cannot be beat.

Regardless of the odds racked up against my dessert, I proceeded to make something pink, tied with a ribbon and bow for my husband’s birthday.  I think he’s confident enough in his masculinity to have such a frilly cake on his birthday. Last year, I made him a cheesecake inspired by Pastiche’s vanilla bean cheesecake and it was slightly on the girly side too.

When the desserts were served, people obviously adored the Pastiche cake, but they also loved my homemade dessert as well.  I was pleased to hear people saying it looked so professional.  I totally faked it and this dessert looks way more difficult to make than it actually is.  Ladyfingers filled with whipped mascarpone and topped with berries looks like you went all out, but it really was not all that hard.  Do try it, it’s a lovely summer dessert that feels light when it really is not.  A complete fake out!

Raspberry and Whipped Mascarpone Cream Charlotte

inspired and adapted heavily from Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours (Rasberry and Cream Charlotte) This one uses a custard, which I did not make.

serves 8-10


28-30 ladyfinger cookies, available in Italian shops or bakeries (or make your own)

2-3 pints fresh raspberries

juice and zest of 2 limes

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened

1 pint heavy cream or whipping cream

up to 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teapoons pure vanilla extract

confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


First prepare the mascarpone cream.  In a blender, purée the raspberries with the lime juice and 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar.  Once puréed, strain the seeds out through a wire wesh strainer and set aside.

In a large bowl using a whisk or electric mixer whip the cream with 1/4 cup  superfine sugar and vanilla extract until it forms whipped cream, it should be fluffy and light. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the charlotte.

Next, with a rubber spatula, fold in the softened mascarpone cheese.  Make sure you are gentle as to not deflate the whipped cream.  Once combined, fold in the raspberry purée gently and toss in the lime zest.  Taste the mascarpone cream and add additional sugar, if necessary.

The somewhat tricky part is next.  Take a 9 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Line the ladyfingers up around the perimeter of your pan, to see how many you need to line the outside of the pan, I needed 24.  Next, using a sharp serated knife, cut each ladyfinger to 3 inches in length.  Reserve the end pieces as support for the ladyfingers.

Once all the ladyfiners are cut, line them up so the rounded edge is on top and the sugared side is facing out.  Take the little pieces that you cut off from the lady fingers and prop them against the bottom of the ladyfingers all the way around the inside of the pan, as to provide support.  With the remaining whole ladyfingers, lay them on the bottom of the pan so the bottom area is fully covered.*

Next, fill the cream in the pan and smooth over the top.  Arrange the remaining pint or 2 of raspberries depending on how “full” you want the fruit portion to be, in any pattern you wish.  But make sure the bottoms of the raspberries are pointed upwards for a more polished look.  You may garnish with any other berries you like.   Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  Remove the springform portion of the pan carefully and tie the ladyfingers with a ribbon for aesthetic reasons as well as for support.   When serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar for garnish.

*Feel free to email me with any questions regarding the set-up of the lady fingers.

A signature trait of mine is that I can be quite sensitive.  I see a restaurant going out of business, I ponder and wonder why people didn’t like it.  I cannot tolerate people being mean to waitstaff or a salesperson.  Someone beeps their horn at me while driving, I can’t sleep at night thinking about it.  I see a person eating alone at a restaurant, I wonder if they are okay and if they have any friends.  I see devastating news on the television and I am in tears.

I mentioned restaurants going out of business first because that is something that really bothers me.  I know some restaurants just serve bad food and are mismanaged.  But, I think of the planning and the blood, sweat, and tears that people put into such endeavors.  It really breaks my heart.  My sister is the same way, one time she started crying when she saw a big grand opening sign for a new restaurant and no one inside with the waiters ready to serve.  She said, “They have all the food ready and are waiting for people to eat it.”  Even typing that sentence makes my heart sink.

Where I live now, I have seen the closing of several restaurants and bakeries.  New places just don’t do too well here.  There aren’t many options in terms of dessert.  This saddens me because I love going out for dessert.  When I lived in Montreal there was a patisserie at every corner and back home in Rhode Island, Pastiche is a local institution.

Baking is not my speciality.  I do enjoy it, but when I bake, my usually organized, neat, and tidy self goes out the window.  Flour splattered all over the counter, 100 random mixing bowls, eggshells, and sugar are in a disarray all over my kitchen.  This is why I wish, I could go and pick up something from a dessert shop and call it a day.  It would save my kitchen from a tornado of baking supplies.

I made this summer berry upside down cake firstly, because I went crazy buying berries last weekend at the farmer’s market and secondly, I didn’t have the ingredients to make cheesecake for my husband.  ***Husband spoiler alert:  I am saving the cheesecake his birthday next month.***

I was also unsure how this cake would turn out because I was combining two recipes together.  Also, another baking phobia of mine is that my dessert will come out tasting too eggy.  I am one of those people who can’t stand the smell or taste of egg yolks.  I am sure the “real” foodies will now outcast me.  But to my defense, who wants an egg-yolky tasting dessert anyway?  The upside-down aspect of the cake also had me on the edge.  I was convinced this was going to be a disaster comprised of me using a knife to scrape off the berries from the bottom of the pan.  Thankfully, none of this was the case and the cake was delightful, not overly sweet and just the right hint of berry goodness.  Plus, the berry colors are my absolute favorite.

Sorry, if I depressed any of you with the ramble about my sensitive nature.  At least, I ended with cake.

Summer Berry Upside-Down Cake

Serves 6-8

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Plum and Raspberry Upside-Down Cake and Ina Garten’s Honey Vanilla Pound Cake


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 tablespoons for the pan)

4 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 pints raspberries*

1 pint blackberries*

1 1/2 cups cake and pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup organic cane sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup plain yogurt

*use any fruits you like and are in season


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Spread 1/2 tablespoon of butter over the bottom of a springform pan (8 1/2″ by 2 1/2″).  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper spread the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter over the parchment paper.  In a bowl, mix the berries with the brown sugar.  Arrange the berries on the bottom of the pan, I clustered the blackberries in the middle and surrounded them with the raspberries.  Set aside.

Next, in a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt.

Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the remaining butter, canola oil, and sugar for about 3 minutes.  Combine the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a bowl and drop one egg at a time into the butter, oil, and sugar mixture on medium speed.  Mix until combined and add in the yogurt and mix until incorporated.

Turn your mixer to low speed and gradually pour in the flour until it is combined.  Do not overmix.

Pour the batter evenly over the berries.  Bake for 1 hour, but at the 40 minute mark turn the oven down to 325.  After 1 hour, make sure the cake is done by inserting a knife and making sure it comes out clean.  Allow to cool.  Using a knife, go around the edges of the cake to make sure it does not stick to the pan.  Unlock the springform pan and invert it over your serving dish, so that the berries are on top (remove the parchment paper).  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh vanilla whipped cream.

Pear Upside Down Cake on Foodista
Pear Upside Down Cake on FoodistaPear Upside Down Cake

This recipe has been requested numerous times.  I did not intend on posting it, but I will since it had such rave reviews.  It is so simple to make and was the result of having nothing to eat on a weekend breakfast.  I am including the recipe that yields a serving of 4 slices of bread.  Just double or triple, etc if you need to make a larger quantity.

Ricotta and Raspberry Stuffed French Toast

Makes 4 slices


4 slices of bread, I only had farmer’s market whole wheat on hand, but the best choice would be Brioche or Challah

1 egg

3-4 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

tiny pinch of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more if you want it more “cinnamony”)

1 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

vegetable oil or butter for frying

fresh berries, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoons toasted chopped walnut, for garnish, optional

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for garnish, optional

some mint leaves for garnish, optional

maple syrup, optional

for the ricotta filling:

3/4 a cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon toasted chopped walnuts, optional


First make the ricotta filling.  Using an electric mixer beat all the filling ingredients together (except the almonds) on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Next, mix in the nuts.  Set aside.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat with some oil or butter.  In a shallow bowl beat the egg with the milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt.  Dip the bread slices in this mixture.  and place about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture between 2 slices of bread, sort of like making a sandwich.  Fry the “sandwich” in the frying pan until golden brown on both sides.  Repeat until all your slices of bread are finished.  Garnish with any remaining ricotta mixture, berries, and powdered sugar.  Serve with maple syrup if you would like.