Saturday, June 28, 2014

Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

 When I was about eight years old, my parents and I drove to Massachusetts to spend the 4th of July with our friends. We planned a fun weekend, stocked the fridge with the makings of quite the barbeque, and bought plenty of glow sticks to wear at night.
   On the 4th, after our little backyard party, we walked up the road to an open field and settled in in our lawn chairs to watch the fireworks. (Side note: it still amazes me that for some people, this is an everyday occurrence; in New York, the most we can do is climb up a fire escape to get to somebody's roof and watch fireworks. This is probably illegal. I will forever be jealous of the small-town life.)
   Just as the fireworks started, our friends' dog started to bark uncontrollably. It took us all of two seconds to realize that we were about to be hit with a rainstorm emitting from the sprinklers on the field. That night, we walked back to our friends' house soaking wet, but it's a moment we still laugh about every 4th of July.
    This year, I'm spending the 4th at Westminster Choir College, where I'm doing a voice program for a couple of weeks; it's great here, but our cafeteria food certainly doesn't compare to the homemade picnic lunch my parents will be putting together. So before I left home, I made this cake as my own little celebration of the start of summer. It's light, moist, not too sweet, full of fresh blueberries, and topped with a thin, almost crunchy glaze. I think I just found myself a new favorite tradition (with quite the tongue-twister recipe title).
Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Bundt Cake 
(adapted from Food Network Magazine)

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups blueberries (about 1 pint)

For the glaze:
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
4-5 tablespoons milk

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a nonstick 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk 3 cups flour, the baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat 2 sticks butter, the brown sugar and vegetable oil in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, at least 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Add about one-third of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk; beat until almost incorporated. Add another one-third of the flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk. Beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat 30 seconds. Finish incorporating the flour by hand to avoid overmixing.
Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Spoon one-third of the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle in half of the blueberries, then top with another one-third of the batter. Scatter the remaining blueberries on top and cover with the rest of the batter; smooth the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool 30 minutes in the pan. Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto the rack to cool completely. 
Meanwhile, make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, butter and 4 tablespoons milk in a bowl; if the glaze is too thick, whisk in up to 1 more tablespoon milk, a little at a time. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Double Chocolate Strawberry Tart

Some situations simply have no shortcut. The work you put in is the result you get, and in most cases, this makes sense; I'm not going to ace a test without studying, get into college without filling out a million and one pieces of paperwork, or learn my arias without spending a few hours sitting at my piano.
But every now and then, life decides to be awesome and throw you a shortcut curve-ball just when you need it. A few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of studying for finals and having late-night rehearsals, I discovered this tart.
 The truth is, baking is deceptive. It seems so complicated, with countless steps (and steps within steps) to a recipe, but the truth is, when it comes to fairly straightforward desserts like this one, you look at the recipe and follow it. It's as simple as that - for real. I promise. You can make this dessert, even if you've never measured out a cup of sugar before in your life. No worries, I'll hold your hand.
 This crust is a breeze to throw together in a food processor; the filling can be whipped up even more quickly; and, within a few minutes, you have a tart that's picture-perfect. Not to mention ridiculously delicious.
 Double Chocolate Strawberry Tart
(adapted from Baking Bites)

1 prebaked chocolate crust (recipe below)
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
7 oz (1 container) marshmallow creme/fluff
4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 oz fresh strawberries 
2 tablespoons strawberry jam (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whip together cream cheese and marshmallow fluff until smooth and well-combined. Blend in the melted and cooled dark chocolate, followed by the vanilla extract, and mix until the filling is a uniform color.
Trim the strawberries and thinly slice.
Fill tart shell with chocolate cream, spreading it evenly, and top with a layer of fresh strawberries. If desired, mix the jam with a teaspoon or so of water, microwave it for 30 seconds to thin it out, and brush it onto the berries for a shiny finish.
The tart should be served shortly after adding sliced berries. (To make the dessert in advance, refrigerate the filled tart and add the berries right before serving.)

Chocolate Shortbread Tart Crust
1 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cold

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine.
Cut butter into several pieces and add to flour mixture. Pulse until mixture is sandy and butter is well-incorporated.
Pour crumb mixture into a 9" tart pan. Press firmly up the sides and into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
For a baked crust, bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until firm. Allow to cool completely before filling.