Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cherry Peach Bread

A new day, a new Hannah Swensen recipe to reproduce in my kitchen. Today's book was "Key Lime Pie Murder," and it contained a delightful-sounding recipe for Peach Bread. My parents used to love eating my Cranberry Walnut Bread for breakfast, so I figured they might like to try another fruit-flavored loaf. 

In typical Tina-in-the-kitchen fashion, there were a couple ingredients in the recipe that I didn't have. No cream cheese, and no ripe peaches. I didn't feel like making another trip to the grocery store, so I just rifled through the fridge to see what I could find. And what I found were two containers of Yoplait Light Harvest Peach yogurt. Perfect!

Until last year, I didn't realize that there were different kinds of cherries. Thanks to my friend Karen, who spent a year working at a juice factory, I now know that not all cherries are of the deep purple/red variety, and have discovered the magic of Rainier cherries. Not only are they prettier, but they're also sweeter. And, I also happened to have some in the fridge, so naturally they also went into the batter.

Unfortunately, the peach and cherry flavors weren't as strong as I had hoped. I think next time I'm going to have to pick one fruit and stick with it. And, actual mashed peaches or cherry juice might do help. Even so, the bread was still very tasty. Moist, mildly fruity, just a little bit sweet, and good alone or toasted and slathered with some jam. Mmm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Strawberry Blueberry Custard Squares

Now that the bar exam is over, my life is my own again. I get to sleep in past 7 a.m., I don't have to care anymore about who really owns Blackacre, I can have hobbies again, and most importantly, I can finally read for pleasure whenever I feel like it.  So, I was pretty pumped when Dan's parents surprised me with a Kindle last week. Instant downloads of any book I want for free/discounted prices??? Awesome!

While browsing through the online Kindle store, I stumbled across a series by Joanne Fluke. It was the title of the books that really caught my eye -- "Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder," "Strawberry Shortcake Murder," "Peach Cobbler Murder," etc. After downloading the first book in the series, I was completely hooked. Each book follows the heroine, a successful bakery owner, as she helps solve the seemingly endless (but somehow unexpected) murders in her small town. Naturally, all of the murders involve her baked goods in one way or another -- hence, the titles. Best of all each chapter also contains at least one recipe for the treats she creates along the way. 

I love the series as much for the mouthwatering recipes as for the very entertaining story lines. Naturally, I am planning to test out everything that sounds good, which is definitely going to take a while. First up = Strawberry Custard Squares.

This recipe is very straight forward -- a simple shortbread crust is covered with fresh fruit, then smothered with custard. Strawberries aren't really in season now, but the ones on display at my grocery store looked pretty good, so I bought two cartons. In the end, three cups of sliced strawberries took too long to chop, and my hands got tired, so I just threw on a few handfuls of blueberries to supplement the missing fruit.

The resulting concoction tasted a bit like a cross between a pie and a fruit tart. The crust was buttery and crumbly, but less sweet than a regular shortbread; the fruit was explode-in-your-mouth juicy from cooking in the oven, and the custard was creamy and not overly sweet. Delicious!

Hannah Swensen's Strawberry Custard Squares (From "Peach Cobbler Murder")

(First layer)
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick chilled butter
- 2 tbsp whipping cream
- 1/2 cup flour (not a typo!)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups sliced strawberries (or whatever fruit you want)

- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or strawberry if you have it)

(1) Preheat oven to 375.
(2) Spray a 13x9 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
(3) In a small bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like course sand.
(4) Stir in the 2 tbsp cream. Pat dough into bottom of cake pan.
(5) In another bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour and sugar. Sprinkle it over the crust in the pan.
(6) Arrange sliced strawberries on top. Set aside.
(7) In a medium sized bowl, mix sugar and flour.
(8) Sir in the eggs, cream, and vanilla. Pour mixture over the top of the fruit in the pan.
(9) Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.
(10) Cool on a rack, then refrigerate.
(11) Serve warm or chill, with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream for a topping.