I don't mean to shock you, but we're not going to talk about bad weather. We're not going to rant about ice and snow. Nope, we're going to pretend it's a pleasant 80 degrees. You know the phrase "willing suspension of disbelief," right? Well, that's what will be required of us. So put on those rose-colored glasses. Try to think warm thoughts.
Mentally meander back to the last time you tasted something that was the absolute antithesis of winter. I'll bet it was gloriously sunny outside, you were wearing something light and airy, and though it was around 7pm sunset was still at least two hours away. Does that scenario ring a distant bell? It does for me. We're going to recreate that moment, if only in our imaginations. To nudge the dream along, I recommend this incredibly simple but flavor-packed sorbet.
You can concoct this with the strained pulp of fresh strawberries, of course, and if it's actually summer in your corner of the world and you have access to local berries, then by all means go for it. But if imported strawberries are your only option you may need an alternative. Let's face it, after the bumpy journey across a couple of international borders, how could any tender berry not be tuckered out? Those winter strawberries may be pretty, but their luster is often superficial, their joie de vivre a thing of the past. Are they even slightly sweet? Don't lay odds on it. Only way to tell is to buy 'em and try 'em, and that's a calculated risk.
If you don't want to chance it with imported berries, use frozen pure-fruit pulp (don't scoff, pastry purists!). It's the neatest thing to pluck from your freezer, on a whim in the dead of winter, a couple packages of this stuff and use it to create something so delectable. If, however, you had the foresight last summer to freeze bags of your own strawberry puree, prepared from super-fresh fruit that you picked yourself, please pat yourself on the back because, frankly, you are a genius. Not all of us are that prescient though, which is why I used two 14 oz. packages (only about $2.00 per pack) of strawberry pulp that I'd purchased last fall from a wonderful Detroit market specializing in Central American foods. Called The Honey Bee La Colmena, this store's slogan is, "Wake up and smell the chorizo." Next time we visit The Honey Bee, I'm going to stock up and try the mango and passion fruit purees, too. It's good stuff.
This sorbet recipe, adapted from the book Professional Baking, by Wayne Gisslen, is so easy it's hardly a recipe at all. Sugar and water are cooked to a syrup, then mixed with the strained fruit puree/pulp (frozen or fresh). I decided to add in a teaspoon of Chambord, a sweet French liqueur made from red and black raspberries, to improve the texture of the final product (the tiny bit of alcohol helps keep it from freezing rock hard). The liquid mix is chilled for a few hours, churned in an ice cream maker, and then plunked into the freezer until firm.
This thin coconut-lime cookie is a nice one, too. Not heavy-duty like shortbread, nor fussy like a tuile, these just-delicate-enough coconut wafers are jazzed up with a little lime zest and juice. Dessicated coconut (dry, finely shredded, and in this case unsweetened) gives them a pleasing nubby texture. These cookies are a great sidekick to the sweet and tangy sorbet.
I adapted the cookie recipe from Classic Stars Desserts, by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. Her original formula called for sesame seeds, sliced almonds, and sweetened shredded coconut. That all sounded fine, but in this case I thought it might make for an overcrowded cookie, so I omitted all of those, switching in the lime, a smidgen of almond extract, and using the dried unsweetened coconut as described above. I also rolled the chilled dough in sanding sugar before slicing and baking (these are basically refrigerator cookies).
You can make this dough well before you need to bake it since it needs time to chill. In terms of scheduling your real life, these cookies dovetail cooperatively with the sorbet; they're both desserts that conform to your schedule versus the other way around. Not sure that's ever happened to us before!
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar and water over a medium flame until the sugar has completely dissolved, stirring now and then. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool. Stir in the fruit puree and the Chambord.
Chill in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container for at least several hours. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Pour the churned sorbet into a clean container, seal it, and freeze until firm.
Thin and Crispy Coconut-Lime Cookies
7 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature (That's 2 sticks minus 2 Tbsp.)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (I used cane sugar.)
1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cups finely shredded dried coconut, unsweetened (I buy this from Whole Foods or from a health food store; I don't think I've ever seen it for sale in a traditional grocery store.)
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
zest from 2 limes
In the bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth (should be less than one minute). On low speed, add in the flour, coconut, almond extract, juice, and zest. Mix just until well combined.
On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into an 18" log.
Wrap the parchment snugly around it, maintaining its shape as you go. If you like, preserve its shape by sliding the wrapped dough into an empty paper towel tube.
Place the dough into the fridge or freezer to chill until it's quite firm (at least half an hour in the freezer, or an hour or more in the fridge).
About 20 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line a couple of cookie sheets with clean parchment. Unwrap the dough, roll it in sanding sugar (medium-sized coarse sugar) if you like, pressing gently so the sugar adheres.
Slice the dough into 1/4" to 1/3" thick pieces using a very sharp knife. Place the pieces on the lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2" between each one; the cookies will spread out.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before attempting to remove them to the cooling rack. They'll be floppy at first, but will firm up and get crispy as they cool.
Store the cookies well covered.
(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click the purple COMMENTS below!)
Just click on that slice of brie cheesecake with strawberries, above, to get to the Recipe Index!
Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . . .
Saveur featured Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal . . .
. . . in their Daily Fare section. We're honored to be on their "Best of the Web" list!
Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
Pour a nice hot cup of coffee or tea & meet me . . .
Want to visit my FoodGawker gallery? Click on the picture!
Jane's Sweets Supports Micro-loans to Women through Kiva
Hey, Everybody Needs a Little Integrity . . .
I Pledge . . .
. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2014, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at email@example.com for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!