Homemade Strawberry Jam…

Being that there are only two of us in my household I often get frustrated when I go grocery shopping and see the portion sizes of certain items. There seems to be so many things I want but I know neither my husband and I will be able finish before it goes bad or my husband doesn’t like what I like and I am faced with trying to finish something unrealistically large for one person.  The result is often throwing food away. And more and more you read about how much food American’s throw away each year when so many people are going hungry.  Does this predicament sound familiar to you?

Case in point – I love strawberries and my husband doesn’t eat them. So when I buy strawberries at the store the smallest size available is in a one pound plastic container (you can get them in smaller portions pre-cut but they are insanely expensive and I am not a big fan of frozen strawberries). In order to finish all of them before they go bad I am either faced with buying strawberries that are barely ripened so they last longer or not buying strawberries at all. Both options are unacceptable to me.

So just last week as I was bemoaning the fact that my strawberries were becoming soft and mushy. I decided to google how to use strawberries that were becoming soft and mushy. A suggestion popped up about making strawberry jam.  Bingo!

I had only eaten about one quarter pound of my strawberries and decided that I would try to make some jam out of what was remaining. It was a stroke of genius. I added two weeks to the lifetime of my strawberries and the homemade strawberry jam was to die for.

So let’s talk homemade strawberry jam…

Lesson Learned 1 – You probably will have to adjust this recipe especially where the sugar is concerned: This recipe is for a full pound of fresh strawberries. I had only approximately 3/4 of a pound (and I was guessing by eyeballing what I had left) and so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to make the jam too sweet. A full pound of strawberries calls for 2/3 cup sugar. I only used 1/3 cup sugar and after making the jam felt I could’ve reduced that amount to a light 1/3 cup and still be ok. But I am not one who likes things too sugary sweet. So what I am saying here is play around with the amount of sugar you use keeping in mind that the strawberries have natural sugars as well. Even if you’re using a full pound of strawberries for your jam try a light 2/3 cup to start out. Now I know this must be “frying” the brains of those of you who feel you need exact measurements. My advice is to take a leap of faith and go with a little less on the sugar. After you make this a few times you will get a feel for exactly how much sugar you want in your jam.

The Amount Of Strawberries I Had

Lesson Learned 2 – Use the juice of half of lemon: I lot of recipes I saw called for 1 Tbs. of lemon juice. I used the juice of 1/2 of a large lemon. The lemon helps to balance out the sugar and the combination of flavors is absolutely delicious.

Lesson Learned 3 – Why a granny smith apple: Jams need pectin in order to thicken. And although you can buy pectin at the grocery store it comes naturally in the granny smith apple. So you are using a natural source of pectin to thicken your jam. Also, the tartness of the granny smith helps to balance out the sugar in the jam as well. And even though I did not make this recipe with a full pound of strawberries I still used the entire grated apple.  It made a wonderful addition to the jam.

The Main Ingredients

Lesson Learned 4 – You may need to simmer the jam longer than you think: Many recipes I saw said to simmer the jam ingredients for approximately 10-15 minutes. I had to simmer my jam for 1/2 hour. Now keep in mind I’m at high altitude and I don’t know whether that was a factor or not. Just make sure your jam is not runny and the liquid noticeably thick before you quit simmering it.

Simmer for 15-30 Minutes

It couldn’t be simpler. And you extend the life of your strawberries by at least a couple of weeks. I can tell you first hand that this jam on some crusty bread with a cup of coffee is over the moon delicious. So try it, and tell me what you think.

Homemade Strawberry Jam...

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered

2/3 cup of sugar (err on the side of making it a light 2/3 cup)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated

1/2 medium to large lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the strawberries and sugar into a medium size saucepan. Stir in the grated granny smith apple. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the strawberries with a spoon until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved, simmer the mixture until the jam has noticeably thickened (can be anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes).

Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let cool. Cover and chill for at least two hours. Jam keeps best in a mason jar type container.

 

 

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

I know I haven’t published in a while. It just seems when Summer arrives I find so many things to do outside of the kitchen that I become a little lax in my posting goals. But even though I haven’t posted for some time I think this recipe is well worth the wait.

If you’ve never baked with strawberries before, you’re in for quite a treat. Strawberries have a wonderful light tartness to them when they’re baked that beautifully offsets the sugar in a recipe. Combine that with a hint of lemon zest and juice and you have an incredible balance of flavors.

These muffins require very little effort to make and are decadently delicious. You must try them. So let’s talk about strawberry lemon muffins…

Lesson Learned 1 – Don’t cut the strawberries in too large of chunks: Strawberries give off a lot of moisture when they’re baked so you don’t want large chunks of strawberries in your muffins. That will make the muffins soggy. I cut the strawberries in half and then in half again. After that I cut the remaining pieces in thirds. The picture below gives you somewhat of a perspective on size. Just to the right of center and near the bottom is a strawberry cut in half from top to bottom. You can see the other pieces are smaller by comparison. You want to cut the strawberries into these smaller sized pieces.

It is also very important to make sure the strawberries are evenly distributed in the batter at the very end. Otherwise you might have soggy pockets in your muffins. Take the time to fold them into the batter completely before filling your muffin cups.

Lesson Learned 2 – The batter will be thicker than you think: I was surprised at how thick the batter was in this recipe. But the combination of a thick batter and strawberries creates the perfect balance for a moist and flavorful muffin. All the magic happens in the oven, so don’t worry about how thick the batter is.

Lesson Learned 3 – Fill the muffin cups almost to the top: Many times, especially when making cupcakes, recipes will say to fill the cups about 3/4 full. With these muffins fill the cups almost to the top. The muffins will rise in the oven but not dramatically so don’t worry about spillover.

Lesson Learned 4 – Tips for glazing and storing the muffins: Make sure the muffins are completely cooled before glazing them. I used a “home-made” pastry piping bag to glaze my muffins. I simply put the glaze in a sealable sandwich bag, twist the bag to get all the glaze in one corner and snip the corner squeezing the glaze over the muffins. The result is very professional looking and the process could not be any easier. Below are pictures of my “home-made” pastry bag and the muffins after they’ve been glazed.

These muffins can be stored in an air tight container for up to 5 days. They also freeze nicely. Try them and let me know what you think!

Strawberry Lemon Muffins

  • Servings: 12-15 Muffins
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

3/4 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, diced

GLAZE:

1 cup powdered sugar

Zest and juice of 1 medium sized lemon (2-3 Tbs. of juice)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with muffin cups and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Set aside.

Whisk together the egg, vanilla, vegetable oil, yogurt, lemon juice and zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Gently fold in the strawberries.

Fill the muffin cups almost to the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Mix the glaze ingredients together and drizzle over the cooled muffins. Store muffins in an airtight container or freeze them.

 

White Chocolate Strawberry Cookies

This time I wanted to do something a little different with my leftover strawberries. Normally I make some sort of loaf but I was intrigued by the thought of making strawberry cookies, something I’d never done before. I have to say it was a learning experience, and a very good one I might add.

I’ve always found strawberries to be tricky in the baking process. They add additional moisture when baking and that can play havoc on your end result especially if you live in high altitude like I do. But I’ve had enough disasters along the way that I say with great confidence that I think I’ve finally got baking with strawberries down pat. So lets talk white chocolate strawberry cookies…

cut strawberriesLesson Learned 1 – Follow these basic tips for baking with strawberries: Strawberries give off moisture when they bake and that can make the consistency of the batter too runny and result in a baking disaster. I’ve learned a few simple tips along the way that will help you be successful when baking with strawberries. First, prep the strawberries the very first thing. Cut them into smaller rather than larger pieces. Sprinkle the strawberries with a tiny, tiny bit of lemon juice, place them in a colander over a bowl and allow them to shed some excess moisture. Normally you add strawberries at the end of a recipe. Prepping them at the beginning gives them plenty of time to shed some of that excess moisture.

Before you add them to a batter sprinkle them with a little flour and make sure all of the berries are lightly coated. That way the flour will continue to absorb moisture and the berries will not all clump together in the baking process. If you are making a strawberry bread, sprinkling them with a little flour before adding them to the batter will prevent all the strawberries from sinking to the bottom of the bread. Try these few tips and you should be successful baking with strawberries.

Lesson Learned 2 – This is a very moist batter: The consistency of this batter is very moist. Once you make it I recommend you put it in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. That way it will be a little easier to work with. Even after you refrigerate it the batter will still be moist as is evidenced by the picture below. Don’t worry, the cookies will not run. They will hold shape and turn out to be a delightful cookie!

Cookie dough before baking

Lesson Learned 3 – The consistency of this cookie is more like a cake than a cookie: Initially I wasn’t sure how these cookies would turn out based on the moistness of the batter. To my surprise and delight they were like small heavenly bites of cake. The cookies are soft and delightful, very different from the consistency of say a chocolate chip cookie. And the white chocolate chips divinely compliment the flavor of the cookie. I brought these to work and they disappeared within one hour.

White Chocolate Strawberry CookiesLesson Learned 4 – For extra decadence try drizzling some melted white chocolate over the top of the cookies: This time when I made these cookies I didn’t think to do this. The amount of white chocolate you use making this recipe does not use up the entire bag. Why not melt the remainder of the chocolate and drizzle it over the cookies after they cool? Next time I most certainly will do this. I can’t believe I didn’t think about doing this when I first made them. Oh well, live and learn…

This recipe is a delightful change to traditional cookies that are often hard and crunchy. The combination of strawberries and white chocolate is to die for. I also like the fact that this recipe only makes about two dozen cookies so it is a manageable amount for family and friends. And as always I recommend you try this recipe and tell me what you think…

WHITE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY COOKIES...

  • Servings: 2 Dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

White Chocolate Strawberry Cookies1 1/4 cups flour, sifted

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. table salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 chopped strawberries, drained

2 tsp. lemon juice (1/2 – 1 small lemon juiced)

1 – 2 Tbs. flour, for dusting the strawberries

5 oz. white chocolate chips, chopped (I recommend using a mini food processor to chop them)

White chocolate chips, melted –  to drizzle over the cooled cookies (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Chop the strawberries, place them in a colander and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. Set them aside and allow them to drain.

Whisk together the dry ingredients – the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Do not over mix.

Stir in the chopped chocolate. Sprinkle the strawberries with flour and toss them so they all are coated with a thin layer of the flour. Carefully fold the strawberries into the batter.

Place the batter in the refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes.

Once slightly chilled, make the cookies by dropping a heaping tablespoon of the batter on the baking sheet leaving approximately an inch between each cookie. (I recommend no more than a dozen cookies per baking sheet). Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.

Let the cookies cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. Once the cookies are cooled, put the remaining white chocolate chips in a microwaveable dish and microwave  on high for about 10 – 15 seconds. Stir the chips until melted. (Microwave at 5 second intervals after this if the chips need to be heated through a little more. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate). Place the chocolate in a gallon size bag. Cut the end of the bag (make sure the cut is small) and use it as a pastry bag to drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies.

White Chocolate Strawberry Cookies

White chocolate Strawberry Cookies

 

 

Strawberry & Raspberry Crumb Cake…

I am loving the fact that I’m at the point where I’m not afraid to experiment with recipes or afraid to make changes in them if something just doesn’t look right. And that is the story of this recipe.

I had some strawberries that were in my refrigerator for a while and I wanted to use them before they went bad. So I started researching recipes and found one for strawberry crumb bars. I basically had all of the ingredients so I decided to try the recipe.

The original recipe called for 4 cups of chopped strawberries. After chopping up what I had I found I only had 3 cups. My initial thought was to go to the store to get more strawberries. Then I remembered I had a container of raspberries in the refrigerator as well. So I thought, maybe I’ll just chop those up and combine the two berries.

Image

Now this may sound silly, but this was a big leap for me. In the past I’ve not been one to stray from recipes or tweak them in any way. But I thought, what the heck. I cooked with raspberries before. What harm could it do to combine the two. And so I did.

The original recipe also called for only one beaten egg when making the crust/crumble. When I added one beaten egg, the dry mixture still resembled dry dusty flour. I knew the consistency of crust/crumbles should be dough-like and should somewhat hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. No such luck with only using one egg. So I added another beaten egg and the consistency still wasn’t right. I added a third and finally got the correct consistency. Doing this was huge for me. In the past I would just have gone along with the recipe and wound up with a baking disaster. This time I followed my gut and my baking knowledge and wound up with a great result. So here are my lessons learned on this fabulous recipe:

Lesson Learned 1 – Trust Your Gut: As I mentioned earlier I would always follow recipes to the letter and never deviate even if something did not look right. Now I have to put in a big caveat here. Baking is very different from cooking. Your chances of making a mistake when playing around with the ingredients when baking are much higher but in this case, especially with the crust/crumble, I knew that if the dough did not somewhat stick together when I squeezed it, it would not produce the desired results. But I was also careful. I only added in one beaten egg at a time and with the third egg I put it in a little at a time just to make sure that I wasn’t adding too much. My advice on this recipe is to use two extra large to jumbo sized eggs or three regular sized eggs. Don’t dump them in all together. Put them in one at a time and check the consistency of the dough before you add more. Once the dough somewhat sticks together when you squeeze it, you’re done.

Lesson Learned 2 – This Recipe Can Be Made With Various Berry Combinations: In my case it was strawberries and raspberries but you can make this with raspberries and blueberries or strawberries and blueberries or blackberries and strawberries or whatever combination of berries you have on hand that can be baked. Just make sure you have four cups of berries because you’ll need that amount to adequately cover the top of the cake. Also make sure to try to cut the berries into equal sized pieces. And use caution when combining them with the sugar and cornstarch. Use a folding technique rather than a stirring technique so you don’t overly bruise or rip apart the berries.

IMG_4480Lesson Learned 3 – The Importance of Using Cold Butter: In order to get a flaky crumb crust/crumble the butter needs to be very cold when mixing it with the dry ingredients. Many recipes will tell you to use a pastry cutter or two knives and cut the butter into the dry mixture until the butter is a pea-shaped size. I never seem to have any luck with that process so what I did was put the dry ingredients in a food processor add the cold butter pieces and pulse all of it together to get the consistency you see in the picture to the right. Two things to keep in mind – 1: Cut the butter the very first thing and put it back into the refrigerator while you prepare the berries and dry ingredients. That way the butter will be as cold as it can possibly be when you cut it into the dry ingredients. 2: If using a food processor to incorporate the butter, hold a towel over the opening so that as you pulse you don’t get a cloud of flour coming out the top of your food processor.

Other than these few lessons learned this recipe couldn’t be easier to make and the end result is one truly delicious crumb cake. Enjoy!

Strawberry & Raspberry Crumb Cake…

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar for the dough

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup cold butter cut into pieces

2-3 beaten eggs (extra large or jumbo size start with 2)

4 cups berries cut in evenly sized pieces (I used 3 cups strawberries & 1 cup raspberries)

1/3 cup sugar for berries

4 tsp. corn starch

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease  9 x 13 pan and set aside. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a food processor. Hold a towel over the opening of the processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of peas. Remove the mixture from the food processor and put into a large bowl. Add a beaten egg one at a time and stir it into the mixture. (If the consistency is correct after adding two eggs, don’t add a third). The dough is of the right consistency if it sticks together when you take a handful and squeeze it.

Take half of the dough and put it in the bottom of the prepared pan and pat it down. Carefully fold together the berries, sugar and cornstarch. Spread berries on top of the dough. Crumble the remaining dough on top of the berries.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Let cake cool before slicing.

Cut The Berries Into Evenly Sized Pieces...

Cut The Berries Into Evenly Sized Pieces…

Press Dough Into The Bottom Of The Pan...

Press Dough Into The Bottom Of The Pan…

Spread The Berry Mixture Over The Dough...

Spread The Berry Mixture Over The Dough…

Crumble The Remaining Dough Over The Berries...

Crumble The Remaining Dough Over The Berries…

Bake And Enjoy...

Bake And Enjoy…