An Adieu to Strawberries: Individual Strawberry Crisps

They weren't plentiful this year, but they sure were pretty and sweet!

They weren’t plentiful this year, but they sure were pretty and sweet!

Although it seemed unusually short, we did have a brief strawberry season here and the few I was able to procure were very sweet and lovely. They were from North Carolina and Florida, not Georgia berries. I think we had too much rain for a good local crop this year, in fact.

The first round of berries were consumed for breakfast in short order. The second round involved a big blowout berry sale, and I felt compelled to make a dessert. Thinking I would still have more berries coming to make a shortcake this year, I decided to do a crisp first. Alas, I was wrong about the first part of that statement, but this new little twist on my older version of a crisp was absolutely outstanding! Good enough to revisit and share with you today, I think. Making individual servings versus a large pan of crisp concentrated all the flavors of the berries, juices and even the crisp component, into a truly divine dessert. Even if you don’t have fresh and local strawberries, this is a great way to enjoy any berry or peach crisp. But hopefully you do have some strawberries coming your way and can give the following recipe a try!

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But before I post the modified recipe below, I must show you the last of the spring flowers from both my garden and my mom’s garden. I know we still have a couple of weeks of Spring left, but it sure feels more like Summer around here right now, and the spring flowers are gone for this year. Above is another little slideshow of flowers for your enjoyment. Have a happy Monday!

The key to this recipe is definitely individual servings. The smaller delivery vehicle concentrates the flavors!

The key to this recipe is definitely individual servings. The smaller delivery vehicle concentrates the flavors!

What? No strawberries? No worries, this will work with apples, peaches, cherries or berries. The Grand Marnier is good with cherries, but you can change up the liqueur to suit the fruit and yourself…peaches and a splash of amaretto or bourbon, perhaps? Or you can omit the alcohol altogether. You can also try lemon zest instead of orange…it’s all good!

Individual Strawberry Orange and Almond Crisps
Makes 6

For the berries:
2 1/2 lbs. fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced
zest of one orange
1/3 cup sugar, preferably cane sugar
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 Tablespoon flour

For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup rolled (not quick cooking) oats
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 lb. (I stick) unsalted butter, cold and diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter six 1-cup baking ramekins generously and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the berries, zest, sugar, Grand Marnier and flour, stirring to mix well and set aside while you make the topping.

In a small bowl combine the flour, both sugars, salt, oats, almonds and the butter, and use your hands to lightly work the butter into the dry ingredients until it just becomes crumbly with pea-sized pieces of butter.

Transfer the berries and their juices to the prepared ramekins and divide evenly. Top each evenly with the crumble topping. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet that has been completely covered in aluminum foil and place the whole in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees until the filling is bubbling and the topping is a light golden brown and crisp.  Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla bean ice cream.

The full Strawberry Moon!

This post wouldn’t be complete without an unedited picture of the full Strawberry Moon!


Quick Loaf: Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start the day!

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start, or end, your day!

For many, many years I used to run up to the local health food store and get one of their delicious muffins…well, maybe more than one…to have for my breakfast. They made a few different kinds, but the one I loved the best featured fresh cranberries, apples and walnuts in a dense, moist muffin that had some underlying spice to it. I became addicted.

Some years ago the health food grocery closed their little deli section and changed over to a deli case, one which unfortunately meant the end to those muffins. But I remember them so well, and I’ve always wanted to recreate them.

This is a very close representation of those flavors. It’s not a muffin, though you could certainly make some muffins out of this recipe. It does feature fresh cranberries, which I happen to have a lot of in my freezer at the moment. But if you can’t get them right now or at all, by all means substitute another cup of apple or some pear for the cranberries, perhaps in small chunks for contrasting texture to the grated apple. Or better yet, feel free to experiment and try your own favorite berry or fruit that you think goes well with apple.

I particularly enjoy the contrasting tart pop of fresh cranberry in your mouth against the mildly sweet background of the apple and walnut in this bread. This loaf isn’t an overly sweet thing…in fact I would venture to say it’s a pretty healthy entry into the quick bread category. But it does make a perfect slice for breakfast, and even has just enough sweetness for dessert, in my opinion!

Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 (generous) teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups grated Pink Lady apple (or other baking apple) with skin (about 2 medium apples)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/3 cup low fat milk
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one standard loaf pan with unsalted butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the wheat flour, the white flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In another large bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended, then add the egg and beat until combined. On low speed, add the grated apple, dry flour mixture and the milk in about 3 alternating batches to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating each ingredient until just incorporated, do not over beat. Gently stir in the cranberries and walnuts with a spatula or spoon, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is shrinking from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool on the rack until just warm or at room temp. Cut into slices and serve. This makes a great gift, too!


A Very Short Little Peach Cake

Peaches! We have them…the first of the season from south Georgia, and boy are they a welcome sight. It seems like forever since peaches were in season, and now at last they’ve arrived, even a bit early, like everything this year.

After the first week of eating them in a few juicy bites, or with some Greek yogurt and granola, I began to calm down once I realized that these were early peaches and we should have peaches for a while to come. And that’s when I started thinking about baking. Now, I don’t bake a lot…mainly because there are just two of us and, well, if I make it, we will eat it…rapidly and until no crumbs remain. But peaches do inspire me to start trying some new ideas.

My first thought was something cake-y. More so than a crisp or a cobbler, but maybe more versatile than a muffin. I love shortcakes…why not combine the idea of fruit and shortcake into one…besides the fact that I’ve never seen it done? And hence the result: a very short little peach cake! Continue reading