I started to think about and remember, strawberry wine. A few years ago, I was given a bottle of homemade strawberry wine. I never really thought about it before and had no idea what to expect. Given the talents of its maker, I had no doubts, but never dreamed it could be so good. It looked pale in color like a beaujolais, and tasted like a light, strawberry merlot. I was really surprised and loved every last drop. I would like to make it someday and give it to a select few individuals in my life to make them feel extraordinarily special.
Strawberries are a very beautiful, earthy, sexy and romantic fruit. They are the stuff of myth and legend. I love the Italian legend that states when Venus wept for Adonis, her tears fell to earth and turned into heart-shaped strawberries. The French believed they were an aphrodisiac and made sure they were served to newlyweds. What do you believe?
I happily settled for making butter, preserves and compote instead of the wine. The butter has a slightly curdled look to it (it should) and is sweet and the little jewels of strawberry burst on your tongue while you’re eating it. Wow. The preserves are quick and easy and of course there’s nothing like homemade. And the compote can be poured on just about anything. I decided to pour it on store-bought pound cake, but try pancakes or angel food cake. For the truly fearless strawberry lover and romantic: bread with the preserves, butter AND compote! Just make sure you’re not planning to drive anywhere for a while and the love of your life is close by.
For all you fearless romantics out there…
Makes about one cup
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 pound very soft unsalted butter
Puree the berries in a food processor. Add the sugar. With the machine on, gradually add the butter in bits. Whiz until well blended – about 30 seconds. The mixture looks curdled at first, but will pull together. Pack into a crock or jar and chill until ready to serve. If you’re feeling fancy-shmancy, put it into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe rosettes (or blobs) onto a large plate covered with plastic wrap and chill.
Before you do anything, you need sterilized jars. Use either jars straight from the dishwasher while still warm or fill them 1/4 full with water and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Drain and use while still warm.
Makes 3, 8 ounce jars
- 3 1/2 cups whole strawberries, hulled
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Stick a saucer into the freezer. Put all the ingredients into a wide saucepan, over low heat, and stir with a wooden spoon to make sure all the fruit is coated. Continue stirring occasionally and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5-8 minutes and start testing by taking the pan off the heat and dropping a teaspoon onto the saucer from the freezer. Let it cool a bit and if the preserves wrinkle when you push it with your finger, it’s ready. When you’ve reached this point, leave it in the pan to cool for 20 minutes before pouring into cleaned, prepared jars.
Makes about 3 cups
- 2 pints strawberries rinsed, hulled and sliced
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup strained orange juice
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (grand marnier or triple sec)
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool then refrigerate, covered, until needed.
And let’s not forget Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries: dip whole, perfect ripe strawberries into melted bittersweet chocolate. Set on waxed paper to dry.
Credits: The Frog Commissary Cookbook, Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake and Susan Branch’s The Summer Book.
This is what happened on my way to writing about a recipe: Max. Max happened. Max is our year-and-a-half old lab/husky puppy. Did I mention that he’s 100 pounds? 100 pounds of pure exuberance, joy and happiness. He’s so happy he can hurt you, but in this case, he hurt (or rather, ate) a pound of butter.
It was my fault. I left the butter out to soften for baking and Max…well, the rest is the usual foregone conclusion. The good news is , he loved it. The bad (if there really is bad news just depends on how you look at it): he LOVED one whole pound of the most-perfectly-softened-for-baking unsalted butter. You know when it’s so perfectly softened you can see a slight indentation in the top of the stick, the wrapper shimmer, and there’s that whiff of butter fat in the air? You know what I’m talking about. There wasn’t a wrapper, blob or even smear left. But oh the look on his face: pure exuberance, joy and happiness.
Once I recovered with another pound of butter, I set about making this cake. Let me tell something about this particular coffee cake: it rocks. The cake is made from a box cake mix and the crumb topping proudly boasts a pound (yes, pound) of butter in its list of ingredients. This is a definite go-to recipe if you need to whip something up for work, house guests or if you’re just plain old in the mood for a scrumptious, unbelievably easy to make coffee cake. My family loves it and recently it was my stepson’s birthday cake. This would definitely make it to the Paula Deen butter lover’s hall-of-fame. I love making cakes from scratch, but with this recipe there’s really no need. It falls under the heading, “Why Fix It If It Ain’t Broken”.
Cheater Coffee Cake
The cheating part is our secret!
Can serve about 8 depending upon how much the baker (or dog) eats first!
- 1 box Betty Crocker Butter Recipe Yellow cake mix (any yellow box cake mix will do, but there is yet another stick of butter (!) needed for this brand)
- 4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 tsps. cinnamon
- 1 heaping Tbsp. vanilla
- 1 lb (4 sticks) melted butter (yes, 1 POUND)
- confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the (bottom only if glass, bottom and sides of all other pans) of a 13″x9″ pan. Follow the instructions on the cake mix box and mix as directed. Bake slightly under the time recommended on the box – until it is slightly firm, 20-25 minutes. The cake will go back in the oven when the topping is added (after the next step) for another 15-20 minutes.
While the cake is baking:
Combine the topping ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand.
Remove the cake from the oven. Scoop large chunks of topping mix, by hand, and crumble over the top of the cake. This is the fun part and you get to eat chunks of it and lick your fingers – yum. Cover the entire surface of the cake – there’s plenty to cover and then start to pile on top. Put the cake back in the oven for another 15 – 20 minutes to slightly brown the topping. Cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Credit: Recipe courtesy of a former co-worker’s daughter who has no idea where she got it.