Desserts

Strawberry Shortcakes with Basil-Infused Whipped Cream

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It’s June! This is my absolute favorite month of the year. Beautiful weather, an open pool, baseball, strawberries, birthdays… oh the birthdays. More on that soon.

Not long after my last post, a professional opportunity presented itself that I simply could not turn down. The Gatsby and I packed up the Jeep and drove to Nebraska for a 7-week adventure (or, in The Gatsby’s case, a 7-week vacation at Grandpa’s house). There was some cooking, but mostly working and eating, little recipe-testing, and no blogging.

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The Gatsby spent part of our drive on my lap.

We’ve been back in Virginia for about two weeks and are settling in nicely after a lovely and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m back at the gym, and I’ve been to the pool six times already. And I made these delicious shortcakes for an office shindig.

I LOVE whipped cream infused with herbs such as basil or mint. It’s unexpected and fun, and just a bit fancy without being over the top. These were easy to bring to the office. The night before, I infused the cream and made the shortcakes. In the morning, I whipped the cream and packed up the container along with a package of strawberries, the shortcakes, a few basil leaves, and a paring knife. At party time, I sliced the berries and set up a make-your-own assembly line.

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Strawberry Shortcakes with Basil-Infused Whipped Cream

Shortcakes from Bon Appetit
Serves 8

2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
15 large basil leaves, plus small or torn leaves
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 lb strawberries, sliced

Infuse the cream: Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bruise large basil leaves by hitting repeatedly with the dull side of a knife; stir into cream. Remove from heat, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let steep for 25 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl, pressing solids to extract liquid. Refrigerate until very cold, at least 5 hours.

Make the shortcakes: Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Using your fingers, work in butter until the texture of coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. Add remaining 1 cup cream and mix until dough just comes together (it will be sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a rectangle, about 12 x 4″, 3/4″ thick. Cut rounds using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter, re-rolling scraps to make 8 rounds. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Whisk egg and water in a small bowl. Brush tops of cakes with egg wash. Bake until tops are golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Make ahead: Shortcakes are best served fresh but can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

Assemble: Beat the basil-infused cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Split shortcakes and fill with berries and whipped cream. Top with additional whipped cream and basil leaves.

Suggestions and alternatives:
If you like your strawberries saucy, increase to 1 1/4 pounds berries and toss with 1/4 cup sugar (and a few torn basil leaves if you like). Macerate for an hour or more, tossing occasionally.

Substitute angel food cake for the shortcakes. If you’re grilling out, try lightly grilling slices of angel food cake before serving.

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

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Happy International Pi Day (a day early)! How will you celebrate?

Notice I didn’t ask whether you were celebrating. It’s implied. I mean, c’mon, it’s pie.

Last year my division held a pie happy hour — everything from pizza to fruit pie — and it was a lot of fun. This year, all of Edelman DC is having a pie tasting throw-down. In an office of 250, there are bound to be some amazing options. My entry: Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. Extra-dark chocolate, buttery pecans, and just a bite of booze.

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I can’t speak for how the finished product actually tastes, but the bourbon-sugar mixture takes pretty great.

3/14 RHRW Update:I can now speak for the finished product. Great flavor, not too sweet. I baked the pie the night before and served it at room temperature, and while it isn’t overwhelming, you can definitely taste the bourbon (a good thing in my book).

3/16 RHRW Update: For traditional Southern pecan pie, omit the bourbon and chocolate.

When filling the pie, pour the sauce slowly, in a spiral motion, so the pecans stay in place and the filling is level.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my other pie recipes:
Grasshopper Pie
Apple Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
French Silk Pie
Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust

Grab some whipped cream and let’s get moving.

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

From Fine Cooking
Serves 8-10

1 pie crust
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
8 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. Maker’s Mark bourbon (1 mini-bottle)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

RHRW Note: For traditional Southern pecan pie, omit bourbon and chocolate

Blind bake the pie crust: Roll out the crust to a 13″ diameter. Place in a 9″ pie plate, lifting the dough to tuck it into the sides of the pan. Trim edges to a 3/4″ overhang. Roll the dough under itself to build up the edge of the crust. Crimp the edge of the crust with your fingers, the tines of a fork, or a pie edger. Prick the crust all over (including sides) with a fork. Chill for up to 1 hour in the refrigerator or about 30 minutes in the freezer.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line the crust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until the bottom looks dry and the edges are golden, 5-7 minutes more. Cool on a rack.

When the crust is cool, spread the pecans evenly in the pie crust. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly over the pecans. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Make the filling: Put the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl set on a kitchen towel. Add the vanilla. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, cream, bourbon, and salt. Heat over medium heat just until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling, 3-5 minutes. Whisking vigorously and constantly, very slowly pour the sugar mixture into the yolks. Strain through a fine strainer set over a 1-quart measuring cup.

Fill and bake the pie: Slowly pour the filling over the pecans. Put the pie on a large baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the center of the pie is slightly firm to the touch and the filling is set, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

Coconut-Pistachio Chocolate Bark

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I love chocolate. Love. Dark chocolate is a more recent development, relatively speaking. I probably didn’t really join the dark chocolate camp until after college.

Pistachios are also more of a grown-up treat, don’t you think? I don’t remember liking them as a kid. Or having them around at all, now that I think about it (boxes of pistachio-flavored Jell-O instant pudding don’t count). Older and wiser me is all about the curious little green nut.

I work in market research. One of my favorite research partners, Davis Research, sends a canister of pistachios every December. Laugh, but we look forward to it all year (or at least, from the time the previous year’s batch runs out!). While I love snacking on them, I like mixing it up a bit and finding new ways to use them.

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This coconut-pistachio chocolate bark is adapted slightly from Bon Appetit’s annual Food Lover’s Cleanse, a two-week program designed for foodies to get on the resolutions bandwagon with a food palate reset. A friend and I each made several recipes from this year’s Cleanse, with varying reactions, but this recipe was definitely a keeper.

A few tips:

Buy the good stuff. The first ingredient should be cacao.

If you’re new to bittersweet chocolate, go a little further than you’re accustomed to, but not so far that you won’t eat it. The point is to still have a treat while cutting back on sugar. The recipe calls for a chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao, but if you don’t normally go any darker than semisweet chocolate, start with 60%.

Melt the chocolate slowly. A double boiler is best, but the microwave works. When chocolate melts properly, it should be shiny and smooth.

Unsweetened coconut. Repeat: unsweetened coconut. “Regular” flaked and shredded coconut is, like, 99% sugar (okay, maybe not 99%, but it is a lot). If your regular grocery store doesn’t carry it, try a natural or specialty food store.

Don’t skip the salt… unless your pistachios were already salted. It really brings out the flavor.

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Coconut-Pistachio Chocolate Bark

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about eight 1-oz. servings

1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% or more cacao)
3 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios
Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread out coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until most flakes are straw-colored, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 30-second intervals in a microwave, stirring between each interval. Spread melted chocolate on baking mat in an even layer about 1/8″ thick. Scatter toasted coconut and pistachios evenly over chocolate. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Let chocolate cool completely, then break into pieces. Bark will keep for about a week stored in a cool place in an airtight container.