Easter 2015 and a Ricotta-Berry Cake

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Now that we have Casper, holidays have taken on a renewed sense of whimsy and excitement. It’s so fun to be able to share old traditions and create new ones with him. I know that he’s not really old enough to know what’s going on, but we had a ton of fun making him a basket and making Easter a special day for all of us. I made marshmallow-cereal treats for some of our neighbors–Casper didn’t get any, but he thought they looked pretty cool because, SPRINKLES! We did get him some non-sweets-treats and packed his basket with some cute board books and Sean’s favorite Dr. Seuss book, plus a few plushies, and a fresh pair of moccasins. Sean and I dyed a bunch of eggs after Casper went to sleep on Saturday night. I LOVE dyeing Easter eggs and making the colors super vibrant and mixing colors. We “hid” Casper’s Easter basket underneath his favorite side table–it has cross bars under it that he likes to climb over all-day-every-day like some sort of baby obstacle course. We also dressed him up–which made my mother extremely happy.

For dinner we invited Sean’s brother, Geoff, and his girlfriend, Kelly, over for dinner. On the menu were deviled eggs (DUH!), a smoked pork shoulder with quince and sherry vinegar sauce (an idea we borrowed from a recent date at Toro Bravo), garlic-butter and vermouth shrimp (for Kelly, who doesn’t eat meat), potato gratin, spice roasted carrots with mint and feta, and a brussels sprout and kale salad that Kelly and Geoff made. The guys tried Sean and his friends home-brew (a super hoppy IPA), and I made kir royale to drink, as well. I also made this super moist Ricotta-Berry Cake. It’s so good, tender, and a perfect sweet slice to end a springtime meal. It’s so easy to put together, just 2 bowls, and is the type of effortless cake I think we all need in our arsenals. It’s perfect with a little dusting of powdered sugar or if you want to go crazy, which I did, a some barely sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment. I could also totally see making this cake with little chunks of rhubarb or even cherries in the summer.

In all, it was a pretty good day. Casper had fun, he was confused by all the happenings but got the hang of the festivities, was delighted by the basket full of goodies–especially the cookie monster Sean got him–and enjoyed showing off his pterydactyl-squawking skills for his Uncle and Kelly.

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Ricotta-Berry Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

8 Servings

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups ricotta

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted, unsalted butter

1 cup frozen mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9-inch cake pan  (I used a spring form pan) with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Fold in the butter. Fold the ricotta mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in 2/3 of the berries. Spread the batter into the prepared cake pan and scatter the top with the remaining berries. Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before un-molding. [/recipe]

 

 

Lemon Bar Ice Cream

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Are you guys watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix? I’ve been trying not to burn through the episodes, but I mean…I love a good binge watching session and for the last 2 nights Sean and I have been watching after we put Casper down for the night. (Side-note: he’s sleeping through the night most nights now…HALLELUJAH! Queue the choir of angels)! Anyway, I kind of love it. It’s a little cheesy in my favorite way, the theme song includes the line “Females are strong as hell!” (TRUE), and I always loved Ellie Kemper as Erin in The Office, plus Tina Fey is amazing, so needless to say I’ve become a quick fan of the show. Anyway, I feel like this ice cream might be something that would blow Kimmy’s mind and definitely elicit one of her 90’s throwback exclamations (possibly my favorite thing about her character).

I mean, this ice cream has a lot of good, exciting things happening: Lemon-scented vanilla bean ice cream base, tart meyer lemon curd ripples, and crunchy, buttery shortbread cookie crumbles! I definitely used the homemade Meyer Lemon Curd I shared last week, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use store-bought. It’s creamy, rich, sweet, tangy, and has a ton of texture and totally tastes like the ice cream version of a classic lemon bar without making a batch of lemon bars and churning them into a batch of ice cream. So, “By the power vested in me as an adult who is a grown-up”, maybe have ice cream for dinner (PS, don’t ever tell my son I okay’ed that). #hasbrown-nofilter

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Lemon Bar Ice Cream

This ice cream is a riff on my favorite, easy ice cream base from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

If you don’t have a vanilla bean, go ahead and use 2 teaspoons of extract and skip the steeping portion of the recipe.

2 cups whole milk

4 teaspoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup Meyer Lemon Curd

1 1/2 cups crumbled, store-bought shortbread cookies

Prepare an ice bath in a clean sink basin or a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of milk with the cornstarch, set slurry aside. Set the cream cheese in a large bowl and stir in the salt, place a mesh strainer over the top. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan heat remaining milk with the cream. Scrape the vanilla beans from the pod and add both the scraped beans and pod to the milk and cream, as well as the lemon zest. Heat to a simmer, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk mixture and add sugar and corn syrup, reheat to a low boil. Quickly whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to boil, whisking, until thickened. Whisk a ladleful of the hot mixture into the cream cheese, before straining the remaining hot mixture into the cream cheese mixture and whisk to combine. Prepare an ice bath and pour the hot ice cream base into a large plastic bag. Chill bag in ice bath until cooled and process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

Once the ice cream is processed, layer 1/3 of the ice cream in the bottom of a lidded container, spoon 1/3 of the lemon curd over the top and sprinkle with 1/3 of the crumbled shortbread cookies. Repeat these steps with the remaining ice cream, curd, and cookies. Fit the lid over the container and freeze for several hours, until set. Serve with additional cookies and lemon curd, if you want. [/recipe]

 

Meyer Lemon Curd

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This past summer, right after Casper was born, my mom bought me a couple of plants for the yard–a squat, red Japanese maple, a lilac, and two jasmine plants. It was our first trip out of the house and Casper was only a few days old. I wore him in my Solly wrap and wandered Portland Nursery in what I can only describe as a new-mom-haze–a mixture of emotions running from sentimental, to overwhelmed, to smitten. While we were there I spotted a wee Meyer lemon tree and always the giver, my mom bought it,  potted it, and popped in my house by our back door. It’s a glass slider door that gets a ton of afternoon light and my little citrus has been growing pretty well, I think. It sprouted a few little lemons, to our surprise, but it really won’t bear much fruit for a couple of years. Until then, I will prune the waxy leaves, try to keep Casper from eating the potting soil, and buy my Meyer lemons from the store and turn them into lemon curd until my home-grown citrus dreams come true.

Lemon curd is one if my favorite sweet-tart condiments. Meyer lemons have the faintest flavor of tangerine that balances the tartness, making this curd just a touch sweeter than traditional lemon curds. It’s amazing smeared onto a cream scone or biscuit, prefect In a pastry shell, and delicious with shortbread cookies. Next week I’ll be posting a frozen treat I swirled with this curd, so stay tuned!!

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Meyer Lemon Curd

about 2 cups curd

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

6 egg yolks

3/4 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (about 5 lemons)

zest of 1 meyer lemon

In a saucepan combine all of the ingredients, whisk to break up the eggs. Set the pan over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. The curd is thick enough when it coats a spoon so when you run a finger over the back of the spoon the curd doesn’t run back together. Remove from the heat and scrape the curd into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and press it through to sieve out the zest. Pour the curd into a heatproof jar to cool. Cover and store the cooled curd in the refrigerator for 1 week.

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