Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Peach & Pistachio Crumble with Elderflower Cordial

When the cooking show "Sorted" showed up on You Tube, I was an avid fan. I appreciated their antics but, more importantly, their creative and simple approach to food to encourage younger people to get into the kitchen to cook.

 This is such a recipe.

As I write this (July 2022), I am sad to say I no longer have this recipe. It may be on my older computer. I will search. The You Tube channel I reference is, however, still on line and running strong, but it no longer, for some reason, is posting its older recipes. Only the videos.

Even if I find the recipe, (found it!)  and even if you choose not to make it, that is fine. My real purpose in posting this "recipe" is because of the single ingredient of elderberry flower liquor which I urge you to try.

Until I lovingly stumbled upon this particular recipe, I had no idea elderberry liquor even existed. Please, DO NOT confuse this dew from the gods with elderberry syrup. It's not the same. The only time I buy it is during peach season. It's a match made in heaven ... 

A tad sweet, it is wonderfully floral. Sometimes, I simply spoon a bit over incredibly ripened peaches and go from there...  It is a great ingredient for cocktails ... think bubbly champagne and a slice or two of golden peaches.

In other words ... This is all about the booze! I make no apologies. It's not the easiest to find ... The most expensive, from France, is called "St. Germain." The bottle itself is very French: gorgeous and sexy. But at forty bucks and/or over ... well ... come on now. Luckily, I found an American alternative from Washington State at half the price but just as wonderful and both are "saintly." It's your call.

Use ripe but firm peaches. Shortbread cookies are easier to find in England than here in the States. Here, your choice is the pricey imported Walkers. I have used Lorna Dune and Pepperidge Farm "Chessmen" cookies. I once tried vanilla wafers, but they don't keep their crispiness and turn soggy. If you are adventurous, just make your own. The ingredients are few, but the taste beats any store-bought cookie. I once saw a recipe for rosemary shortbread cookies. Now, how great would those be? Serve one on the side ...

This is an elegant, simple dessert for a light summer dinner party. Serve in champagne glasses or other "stemmed" dessert ware.

  • 4 medium ripe, yet firm peaches, unpeeled
  • 1 shot elderflower cordial (I suggest more)
  • water
  • 1 handful shelled pistachios salted or unsalted
  • 25 g.butter, melted (2 T)
  • 120 g. light brown sugar (about 1 cup) see note below in directions
  • 1 tablespoon flour, AP or self-rising
  • 50 g. shortbread cookies, roughly crumbled. You don't want sawdust. (4T)

Cut peaches into quarters. Place in a medium saucepan. Add elderflower cordial and then top with water just until peaches are covered. Bring just to a simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

Chop pistachios. Place in a small bowl. Add brown sugar, flour and crushed shortbread cookies. Mix. Drizzle in the butter. NOTE: I'm never quite sure about the brown sugar measurement. In the video, it simply looks like they use Demerara or raw sugar. I use light brown sugar, but don't pack it down. Seems to work fine.)

Place half of peaches in medium bowl. Tip in some of the syrup (it will be pinkish). Top with crumble mixture.

Place on a sheet pan or tinfoil to catch any drips. Bake at 355 F (180C) for about 15 minutes until topping is golden and edges bubbly.

Bring to room temp. Serve with additional shortbread cookies and a spoonful of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Friday, June 24, 2022

No-Bake Blueberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake!

One thing I love about living in the South is listening to mockingbirds. They are incredible. And if you are lucky enough to have one become your neighbor, you will never be bored. Their vast repertoire of calls is amazing. This spring, I listened to one that belted out the siren of a car alarm ... over and over but with a wonderful melody.

 When I tended seven feral kittens behind the grocery store where I worked, a mockingbird accompanied all of us during the warmer months, flying from light post to light post, singing and dancing. Yes, they tend to dance as they sing ... up and down with a flutter of their wings!

A southern disappointment, however, are berries. I think the heat robs them of their delicate but unique robust taste. There is always just something missing ... I find this especially true of blueberries. In Michigan, one of the leading blueberry producers in the country, I could pretty much depend on great-tasting blueberries most of the summer season. 

Here, in North Carolina, while blueberries are plentiful, the taste quality is hit-and-miss. And forget South American blueberries which are now flown in year-round. They are blueberries by name and sight only. Not taste.

Which brings me to this dessert. It has been on my "to make" list for years. But it is paramount you have fresh, non-mushy, plump, sweet and great-tasting blueberries. Frozen will not work. 

If you have never met Donal Skehan, I introduce him to you in the video below. I hope you follow him regularly. He has some great, non-complicated recipes. He has a beautiful family and it's always a privilege when he allows viewers to tag along on family jaunts and celebrations.

What attracted me to this particular no-bake cheesecake is the inclusion of melted white chocolate. Brilliant! Also, it has no added sugar and a minimum of Philadelphia cream cheese. 

We are approaching peak blueberry season, so I have been scouting all my grocery stores for the best-tasting blueberries possible. I have my white chocolate and digestive biscuits in the baking cupboard waiting ...

Donal says you can also use strawberries ... but, like blueberries, they should be the BEST ever.

I suggest you use weights, not measurements. I know, a bit of a pain. Cream cheese comes in 8, not 9-oz blocks. To make up, maybe use a bit more white chocolate. 

  • 200 g or 7 oz. plain, digestive biscuits or graham crackers
  • 100 g or 3.5 oz butter
  • 400 g or 14 oz. good-quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 250 g or 9 oz. full-fat cream cheese
  • 250 ml or 8.5 oz double cream
  • 250 g or 9 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 250 g or 9 oz. blueberries
  • 1, 8-inch non-stick springform pan

Melt the butter. Add the biscuit crumbs and mix to combine. Pour into the base of the springform tin and press down with the back of a spoon. Cover this and place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Gently melt white chocolate, stirring occasionally, either over a hot bath or in microwave at 50 percent power.

Beat the cream cheese, cream and mascarpone in a large bowl with a wooden spoon/whisk until well combined.

Stir through the white chocolate.

Fold in  blueberries.

Spread mixture evenly over the top of the biscuit base. Cover and place in fridge for at least two to three hours or until set.

 Overnight is best.

Remove the cheesecake from the tin and serve.

Meet Donal: 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Woolworth's Ice Box Cheese Cake

America is known for its diners, soda fountains and, when they reigned, department-store luncheonettes. 

Sadly, this epoch of Americana has all but disappeared. Some, like Woolworth's, are simply gone forever.

I'm from NW Indiana, a stone's throw from Chicago. I well remember luncheon and soda fountains at such grand department stores as Marshall Fields and Carson-Pirie-Scott. Incredible businesses that grew with major American cities. They are now defunct. Carson's was my favorite because they had a small "ice cream shop" that served incredible ham sandwiches and chocolate shakes the likes I could not get in my small Indiana town.

This particular cheesecake was a popular dessert at Woolworth's lunch counter in the heyday of its success. It is simple to prepare. For many it is a nostalgic dessert as they do, indeed, still remember it.

Like all "urban-legend" recipes, it is difficult, in not impossible, to pin down the exact ingredients nor the exact method or way it was prepared. First off, no butter was used in the crust. Lemon juice was not added and rather than use whipping cream, whipped evaporated milk was used. The gelatin of choice was Royal brand, not Jell-O.

I really would not classify this as a "cheesecake" in the strictest sense of the word. It has no eggs. It's more like a mousse ... thicker than a pudding, but not quite dense as a cheesecake. Still, it is worth making for its ease and flavor. It is quite light. And it has survived the test of time!

The original recipe calls for one can of evaporated milk that has been chilled and whipped. That makes sense since it would have been cheaper that actual whipping cream and would have been easier to store for commercial use. Today, not so much. As such, most people simply use whipping cream. I never suggest Cool Whip. There is no need to sweeten the cream or evaporated milk. Here is a tip from someone who actually made this at Woolworth's: 

I worked at Woolco . . . and made this exact
cheesecake every week. We always kept evaporated milk in
the freezer and would take out on the day cheesecake was to
be made, so it could soften, but not defrost completely,
in a semi frozen state. We didn't use lemon juice. And added
vanilla to the cream cheese and sugar mix, and chilled it for
hours before incorporating into milk and jello whip. --J.L.--
Interesting, but I do not suggest you do the same. For one thing, the can will explode. Second, companies do not recommend it and freezing will cause it to separate. Instead, open the can and place in freezer for about 30 minutes before using to get it good and cold. I use this quote as an example of how difficult it is to find exact specifications for an older, urban-legend recipe.

The original also did not call for butter or sugar in the crust. Why pay more? The graham cracker crumbs were simply scattered on the bottom of the pan, quick frozen, and the mixture very carefully placed over the top.  This could be the reason recipes do not call for pre-baking the crust. Me? I suggest you use the butter. It's just easier and, really, there is less waste. Baking it to set up is your decision.

Made in large oblong pans, it was always proportioned as a generous square. Could you substitute different flavors of Jell-O? I do not know, but I don't see why not.

Most recipes call for a 13 x 9 pan. You will have to decide. Square? Round? Thin or thick filling? If you deviate, you will need to adjust the crust measurements.

To sum up, Woolworth's made an effort to serve a great dessert at a great price by utilizing judiciously-priced and great-flavored ingredients. 

At the end, I have posted Miss Lori's video from Whippoorwill Hollow over on You Tube and her wonderful  recollections of Woolworth's and how she makes this dessert. Follow whichever method/tips you prefer. Please note, her newspaper clipping recipe is for a much larger version and goes mostly by the "pound" of ingredients.

And, yes, I well remember "five-and-dimes" as a kid. A quarter went a long way back then--you could buy five peanut butter cups! FIVE! 

Some notes to consider: Lessen water to 3/4 cup for a firmer cheesecake. As noted above, the original did not add lemon juice. Some add a bit of vanilla. It's your call.

  • 3 cups Graham cracker crumbs divided (2 cups, 1 cup)
  • 1 stick melted butter (optional)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3-5 T. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1, 3-ounce Royal lemon gelatin powder (Jell-O)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 can evaporated milk that has been put in freezer for about 30 minutes
  • OR
  • 1.5 cups cold whipping cream (see notes above)
  1. Pour boiling water into a bowl containing Jell-O mix. Stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool a bit.
  2. Mix two cups cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press into bottom of pan.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice. 
  4. In a cold bowl with cold beaters, beat the cold evaporated milk until thick.
  5. Blend in cooled Jell-O mixture into your cream cheese mixture. Fold until no yellow streaks remain.
  6. Now fold in your whipped cream mixture.
  7. Spread evenly into pan with crust. Sprinkle with remaining cracker crumbs. Chill for several hours. Overnight is best.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Carlota De Limón (Mexican Lime Icebox Cake)

Make it as fancy as you would like!

While it is traditional to use limes for this simple "cake," lemons may be substituted, or a combination. But I recommend the limes, even key limes.

Until I laid my eyes on this dessert, I had no idea what Maria cookies were. They are easily found in the Hispanic section of your grocery store, they are also referred to as a "biscuit" or "digestive cookie." Usually inexpensive, they basically taste like an American animal cracker/cookie. They are sold in individual 7 oz. packages or tubes or you can purchase them by the box which usually have four rolls or tubes, sometimes more. I now always keep a pack or two on hand if only for a quick snack. They also make for quick and easy ice-cream sandwiches if you have kiddos around.

Layered between this citrus custard, the cookies absorb the moisture to transform into a delightful cake-like dessert that is fresh and appealing. 

You may assemble this in a square or round pan. I prefer a round spring-form pan. The size will depend on the height you wish to build up the "cake." For beginners, I suggest an 8-inch square pan.

Like the previous lemon dessert, this, too, depends on the magic of adding an acid (citrus juice) to dairy, in this case condensed and evaporated milk to create a thick custard. Today, sadly, neither are cheap. 

I have seen recipes with as little as one-half cup of juice to as much as 1 cup. It will depend on your individual taste and pucker tolerance. Start with 1/2 cup and taste as you go. You will need at least one-half dozen limes of a decent size. Be sure to give them a good wash.

  • 1, 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1, 12 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2-1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 packages Maria cookies (or enough to fill pan/dish of your choice)
  • 1 8-inch square pan or dish

Place liquid ingredients into a blender and blend/pulse until mixture has thickened. Do not overblend or you will end up with too many bubbles.

Place a few tablespoons into the bottom of your pan. Neatly place one layer of cookies on top. Repeat. The custard layers will not be thick. It's basically a "glue." End with custard layer. If needed, break some cookies in half. 

Cover. Refrigerate until solid, preferably overnight.

Decorate with lime peels and/or whipped cream and slivered almonds--even clean floral petals.

Covered, this will keep for a day or two. After that, it gets a bit too soft and "mushy." But it never lasts that long. 

Below is a video to give you a bit instruction. Enjoy!