Cooks Exchange

Fresh strawberries, lemons are delightful for easy Easter desserts

The basics of perfect pie crust

Melissa Clark, the author of the Good Appetite column, demonstrates how easy it can be to make a very light and flaky pie crust. A related recipe, for brown sugar and spice apple pie, can be found on Diner's Journal.
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Melissa Clark, the author of the Good Appetite column, demonstrates how easy it can be to make a very light and flaky pie crust. A related recipe, for brown sugar and spice apple pie, can be found on Diner's Journal.

The calendar says spring is here, but lately the temperatures disagree. However, the sunshine is awesome. My energy level spikes every time the sun is shining.

During a recent shopping trip I had a hard time choosing between the fruits and food or the hibiscus trees. I took the more practical route and bought groceries. It was a good thing after the lower temps last week, and, too, I am not the green thumb my husband was. I had better stick to the kitchen, not the garden. I leave that to my daughter these days.

A sure sign of spring is when a produce bin is brimming with strawberries and fresh lemons. I have been buying lemons from a Coast produce vendor and the strawberries from the supermarket. I’ll also pick up some fresh berries at the Ponchatoula, Louisiana, strawberry festival that is set for April 12-14. Some of the best strawberries come from Ponchatoula.

Strawberries and lemons make for the most luscious desserts. With only two weeks to Easter, the time is now to plan Easter meals and desserts.

On pretty days, I do not want to stay in the kitchen. I want to be outside enjoying the weather, reading a book or playing with my granddaughter, but I do enjoy a fresh fruit dessert or two.

I cheated and bought fresh strawberries, a store-bought angel food cake and frozen whipped topping and turned these into a no-bake strawberry shortcake. Would the dessert have been better with a homemade pound cake? Of course, but I didn’t have the time.

Since Easter is quickly approaching, I thought I would share some quick-fix strawberry and/or lemon desserts.

The difficulty in a strawberry cobbler recipe is waiting for it to bake and to cool a bit before eating. Cobblers can be made with berries, peaches, pears, strawberries and even chocolate.

While the lemon pudding cake calls for Meyer lemons, regular lemons can be used. Simply use the zest of only 1 lemon.

STRAWBERRY COBBLER

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup water

3 cups hulled strawberries

2 tablespoons butter, diced

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Combine sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and hot. Stir in strawberries and remove from heat. Pour mixture into the baking dish and dot with 2 tablespoons butter.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter. Stir in cream. Mixture should be fairly soft. Spoon on top of berries. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until flour topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

— From www.allrecipes.com

MEYER LEMON PUDDING CAKE

For pudding cake:

4 eggs, whites and yolks, separated

1 cup sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from about 3-4 lemons)

¼ cup whole milk

Finely grated zest from 2 Meyer lemons or 1 regular lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish with a 6-cup capacity and set it aside.

In the mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until they turn foamy. Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until glossy peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Gently transfer the egg whites from the mixer bowl into a second bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer (no need to clean it out from above), combine the sugar, butter and flour. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, milk and lemon zest. Mix until well-combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the beaten egg whites, folding in about 1/3 at a time, until they are just incorporated.

Pour the batter into your greased baking dish. Transfer to your preheated oven and bake until the cake is set and the top is golden brown. Depending on the size and depth of your dish, this could take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. You also can take the temperature of the pudding layer to determine doneness, which should be 172-175 degrees.

Remove from the oven and allow the pudding cake to cool slightly. Dust with powdered sugar and top with fresh blueberries before serving. This cake can be enjoyed slightly warm room temperature or cold.

— From www.floatingkitchen.net

FRESH BERRY PIE

3 to 3 1/2 cups berries (See note)

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter

1 pastry shell, homemade or frozen

Prepare pastry; line an 8- or 9-inch pie plate, reserving some for top crust. Pile berries into pastry shell, piling higher in the center. Combine sugar (amount will depend on sweetness of berries), flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon rind; sprinkle over berries.

Sprinkle lemon juice over top; dot with butter. Cover with top crust, making slits to allow steam to escape. Seal edges and flute. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Note: Use strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or Logan berries. For strawberries or raspberries, omit lemon rind, juice and spices. For a Frozen Berry Pie, substitute partially thawed frozen berries for fresh berries. Drain before using. Reduce sugar to 1/2 cup or less.

— Submitted by the late R. L. “Bob” Whitmyer

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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