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Refreshing Desserts for Hot Summer Days


When the seasons change, my taste buds crave new, exciting flavors and textures.
Cooler seasons call for rich, decadent desserts like dark chocolate tortes
smothered in warm sauces and rich creams. Summertime, however, signals an entirely new set of desserts filled with refreshing flavors and light textures.

Here, I’ve included a few of my favorites that are sure to keep you cool and satisfy your sweet tooth.

summerrecipe-2Lemon Tea Bread

Makes 12 muffins or one 9 x 5 loaf pan

Calling all lemon lovers! This light and fluffy bread is finished with a tangy lemon soaking syrup. It freezes beautifully for up to one month; double the recipe and place one loaf in the freezer for last minute company! If freezing, simply wait to add the soaking syrup until defrosted.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar, divided

2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest

2 eggs

½ cup whole milk

½ cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, 1 ¼ cup of sugar, and lemon zest until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and blend until fully incorporated. Add some of the flour mixture followed by some of the milk. Alternate in this pattern until all the flour and milk are incorporated.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until golden brown on the top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan from the oven and let cool until the pan can be handled with bare hands.

To make lemon syrup, place the remaining sugar with the lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes. If you have chosen to make a loaf, poke holes in the top with a toothpick and pour the lemon syrup over it. If you have chosen to make muffins, brush the syrup over the top with a pastry brush. Eat and enjoy!


The Almost Victoria Sandwich

I have devoted more Saturdays than I care to admit watching PBS’s The Great British Baking Show. On the show, bakers participate in a series of challenges that test their baking abilities. When I watch, I am exposed to new desserts that fascinate me. Though it sounds simple, the classically British combo of cake + jam + powdered sugar is simply perfection.

This recipe is “almost” classically British, as it uses a lovely lemon chiffon cake in lieu of the traditional Victoria sponge cake. I’ve also included a recipe on how to make your own fruit filling. However, if you are short on time, a high-quality store-bought jam does the trick. (My favorite is Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves.)

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 ¼ cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ¼ cups sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

½ cup vegetable oil

6 egg yolks

¾ cup water

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

10 egg whites

¼ cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the oil, egg yolks, water and vanilla extract until it becomes pale, thick and foamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and gradually add the ¼ cup of sugar. Whip the whites until they become thick and they hold their shape when the whisk is lifted from the mixture. Fold a quarter of the dry mix into the egg yolk foam. Then fold in a quarter of the egg white mixture into the egg yolk foam. Continue alternating the dry ingredients and egg whites into the egg yolk foam until complete. Scoop the batter into a cupcake pan and bake approximately 25 minutes, or until they are slightly golden on the top and springy to the touch.

Fruit Filling

This is crafted to be a very tart filling that can be adapted with your favorite fruit. I am partial to raspberries and have used them here.

4 cups fresh raspberries

¼ cup sugar

¾ cup water

3 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

In a sauce pan, combine raspberries, sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. It will turn a shade darker in color.

Pour the mixture through a sieve to filter out seeds. Return mixture to the saucepan, place on stove and turn to medium heat.

In a separate bowl, mix together the water and cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the saucepan, stirring continuously until it becomes thick.

Remove the filling from the stove, pour into a clean bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until it reaches a spreadable consistency—at least 30 minutes, but preferably two hours.

To assemble: Cut cakes in half horizontally and fill the middle with the jam. Place the top back on each cake and dust with powdered sugar. For some added glam, place a fresh mint leaf and raspberry on top. Eat and enjoy!

Shortcut Strawberry Shortcake

This recipe strays from the classic angel food cake base and instead uses a classic Southern staple: country biscuits. It’s easy, quick and tasty. And if you are in a hurry or if you are like my mother who said, “Can I just buy the biscuits? Mine always look like hockey pucks,” then please go right ahead. Those work great too!

Tip: If time allows, let the finished dessert sit for about an hour. The biscuit will absorb some of the moisture from the cream, making it soft and especially delicious.

Country biscuits

Yield 12 biscuits

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoons lemon zest

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

½ pint whole milk

Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in a large bowl. Cut very cold butter into small cubes and toss into the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture will develop a mealy consistency.

Pour in the cold milk and stir until the mixture comes together as a dough, being careful not to overmix. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a square that is ½-inch thick. Use a two-inch biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-slip baking mat. Place them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Strawberry cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup of strawberry preserves

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream, vanilla and lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture is thick and resembles whipped cream. Add strawberry preserves and stir until combined.

To assemble: Slice biscuits in half horizontally. Scoop the cream onto the bottom half of the biscuit (about 2 tablespoons) and place the top of the biscuit back on. Scoop another tablespoon of cream on top. For an added flavor profile, grate some lemon zest on top and add blueberries along with sliced strawberries. Serve and enjoy!

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