Gift Guide: Sweets for Mom

[editor’s note]: Welcome to Part III of our Mother’s Day gift guide. Be sure to check out Part I: Make it For Mom and Part II: Flowers for Mom. Today, our contributor Abigail Bradshaw of The Notion Creative Labs is sharing sweet treats to bake or buy for your mom on Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day gift guide: Sweets for Mom / put together by Abigail Bradshaw

About Abigail Bradshaw

Creating good food is one of Abigail's favorite ways to share her love for creative composition with the people around her — mixing flavors, colors, and textures to create a delicious and quickly-eaten whole. When she's not in the kitchen, she's a multi-disciplinary creative living in the lovely Boise, Idaho, and running her independent creative business The Notion Creative Labs.

Crisp Matcha Shortbreads

Photo by Beverly Wang

Ingredients

  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • the contents of 4 bags of Japanese green tea, more or less to taste
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 C butter, chilled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

When spring rolls around, I find myself craving less and less of the heavier, sweeter desserts of winter and the holidays. These matcha shortbreads are light and crispy yet full of buttery flavor; they definitely satisfy my sweet tooth without being cloyingly sweet or heavy.

A shot of ground green tea leaves provides a nice herbal bitterness to these cookies and gives them a lovely fresh color. They’re great as a snack and go equally well with tea or coffee.

Directions

matcha shortbread / recipe and photos by Beverly Wang

1. In a food processor, combine the flour, tea leaves, both sugars and salt and pulse until all ingredients are combined and the tea leaves are finely ground.

2. Distribute the chilled butter in the bowl of the food processor evenly and pulse until the dough looks sandy. While the food processor is running, add the vanilla extract and continue processing until the dough just comes together in a ball. If needed, add water 1 teaspoon at a time if the dough is dry and not coming together.

3. Remove the dough from the food processor and pat it into a 8″ round, about 3/4″ thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or keep in the freezer if you plan to bake the cookies at a future date.

4. After the dough has had sufficient time to chill (this allows for the cut dough to retain its shape during baking), remove the dough from

the fridge and roll it out until it is about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick. If you find the dough is sticking to the rolling pin, sprinkle powdered sugar (as opposed to flour) on the dough to prevent the finished product from becoming tough and floury tasting.

5. Preheat the oven to 375F.

6. Using the cookie cutter of your choice (I just used 2″ rounds), cut out the dough and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. If your kitchen is warm and you find the dough starting to soften, chill the cut cookies in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking.

7. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. When the cookies start to get lightly browned on the bottom, remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly on the cookie sheet before removing them to a rack to finish cooling.

8. Enjoy!

About Beverly Wang

Beverly is a web applications developer living in lovely Southern California. When she's not writing code, you'll probably find her in the kitchen or out capturing moments of her daily life with her camera. Never content to sit still, she always finds herself trying to do ten things at once. She believes that good food, made with love and from scratch, is the panacea for all ills.

Jenna Rae Cakes

How about a little sweet inspiration for your Wednesday? These spectacularly decorated cakes by Jenna Rae Cakes really take the cake! Baker and cake decorator Jenna Rae does an incredible job of making her clients’ cake dreams come true.

She offers a variety of cakes with the most beautiful and minute details that are almost too pretty to cut into, let alone eat.

wedding cakes by Jenna Rae Cakes

For further cake inspiration, check out more photos over at Jenna Rae’s portfolio, where you can also see cakes she’s decorated for other types of events and celebrations.

About Donaville Herrick

Donaville is the Founder of Dearest Nature and also Co-Founder and Creative Director of Hello Hello Hi. When visions of nature and web design aren't dancing in her head, she enjoys spending time with her three munchkins, baking cupcakes, and trying her hand at various crafts. Follow her on Twitter to stay updated with her day-to-day musings.

Using Redbuds in Edible Applications

If you are in zone 4 or 5, you will probably be noticing a beautiful purple haze spreading in the forest right about now.  If you look closely, you’ll see that those purple hazes are actually little flower buds on a tree aptly named “redbud”.  Of course, the name isn’t totally accurate in that the buds are much more purple and pink as opposed to red, but nobody gives “red” onions a hard time either, so we’ll let it slide.

pantry peach pie by Amy ReneaThe most interesting aspect of redbuds is that the flowers will appear on the branches, but also along the bark of the trunk.  Second most interesting fact?  They are edible.  The little buds don’t have a strong flavor, just a woodsy, floral taste, but they are perfect for jazzing up a classic dish like peach pie. Doesn’t the pink play off the peach tones beautifully?

This is my classic pantry peach pie, made from ingredients I already had an hand and beautified with a sprinkling of redbud.  Any old cake mix, frozen pie crust canned fruit or even the classic fruit crumble can go from plain old boring dessert to fresh and inviting, simply by adding a few fresh herbs or edible flowers.  This spring, you might try planting nasturtium, mint, lemon balm or rosemary for quick and easy fresh pops for your summer menu.

If you would like to add redbud to your garden, you are not alone!  Eastern redbud is one of the most popular ornamental trees in America.   It can be grown as a standard tree or a multi-trunked bush, topping out at about 15-25 feet as a tree and shorter as a bush.  The leaves in summer are a beautiful deep green, smooth textured, in the shape of a heart (who doesn’t like heart shaped leaves?).  The Arbor Day Foundation will send you 10 free redbud whips (tiny redbud trees that look like sticks, but grow into elegant trees in a few years) when you sign up for a membership ($10).  Do the math and that is $1 a tree.  You can also propagate redbuds by taking 6″ cuttings from the new growth in spring and planting them in a potting mix or simply in the ground.  About 50% of cuttings will take with this technique, so cut more than you eventually want.

In any case, beg borrow or steal a few redbuds this spring and toss them on any sweet dish for a bold burst of color and a subtle burst of flavor. Then don’t forget to close your eyes when you savor the first bite of warm peach pie. Luscious.

About Amy Renea

Amy is a freelance photographer and writer based out of Hershey, PA. She spends her days chasing children and chickens around the back yard, sipping on dandelion tea and munching on sweet potato chips. Come visit the Nest for All Seasons to learn more about her food, photography, DIY designs and modern garden living!

Cornmeal Cake, Roasted Strawberries + Buttermilk Ice Cream

Photo by Abigail Bradshaw

I simply cannot get enough strawberries into my belly around this time of year. I’ll take them any way I can get them, which sometimes means coming up with creative uses for this classic spring berry. Given that I recently discovered cornmeal’s double-life as a delicious cake ingredient, I put together a “strawberry-shortcake-done-soooo-right” recipe … and ate myself into a minor coma “testing” the final product. The buttermilk ice cream has a tangy perfection that pairs well with the sweet strawberries and the hearty cornmeal cake. I suggest making the three components of this recipe over the course of a couple of days for a delectable springtime dessert.

Cornmeal Cake

(adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • the zest of one orange
  • 3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and generously butter a 9 inch cake round cake pan with sides that are at least 2 inches high — the cake will rise towards the middle, so allow for that in the baking environment.

2. Sift together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and orange peel together until smooth.

4. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture is well-incorporated and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs until the mixture is smooth.

5. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, and again – beat until smooth.

6. Put away that electric beater and fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula until just mixed.

7. Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

8. Cool the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Let it cool completely, and cover it until you’re ready to serve it with the ice cream and strawberries!

Hint: you can substitute a package of Bob’s Red Mill Cornbread Mix for the dry ingredients, but cut down the sugar to only one 1/2 cup if you do so, and increase the buttermilk to 3/4 cup.

roasted strawberries

Roasted Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 2 16 oz packages of frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a pan with as much protection as you can against the stickiness that will ensue from the roasted berries! I used a silicone mat on the bottom of my pan as well as tinfoil over the top.

2. Allow the strawberries to warm up just a bit — just enough to where they won’t harden the butter again too quickly. Pour the strawberries into a medium bowl.

3. Mix together the butter, maple syrup, and salt if applicable. Pour the butter/maple syrup mixture onto the strawberries and mix well, then transfer to your prepared pan and flatten the berries into one layer to allow for the best roasting.

4. Every 15 minutes, stir the berries around — continue this for about 45 minutes to an hour. The end result will be the consistency of chunky strawberry jam. These berries are best hot right out of the oven, so I’d suggest waiting until the last minute to serve these up!

Buttermilk Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, available at specialty food stores)

Directions
1. Prepare an ice bath in your kitchen sink (or most convenient ice-bath area) and a slurry with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk.

2. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, remaining buttermilk, and whipping cream over medium heat.

3. Allow the mixture to heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 30 seconds or so, and then remove from heat.

4. Take about 1/2 cup of the hot buttermilk mixture and combine it with the egg yolks — stir well to prevent cooking the eggs and creating chunks.

5. Once combined, transfer the egg yolk mixture, the cornstarch slurry, and the vanilla to the buttermilk mixture and bring the whole concoction back over medium heat.

6. Stir as the ice cream base begins to thicken up — another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a 1-gallon freezer bag, and submerge in the ice bath for 30 minutes.

7. After completely cool, pour the base into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making ice cream.

8. Freeze the completed ice cream for at least 1 hour before serving, and 4 or more hours for the best consistency! I usually make the ice cream a few days before I plan to serve this dessert, the cake the day before, and the roasted strawberries on the day of the meal.

Enjoy!

About Abigail Bradshaw

Creating good food is one of Abigail's favorite ways to share her love for creative composition with the people around her — mixing flavors, colors, and textures to create a delicious and quickly-eaten whole. When she's not in the kitchen, she's a multi-disciplinary creative living in the lovely Boise, Idaho, and running her independent creative business The Notion Creative Labs.