June 30, 2008

My Favorite Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake is one of the delectable delights of strawberry season. There are a few different versions on the same general theme, the biggest difference in the varieties seems to be in the style of cake that comes with it. I will label the two main varieties as the "sponge-cake variety", and the "short-bread variety". I prefer the short-bread variety, and this is my favorite recipe.

2 cups white flour
1 T. b.powder
3/4 t salt
3 T. sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
About 1/3 cup milk
4 cups strawberries, sliced, cut in half, or crushed mixed with a little sugar
enough butter to spread on the cake generously
heavy cream

Heat oven to 450*. Mix dry ingredients, and cut in butter with 2 knives or a pastry blender until it resembles corn meal.

The butter cut in

Next add the egg, then add enough milk to make an easily handled dough.

Complete Dough

Next pat the dough into a 1/2" round. Alternately, you can make a rectangle and cut out individual rounds or squares.

Dough rolled 1/2"

Baked pastry

The next step is to split the cake while hot and butter it generously. You can do this in one piece, or in smaller slices, it's up to you. Sprinkle with sugar and fill with berries.


Whip up some cream... Mmm I love whipped cream.

The complete cake

For serving, top the shortcake with berries and whipped cream, or pass plain cream. My Mom and Gram used to eat this with milk, so there's a few ways to do it. This recipe makes 6 servings.

June 24, 2008

Kefir - a picture tour

Kefir is a cultured milk product, and a wonderful probiotic. It's much less temperamental than yogurt culture, and has a pleasant taste that I think is more akin to sour cream than to yogurt. Taste ranges from very mild, to quite tangy, depending on the proportion of culture to milk. Fermentation time also helps determine the taste of the final product. It is perfect for smoothies and lassi since it's not firm or jelled. Rather it's thick, more like crème fraîche, and very drinkable.

One thing I love about kefir, other than the health benefits, is that it's cultured at room temperature, and you don't have to boil the milk before you add the kefir culture. I simply add the kefir culture, or "grains" to milk from the fridge in a clean jar, put on the lid, and use the next day. Once the kefir is done, it's easy to make a new batch. Watch:

Kefir after 24 hour fermentation

Kefir curds and grains

I've poured the contents of the jar into a strainer with a bowl underneath, so that I can strain out the kefir culture from the kefir.

Straining the Kefir

As you strain, you will start to see the grains emerge from the kefir.

Beginning to see the grains

They rather look like bits of cauliflower to me, however, the texture is sort of more on par with a gooey gummy bear. You don't rinse them off, as you run the risk of damaging them. Simply strain and place into your new milk. These little guys like to eat, and grow quickly. I'm amazed at how many grains I've had to give away in the weeks that I've had them. I was told that they will eat you out of house and home if you let them. However, I've learned to be ruthless. I like my kefir mild, and that means less grains, so I have to get rid of the extras. They are edible, for those of you who really want a probiotic kick.

Kefir grains

Strained Kefir ready to go

The finished product. I swirled the glass so you can see that it does have legs, it's fairly thick, but not jelled. I love to make rosewater lassi with this, it's perfect on a hot summer day. Normally made with yogurt, the kefir works wonderfully. Take 2 cups of kefir, add a teaspoon of rosewater, a crushed cardamom pod and a bit of ground black pepper. Add some honey, jaggery or sugar and sweeten to taste. Pour over ice, or blend with ice in the blender, and you have delicious kefir lassi.

Aren't yellow poppies pretty? I love summer!

Another great use for kefir, especially for the stuff that's a bit tarter than you like (too many grains!) is to make a marinade for chicken. Use your favorite garam masala, the kefir and a bit of salt and pepper and let it all set for a few hours in the fridge. I love it! I have an aversion to grilling chicken with the skin on...it's so flammable, it chars, it's fatty, but the chicken can get dry without it. I've found the kefir gives the meat wonderful flavor and keeps it moist so you can lose the skin. It's really tasty. Grilltastic, even!

Anyway, I definitely recommend kefir. It is a delicious, versatile cultured milk product, super easy to maintain and keep happy and productive, and fantastic for your internal flora. I'm glad I started keeping the little buggers. They're better than hermit crabs or sea monkeys, I swear.