Elderberry Honeycomb Cream Pie

It’s that time of year when I look forward to getting my hands into the dirt. Seed and garden catalogs pile up on the coffee table with dog-eared pages and the outdoor thermometer is the first thing I check upon rising every morning. I long for the final frost of the season and dream of a healthy, productive garden.

A flock of red wing black birds took a break in the backyard today. It’s exciting to see the promise of spring in this way. The bluebirds are very busy making nests and it’s clear among the deer herd who will be giving birth in a couple of months. With snow still on the ground it is hard to imagine that there will be flowers blooming any time soon, but sure as the day is long, the bees will come and pollinate it all. It helps that I don’t use any chemicals in my yard. The bees and the butterflies flourish. We all benefit.

This pie is inspired by a recipe I saw in a book written by my all time favorite baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum. If I had a girl crush it would be on her. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was her Cake Bible and I still treasure that book today. Rose’s version of this Bavarian cream pie naturally highlights honey, but I chose to change it up a bit with some blueberry elderberry preserves and elderflower syrup from Norm’s Farms. A baked cookie crust holds all the buzz worthy goodness. Isn’t it amazing what one can do with bubble wrap!

Elderberry Honeycomb Cream Pie

1 (9-inch) shortbread or graham cracker crust)

½ cup Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves

4 egg yolks plus 1 egg white

1/3 cup plus ½ cup Norm’s Farms Elderflower Syrup

2 ¼ teaspoons plain gelatin

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon lemon juice

½ cup heavy cream

Edible candy bees, optional (I piped mine with melted dark chocolate)

1 (9-inch circle) bubble wrap with small size bubbles 

If not using a store-bought crust, prepare, bake and cool homemade cookie crust. Spread preserves over bottom of crust. In small saucepan, whisk egg yolks, 1/3 cup elderflower syrup, gelatin and salt. In microwave safe measure, heat milk to just a simmer. Whisking constantly, very gradually add hot milk to egg yolk mixture until fully blended. Place saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly bring mixture just to a simmer. Do not boil. It should be slightly thickened. Strain custard through a sieve into a small metal bowl. To speed chilling, place bowl in another bowl of ice water; set aside. Meanwhile, in another small bowl, beat egg white and lemon juice to stiff peaks. Using same beaters, in another bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks. Stir elderflower mixture until it is cool and thick enough to slightly mound when small amount is dropped from spoon. Fold in egg white and whipped cream. Pour into pie crust; smooth top. Press bubble wrap, bubble side down, over cream filling. Freeze at least 3 hours or as long as overnight. In small saucepan, bring remaining ½ cup of elderflower syrup to a low boil. Simmer syrup until reduced and just turns a shade darker amber color. Let cool slightly, but still fluid. Carefully remove bubble wrap from frozen pie. Drizzle syrup over pie. Place pie in refrigerator to thaw at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish as desired. Serves 8.

❤ Happy Spring ❤

From the Heart

Today, I could not help but want to repost this old Valentine’s day blog. It truly is one of my fondest memories of William. Thinking back on that visit with him always makes me smile. He was the master of fun surprises.

I continue to be inspired by his amazing brave and caring energy which brings me to this weekend’s TEDx talk. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly sure what a TEDx talk was when I accepted the invitation. I just knew it would be one more way to celebrate Will’s life, so of course I said, “yes”.

Little did I know that being invited to do a TEDx talk is kind of a big deal. Little did I know just how terrified I would be as I prepared for it. In between panic attacks over the last several weeks I prepared 7 pages of my thoughts. Too much I fretted, so whittled it down to 4. I attempted to memorize a speech. Practice, practice, practice. It felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It felt all wrong.

Several supportive friends suggested, “just speak from your heart”. I am taking their advice and feeling less anxious. To just simply speak from the heart feels right.

To further ease my anxiety I thought it a good idea to bake cookies for all 300 people in the TEDx audience. Baking cookies is much more therapeutic than public speaking. Just sayin’. I’m bringing the original Sweet William’s Inspired and Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread because I wanted a heart shaped cookie.

The cookie dough for the shortbread contains no salt, so don’t hesitate to generously top each cookie with a good sprinkle of finishing salt. I highly recommend The Spice & Tea Exchange Chocolate Sea Salt for its sweet smokey flavor.

Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s recommended)

4 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)

1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

Chocolate Sea Salt or your favorite finishing salt

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. On low speed, add egg, vanilla and whisky; blend well. Gradually add flour until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Dump dough out onto some plastic wrap. Gather it up into a flat disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350F. On a silicone mat or lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll dough scraps as needed to cut out more cookies. Sprinkle cookies generously with finishing salt. Gently press salt into cookie with your fingertips. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for 1 1/2-inch size cookies or until edges brown. Cool. I made about 200 cookies with a small heart shaped cutter.

On this Valentine’s Day I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. ❤

High-Rise Banana Muffins

It’s that time of year that I like to clean out my cupboards, pantry and freezer. I pride myself on keeping my baking and cooking equipment organized, but by the end of 2018 everything seemed to be in a tangle.

Inspired by 3 over-ripe bananas discovered in the depths of my freezer it was time to use them up along with a bunch of random paper cupcake liners and near empty containers of spices and extracts. Baking some warm healthy muffins would help me clean things out. And bonus…we get delicious muffins for breakfast.

Today, I bring you a banana muffin that actually tastes like bananas. Tip: bake with over-ripe bananas for the very best flavor. Most muffins I have had in the past are loaded with spices, so they taste more like ginger or cinnamon or chai rather than fresh bananas. While this recipe has a touch of spice the banana flavor and aroma really comes through due to the addition of some banana extract. I love this McCormick brand because it truly does enhance the banana flavor without any weird artificial taste.

You will notice that this recipe starts at a high oven temperature of 425F. before dropping down to 350F. The initial high heat is what gives these muffins the high-rise. As for mixing…you know the drill. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet just until moistened, so they bake up tender. Please feel free to toss in any other healthy ingredients you like. I’m a freak for chia seeds, but some toasted nuts could be good for a bit of crunch

1 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ cup King Arthur white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 over-ripe bananas (frozen and thawed)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (or 3/4 cup if you like them sweeter)

6 tablespoons coconut or avocado oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons McCormick banana extract

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Heat oven 425F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. In medium bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. Peel thawed bananas over a large bowl, catching any excess liquid. With electric mixer on low mash up the bananas. Add brown sugar, coconut or avocado oil, egg, extract and chia seeds; blend well. Add dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until moistened and batter is smooth. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down oven to 350F. Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.