Local strawberries have finally arrived in the Midwest. I bought some from a farmstand and Alex and I went strawberry picking (which she was surprisingly good at). By the time the day was over, in my rush of excitement, I had purchased and/or picked over 12 pounds of strawberries!
First I made jam. Now I have never made jam before, since I grew up with my grandma’s and mom’s really excellent homemade canned strawberry jam and therefore never needed to. Learning to can is very high on my list of priorities—if not this summer from the insanity of moving twice and building a house (oh yeah we are building a house and will be moving twice, the first time into a temporary month to month lease—did I forget to mention that?), then next summer at the latest. So until then I am trying cooked freezer jam. Cooked because I wanted something close to the flavor of what I grew up with.
Now I want to emphasize that I wanted to blog about the jam because the pictures of the strawberries are so gorgeous and because it was interesting—but I don’t think my recipe is a good blueprint. If anyone has any advice, feel free to share. I used the Barefoot Contessa recipe because it had lemon in it, which I really like with strawberries, but it never thickened as much as I wanted—and it boiled forever. So I brought it back to a boil the next day, added some fruit pectin gel, and hoped that would help. I let it stand as instructed for 24 hours, and it does seem thicker. But clearly not the method I would ultimately choose to use. But it sure is tasty.
My second use for the strawberries got a little out of control, and ended up very tasty but too big and frankly too rustic looking. I will share my pics, but once again, not sure if it is a blueprint for what I would do next time. My biggest problems were that my store did not have ladyfingers, which completely changed the character of the desert, and all of my trifle dishes—individual and single large—are packed away since we won’t be here much longer. It is also an example of my witch’s cauldron style of cooking at its best—which means I wasn’t very good about keeping track of amounts as I tossed stuff in. I don’t even know what to call the thing—Out Of Control Ginormous Strawberry–Mascarpone Parfait? Oh, and, in case you are wondering, much to my glee and John’s disgust, ginormous is indeed officially a word. Look it up online if you don’t believe me.
Out Of Control Ginormous Strawberry-Mascarpone Parfait
3 lbs strawberries, washed, sliced and sprinkled with a tiny amount of sugar (a few pinches)
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tub of mascarpone, softened (about 8 oz–because it is imported it is usually listed in grams and I am not sure how much it was)
1 t vanilla
1 ½ pints whipping cream, separated into 1 pint and ½ pint
Sugar to taste (this is the hard part—see below), maybe ¼ – ½ cup
1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups AP flour
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups old fashioned rolled oats
¾ t ground cinnamon
13 ½ T chilled butter or stick margarine, cut into small pieces
So I had mascarpone to use up (I bought it months ago and was worried it would go bad, so using it was non-negotiable) and had been completely inspired by Vicci’s Three Berry Tiramisu on The Days Are Just Packed. However, I could not find ladyfingers and got frustrated by trying to make something from scratch when I had not planned for that kind of time. So instead I decided to use crisp topping as my layers—it actually worked pretty well but the mascarpone was a little sophisticated for it I will admit.
So first I put the AP flour, the brown sugar, the cinnamon and the butter into a food processor and pulsed until pebbly. Then I added the oats and mixed by hand and spread the whole thing onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I baked it at 375 F, mixing once halfway through, until golden and crisp. I am embarrassed to tell you this, but I was guided by my nose. I think maybe it was in there 20 minutes but I would not swear to it. I set it aside to cool.
Then I whipped 1 pint of the whipping cream with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and put it in a covered container in the fridge. I creamed the cream cheese, mascarpone and lemon juice and zest. I added sugar by the tablespoon until it was just barely too sweet. I wanted it too sweet because I planned to fold in the whipped cream—but I didn’t want it so sweet it could not be fixed. I mixed ¼ of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture and then I very gently folded the rest in. I dumped it all back into the covered container and put it in the fridge. This stuff, by the way, was heavenly—I would use it for any kind of filling for anything (changing the lemon for something chocolate-friendly or using any kind of flavoring you want). It was amazing.
Last I whipped the remaining half pint of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Then, using a large glass bowl, I layered with crisp then mascarpone mixture then berries three times (I used one layer of blueberries and regretted it—they were bleh compared to the strawberries). Then I put a layer of whipped cream and sprinkled that with additional fruit. The dessert looks kind of messy retro 50s to me; it is certainly not elegant and it is way too big, but it sure was tasty.