Sunday, August 25, 2013

Strawberry Flan

While I consider myself a city girl—I just love walking around bustling streets, peering into shops, tasting new things, taking pictures of sights—it is nice to head to the countryside sometimes. When you smell dirt, you see dirt, you feel dirt, and you TASTE dirt, it’s something special, especially these days.

I love going to Linvilla Orchards every summer—a farm not too far from home. In the summertime they have peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as delicious creamy ice cream year round! During the peak of summer you can pay for a box and go around the orchard and pick anything you want to fill the box. My family went today for strawberry and raspberry picking, which are ripe for picking right now.


One of the great thing about pick your own is eating the fruit while picking. My sister’s rule: pick 3 eat 2. Strawberries are surprisingly filling, and my stomach started to feel like it was going to explode after not too long with following my sister’s philosophy.

Whenever my family picks fruit, we always have a surplus of it for the next week; it is always my responsibility to find creative ways to use it up. Strawberries are easy because there are so many wonderful recipes that use fresh strawberries. I decided to make a strawberry flan, which is a sweet short crust pastry shell filled with custard and topped with fresh strawberries. It makes for a beautiful dessert.    


For the pastry
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the custard
3 egg yolks
1 ¼ milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze
¼ cup apricot jam
1 ½ tablespoons water

For the topping
3 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled


1. To make the pastry dough, beat the butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until it forms a ball.
2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
4. Roll out the dough on a flat floured surface and fit into a tart or pie pan. Prick the bottom of the pastry crust with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes.
5. Place the tart pan and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
6. While the shell is baking, make the custard. 
7. In a medium sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Sift the four and cornstarch together and add to the eggs mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
8. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to boiling. Remove from head and add slowly to the egg mixture. Make sure to whisk consistently to prevent curdling.
9. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium head until boiling, whisking constantly. When the mixture boils, continue whisking for another 30-60 seconds until it become thick. Remove from head and whisk in vanilla extract. Pout into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. You can speed up the cooling process by putting the custard in the fridge.
10. To make the glaze, heat the apricot jam and water in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Make sure to smash big lumps of apricot with a fork.
11. To assemble the tart, remove the pastry shell from the tart pan. Spread a thin layer of the glaze on the bottom and sides of the shell (this will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy). Spread the custard into the pastry shell. Place the strawberries on top and brush with more glaze.
12. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hummingbird Cake

Back home in Philly! I can’t believe half of my college career is over. Good thing sophomore summer is coming up or I’d start mourning over the lack of school. Yes, sometimes I like school and work. Sometimes as in AFTER I’m done with finals.

I swear the average person’s lifespan is cut by at least five years if you go to college compared to if you don’t. Being in college really works you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 101 lists during finals period consists of habits you do not want to be getting into on a daily basis. Eating, sleeping, practically living in the library? Check. Running to the professor’s office to hand in your final paper five minutes before it’s due? Check. Unconsciously substituting coffee for water? Check. Having insanity checks every hour? CHECK.

This recipe for a hummingbird cake is a must try if you are a fan of banana bread and cream cheese icing. A hummingbird cake is just a banana cake traditionally with pecans (I used walnuts) and cream cheese icing. It’s a beautiful layered cake, without too much work—a bang for your buck and time. 


For the cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups mashed bananas
½ cup chopped walnuts

For the cream cheese icing
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, sugar, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup walnuts, and bananas.
4. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
6. For the cream cheese icing: in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
7. Spread cream cheese icing between cake layers and on the tops and sides of cake. Sprinkle ½ cup chopped walnuts on the sides. Decorate with complete half walnuts if desired.