Strawberry Crumb Cake

Strawberries are ripe, ripe, ripe in my neck of the woods. Every farm stand along my tuesday evening route, touts the sweetest and freshest, organic berries. I can’t resist. Particularly because i make a really great strawberry-rhubarb jam, that disappears faster than anything else in the pantry. I grab loads of the juicy red fruit whenever i find it. Being as we spend most days at the ranch counting idle minutes on one hand, it feels less guilty to indulge in a bit of sweet at day’s close. When i have a moment, I bake a cake like this one. It is a simple twist on a classic crumb cake, using the sweet ripe fruit of the season in its crumb.

Strawberry Crumb Cake

1 1/4 cup cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature–cut into cubes)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 tsp of your favorite strawberry (or strawberry-rhubarb) jam

Place the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Quickly give it a few turns to incorporate everything together. Add the butter. *the butter should be softened, but not warm and creamy. You want it to mix into the flour mixture making more of a clumpy sand consistency, then a creamed. Mix the ingredients until the butter is finely incorporated into the flour mixture. Meanwhile, combine the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the whole egg and the egg yolk to the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure there are no dry spots. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk/vanilla mixture and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix pour into a 8×8 buttered square cake pan. Strategically plop the 4 tsp of jam you can add a bit more if you like in the batter. Run the back of a butter knife through the cake batter to swirl the jam through evenly. Set aside while you prepare the crumble.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups all purpose flour
10 Tbs unsalted butter–fairly cold–cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 cup fresh ripe strawberries–cut into 1/4″ dice

Mix together the sugar, salt and flour by hand in a large bowl. Drop in butter and either work in by hand, or use pastry knives/fork/blender to make fairly large crumble. Tip in the strawberries and work in by hand, using a bit of a firm hand, to get them mixed up well in the flour mixture. Don’t squeeze and knead, you do not want to warm the butter, but allow the strawberries to fully incorporate into the crumb. Gently pile on top of the cake. Some of the crumbs will sink into the cake as it bakes, which is why i make SO MUCH CRUMB!
Bake in a 375F oven for about 35-45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and keep an eye on it. The cake is moist, so it can tolerate a bit of over baking, but don’t forget to keep an eye on it. Check by using a toothpick or wooden skewer to see if it is done baking. Allow to cool completely before eating

Triple Berry Dessert Sauce

We grow strawberries in our garden. Each June we joyfully harvest them. We also grow raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries. They are only evident by the bare vines choking our fences. Those sweet berries are harvested by the local fauna; which possess ripeness gauges to rival a seasoned gardener. I buy most of our berries at the local farmer’s market. This week I found gorgeous raspberries, perfectly ripe and brightly colored, at four bucks a punnet. Here I was, mulling my decision to buy when a woman beside me said “they would make the most delicious coulis”. “do you know what a coulis is?” she asked with a tip of her head. I sweetly smiled (which is a bit of a feat), and and said “yes i do” and “yes they would”. But what I was thinking was lady, you are either crazy or rich; four dollars a handful is not a bargain. Furthermore, if I planned to whirl these in a blender with some sugar, I might as well buy frozen ones for half the price. This was going through my mind, as I handed over my eight dollars and chose the ripest berries, in the most full containers.
I brought them home and they sat. Then I moved them to the fridge where they satsome more.
Today, I am reminded of that woman at the market with her clarvoyant premonition, as I simmer these over-ripe berries into a sauce. Not a coulis. But a sauce just the same.

Triple Berry Dessert Sauce

1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 lb strawberries–hulled and cut in half
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 oz cassis
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low until the berries are soft and the sugar is melted. The strawberries may take a bit longer to soften than the raspberries or blackberries. If you find this happening, just turn the burner off and allow the berries to sit in the warm juice for 10 minutes or so, the strawberries will continue to soften from the residual heat. Allow to cool to warm. spoon over ice cream or a slab of shortcake. Refrigerate whats left. Will keep about 5 days.

Strawberry Cream Soda

When I think of summer picnics, my mind wanders to a scene from Oklahoma. The one where they were raising money for the schoolhouse; the gals made picnic hampers and the pals bid on them. While we never actually saw the food; we were told that under the kitchen cloth, the baskets overflowed with ham and biscuits and pie. Food so good, it made people break out in song. I wish my picnics were as magical. I’m betting that if i whipped this cream soda out of my hamper, Mike would whisk me away in a surrey with fringe on top. White horses and all.

Strawberry Cream Soda
makes 1 serving

1 Tbs mashed strawberries or strawberry puree
sugar *
1 Tbs cream
1/2 cup ice cold ginger ale
ice cubes
*summer strawberries are so sweet the don’t need extra sugar, but if you like a really sweet soda, use at your discretion.
Place the strawberries and cream in a glass and give it a good stir. Add several ice cubes and then pour ginger ale to fill the glass. Serve immediately

Strawberry Harvest

This evening I worked my way through our strawberry patch delicately cupping clusters of sun warmed crimson fruit. Hunched like a greedy troll while on tip-toe, I may have looked like a mountain dancer. While in reality I was minding the space underfoot, careful not to crush those berries not yet at perfect pitch. Last year we planted 4 varieties of strawberry; two June bearing chandler and sequoia, one everbearing quinalt, and finally a variety we brought back from Italy alpine. The berries grow different sizes, at different rates, each with its own flavor profile. They are equally sweet, very sweet, with strawberry flavor that saturates your tongue. Our first harvest is strictly for eating one by one until our bellies are full and our lips rosy red. I’ll let you know if there are any left for sharing.