JUNE 12, 2011


Last week I hosted a cooking class with my friend, “J”.  Each year we donate a cooking class to our school’s auction and this years theme was “Little Bites”.  I wanted to not only come up with recipes that one could eat at a small cocktail party, but also, give ideas that could made in a few minutes, using pantry staples.

It took me a while to motivate, but once I did, it all came together.  “J” was in charge of cocktails, cheese + nuts, and setting the perfect environment.  We collaborated on the menu and I typed up the market list.  Then, we divided and conquered.  Here’s a peak at our menu:

Lime Gimlets
Puff Pastry Tart with Gruyere + Asparagus
Bruschetta – tuna, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, capers, lemon zest + olive oil over garbonzo bean spread
Mini Lamb Kebabs (marinated 1″ lamb cubes in olive oil, garlic, S+P)
Thai Spiced Drummettes (marinated over night in sesame oil, sriracha, honey, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce)
Sumi Slaw (shredded cabbage, carrots, almond slivers, sesame seeds, scallions – dressed in a rice wine vinaigrette)
Frozen Mocha Lattes with Kaluah
Strawberry Shortcake Cups

This is our 3rd year hosting this event and each year, we are asked if we could do this once a month.  This year, I am entertaining the idea, but need to talk to my partner in crime, J.  It sure is fun feeling like an adult, sharing stories, laughing about pretty much anything, and cooking together.

Our little bites theme carried through to dessert.  I made a double batch of dough so I would have room to play with it.  I made a batch of these little cups.  But they failed. I started to get a little nervous because I kind of procrastinated and waited until a few hours before the dinner to bake these off.  I baked off a batch of traditional style shortcakes which came out perfect.  Eli tested and gave the thumbs up. I went back to the drawing board.  I shaped the dough in the mini muffin cups.  Poked holes with the fork and stuck the tray in the freezer for about an hour.  Pulled the tray out of  the freezer, poked more holes and baked them off.  Perfect! Phew…

Because I had a double batch of dough, I decided to shape all of the shortcake cups, bake them and then froze the pre-baked cups.  The other night for dessert, I filled the cups with some vanilla bean ice cream, topped it off with some homemade caramel sauce, and sprinkled some toasted almonds on top. I love having versatile treats in my freezer.  Makes life so much easier!

Strawberry Shortcake Cups with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
yield: 36 mini strawberry shortcake cups

Pastry dough
1  cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3oz.)chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 oz. chilled buttermilk

pastry cream(original recipe here)
1 1/4 cups (300 grams) milk
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped from the pod

whipped cream (optional)

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


pastry dough:
• blend flours, baking soda, and salt in processor.
• add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
• add buttermilk and honey and process just until moist clumps form.
• turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Dust lightly with flour.
• spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
• pinch off a 2″ round piece of dough.  flatten between your palms and press into prepared muffin tins. repeat until all the dough is gone.
• poke holes in shortcake cups and put tray in the freezer for 1 hour or overnight (cover with plastic wrap)
• when ready to bake, preheat oven to 400*.
• re-poke each muffin cup with a fork and sprinkle each cup with a very small amount of turbinado sugar.
• bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating pans mid way through baking. let cool completely. set aside.

pastry cream:
• in a medium saucepan, scald the milk over medium-high heat.
• while the milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and salt.
• in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. the mixture will be thick and pasty.
• remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly.
• return the mixture to the saucepan and over medium heat, whisk vigorously until it thickens and comes to a boil (3-5 minutes).
• once it thickens, stop whisking every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil. If it has not, keep whisking vigorously. as soon as you see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking for just 10 seconds, and then remove the pan from the heat.
• pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small heatproof bowl. add the beans from the vanilla bean, mix thoroughly.
• cover with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the cream. refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold, or up to 3 days.

whipped cream
 using a hand held mixer, whip the cream to thicken (slightly thinner than shaving cream).  add brown sugar and vanilla and whip to combine.  keep refrigerated.