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Thousand Oaks

Now You’re Cooking: Berries, Lemons and Streusel: A Summer Recipe Extravaganza

A little bit of lemon zest can go a long way in baked goods. Just like salt, a pinch or so will truly enhance the already present flavors.

Golden, buttery and so delicious, this sour cream coffee cake is filled with juicy blueberries, topped with a crumbly streusel and finished with a sweet lemon glaze. Mixing the baking soda with the sour cream in advance and using superfine sugar are the secrets to creating the cake’s soft and delicate texture.

Streusel-Topped Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

(Makes 12 servings)

STREUSEL TOPPING

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Finely grated zest from half a lemon

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

COFFEE CAKE BATTER

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup superfine or granulated sugar

Finely grated zest and juice from one lemon

½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups fresh organic blueberries

LEMON GLAZE

½ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place a sheet of parchment paper over the removable bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Replace the ring and secure it to the base (the parchment overhang will help you remove the cake once baked). Spray the sides with nonstick cooking spray.

FOR STREUSEL TOPPING: Combine brown sugar, flour, lemon zest and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir in butter until small crumbles form. 

FOR COFFEE CAKE BATTER: Combine sour cream and baking soda in a medium bowl; stir well (it will swell a little as it stands). Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Beat butter in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, and beat for 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the sour cream mixture. Stir in remaining flour mixture just until combined (batter will be fairly thick). Fold in blueberries, being careful not to overmix.

Spoon batter into the prepared springform pan, smoothing down top. Top with streusel topping. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake; remove the side of the springform pan and cool while making the glaze.

FOR LEMON GLAZE: Combine powdered sugar, milk and lemon zest in a small bowl; stir until smooth. Drizzle over coffee cake. 

Serve coffee cake warm or at room temperature. Store leftover coffee cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. To reheat, place in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars are the dessert you never knew you needed! Sweet, tangy and oh-so-easy to make, they are sure to become a family favorite. The cheesecake can be made a day in advance, stored in the refrigerator and then sliced just before serving. Thinly sliced lemons make a nice garnish, as do fresh berries.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

(Makes 16 bars)

CRUST

1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)

¼ cup butter, melted

BATTER

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil with ends of parchment or foil extending over sides (this makes for easy cheesecake removal). 

FOR CRUST: Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a medium bowl; pour into the prepared baking pan, spreading out evenly. Press down to pack firmly. Bake the crust for 8 minutes.

FOR FILLING: Beat cream cheese in a large mixer bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract and salt; beat well. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour mixture into the crust.

Bake for 32 to 35 minutes or until the cheesecake is set (the center should still be a little jiggly; edges should be puffed). Cool completely at room temperature, then cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To serve, carefully lift the cheesecake from the pan using parchment overhang. With a sharp knife, cut into bars (wiping knife clean after each cut). Refrigerate leftover bars in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this baked meringue, known as a pavlova, is light and crisp on the outside and marshmallow-like on the inside. Pavlova is a combination of egg whites and sugar whipped to stiff peaks and then baked at a low temperature to create a meringue crust with a marshmallowy center. Topped with sweetened whipped cream, seasonal berries and freshly grated lemon zest, this recipe is a beautiful and tasty way to celebrate summer’s bounty!

Fresh Berry Pavlova

(Makes about 10 servings)

¾ cup egg whites (from about 6 large eggs), at room temperature

Pinch of kosher salt

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar, divided use

1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

1 ½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided use

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

3 to 4 cups assorted fresh organic berries (such as blueberries and/or blackberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries and/or halved and pitted cherries)

Finely grated zest from one small lemon

Powdered sugar (optional)

Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and then preheat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites and salt in a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute or until foamy. With the mixer still on high, slowly add 1 ½ cups sugar and beat until stiff, shiny peaks form (about 6 minutes). Add cornstarch, vinegar and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat for about 10 seconds or just until combined.

Pile the meringue onto the center of the parchment paper, and then with a spatula or spoon, from center outward, form into a 10-inch circle with edges that are slightly higher than the middle (the middle will hold the sweetened whipped cream and berries).

Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and then bake the meringue for 1 ½ hours. The meringue exterior should be dry and crisp, and the color should be pale. Turn off the oven, and with the door closed, allow the meringue to cool completely for two hours (this will allow it to dry out but not continue to bake). Remove from the oven (some cracking of the meringue is normal). At this point, the meringue can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or you can proceed with the recipe.

Just before serving, place the whipping cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining teaspoon of vanilla in a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Carefully peel the meringue away from the parchment paper, and place it on a large flat platter. Or, serve straight from the parchment-lined baking sheet. Spoon the whipped cream over the center. Top with berries. Sprinkle with lemon zest and then dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve immediately. The prepared pavlova is best enjoyed the day it’s assembled, as the meringue will gain moisture and lose its crispness with time.

Caprese skewers are the most simple and delicious appetizer you can make, serve and devour all summer long! Made with vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy mozzarella, they imitate the classic caprese salad, only made portable on a skewer!

Since cantaloupe is at its peak in flavor during the summer months and pairs so beautifully with basil, mozzarella and salty prosciutto, I made sure to include this variation along with traditional caprese.

The appetizer skewers are drizzled with balsamic glaze just before serving. I took a shortcut by purchasing balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s, but you can easily make your own balsamic reduction by pouring balsamic vinegar (½ cup or so) into a small saucepan and gently boiling over medium-low heat until it’s reduced by half. Cool completely and then drizzle — it’s that simple!

Caprese & Melon Appetizer Skewers

(Makes 16 skewers)

16 small wooden or bamboo skewers (about 4- to 6-inches long)

16 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes

1 bunch fresh basil (32 leaves needed)

16 fresh, water-packed or marinated (cherry size) mozzarella balls, drained

½ cantaloupe (scooped into 16 1-inch balls)

4 thin slices prosciutto, cut in half

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Balsamic glaze for drizzling

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For caprese skewers, thread two tomatoes, two basil leaves and a mozzarella ball, mixing and matching in varied combinations, onto each of 8 skewers.

For melon skewers, thread two cantaloupe balls, two basil leaves, a mozzarella ball and prosciutto (fold or ruffle it), mixing and matching in varied combinations, onto each of 8 skewers.

Place prepared skewers onto a serving platter; drizzle caprese skewers with a little olive oil, if desired. Drizzle all skewers with balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper.

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