Strawberry season! Where the fruit is fresh, reasonably priced and the recipe possibilities are endless. There’s this show in Disney World called the Hoop de Doo Review that my family has gone to for years. And at the end of the show, they serve you fresh strawberry shortcake. But, they serve it to you while dancing in this big grand finale. The way all dessert should be served. Anyways, it’s this big production where they have signs that say “STRAW” “BERRY” “SHORT” “CAKE” and all the waiters serve you this dessert while doing high kicks. So every time anyone in my family says “strawberry” the rest of us do our best hoop de doo impression. Which is why I was really pumped when I picked up a gigantic batch of fresh strawberries the past few weeks at the store. And maybe that explains the strange looks I got while high kicking around the fruit section of the Southie Stop + Shop.
A week ago, I decided to experiment with strawberries by making Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting. They turned out great, but honestly I’m not a cupcake person, and I didn’t do a great job photographing them because I was rushing, so they weren’t blog worthy in my opinion. I’ll try again another day. But the frosting, dang was that delicious. It uses freshly pureed strawberries and lots of butter and sugar. Best combination ever. So I was trying to think of another way I could use the frosting and decided to sandwich it between some freshly baked sugar cookies. My brother and sister-in-law went on vacation to Tahiti earlier this year and brought me back from fresh Tahitian vanilla beans, so I just had a good feeling about the combo of fresh strawberries and Tahitian vanilla.
The key to this recipe is the fresh strawberries. You can use frozen for the frosting, but I really think the fresh berries pack a mean fruity punch that frozen just doesn’t compare to. When I was at the Indulge Conference in Portland, OXO was a sponsor and gave us these products from their new Green Saver line. They gave us both the Crisper Insert and the Produce Keeper basket. These products were created to help keep produce fresher longer, a problem I definitely have being one person who likes to buy lots of fresh fruits and veggies when I am home. I put my strawberries in here:
And days later, when usually a few would be squishy and moldy, they were still wicked fresh! This is unsponsored and totally my own thoughts, but I’ve already sent the links to a few family and friends to go buy these products. I’m all about spreading the good word when I find something that actually works. Thanks OXO!
Back to the cookies. My suggestion is to make the cookie dough first, so it has time to chill in the fridge before baking and you can make the frosting while it sits in the fridge. This is a little more time consuming than my normal recipes, but totally worth it and doesn’t involve any overnight chilling or anything, so little patience is required. I used the Sprinkles Cupcake frosting recipe here, because it’s basic and delicious, and a little thicker which is good for the sandwich cookies.
Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 cup whole fresh strawberries
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
- Pinch of coarse salt
- 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugars, vanilla seeds and butter. Add eggs and mix well.
Step 2: In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet batter and mix on low speed until well incorporated.
Step 3: Chill the dough in the fridge so that it is easier to handle, for about 20-30 minutes while you make the frosting.
Step 4: To make the frosting, place the strawberries in a food processor (or you can use an immersion blender) and process until pureed. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the puree for the frosting. Save any extra for another use (margarita’s anyone??)
Step 5: In your mixer, beat together butter and salt on a medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar and beat on a low speed unti well combined. If you go too fast on this step you’ll end up covered in sugar.
Step 6: Add the vanilla and 3 tablespoons of strawberry puree and mix until blended. Be careful not to overmix. The frosting should be dense and creamy. Put in the fridge to chill.
Step 7: Take the cookie dough out of the fridge. Using a medium cookie scoop, place even-size balls of dough on sil-pat or parchment lined baking sheets. Press down lightly with your fingertips to flatten. Bake at 350 degrees for about 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Let the cookies set on the cookie tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 8: Once the cookies have cooled completely, place the frosting in a piping bag (or a zip loc bag twisted with the end cut off) and place a healthy dollop of frosting on half of the cookies. Lightly press another cookie on top to complete the cookie sandwich. If not serving right away, chill in the fridge to let the frosting set.
Not to pat myself on the back, but this flavor combination is a real winner. I done good. The cookies have a nice crunch, and that punch of vanilla bean flavor. And when you bite into them you get the sugary sweet strawberry frosting. All of my friends are loving that I haven’t been traveling for work, because I am always looking for taste testers to take all of my baking experiments since I don’t need to eat 2 dozen cookies (though I am sure I could). I brought these to our tennis match Thursday night and my friend Heather is my pseudo distributor, bringing them to work at the Brigham. My friend Sue tried one of these before our doubles match and told me to quit my real job immediately. One day. The best thing about these, is I bet you could match it with a bunch of other flavor combinations for the frosting. Blueberry, watermelon, raspberry, lemon, maybe even orange. I’ll see what I’m feeling up for this summer and do some experimenting with that frosting recipe.
Alright, so I know it’s been a while since I had a recipe post since the Portland foodie adventure, so I’ll give you a quick update on the happenings of the past week and a half. There’s been a LOT going on in life, which I’ll update you on another day. But for now, my life recently was filled with BABIES.
I was back home in Connecticut last week for my sister-in-law’s baby shower and my friend Suzanne perfectly timed the arrival of her first baby on one of the only weekends I am in CT all year. So I was really happy to go visit Sushi and baby Thomas at the hospital last week. Even though I was really hoping for a girl so that I could dress it up in a tutu like Suzanne and I (who met when we were little ballerinas together) I still managed to do some damage at the Southie baby boutique on outfits for this little man. And then Saturday we showered my sister-in-law with lots and lots of presents and love for my nephew who is due to make his appearance in just two months! I made these favors that were little mason jars with silver and blue Hershey kisses, and a sticker on top that said Ann Taylor’s Baby Shower. The elephant (roll tide!) is made of paper and has flower seeds in it so you can plan it in the mason jar with some soil after you eat all the chocolate and it will grow just like a baby (not really, but you get the metaphor). Gahhh I love all things baby. Look at that, there’s my future nephew in there! (She’s pregnant on the left … I just have a food baby from Portland I’m still working off)I can’t really honestly remember what I did at all last week. I know I played tennis one day. I finished watching Mad Men and moved onto Orange is the New Black Season 3. I’ve been using my Class Pass and trying out a whole bunch of new classes all around the city which I am loving. I’ve discovered a great barre studio in Southie and a pilates reformer class within walking distance to my house. My friend Amanda and I also started to meet eachother any morning the weather is nice at 6:30am, get iced coffee and walk 4 miles. I was finding that on the days I work from home (which now is pretty much every day) that I barely move my butt until I hit the gym. So this way I hit 8,000 steps before 8am and then can hit the gym later in the day. Not to mention it’s a great way to start the day chatting with a friend while moving your butt.
Now, before you think I’ve gotten all healthy, let’s talk about Friday night. One of my favorite things of living in Southie are Friday nights in the backyard with my girlfriends drinking wine and just relaxing after a long work week. Last year was the year of grilled pizza and vino Fridaze. This past Friday a few friends came over for some charcuterie (I just love that word) and then Gourmet S’mores.
My new obsession is honey on top of Brie. And whipped ricotta with honey.Did a little crostini experimenting and put goat cheese, honey, peach and prosciutto on freshly toasted baguette. Oh yeah. I really need to start posting all my appetizer recipes, because I am the queen of a good app.
So on to the S’mores. I read about this idea for a Gourmet S’mores Party on the Blog Kevin and Amanda. When I read it a few weeks ago, I sent an email to a few girlfriends and asked if anyone would be interested. I think I immediately got replies from everyone saying they were drooling. So four of us did some ghetto marshmallow toasting (over the grill, since fire pits are illegal in Southie) and used our platter of ingredients to create some delicious s’mores. I have to say the Ritz crackers are a game changer in the world of s’mores. GAME CHANGER. My favorite combo was Ritz Cracker with a little peanut butter spread on top, a Reese’s peanut butter cup and toasted marshmallow. Wearing stretchy shorts was a solid move for this. I unfortunately wasn’t thinking when I signed up for a 7:25am spin class at The Handle Bar on Saturday morning post S’mores fest (with a lot of vino consumed) but I’m too cheap to pay the $15 cancellation fee …. so I made it. And there was straight marshmallow and pinot coming out of my pores.
Saturday I spent the rest of the day doing all of my favorite things. A trip to Christine’s Day Spa in Newton. Lunch at Panera with my Cape neighbor Mrs. Logan. Shopping at the Chestnut Hill Mall (maybe bathing suit shopping was not well timed after a night of S’mores, oops), then some more baking and a night of Netflix. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting in the kitchen since I’ve been home more, and think I finally perfected homemade vanilla bean ice cream. So look for that as one of my next posts. I also am getting myself organized to start posting a lot of my favorite summer cooking recipes so lots to look forward to in the coming weeks!