Raspberry Shortbread Bars

These bars. These bars! Now, I know that I say that every recipe that I share is wonderful…which, they are. I don’t share anything that we didn’t like with you guys. That being said, these bars are seriously one of the best things I’ve baked in my kitchen. Don’t wait to make them!

A thick, soft bed of shortbread topped with raspberry jam and a crumble topping made with of a bit of reserved shortbread, granola, and a generous dose of nuts. Takes all of 10 minutes to put together, how easy is that? Like you can expect anything less from Queen Ina.

There’s a backstory to these bars, though. Sea Star Cafe, my favorite local spot for lunch or a quick bite here on Chincoteague recently closed for the season. They make a bar that is very similar to this, in both a raspberry and apricot variety. And they’re addictingly delicious! I became a regular visitor…like, verging on the edge of daily, just to get these bars when they had them available.  Since they close for a few months in the off-season, I had to find another source…

I’m an accomplished baker, I should be able to make a decent crumble bar, right? I’d tried a couple in the past, but they were lackluster attempts. This one is it!

I know I’ll be baking these once a week for a while, just to try different varieties of jam. They slice beautifully and keep for a few days too, making them great candidates for cookie trays or gifting!

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten, inspired by Sea Star Cafe.

Fresh Peach Cupcakes

We technically have a couple weeks of summer left – so I wanted to squeeze in one last post utilizing another of my favorite fresh seasonal items. Peaches. For me, they are the epitome of summer. There is nothing like plucking a fresh peach off of a tree, still warm from the sun, and biting into it. Doesn’t get any better than that!

I’m thankful to have a wonderful orchard, just a short drive off of the island. I’ve talked about them before here on the blog, I truly love them. Vessey’s Orchard has been there for close to 100 years, there is a huge historic home on the property, acres and acres of fruit trees – it’s just paradise.

After the parents passed, there were some family disputes and they found themselves closed for a couple of seasons. Well, I’m happy to report they are back in business…and the produce is better than ever!

Vessey's Orchard

If you’re here on the Shore, I can’t recommend visiting them highly enough. It’s getting to be apple picking (and fresh-pressed cider!) season there as well, that’s something that we look forward to every year as a family. We’ve made so many memories in those fields, and I can’t wait to make some more!

You can find their contact information here – just make sure when you get there, you drive all the way to the end of the long driveway.  So anyways, the cupcakes…

I took my favorite vanilla cake recipe and added chunks of fresh peaches, then topped with a fresh peach buttercream – which I’d made with fresh pureed peaches. And, a garnish of a fresh peach slice right before serving really set off the gorgeous blush hue of the frosting.

The resulting cupcakes were bursting with sunny peach flavor, and tender and moist from the addition of the peaches to the batter. One I’ll definitely be looking forward to making again next summer!

Raspberry Mascarpone Tart

Is it just me, or have the berries this year been especially good? From the berries that I’ve picked myself, as well as my standards I pick up every week in the grocery store – they’ve all been exceptional. This simple tart really gives them an opportunity to shine as well!

I just used my standard pie crust for the tart base, and it turned out fine. I found that if I chilled the dough really well in the tart pan before blind baking – it reduced the shrinkage factor. I think those mini Phyllo shells would also work wonderfully,  and single serve would be great for get-togethers.

The filling is super simple – sweet and rich from the mascarpone, with a little tang from the addition of cream cheese. Then to top it off, a pile of gorgeous red ripe glazed raspberries. A drizzle of chocolate ganache would be a another nice addition, but I didn’t feel it was necessary. I wanted to really let the berries shine, and shine they did…

Fresh Raspberry Mascarpone Tart

1 pastry crust, rolled out
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream

For the topping:
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup apple or strawberry jelly (not jam or preserves!)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll-out dough on well-floured work surface, to about a 13 to 14 inch circle or big enough to fit an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Ease dough gently into pan, pressing against the bottom and sides, folding remaining dough over the edge. Roll over with a rolling pin to cut off excess dough. Line with foil. Fill with raw beans or pie weights and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove beans and foil and return to the oven. Continue baking for another 5 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

For the filling, add cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute until creamy, reduce mixer to low and add the confectioner sugar and cream, as well as vanilla. Add in the mascarpone last, beating until just combined. Carefully add the mascarpone mixture to the cooled tart shell. Place into refrigerator to chill while you prepare topping.

Add the jelly to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s completely melted. Let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully pour the syrup over the berries and toss gently to coat.

Gently pile berries on the top of the tart, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Driscoll’s Berries. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Blueberry Margaritas

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip “down the county” with my best friend early on a Saturday morning. Our destination was Mason Beach Fruit Farm, about 45 minutes south of Chincoteague. It was the first time visiting for both of us, but it most definitely won’t be the last.

Blueberry bushes 10 feet tall – acres and acres of them. All the bushes I’ve seen in the past have been scrawny little numbers. But these, they literally created shady groves – so the picking was rather pleasant! It’s situated right on the Chesapeake, so cool breezes were plentiful, which also helps.

I picked about 10 lbs in just under 2 hours. At $1 per pound, you can’t beat the price with a stick. They also had peaches, plums, and early apples available – all for $1/lb as well. At any rate, I had plenty of fresh blueberries I had to use. What better to do with them than make blueberry flavored booze?

blueberries

A couple of pounds went into a home brewed blueberry cream ale. And then, there were these margaritas…

A quick blueberry simple syrup is whipped up, then mixed with traditional margarita components to create this gorgeous cocktail. The flavor of the blueberries really shines through, not to mention the beautiful hue that it leaves the drink with. The syrup is also divine when mixed into lemonade or limeade. But it’s Friday, so tequila is kind of mandatory around here.

Enjoy these gorgeous berries while they are in season where you are. I think I’m going to take one more trip down the road to stock up on some berries for the freezer. I hope everyone has a great weekend!