Sunday, June 17, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Easy Tiramisu / The Summer Solstice & the Strawberry Moon

The one thing I’ve learned as I get older is that I really appreciate doing things in the easiest, quickest way possible.
And that includes recipes.

I’m not saying I want to live on bread and water, but I sure don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, especially during the summer when it’s so hot, both indoors and outdoors.
Yes, it really does get hot in Manitoba.

One of my favourite desserts to serve in the summer is tiramisu. 
It is easy to prepare and means something like “Cheer me up” in Italian.
Yes, it does lose something in translation.
Tiramisu has a nice ring to it and is easy to remember.

Ma had an easy version of the classic recipe.
It gets the ‘adults only’ rating because it has strong coffee in it.
If you choose to serve it to the kiddies, well, you’ve been warned.
This could make them a bit hyperactive.
Oh, well, it's summer. They'll run it off.


Hints:

If you don’t have ladyfingers, vanilla wafers (Nillas) can be used.
Or you can make Ma’s Ladyfingers.

Your choice - regular or low fat sweetened condensed milk. 
Same with the cream cheese.

You can use one thawed container of whipped topping instead of the whipped cream.

For a bit of an extra kick use 2 Tablespoons amaretto or Cognac instead of the rum extract in the cream cheese mixture.

Want a classic Tiramisu? Make Carmela Soprano's Tiramisu.

In a few weeks, when we’re in the hottest part of summer, the gang will be sure to enjoy Anna Sultana’s Frozen Tiramisu, Maltese Style.


                                                Tiramisu

Place a medium mixer bowl and beaters in the refrigerator.

Brew a pot of coffee (espresso or double strength)
You’ll need 1 1/2 Cups of coffee for the recipe, so pour 1 1/2 Cups of coffee into a bowl and allow it to cool.
You can drink the rest hot or cold.

Have on hand 
48 savoiardi or ladyfingers

Finely grate 4 to 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate.

Take the medium mixer bowl and beaters out of the refrigerator.
Place in the bowl
2 Cups heavy cream
Beat the cream until soft peaks form.

Place in a large mixer bowl 
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
Beat until fluffy.
Gradually add
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 teaspoons rum extract
Beat until smooth.
Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese / condensed milk mixture.
Set aside.

Lightly dip into the bowl of cooled coffee
24 savoiardi or ladyfingers
Arrange them in a single layer in a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Spoon half of the cream mixture over the ladyfingers and spread evenly.
Sprinkle over the surface
1/2 of the grated bittersweet chocolate

Lightly dip into the bowl of cooled coffee the remaining
24 savoiardi or ladyfingers
Arrange them in a single layer over the cream mixture in the pan.
Spoon the remaining cream mixture over the ladyfingers and spread evenly. 
Sprinkle over the surface
1/2 of the grated bittersweet chocolate

Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Overnight is better.


About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

June 20 - First Quarter Moon 6:51 a.m. In this phase, one-half of the Moon appears illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is increasing.

June 21 - Summer Solstice at 6:07 a.m. This is when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator, giving us the longest day of the year in terms of daylight. Summer is officially here in the Northern Hemisphere!

June 23 - Once it gets dark, take note of Jupiter in the south-southeast, shining to the lower right of the bright waxing gibbous Moon. Jupiter was at opposition in early May, so in June it fades ever-so-slightly to magnitude -2.4 and gets a trace smaller in telescopes. Although Venus outshines it, Jupiter is the dominant light in its part of the sky and still offers a generously big disk; given good seeing and a large telescope, it can be rich in telescopic detail.

June 27 - Saturn comes to opposition in grand fashion, being accompanied across the sky by the full Moon, which itself also happens to be opposite to the Sun. Saturn will arrive at opposition at 8:17 a.m. The Moon will pass about 1° to its north about 15 hours later at around 11 p.m. late Wednesday night and will then officially turn full at 12:53 a.m. on Thursday.

June 28 - Full Strawberry Moon at 12:53 a.m. The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Though the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered “full” for the entire day of the event, and appears full for three days.

June 29 - Moon is at apogee 10:29 p.m., its farthest point from Earth. An easy way to remember: Apogee = Away. You can also try to spot the planet Mercury beneath Venus low in the western horizon, 1 hour after sunset. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the five brightest planets, and all have the possibility of being seen after sunset.

June 30 - Look to the southeast in the evening for the waning gibbous Moon and Mars to rise into the southeast sky about mid-to-late evening.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Anna Sultana’s Lemon Surprise Cake / The Summer Triangle

It’s funny how a holiday can make you think of a certain dessert. Think about it… 
Love it or hate it, everyone expects to see a fruitcake at Christmas.
And what’s Thanksgiving without a slice or two of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream?

Here we are, in June, and every Canadian is in summer vacation mode.
We’ve gone through our usual long winter and can’t just serve another winter dessert.
Cobblers and coffeecakes - good as they are - have their place, and that’s not at the end of a summer meal or barbecue.


Tangy lemon recipes are perfect for ending summer meals and barbecues.
Lemon Surprise Cake is a summer recipe that was popular when I was a kid.
Ma wasn’t big on buying soda, but she'd heard a few of her co-workers talk about this really easy cake recipe.
Then one of her friends brought a slice to work and shared a bite with Ma.
Ma liked it and, when Ma made a cake for us, we did, too.


Hints:

You can use sugar-free soda.

If the frosting to too thick it can be thinned with a little water or lemon juice or milk.

For a lighter touch you can make a simple glaze:
Mix together 
2 Cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Drizzle over the cooled cake.

You can also make this into a poke cake:
Using a fork, poke holes in the warm cake and pour the lemon glaze over the cake. Cool the cake and serve.

You could melt some chocolate and drizzle it on the top of the cake. 
White chocolate goes well with the lemon lime taste.

You can also use a container of fluffy type frosting or just give the cooled cake a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.


                        Lemon Surprise Cake

Heavily grease and flour an angel food cake pan or a bundt pan  

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F

Place in a large mixer bowl
1 1/2 Cups butter, at room temperature
3 Cups sugar
Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Turn down the speed to low and add one at a time
5 large eggs, at room temperature
Beat well after each addition.
Add
2 Tablespoons lemon extract
3/4 Cup 7-up or Sprite or any lemon-lime soda 
Stir until just blended.
Stir in, 1 Cup at a time
3 Cups flour 
Stir until just blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out dry.
Cool cake in the pan for 10 minutes before removing.
Run a knife around, between the cake and the cake pan, to loosen the cake.
Carefully remove the cake and cool it on a wire rack.
Place the cake on a pretty serving platter.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the icing:

                        Lemon Icing

Place in a medium mixer bowl
4 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
Beat at medium speed until light.
Beat in
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Turn down the speed to low and add, 1 Cup at a time
3 Cups confectioners’ sugar
Spread over the cooled cake.
Garnish with slivers of lemon rind.


About the sky, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac…

Look for the Big Dipper asterism, referred to as The Plough by those in the U.K. As the most recognizable star pattern in our night sky, it will be high in the north in the evening hours during the month of June.

June 6 - Mercury passes from the morning to the evening sky. Observers who closely follow Venus may be able to see Mercury as early as the evening of the 13th in rather bright skies, about a half hour after sunset and hovering just above the west-northwest horizon nearly 30-degrees to the lower right of Venus. 
Mercury, at magnitude -1.4, will then match Sirius (the brightest star) yet will be fainter than Venus by nearly three magnitudes. By month’s end, Mercury dims to magnitude -0.1, but is more easily found, setting 1½ hours after the sun.

June 9 - Stargazers can still spot the Summer Triangle on these spring evenings at dusk. Look for a triangle that’s composed of the three brightest stars in the sky: Deneb, Vega, and Altair. 

June 11 - At dusk, Venus forms a nearly straight and horizontal line, just over 10° long with the much fainter “Twin stars,” Pollux and Castor. For viewers at mid-northern latitudes, June is the month when Venus appears highest right after sunset. This dazzling world (magnitude -4.0) is more than 25-degrees high at sunset now for observers around 40-degree north latitude. It sets about 2½ hours after the Sun at the start of June and maintains this interval throughout the month.

June 13 - Tonight is a Supermoon! But you won’t see it. That’s because its in the “new” phase. The new Moon will be at its closest point to Earth in its orbit on the 14th.
A lovely crescent Moon and Venus likely will attract attention to even casual sky watchers at dusk, although they are not really all that close to each other; Venus appears 7 or 8-degrees to the right of the moon as they descend the west-northwest sky.

June 14 - Earliest sunrise of 2018. This happens every year around mid-June. The Moon is also at perigee, its closest position to Earth, at 7:45 p.m.

June 15-16 - After sunset look for Venus and Mercury near the waxing crescent Moon, 30-45 minutes after sundown. Mercury will be beneath Venus and very close to the horizon.