Strawberry Cream Cake--So Much Easier than it Looks!
Looking for a Mother's Day treat that really says you care? That you care enough to take on a dessert that uses three different bowls? Plus a baking pan? That sound like real love! Just don't tell anyone that this cake is so easy it's practically criminal. If you can bake a box cake, you can make this elegant dessert.
First, put the ingredients together for a box cake according to the package directions. I put in the ingredients from a Duncan Hines cake mix, but your mix might be slightly different. The big thing is that you end up with a thin layer of cake for the base of the dessert. Author's note: Sometimes people ask why I made this cake so large (one-half sheet pan size) and the reason is that it just makes everything come out right--the cream cheese, the whipped topping the glaze and the berries. But if you don't want to make this much, use a 9x13 pan and only use half of the prepared cake batter and other ingredients. The other half of the cake batter will make some yummy cupcakes! Whatever baking pan you use, you only want the cake batter to be about 1/2" thick.
Be careful when you bake--the batter is thin and will cook quickly. Just cook until lightly browned--no more than twenty minutes.
Set the cake aside to cool. Put it in the freezer if you want to hurry things up.
While the cake is cooling, start the glaze by combining the sugar, unsweetened drink mix, and Ultra Gel in a bowl. Stir the ingredients lightly, then add the water all at once and continue stirring with a wire whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to thicken.
To make the cream filling, cut the softened cream cheese into cubes for easier handling, then mix with an electric beater until smooth.
Add the thawed non-dairy whipped topping and continue to beat with the electric beater until smooth.
Assemble the cake using the following process:
Spread the cream cheese filling onto the cooled cake.
Arrange the strawberries over the cream cheese filling
Drizzle the glaze over the top of the strawberries. Smooth if desired.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to blend the flavors before serving.
And there you have it! A Mother's Day treat that looks hard for the one that made motherhood look easy!
The perfect chocolate chip cookie. Some people spend their life in search of that one, perfect recipe. Look no further--this is the chocolate chip cookie that will stay crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside even when it cools. Heaven in 3 inches!!
Nobody needs to show you how to make cookies. You cream the butter, add the sugars, then eggs, then dry ingredients. No rocket science there. But if you want crispy-chewy cookies, there are secrets!!
The first secret is finding the perfect amount of flour to provide structure without dryness. Because when there is too much flour in any cookie recipe, it will be hard and dry. So this recipe requires VERY ACCURATE measurement of flour.
The second secret is the magic of Ultra Gel®, an instant modified food starch, to help give body to the cookie while holding in moisture. Suddenly, you have the know-how to be the favorite parent on the block!! (And if this seems revolutionary, check the ingredient statement of your favorite commercial soft cookies--you'll almost always find "modified food starch" as an ingredient.)
About measuring flour--a standard cup of flour weighs 128 grams. Most of us in the US don't think about grams much, but weighing flour is much more accurate than using a measuring cup. When I teach classes on baked goods, I usually start out by having several class members measure out what they think is a cup of flour. I then weigh the samples, rewarding the one that comes the closest to the standard measure. It is important to bring the importance of accurate measurements to the attention of those who wish to become excellent bakers.
Back in the "recent olden days" flour was sifted, then measured in order to get a standard measurement. Before then, cooks often used teacups or other implements to measure. I have a recipe from my grandmother's mother (born 1871) for some "Cream Cookies". I tried to replicate this recipe many years ago and found that the first ingredient was "a bowl of cream". I questioned my grandmother about it, and her reply was that there was a particular bowl they always used for cream when they skimmed it from the milk. When I asked how much it contained, she had no idea--it was just "a bowl of cream". Standardization of measurements has come a long way in the last hundred years!
But back to measuring flour: In this day and age, nobody I know even OWNS a sifter, so we rely on just putting flour in a measuring cup and calling it a cup. My experience, however, is that most of the time people put more into a cup than is standard--sometimes by as much as 30%. Obviously, that will change the results of any baked good.
If you don't have a scale, use a butter knife to stir the flour, then scoop it carefully into the cup with a spoon, leveling off the top with the back of the knife. That will get you very close! (I just tested this again and was able to come within just a few grams several times in a row.)
And there you have it! Perfectly chewy-crisp chocolate chip cookies. Bet they won't last long enough to get cold!
No-Bake (and safe) Jar Pie
Jar Pie--I'd never heard of it until my cousin told me about baking individual pies in half pint canning jars and serving them at a party--what a fun idea!
In my mind, there are two reasons to use a jar for an individual pie--one is that they're just super-cute and unusual and the other is that you don't have to deal with the drama of rolling out a pie crust. Trendy? Yes. Safe? Maybe questionable. In doing some research, it appears that although commercial canning jars are constructed to withstand high heat, they aren't made of the same type of glass as baking pans like "Pyrex". They may hold up fine, but there is the chance that due to uneven expansion in the oven, they may break in a profoundly startling manner, ruining a perfectly good day with possible injury in addition to a real mess! But despite the possibility of dire consequences, we have to admit that jar pies are truly adorable!
But this is a jar pie that has both the safety and the cuteness factor. Not only can it be made in half-pint wide-mouth canning jars, it can be made in 8 oz ramekins or even mugs--anything you would put in a microwave--because this jar pie will never touch the oven!
Berry Jar Pie
1-16 oz package frozen berries of your choice (I used a strawberry, raspberry, blueberry blend)
1/2 c. sugar
4 T. Ultra Gel®
Commercial or homemade pie crust for a single crust pie
First, roll out the pie crust to about 3/8" thickness (if you're using a commercial crust, just flatten it out). Cut out shapes with cookie cutters that will fit in your desired jar/ramekin when they are baked. Sprinkle with sugar if desired and bake at 400 until lightly browned.
Pour the frozen berries into a microwave-safe bowl (make sure it's large enough to allow substantial expansion). Add 1/2 c. sugar and 4 T. Ultra Gel®. Blend together.
Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, breaking up any large berries. Return to microwave for an additional 2 minutes.
Prepare the jars/ramekins by dropping a baked pie crust disk in the bottom of each one.
Divide the hot berry filling among four jars/ramekins, then top with another pie crust disk.
Serve immediately, with ice cream if you want the full experience! Note: If you want to plan for a delay and you like the crust to be really crisp, avoid assembling until just before serving.
The Quest for the Perfect Apple Pie. . .
The quest for the Perfect Fresh Apple Pie!
I spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks searching for the perfect apple pie recipe--amply filled with slices of deliciously spiced apples with no "cave" between the crust and filling, and especially no oven boil-over (the piemarker's horror, especially the night before Thanksgiving. . ) I tried different varieties of apples and different combinations of ingredients searching for the Holy Grail of Pies. I'll explain the analysis later in the blog, but the three things I found most important were: Choosing the right apple variety, precooking the apples partially to get a full pie, and using Ultra Gel® instant thickener to avoid boil-out (which is what happens when the juices that accumulate as the apples cook boil out of the top of the pie and result in an ever-loving mess in the bottom of your oven. And to add insult to injury, the smoke that results usually ruins whatever is baking.) Here, my friends, is the treasure--the confidence to make the Perfect Apple Pie!
8 c. peeled and sliced tart apples (about 1/4" thick) - pack tightly in measuring cup
2 T. lemon juice (1 T. for very tart apples)
1 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
8 T. Ultra Gel instant thickener (available at www.carnetfoods.com or Amazon)
Homemade or purchased pastry for deep dish 9" pie
Peel and slice the apples into a microwave-safe comtainer (a covered casserole dish works well).
Add the sugar, spices, and Ultra Gel® and toss until evenly coated.
Cover with a lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Stir the apples carefully to make sure they get evenly cooked.
Continue cooking if necessary until the apples lose their crispness and a fork can be inserted easily.
Let cool at least 15 minutes--you will see that the released apple juice is already starting to thicken.
Prepare the bottom crust.
Add the thickened filling to the crust, smoothing the top.
Add the top crust and pierce generously to make vent holes for the steam.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees for an additional thirty minutes. If the filling starts to ooze through the vents, the pie is done--remember that the apples have already been cooked and thickened, so no need to cook to boiling temperatures throughout.
About apples: I live in a great apple-growing area, so many varieties of fresh apples are easily available, and I think I tried them all! Granny Smiths are a national favorite for cooking for good reason--their tartness is a perfect foil for the added sweetener. The favor of the pie made with Granny Smiths was great but I was hoping for a little more firmness in the texture. Galas were too sweet, Honeycrisps were good, as were Jonnygolds. My current personal favorite, however, is the Fuji which seems to stay firm even when precooked.
About precooking apples: Do it!! Put the sliced apples in a covered casserole dish or cover with plastic wrap and microwave for six to eight minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until a fork can be inserted. This takes the crispness out of the apples and
allows them to be easily arranged in the pie plate without the expectation of further shrinking, which leaves a very unflattering "cave" between the filling and the crust.
About using the right thickener: This is the real secret to the smooth texture and lovely sheen of the Perfect Apple Pie. Since Ultra Gel® is an instant starch, it grabs the moisture when it is released from the apples and immediately thickens it, which keeps it from boiling out of the pie. And those lovely thickened juices are at their mouthwatering best when still warm. Side of ice cream, anyone?
This photo shows two standard glass pie plates (incidentally, if you want the bottom crust of your fruit pie to be crisp, the heat-conducting qualities of a glass pie plate will be an advantage). The pie plate on the left is a "deep dish" style pie plate and holds roughly 1 1/2 times the pie filling as the one on the right--also a standard pie plate. This recipe is sized for the plate on the left or one like it.
Incidentally, pies thickened with Ultra Gel® can be made and frozen ahead of your big celebration (don't try this if you thicken with traditional cornstarch or flour). After preparing the pies, bake them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove from the oven, cool, package, and freeze. Do not thaw before baking--bake at 400 for about 15 minutes to crisp the crust, then turn down to 350 until hot all the way through (remember--they're already thickened). Cover the edges with foil if they start getting too brown.
Happy Holidays to all!!
Apple Pie Filling - Home Canned with love and flavor!
Football weather at our house is also Apple Pie Filling weather! It is a rite of passage to gather the family to survey the plentiful and delicious local apples, choose a good Saturday, and mass produce enough apple pie filling for the year. We have been home-canning Apple Pie Filling for over 25 years now, as early adopters when the USDA came out with recipes that were tested and recommended for the home canner using the modified food starch Clearjel. This recipe has been adapted to use Ultra Gel®, as it is easily available and far more versatile than Clearjel.
Peel, core, and slice apples (1/4 inch thickness for even cooking). Place in water containing ascorbic acid or other anti-browning agent.
Blanch apple slices in boiling water for 1 minute in batches, then keep warm (I use a 6 qt slow cooker on warm). Also see notes below.
Start 4-5 inches of water boiling in the water bath canner.
Combine water, apple juice, and lemon juice in a large heavy pan (I use a 12 qt magnalite--oldie but goodie!)
Combine sugar, Ultra Gel®, and spices in a bowl, mix together, and reserve for later use.
Bring the liquids to a boil
Remove from the heat and add the sugar mixture while stirring with a heavy wire whisk or spoon. This will result in a heavy paste. Remember, you will be adding more juice with the apples, so it needs to be thick.
Return to a medium heat and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. It will pop and spit, so be careful! Boil for 1 minutes.
Add the warm apples to the liquid mixture and stir gently to avoid breaking the apple slices. Bring back to a boil, then start filling the prepared bottles. Keep the mixture warm. It is important that the mixture in the jars be very hot when added to the water bath canner.
Fill the bottles to 1/2 inch from the top. It is important to leave enough headspace for the filling to expand as it cooks.
Clean the bottle rims well, then add the lids per manufacturer directions.
Add the filled bottles to the boiling water in the water bath canner. The water should cover the bottles.
Adjust the heat to keep a slow boil. Process for 35 minutes.
A word about apples: There are an explosion of apples that work well for pie filling. Look for the attributes you like in a fresh apple pie--some people like an apple with a firm texture and substantial "bite" where others like a softer, sweeter apple. I've used a wide variety of apples--I started with Golden Delicious fresh off the tree while they still had a natural tartness and liked that they held their shape well. Johnathans had great tartness, but the slices seemed to break up more in handling. I used Jonagolds last year and found them delightful, and this year I'm using Fujis, which are also nice and a little firmer than others I've tried. The moral of the story is--use whatever you like in your fresh pies! When you're purchasing, plan about 1 1/2 lbs fresh apples per quart.
As for peeling apples--6 quarts seems like an overwhelming amount, but just put on a decent movie and get started. We often use an apple peeler/slicer and during a decent football game my husband plus one son can peel enough apples for 3 batches. If the game is really exciting, though, the apple peeling efficiency goes right down the drain! But I never have to beg for help--this is one product nobody wants to run out of!
My personal feeling (coming from a foods manufacturing background) is that if you're going to get out all the equipment necessary to can apple pie filling, you benefit from making multiple batches. So staff the project with pie-loving participants and set up an assembly line. Most of the equipment doesn't need to be washed between batches, saving a ton of time!
On blanching the apples: The theory of blanching (or parboiling) apples is that cooking them quickly inactivates enzymes which cause browning and reduced quality and also to heat the apples in preparation for canning. It is critical that the apples are cooked until a fork can be inserted, and that they be kept warm to ensure that they don't cool down the apple mixture before packing in the bottles. Apple pie filling is very thick, and requires that the mixture be packed at boiling temperatures and immediately be transferred to a boiling water bath canner to guarantee proper heat conduction throughout the jar.
Ascorbic acid or "Fruit Fresh" is added to water to protect the sliced apples from browning while six quarts are accumulated
Make sure the apples are coated with the water and anti-browning agent.
I found early on that I run out of stove space when I make apple pie filling, so I pre-cook the apples in the microwave rather than blanching them. I put 2 quarts in a covered casserole dish, then microwave until a fork can be easily inserted. In my microwave, I cook for 5 minutes on high, then stir, making sure the apples in the center are moved to where they will get more heat, then microwave for an additional 3 minutes.
A fork should be able to pierce the apple pieces easily.
Then the apples and any accumulated juices are transferred to a slow cooker on the warm setting to stay warm. A six quart slow cooker is just the right size for six quarts of peeled and sliced apples. If you get interrupted, turn the slow cooker off, so the apples don't get overcooked. They will stay warm enough.
Add the liquids to a heavy pan that will hold at least 7 quarts and bring to a boil over high heat.
Combine the dry ingredients.
Mix well with a fork or wire whisk.
Pour the dry ingredients into the liquid ingredients gradually, stirring constantly.
Add the apples and stir to combine. Bring back to boiling.
Pack the bottles, leaving 1/2" - 3/4" headspace.
Water bath for 35 minutes, keeping the water at a slow boil.
Peach Pie Filling - Home Canned!
Home-canned peach pie filling--like summer sunshine in a bottle!! Think of peach pie or cobbler in February, when we're all wondering if the sun will ever shine again here in the Pacific Northwest. In my area, there is still a plentiful supply of late-summer peaches. O Henry peaches are one of my favorites for their robust flavor and rich color, but others prefer a firmer peach like an Elberta for use in peach pie filling. Every area has its favorites. But one thing is for sure--regardless of what variety you use, you'll be glad you have it!
Working in batches, microwave blanche the peaches until steaming, stirring once. (I used a covered 2-quart casserole dish and heated on full power for 3 minutes, stirred then another 3 minutes. Your microwave may need different timing according to its wattage and the amount of peaches blanched at a time)
Transfer the peaches and any juice that accumulated to a slow cooker or roaster on the "keep warm" setting until needed.
Combine sugar, Ultra Gel® and cinnamon in a bowl.
Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy pan (at least 8 quarts)
Add sugar mixture and stir in. This will make a very thick paste that might look like it has some lumps in it. Don't worry--it will be fine.
Add the peaches The extra juice from the peaches will smooth out the thickened juices
Bring back to a boil and immediately pack the pie filling into clean jars, leaving 1" headspace
About blanching the peaches: In general, blanching is a concept that involves plunging fresh fruits or vegetables into boiling water for a short period of time in order to raise the temperature quickly. For purposes of home-canned pie filling, it is critical for every part of the jar of filling to achieve the appropriate temperatures to inactivate the enzymes and kill the microorganisms that cause food spoilage. Some recipes suggest blanching by dipping the peeled and sliced peaches in boiling water and that is certainly effective. But you lose all that flavorful juice and that just hurts my heart! Microwave blanching in a covered container should achieve the same goal if done properly and have the advantage of retaining the juices.
To accomplish this, put the peeled and sliced peaches in a heavy glass bowl (covered by a plate) or covered casserole dish and microwave for two minutes (be sure to protect against steam burns by using oven mitts). Stir carefully to make sure the peaches in the center are getting equal heat, and continue to microwave for another two minutes. Repeat as necessary. It only takes a batch or two to figure out a system that works. When adequately cooked, a fork should pierce the peaches easily but they need not be limp They should, however, be steamy and too hot to handle! Then slide them into a slow cooker on the "keep warm" setting until you have enough for the batch.
Pie filling is a thickened product, which means that heat will be slower to penetrate than if free water is available. In order to achieve a pie filling that will keep for the long term, it's really important to make sure all the pieces of the pie filling are at boiling temperatures when the bottles are packed. I know, we all hate to overcook those beautiful peaches, so its best to be able to work fast and get the peaches peeled and blanched as quickly as possible.
Peach Pie Filling is a delightful "end of summer" treat that will give back during the cold winter ahead (for those of us who have cold winters. . .)
Just a note: A quart of home-canned pie filling isn't enough for a deep dish pie. It is adequate for a standard pie (see photos of standard pie plates). If you want a larger pie, you might need to use a quart and a half of filling, or possibly add some blueberries.
Perfect Peach Pie!
Peach Pie--life doesn't get better than a cool fall evening and warm peach pie and ice cream shared with friends. The glory of peach pie is the syrupy richness of the sweet, thickened juices of the ripe peaches, but that's also part of the drama of peach pie. Because ripe, flavorful peaches are so juice-filled, as they heat during the baking process those juices are released. Traditional thickeners--flour and cornstarch don't thicken until the juices get to boiling temperatures. And that can create two problems: 1) The bottom crust can become soggy from all that juice, and 2) The juice can boil out through the slits in the top, creating a very smelly mess on the bottom of the oven and a pie that isn't very pretty.
The secret to "Perfect Peach Pie" is using Ultra Gel® as a thickener. It is an instant starch, which means when that yummy peach juice is released, it is immediately thickened, ensuring a crisp crust and no boil-out. And a presentation you can be proud of!!
Combine the sugar, Ultra Gel® and cinnamon in a separate bowl. (Woops, hadn't added the cinnamon, yet)
Add the sugar mixture to the peaches and stir or shake gently.
The sugar will start to pull the juices from the peaches, where the Ultra Gel® will start to thicken them.
If after a few minutes your peaches look drier than this, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Some peaches are juicier than other, either from the way they were stored, how ripe they are, or what variety they are.
Turn the peach mixture into a 9" pie plate lined with pastry.
Using glass pie plates for fruit pies give the best chance of getting a firm, well-baked bottom crust because glass absorbs the heat well. Second choice would be a dark-colored metal pie plate. Save the shiny ones for single-crust pies, where the heat can come from both top and bottom. Notice the two different styles of pie plates: One is about 1/2 inch taller than the other. This recipe is sized for the pie plate on the right--if you want to use a bigger or deeper pie plate, you will need to 1 1/2 x the recipe
Yumminess on the way!
Cut slits to allow the steam to escape and crimp the edges well. I like to brush the top of the pie with milk for better browning.
Ahhhh. . You've been smelling it for the past hour--now to put it on the cooling rack and watch your guests gather round. Notice--no boilout. Beautiful pie with plenty of juiciness!
Just because I couldn't help it. .
Peach Crisp with Blueberries (Peach Cobbler?)
Some sources say a cobbler uses a biscuit-type topping where a "crisp" or a "crumble" uses a streusel-type topping. If that is the case, this recipe qualifies as a crisp. But terminology varies from region to region, so both names are in the title for searching purposes. But it doesn't really matter what it's called--the whole concept of sweet, thickened fruit juice bubbling up through a crispy topping (ultimately with a scoop of vanilla ice cream) is one of the best desserts ever. So easy and SOOO delicious! And in this recipe the Ultra Gel® thickens the peach juices as they are released, so no messy boil-over. And the topping stays crisp because the filling is already thick when baking takes place. Lovely and glossy. . Tastes as good as it looks!
1/2 c. Ultra Gel® (www.carnetfoods.com or Amazon-search "Ultra Gel Super Sale" for best prices
1 c. quick oats
1 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 c. butter, melted
For the filling: Combine the peaches with the blueberries if desired. If not, use 7 c. peaches. Add the lemon juice and stir gently. Combine the sugar with the Ultra Gel and mix, then add to the peach mixture, mixing lightly to combine.
Turn the fruit into a 9x13" baking dish. (It will start to thicken.)
Combine the quick oats, flour, brown sugar and melted butter and mix lightly until well combined. Sprinkle it on top of the fruit filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until thickened juice bubbles around the outsides and through the topping.
Lovely sweet peaches peeled and sliced with 2 T. lemon juice added. Blueberries would be added here, too, if desired.
Sugar added to Ultra Gel®
Sugar mixture is added to fruit mixture and gently stirred. It will start to thicken almost immediately.
Fruit filling is turned into a 9 x 13" baking dish. The lovely gloss is merely a hint of the finished product to come.
Streusel-type topping is prepared, then sprinkled evenly over the fruit filling.
Baked at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. The juices should be boiling up around the edges and through the topping. But don't overbake--the fruit is already thickened, so it just needs to be cooked through.
The perfect dessert--not too sweet and full of flavorful goodness!
Notice the fruit filling--it isn't sloppy or too juicy--the crisp appropriately holds its shape as it is dished up.
And the final product--Warm fresh fruit with a crunchy topping. Burst of flavor with a contrast of texture. Best dessert ever!
World's Easiest Fresh Peach Pie!
Nothing says the end of summer like fresh peaches. I store away recipes and ideas all year for the one month of the year when fresh, local peaches are readily available here in the Utah/Idaho area. How well I remember my youth and the days of eating fresh peaches and garden tomatoes at every meal in the late summer. And how I loved watching as my mother quickly carved perfect spirals with the peels.
In my opinion, fresh peach pie is the pinnacle of eating pleasure--the contrast of the crisp crust with a hint of saltiness against the smooth sweetness of the peaches is a delight--and the creaminess of a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream is the perfect offset. But easy is important--and this is the easiest pie ever!
2 T. lemon juice (fresh is best, but in a pinch use bottled)
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
6-8 T. Ultra Gel® (depending on the ripeness/juiciness of the peaches) (www.carnetfoods.com or Amazon.com - Search "Ultra Gel Super Sale" for best prices)
Baked crust for 9" pie or baked tart shells
Add almond extract and lemon juice to peaches in a bowl.
Combine sugar, cinnamon and Ultra Gel® in a separate bowl and stir well.
Add sugar/Ultra Gel® mixture to peaches and shake gently until the sugar mixture evenly coats the peaches. (Shaking seems to gentler on the peaches than stirring.)
Let sit unrefrigerated for 30 minutes. The sugar will pull juices from the peaches and the Ultra Gel® will thicken them to form a glaze.
Evaluate for consistency--the juices should all be thickened. If the mixture looks opaque and "pasty", add a couple of tablespoons of water or apple juice. If there is free juice, add another tablespoon of Ultra Gel® by sprinkling it over the top of the pie filling and gently stirring.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
**As tempting as it is--don't taste that luscious peach filling and return the tasting implement to the mixture. Thickeners like Ultra Gel® break down easily with even tiny amounts of saliva. And it's not very pleasant to think about, anyway.
So--how do you go about peeling a peach? For those of you looking for ideas, keep reading!
If the peach is REALLY ripe, you can coax the peel off with a knife and your thumb. Grab an edge of the peel between the knife blade and your thumb and pull. If the peach is ripe enough, the peel will separate from the peach in "sheets" which are easy to handle, leaving a nude peach ready for slicing. I cut the peach in half first for easy handling and pop the pit out with the tip of the knife.
If the peach isn't quite that ripe, you have two choices: 1) Use a knife to cut the peel off or 2) blanche the peaches quickly in boiling water, then ice water so they will release the peels. My mother liked the "peel with a knife" method because the peaches stayed firmer and looked prettier in the bottles as we canned. She loved to see the sharp cuts on the peaches--one spiral cut around the outside of the peach half, then three or four blade strokes across the rounded part of the peach. But if speed is the issue and you're looking at mass production, dipping the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, then in ice water to stop the cooking will loosen the skins so they will easily come off. Just don't overcook them. In my opinion, if you're just making a pie, it isn't worth getting out all the equipment to blanche the peaches--you can have them peeled quicker than that!
Here's the process in photos:
Peel and slice the peaches. Add lemon juice and flavoring
2. Combine the sugar with the Ultra Gel®
3, Add the sugar mixture to the peach mixture and stir gently.
4. Let sit unrefrigerated for thirty minutes, then stir gently again.
The left of the above photos has 6 tablespoons of Ultra Gel® with very ripe, juicy peaches. The right photo has 6 tablespoons of Ultra Gel®. The more juicy example will be luscious and flavorful but will not hold its shape. It would be more appropriate for a filling for a tart or for topping for a shortcake or served over ice cream. The thicker example, when turned into a baked pie shell and thoroughly cooled, will actually cut into pieces, soft though they be. But nobody has ever complained because the flavor is the flavor of sunshine!!
If you'd rather have a more structured look, small pie shells or tart shells work wonderfully! Mini pie shells are very easy to make. The tart shells I show were made on the bottom of large cupcake tins using 5" circles cut from pie dough. One easy way is just to cut 5" circles of pastry dough and drape over the monster (3") muffin tins, and bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool thoroughly and fill with the peach filling. Anybody seeing this for book club?
Two-Minute Hot Fudge Topping - Dress up your Ice Cream!
My thermometer leisurely smiled at 100 degrees today, and I broke a sweat even thinking about turning on the oven. Perfect time for a cool dessert. But, I ask myself, how many times can I pull out the ice cream carton before it looks like I've stopped trying. . .
So--I reach in the bag of hot-weather tricks, and pull out a long-time classic: Hot Fudge Topping. Who doesn't have memories of spoonsful of rich, warm, gooey chocolate with cold, creamy ice cream. Definitely a treat to savor. And so easy to prepare--pantry staples and two minutes in the microwave. Couldn't get easier!
Combine evaporated milk, sugar, cocoa powder, and Ultra Gel® in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir to combine ingredients with a wire whisk. Remember, the topping will boil in the microwave--be sure to use a bowl that is oversized!
Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir thoroughly.
Return to microwave and cook on high for another minute.
Remove from microwave and stir in butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Stir until smooth.
Serve over ice cream and garnish as desired.
This recipe was tested in a 1250 watt microwave. Microwaves with less wattage may require more time.