♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Today on "Cook's Country," we're celebrating the best of summer berries.
First up, I'm making an elegant, mixed-berry buckle, and Toni explores the origins of the name "buckle."
Jack's got the skinny on thickening agents, and Bryan's making strawberry-cheesecake bars.
That's all right here on "Cook's Country."
♪♪ ♪♪ -In the pantheon of fruit desserts, crisps and cobblers get all the love, but I'm here to tell you that buckles deserve their day in the sun.
And that's what we're making today.
Now, a buckle is kind of like a cross between a coffee cake and a crumble, and it's the fruit and the streusel topping which is what makes the buckle a buckle.
And we want a streusel topping that's pretty substantial, not just lots of little crumbs, so we're starting off with 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
I'm going to add 1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar.
You've got 1/2 teaspoon of table salt.
Let me give this a quick mix just to break up any big mounds of brown sugar in there.
So now I'm going to add 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter that I've melted.
This is cooled just a little bit, and I'll just stir this until it comes together.
And what I'm looking for is no more dry patches in the bowl.
Alright, so when it starts looking like it's becoming a little bit cohesive and it's sticking to itself, that looks great.
We want to chill this.
I'm gonna go put this in the refrigerator, and it needs to stay in there for at least 10 minutes.
But you can do this well in advance of making the rest of the buckle.
Alright, got to get to the fruit.
Now, we're using a lot of berries in our mixed-berry buckle.
We're going for the whole trifecta here.
We've got blackberries, raspberries, blueberries.
Now, in total, this is 15 ounces, or 5 ounces of each of these berries.
Now, we want to make sure that the berries release their sweetness and their juices later on when we add it to the batter.
For these larger berries like the blackberries and the raspberries, I'm gonna cut them in half crosswise.
Thankfully, the blueberries don't need any help.
They don't need to be cut, so I'm just gonna finish cutting these blackberries and raspberries and then we can move on.
♪♪ -Fruit desserts win the prize for the most charming names -- cobbler, pandowdy, Charlotte, slump, grunt, and of course, buckle.
But where does the name buckle come from?
Tracing the origins of the name takes us back in time to early America.
In the early 19th Century, flour became more common, and homes in New England got stoves.
Early pie recipes were often called puddings, with a paste, and they were cooked on the stovetop.
In 1846, baking soda was introduced, and rustic, fruit, and pastry dishes started to show up in cookbooks.
But part of the difficulty in tracing the origins of the buckle is that the names used in the 1800s referred to different dishes than the names we use today.
For example, tarts were usually called pies, and many historians think cobbler, pandowdy, and buckle were used interchangeably by early American bakers.
Regardless, the charm of rustic fruit desserts is undeniable.
♪♪ -Alright, it's time to make the cake batter.
Now, this is a really thick batter because we wanted to support not only the berries, but also the streusel topping.
So we don't want to incorporate a lot of air.
So, I've got here a cup of all-purpose flour.
I'm going to add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.
We want a little bit of lift here.
A teaspoon of grated lemon zest -- always goes great with berries.
1/2 teaspoon of table salt, and I'll whisk this together.
So now let's move on to our wet ingredients here.
I have 2 large eggs.
Going to add 1/2 cup of whole milk, and I'm adding 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter that I've melted.
And a little vanilla -- a teaspoon.
There we go.
I'll whisk this together until the eggs are all mixed in.
Time to incorporate the wet into the dry ingredients here.
Just pour this in.
Just going to stir it until it comes together.
You can see it gets very thick very quickly.
So now let's get back to those berries -- again, 15 ounces total.
That's a lot of berries -- almost a pound.
Now, I cut them, but the last thing that I want to do is add 1/4 quarter cup of granulated sugar directly to the berries.
And you want to do this at the last minute because the sugar is going to start to pull out some of that liquid from the berries.
If you do it too far in advance, you'll get a very Smurf-y purple buckle, and nobody wants that.
So I'm just gonna gently toss this.
Now, we need to get our pan prepared, and I'm using a 9-inch light-colored cake pan.
Now, we need to make sure that the buckle releases very easily, so I'm gonna do a multi-step prep, just spraying it with a little bit of nonstick cooking spray.
You can use butter, absolutely.
A round of parchment goes in the bottom.
Grease the parchment.
And then we're gonna dust with some flour.
So I'm just tilting the pan, making sure that I get all the edges.
So now we want to take these berries, and I'm going to add half of them into our batter mixture and gently stir them in.
I'm just looking to make sure that they are evenly distributed through the batter.
The batter goes into the pan.
Gonna use my spatula just to push it out to the edges.
It's also a good time to make sure that the fruit is evenly distributed.
Now, going to top the buckle with the remaining half of the berries, making sure that every area has a little bit of berry.
We're gonna top this with streusel.
So I'm going to break this into smaller pieces, but not too small.
I don't want lots of crumble.
Just want a mix of bigger pieces and smaller pieces.
I'd say that looks great.
So now we have to bake it, and we're gonna bake it in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted right in the center comes out clean.
That's going to take about 50 minutes.
Now, I'll go in halfway through and rotate the pan.
It gets better-looking every time I open that oven.
Now, it's been 50 minutes, so I'm going to check to see if it's done.
Insert a toothpick in the center.
Now, I might hit a berry, so you might get a little purple.
But no, that looks gorgeous.
The toothpick is clean.
So this needs to cool completely for at least two hours right on this rack.
♪♪ The buckle is cool, but before we turn it out, I want to make some whipped cream to go on the side of this beautiful dessert.
So 2 cups of heavy cream, really well-chilled.
I've got three tablespoons of granulated sugar, and that's our sweet.
And now here's our special ingredient.
This is malted milk powder, the stuff that you used to make beverages out of.
This stuff is so good in ice cream, cookies, and whipped cream.
It's just malted barley, some wheat, salt, baking soda, and, of course, dried milk powder.
And this is 1/2 cup of malted milk powder, and I'll just let this go on low speed for about a minute.
So now that the malted milk powder is incorporated into the cream, I'm going to increase the speed of my mixer to high and let it go for about 1 to 3 minutes.
I'm looking for stiff peaks at this point.
There we go.
I think that's gonna be it.
Let's check this out.
There you go.
The whipped cream is standing proud.
That is stiff peaks, and this is ready to serve.
It's time to turn out our buckle, but before I do that, I want to make sure, again, that it releases from the pan.
So I'm just gonna take a paring knife and go around the edges because you only get one chance at this.
Now I'm going to invert it out onto a plate.
Oh, you can smell the berries in there.
Let's get rid of that parchment, and then I'm going to re-invert it onto another plate, or I'm going to use this pretty little pedestal.
Isn't she sweet?
That is gorgeous.
This is almost too pretty to eat -- almost.
Definitely gonna tuck into it.
Alright, I think I deserve a nice, big piece.
Look how pretty.
Oh, and I can't forget the whipped cream.
Just a little bit, right?
No, I'm gonna go for more.
Proof is in the pudding here.
That is stunning.
That is perfection, and the cake itself is so tender.
I love the streusel on top.
The malted milk powder just gives almost a toasted aroma and flavor to the whipped cream, just kicks it up to a whole other level.
This is one of my favorite desserts, and you saw how easy it was.
So if you want to make this beautifully bejeweled buckle, cut berries in half, and then toss with sugar right before using.
Top the thick batter with more berries, and break chilled streusel all over the top.
You can serve it with ice cream, but why not try our malted-milk whipped cream?
So from "Cook's Country," simple, sweet, and sophisticated mixed-berry buckle.
♪♪ -Thickeners are a really important part of a lot of dessert recipes, and if you have any doubts, let me show you here this blueberry pie.
This one, we did not follow the recipe.
We left out the tapioca, and you see that it's very runny.
Here, we followed the recipe.
You get a beautiful slice, so we're going to talk about all the thickeners you need for all of your sweet cooking.
Now, I'm not gonna mention eggs or cream or butter, which, of course, do provide thickening power.
Think about what egg yolks do in crème brûlée, but obviously, those ingredients are also providing tons of flavor.
We're talking about basically things that are here in a recipe just because of thickening.
They don't really have much flavor.
We're gonna start with gelatin.
Now, gelatin is used in chilled applications.
Think Jell-O salads, panna cotta.
It's a pure protein.
It's derived from cows or pigs, and the thing you need to know about gelatin is you're going to need to bloom it.
That's simply soaking it in a little bit of cold water for 5 or 10 minutes before adding the gelatin and that liquid to the rest of the liquid in the recipe.
Next up, we've got pectin.
Now, you know this from jams and jellies.
It's derived from carbohydrates and fruit.
A lot of apples or citrus is usually the source.
We use it in a lot of pies, along with corn starch, because it allows us to cut back on the amount of corn starch, and so we avoid any potential sliminess.
Next up, our friend tapioca that made the beautiful blueberry pie we started with.
You want to be using instant or quick-cooking tapioca because it's ground nice and fine.
This actually comes from a tropical root vegetable called cassava.
Avoid the big pearls because they're really not meant for fruit desserts.
Now, flour, you know, we make a lot of thickened rouxs and gravies and a lot of savory cooking with flour.
We don't use it all that often in the test kitchen in desserts because it's not that powerful.
In fact, cornstarch is 100% starch, while flour's only 75% starch.
The other thing about flour is it can give desserts a little bit of a pastiness.
That doesn't occur with cornstarch.
Now, if you're working with cornstarch, you're going to need to dissolve it in a little bit of room-temperature or cold liquid.
Basically, you're making a slurry, and then you're adding it to the recipe.
Also, you want to be careful not to cook cornstarch too long, so if you're using it in a pudding, usually goes in at the end of the recipe because it can lose its thickening power over time.
Now, you may be thinking, "Okay, they're all tasteless.
Can't I just substitute one for another?"
They vary tremendously in terms of their thickening power, so 1 tablespoon of one thickener is very different than another.
Also, they respond differently to heat and to chilling, so please follow the recipe when you are thickening a pie, a cobbler, or a pudding.
♪♪ -There are hundreds of recipes out there in the world for strawberry cheesecake bars, and rightly so.
They're super delicious to eat, and they make a perfect summertime snack with fresh strawberries.
Like all great cheesecakes, these bars start with a great-graham cracker crust.
So, I have 9 graham crackers here that I'm going to coarsely crack into a food processor.
To that, I'm going to add 1/2 cup of sugar.
I'm gonna process these graham crackers and sugar until we get to fine crumbs, and that takes about 30 seconds.
Okay, those graham crackers and sugar are processed to fine crumbs, as you can see here.
And to that, we're gonna add 3/4 of a cup of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and we'll pulse that just to combine.
And then finally, to that, we're going to add 8 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter.
Pulse that about 10 times, until all the graham-cracker crumbs are moistened and the mixture looks like wet sand.
This is what the mixture looks like when it's all said and done.
We're ready to transfer to our 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Okay, so we'll spread the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan.
You'll notice that the pan is also lined with aluminum foil.
We call this an aluminum-foil sling.
Really makes the bars easy to lift out of the pan once we're done cooking and cooling.
So once the crumb mixture is evenly distributed, we're going to take a measuring cup like this, and I'm just going to press down on the crumbs to make sure that the crust is nice and evenly packed.
Again, just to ensure that when we cut these bars, the crust stays in one piece and doesn't crumble into tiny graham-cracker rubble.
Okay, so the crust is firmly packed down into the pan, and we're ready to bake it off.
So we're going to throw it into a 300-degree oven for 20 minutes and let it cook until the crust is firmed up a little bit and slightly dark in color.
♪♪ -Today, I'm making strawberry-basil compote.
It's great for drizzling on ice cream and spraying on baked goods.
Let's get started by hulling a pound of strawberries, then we'll cut them in half.
If there are any large berries, we'll quarter them.
In a medium saucepan, add some sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.
Whisk it together.
Add 1/4 cup of water and whisk it together.
Add our berries, turn the heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes.
You want to stir occasionally to avoid burning.
As it's cooking, you'll see bubbles form around the edge of the pot.
That's how you know the mixture is thickening.
As soon as it's ready, transfer the compote to a bowl.
Stir in some lemon juice and fresh basil.
The compote needs to cool to room temperature.
That should take about 30 minutes.
It might seem thick now, but it will thin out as the strawberries release their juice.
It's nice and cool.
Make sure you remove the basil leaves before serving.
Now I'm going to drizzle the strawberry-basil compote over some pound cake and enjoy.
You can also eat it with ice cream.
♪♪ -Our graham-cracker crust is now out of the oven, and you can see it's fully cooled and slightly darkened in color.
And if I touch it, it's nice and firm, and that's exactly what we want.
So now that it's cooled down completely, I can start with my cheesecake filling.
So we have 1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese.
Just going to add it to the food processor.
1 cup of sugar, and we're going to process it until it's fully combined and it's nice and smooth and that sugar is really dissolved.
So we'll let this go for about 3 minutes, and we'll scrape the bowl down halfway through.
Okay, it's been a good 3 minutes here.
So you can see that our cream-cheese mixture is nice and silky smooth.
If you were to taste it right off the spatula, you'd notice that the sugar is also dissolved.
Exactly what we're looking for.
So we're gonna turn the machine back on and let it go for about 30 seconds or so.
We're gonna add 3 eggs, waiting for each egg to get incorporated before adding the next, and then I'm going to follow that with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Okay, our cheesecake base is complete, and we're ready to transfer our cheesecake mixture to our fully cooled crust.
So we're just going to pour it in there, and we'll just make sure that the cheesecake filling is evenly distributed over the crust.
And we're going to put it into our 300-degree oven, and we're gonna let it bake for about 45 minutes.
And we're looking for it to just be set along the edges, but still slightly jiggly in the center.
♪♪ Now, I'm gonna teach you two great things.
The first is how to incorporate strawberries into our strawberry-cheesecake bars.
And the second, I'm gonna teach you about a sour-cream topping for your cheesecake, which if you take anything away from this, sour-cream topping on any cheesecake you make from here on out.
So first, I have 6 ounces of strawberries here, and we're gonna begin by hulling those.
I first begin by removing any of the light greenery at the top of the strawberry.
What you want to do is grab the blade of the paring knife, leaving about 1/2 inch or so, 3/4 of an inch of the blade exposed past your thumb, and put the blade into the strawberry at about a 45-degree angle.
And then pivot.
Rotate the strawberry around the blade of the knife to remove the hull.
Okay, so we have the 6 ounces of strawberries.
We're gonna transfer those to our food processor, and we're gonna add 1/2 cup of sugar.
Now we're gonna process these strawberries and our 1/2 cup of sugar until it's nicely pureed.
We finished up with our puree there.
Now we're going to add our strawberry puree to 2 cups of sour cream.
When it comes to making any style of cheesecake for me, I always add this sour-cream topping.
It really adds a nice tanginess, helps cut some of the sweetness of the cheesecake below.
Our strawberry sour-cream topping is all set, and now it's been about 45 minutes.
We can go to the oven and check on our cheesecake bars.
Okay, so what we're looking for is for the edges to be set, but the center to still jiggle slightly when shaken.
And that's perfect.
Exactly what we're looking for.
So the cheesecake is not done cooking yet.
We're going to add our strawberry sour-cream topping, and then we're gonna put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
And we'll just gently spread that out into an even layer.
Okay, we're gonna go back in the oven for 15 minutes to set the strawberry sour-cream layer and finish cooking the cheesecake all the way through.
So it's been about 15 minutes.
I see that our strawberry sour-cream layer is nice and set.
It's still got a touch of a jiggle to it, but it is definitely set.
We're going to cool this for 2 hours to room temperature before then refrigerating it for a good 4 hours or even overnight.
I mean, you can even make this recipe a couple of days in advance, but I can't imagine how you'd be able to resist.
♪♪ Our strawberry-cheesecake bars are finally fully chilled, but before we're ready to cut into them, we're gonna add one last strawberry garnish.
So I've picked out 5 perfect-looking strawberries from our bunch, and I've gone ahead and hulled them already.
What we're gonna do is slice them really thin and then macerate them, and macerating simply means that we're going to toss them with a teaspoon of sugar.
And the sugar will help draw out some of their moisture, make them soft, pliable, and glossy.
It'll also add a little bit of sweetness to the strawberries.
Just gently mix them around, and you could do this up to a couple of hours in advance, if you'd like.
Now that our sliced strawberries are macerating, we'll set them to the side, and we can move our strawberry- cheesecake bars from the pan.
So we're going to utilize the foil sling here.
I like to first pull up on the short sides to make sure everything's coming up, short sides of the foil here, and then do one swift pull up this way.
Rather than cut these on the foil, I like to try and remove the foil.
I like to just slide an offset spatula underneath the bar just to help loosen it from the foil and slide the bars off and pull the foil out from underneath.
Quickly pull the foil out from underneath.
This is where it can get a little bit tricky, but one of the key steps to cutting these into even pieces is to first square the bars up against you and the edge of the counter.
So to go into 24 equal pieces, we're gonna first cut in half crosswise, and each one of those halves, we cut into thirds.
You could pull out a ruler, if you would like, to do this, but I'm just gonna eyeball it.
Now that our cheesecake bars are cut, we could go ahead and garnish them with our macerated strawberries.
So the great thing about this strawberry garnish is it really drives home the look and flavor that these are actually strawberry-cheesecake bars.
There's no mistaking it once you put a piece of strawberry on top.
You can see how macerating the strawberries has made them nice and glossy.
Strawberry bars are garnished, and we are ready to give them a taste.
So I'm just gonna pull one out, and perfectly cut, even square.
Alright, so we're finally ready to dig in.
Even though they're bar cookies, technically, I still prefer to eat them with a fork.
You really get a nice cheesecake layer that's super creamy.
You get that strawberry sour-cream puree that adds a nice tanginess and really cuts the richness and the sweetness of the cheesecake layer.
We dig into that little strawberry garnish just to drive it all home.
Plus, that graham-cracker crust has just the right amount of bite to it, nice and crumbly, but also firm enough to hold its shape.
So this cheesecake bar is fantastic.
I would actually prefer to eat this over regular cheesecake any day of the week.
So the keys to making great strawberry-cheesecake bars are to start off with a solid graham-cracker crust.
Cover that with a simple cheesecake base, then top that with a puree of sour cream and fresh strawberries.
And there you have it -- from "Cook's Country," an easy recipe for strawberry-cheesecake bars.