Friday, June 24, 2011

a story on strawberries and strawberry cake

There is something quite nice about being raised a country gal. 

While there are many reasons as to why I adore local cities, and quite possibly, why I should relocate to within Philadelphia, I can't bring myself to actually pack up from the 'burbs. There is something reassuring about passing many, many local pastures and farmlands day after day, being close to my homegrown producers who provide exceptional lineups of fresh vegetables, fruits, honey, grass-fed beef, raw milk and much more.

This bring me to my initial reason of publishing this post: gardening. My family always had a large plot of land, which boasted with a hefty planting space packed with sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchinis, carrots, green beans, potatoes, etc. Excitingly for me, a strip of our summer-time garden was dedicated to planting strawberries, making the act of strawberry picking my favorite past time of the year.

Of course, I rarely made it inside with these speckled rubies and instead, sat dirtying my behind, as I sat cozily within the garden gorging on every ripe strawberry I laid my eyes on. Really, I had little to do with the garden other than the strawberry-associated aspects of it, and the rest of my family (I think?) was okay with this.

Sadly, I can't say that now I have my own strawberry picking plot, but each late May/early June, I still horde my fair share of this gem of a fruit, trying to craft the newest baked good that best highlights this seasonal favorite.

This year? I decided to opt for a simple, sophisticated strawberry cake, prepared in a shallow springform pan and adapted from Martha Stewart, as seen on Two Peas and Their Pod.

Strawberry Cake
Cook Time: 50-55 minutes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top of cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease springform pan. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bow; set aside. 

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Arrange strawberry slices on top of batter. Sprinkle raw sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan. 

Serve. If storing, keep cake at room temperature, for up to two days.

father's day dishes and sips at craft ale house

Living in the Philadelphia's 'burbs, we have a much slimmer selection of beer-centric gastropubs than those lucky locals dwelling in more urban areas. 

That being said, Chester County's chefs excel at swirling top-notch brews into finely-crafted creations, and I would amiss if I didn't mention spots like Station Taproom, The Drafting Room, Side Bar, etc. So, that being said, for Father's Day I decided to surprise my fabulous pops (seen here, on left) by taking him to one of these notable spots and opted for Craft Ale House of Limerick.

Since my dear dad had never been to this casual, comfortable ale house that booms with some of the area's best craft beers, I knew he was in for treat. To be honest, even though my father is not drinker, he is a great sport when it comes to new experience (i.e. open to tasting new beers).
So, together with my best friend and her dad, Terry, we tackled a fine share of their above-par pub grub, which included roasted sweet corn soup, fresh spinach dip, house-ground, char-grilled beef burgers, grass-fed hanger steak and the exceptional grilled lamb dish. Terry, who is proud to say that Craft Ale House is his go-to for any celebration, is quite fond of their offering of Funky Farmhouse Mussels, and since I go gaga over all farmhouse ales/saisons, I opted for this entree.
My heaping bowl of shellfish came deliciously dosed in a creamy base comprised of leeks, bacon, blue cheese, garlic, wilted spinach and a heavy pour of saison. Without a doubt, this original recipe won me over, creating me to want to slurp up the thick broth even when I was finished scooping out all of the fresh fish.

Our beer list for the evening included a big bottle of Farmhouse Hatter (New Holland's farmhouse-styled Mad Hatter IPA; I said I'm a sucker for all things farmhouse ales), Malheur 12 (a rich and sweet strong ale), and for my friend, she opted for this year's Strawberry Wheat Ale from Lancaster Brewing Company (which we agreed was a better batch than previous years).

If you haven't visited Craft Ale House as of yet, whether you are looking for a special occasion place or a casual night out, hurry over! The beer list is always eye-catching, food's always extremely fresh (biggest freezer in-house is big enough to only hold a pint of ice cream) and their to-go by-the-bottle selection always has me gushing!

Find Craft Ale House at 708 West Ridge Pike in Limerick or online at