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    Sweet Orange Florentines
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    Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie
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    Lemon Cheesecake Morning Buns

Summer Sweets

By Karel Bond Lucader

Posted: Monday, Aug. 05, 2013

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Julie Ruble’s popular baking blog has garnered the 29-year-old cook many accolades and memorable experiences. Willowbirdbaking.com, which dispenses “lessons in life & kitchen confidence,” lands in the in-box of some 2,200 subscribers and gets nearly 258,000 monthly page views.

Ruble, who got her start by making Nestle Toll House cookies and Texas sheet cakes with her mom, was one of 12 finalists last year in a national food blogging competition among a pool of more than 2,000. She was also a finalist in Saveur Magazine’s 2012 “Best Baking & Dessert Blog,” and recently won first place in The Charlotte Observer’s first food-photo contest.

Her achievements caught the attention of food goddess Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, who invited Ruble, along with five other renowned baking bloggers, to her home in the Hamptons in conjunction with a Ladies’ Home Journal contest. While there, Ruble even whipped up a batch of her Rosemary Thumbprints with Clementine Curd cookies to share.

Along with writing and photographing for her blog, this Davidson College alum (2006) mothers a precious rescue poodle, Byrd, who was the inspiration for the name of her blog.

We twisted Ruble’s trim arm—belying that of an award-winning baker who must regularly lick the spoon—to share a few of her favorite seasonal recipes.

Lemon Cheesecake Morning Buns

These buns could easily double as dessert. They are fluffy, gooey, buttery, and beyond delicious.

Roll Ingredients:

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 cups milk minus 2 tablespoons, room temperature

2/3 cup cold shortening

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 cups flour

2 tablespoons butter, melted, for after baking

Filling Ingredients:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

zest of 1 lemon (reserve a little for topping)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 egg, room temperature

1 stick salted butter (or 1 stick unsalted

butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt), melted

Glaze Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 table lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 1/4 cup milk

Extra lemon zest

Yield: 24 buns

Directions:

Proofing: Yeast dough proofs (or rises) for a couple hours after mixing. Assembled rolls proof in fridge overnight, so allow for this when planning.

Freezing: To freeze unbaked rolls, wrap before second rise and freeze. To bake, put back in greased pan, thaw in fridge overnight, proof for instructed time, and bake.

Mix warm water and yeast in medium bowl; let yeast foam for 10 minutes. Put 2 tablespoons white vinegar in measuring cup and add milk up to 2-cup line. Set aside. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Cut shortening into mixture with two knives until shortening looks like small peas. Stir in yeast and milk mixtures; mix well, kneading a few turns. Transfer dough to bowl lightly sprayed with oil, cover tightly with plastic wrap; proof for 2 hours or until doubled.

After proofing dough, lightly spray two 9 x 13 baking dishes. Cream softened cream cheese in medium bowl until fluffy. Add lemon zest, sugar, lemon juice and egg. Mix well.

Turn dough onto floured surface. Roll into rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Spread melted butter and dollop cream cheese mixture across, spreading to even layer. Roll dough into spiral and cut into 2-inch rolls, placing close together in prepared baking dishes (or wrap and freeze).

Cover rolls; let rise in fridge overnight. To bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees, letting rolls rise on top of preheating oven covered by clean towel. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter; return to oven for 1 minute. Whisk together glaze ingredients and drizzle. Sprinkle with reserved zest and serve.

Strawberry Coconut Cream Pie

This delicious pie doesn’t hold its shape well, so serve it in a bowl.

Pie Crust Ingredients:

1 blind baked (until golden) and cooled pie crust

Coconut Cream Filling Ingredients:

1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

pinch kosher salt

3 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup whipping cream

Topping Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

red food coloring (optional; I skipped this)

mint leaves or whole strawberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:

For filling: Heat coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla in medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and corn starch. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to yolks, whisking as you add. Pour yolk mixture back into pot of hot cream. Whisk mixture constantly over medium-high heat for 3 more minutes. Whisk in butter and add coconut flakes. Pour into shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Afterward, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip ½-cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in remaining cream. Fill baked, cooled pie crust with coconut filling.

Slice 1 cup of strawberries in thin slices lengthwise and layer in concentric circles on top of the cream. Chill while you make your glaze.

For glaze: Crush remaining 1/2 cup of strawberries and boil with water in a saucepan over medium-high heat for two minutes. Strain through fine mesh sieve and discard pulp. Add juice back to the saucepan over medium-high heat and gradually whisk in sugar and cornstarch. Cook until thickened. Optional: add food coloring.

Cool glaze slightly and then pour over top of strawberry slices on your pie. Chill pie for at least a few hours for best results.

Sweet Orange Florentines

These cookies are easy and fun to bake and

have an amazing depth to the orange flavor.

Yield: about 15 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3/8 cup macadamia nuts, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

About 1 tablespoon finely grated

orange zest (from about 1/2 orange)

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/8 cup sugar

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon honey

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon anise extract

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. In food processor bowl, pulse almonds and macadamia nuts until finely chopped. In large bowl, whisk together flour, orange zest, salt and nuts.

In small saucepan, bring sugar, cream, honey and butter to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once sugar is dissolved, continue cooking for about a minute before removing from heat and adding vanilla and anise extracts. Stir mixture into flour mixture until combined. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Once mixture is cool to touch, use measure to scoop 1 teaspoon of batter and roll into balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets 4 inches apart. Bake one pan at a time, rotating once halfway through, until thin, lacy and golden brown, about 6-7 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing with spatula to cooling rack. Repeat until all baked.

Meanwhile, melt white chocolate chips in microwave according to package. Spread very thin layer of white chocolate on bottom of one cooled cookie and top with another to form thin sandwich. Place on wax or parchment paper to dry. Serve or store for up to 3 days in air-tight container with layers separated by wax paper.

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