A few days before Mother’s Day — late enough they’ll actually remember and early enough to use Amazon Prime two-day shipping — I start dropping gift hints. This year I mentioned a plancha for grilling, one of those pricey instant-read thermometers and of course, cookbooks.
One of the more fun aspects of being a mother is getting to see my kids excited about cooking. “20 Recipes Kids Should Know” by 12-year-old Esme Washburn and 17-year-old Calista Washburn is an inspired way to encourage my kids to get in the kitchen and get cooking — even without me. How else can I bring about the dream of a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed that doesn’t involve me getting up to make it?
The Washburn sisters offer 20 simple recipes that build confidence and teach practical dishes perfect for the day-to-day. My 8-year-old daughter claimed this book for herself and has already made the egg dish on her own, and helped me make her favorite — strawberry shortcake.
The shortcake biscuits are soft and buttery, despite not having any actual butter. Cream is used for the fat, making these ridiculously simple to put together, without all the bother of cutting in chilled butter or keeping ingredients super-cold. Nothing but confidence-building recipes here!
I like to drop book hints for a good in-bed or bath read, and for this, Ruth Reichl’s “Gourmet Magazine” memoir made top of my list. This is the book avid “Gourmet” and Reichl fans have been waiting for her to write. And she delivers.
Highly personal, with plenty of behind-the-scene glimpses into a self-driven woman running one of the world’s most historical food magazines in very much a man’s world, “Save Me the Plums” — which also has recipes — was my hard-dropped hint. As in “Post-it notes on the fridge” hint.
Mother’s Day isn’t complete without the perfect treat, and for me, ice cream is the dessert of choice. Portland-based ice cream super star Salt & Straw introduced me to inspired flavors like blue cheese pear and strawberry balsamic, and now I can make these myself.
Sticking with the theme of the season — ripe strawberries — we churned up strawberry-cilantro sorbet from Tyler Malek’s just-released “Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook.” Hints of herby coriander essence pushed the sweetness of roasted strawberry to a heightened level and we felt sophisticated serving it alongside our strawberry shortcakes.
Salt & Straw Ice Cream Co. is known for making ice cream flavors specifically highlighting favorite products, like Portland-based chocolatiers, Lucky Charms cereal and, in this case, Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence from Aftelier.com. You can order this to match Malek’s sorbet creation exactly, or you can find coriander oil — sometimes called cilantro oil — on Amazon.com. Just be sure it’s food-grade.
1 pint (12 ounces) super-ripe fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon malic acid or 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups Sorbet Base, very cold (recipe below)
4 drops coriander essence
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the berries in a small baking dish and toss them with the sugar and salt. Bake, without stirring, until the berries concentrate in flavor but have not yet begun to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Let the berries cool to room temperature.
Transfer the berries (and any juices) to a blender, add the malic acid, and blend until smooth. Transfer the puree to a bowl. Refrigerate until cold, and use immediately or keep for up to 3 days.
Measure 1 cup of the puree (reserve any extra for another purpose, like topping another ice cream). Combine the puree in the blender with the sorbet base, 1 cup water, and the coriander essence, and briefly blend until well combined. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and turn it on. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie.
Transfer the sorbet, scraping every last delicious drop from the machine, into freezer-friendly containers. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the sorbet so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s OK if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months. Makes about 2 pints.
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ cup light corn syrup
Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1¼ cups water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps).
Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.) Makes 2 cups.
— Reprinted from “Salt & Straw Ice Cream Cookbook” by Salt & Straw, LLC. Photographs by Andrew Lee Thomas. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Super strawberry shortcake
This recipe comes together so quickly and without much fuss that you’ll want to make this your go-to biscuit recipe. You could substitute any fresh fruit for the strawberries.
For the biscuits:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups heavy cream
For the strawberries:
1 ½ pounds fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
For the whipped cream:
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
Add the heavy cream and stir until the dough is almost fully together, about 30 seconds.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 30 seconds.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until ¾ to 1 inch thick. Be sure to rotate the dough every couple of rolls and to lightly flour the work surface as needed to prevent sticking. Don’t use too much flour!
Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into 8 to 10 biscuits. Be sure to just press straight down and do not twist the cutter. Pull away any excess dough then reroll it and cut more biscuits.
Place the biscuits on a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes then rotate the baking sheet and continue baking until just golden brown, about 8 more minutes.
Remove the biscuits from the oven and, using a spatula, place the biscuits directly on the wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
While the biscuits are baking, prepare the strawberries.
Rinse the strawberries thoroughly. Cut off the green tops then cut the strawberries into quarters and place in a medium bowl.
Add the sugar to the strawberries and stir. (If the strawberries are in season and very sweet, you don’t need to add sugar.) With a fork, in the same bowl, crush about a quarter of the strawberries then let all the strawberries and juice sit together in the bowl.
Make the whipped cream: In a large bowl, use a large whisk to beat together the heavy cream and sugar. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating until the cream thickens and soft peaks form.
Assemble the shortcakes: Split the cooled biscuits in half and place the bottoms on individual plates. Spoon a generous amount of strawberries on top of the biscuit bottoms and top with a small amount of whipped cream. Add the biscuit tops, plus more strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
— Excerpt from “20 Recipes Kids Should Know” (Prestel, 2019). Recipes and text by Esme Washburn, photographs by Calista Washburn.