June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day

June 14 is my mother's birthday. But I didn't get to celebrate with her because she's 3,000 miles away. Instead, I gave her a phonecall and I visited Santa Cruz's Swanton Berry Farm to get myself some of their strawberry shortcake.

Just a short drive of a few miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, right on the Pacific coast, is Swanton Ranch. I initially wanted to bike up and eat my shortcake there but the thought of the ride back to Santa Cruz after pigging out on strawberry shortcake deterred me from doing just that. I chose the easier route of hopping in the car and going there.

Swanton Berry Farm is a 100% union shop (their farmstand shop is all about Cesar Chavez). All the farm workers are part of the United Farm Workers. All their produce is also organic and the berry varieties they offer are better tasting, lower yielding berries. They do great work, and their strawberries are beautiful.

Aside from the fresh berries, they do u-pick and they make great jams. But today's not about jam-- Swanton sells strawberry shortcake in ready-to-go plastic tubs in their chiller. I got a couple to take home.

The shortcake was perfect. The cake itself wasn't excruciatingly sweet. It was just right. The berries didn't taste like anything was added to them to boost their flavor. They were fresh yo.

Swanton Berry Farms: union labor + organic strawberries = delicious strawberry shortcake

Lychees and Almond Cream in Puff Pastry with Raspberry and Lime Syrups

This is my entry to The Leftover Queen's Royal Food Joust. Other entries can be found at the forums. This is my first entry into a food blog event. Anxious to make something other than hamburgers I was excited to do something different from what I've been cooking all month. It was fun to make em.

There are a couple of components. Here's the stuff:
1 can lychees in juice, drained (we're really just going to use 9-12 lychees in this recipe)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Stuff for the raspberry syrup:
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for lime syrup:
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for almond cream:
1 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar
5 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract

To do:
First do the almond cream. Except for the milk, put all the ingredients for the almond cream in a food processor. Let it run for a minute or so. Once you have a paste-like mixture-- it's actually now a marzipan -- you can start drizzling in the milk to lighten the consistency, while still processing. The final mixture should be creamy and smooth, yet still thick (I would say, about as thick as mascarpone cheese). Set aside.

Now, work on the syrups. For each of the syrup, mix 3 tbsp water with 1 tbsp cornstarch in a small bowl. For the raspberry, place the fresh and frozen berries, 1/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is no longer runny. Do the same for the lime, beginning with the lime juice, 1/4 cup water and sugar. Once that boils, stir in the cornstarch mixture so that the sauce thickens. Run the raspberry sauce through a sieve to separate the seeds and other solids.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Now that the key components are finished, pour the almond cream mixture into a pastry bag and fill each individual lychee with the cream. The puff pastry sheet should be cut into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. Place one lychee in each pastry sheet square, folding opposite corners together to make little dumplings. Arrange dumplings on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Before the pan is placed in the oven, brush each dumpling with the beaten egg and poke each dumpling to make little vent holes.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. To plate, drizzle with syrups. I like to keep the syrup on the plate so the diner can control the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the raspberry.

Here they are! This recipe makes about 9 stuffed lychee pastries.

That's it! Total prep and cook time was about 1 hour.