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Here is a collection of some of my favorite baking projects that feel spring appropriate.
Spring is a tricky season for those of us in the northern part of the United States, because we’re craving fresh flavors after a long winter, but there isn’t much produce in season. The temperatures can swing wildly, so we find ourselves bouncing between shortsleeves and winter coats, and with that clothing the attendant desires for baked goods bounces between something light and something rich and warming.
These are recipes that say spring baking to me. They straddle the line between winter and summer, calling on the bounty of winter citrus that’s still around while calling on fresh berries that probably got trucked in from somewhere far away.
They’re colorful celebrating lots of pinks and yellows. And they include breakfast foods like scones and muffins as well as afternoon and evening appropriate desserts like cakes, cookies, tarts, and galettes.
This strawberry shortcake makes one big biscuit-style shortcake that gets cut into wedges. It's a tender and flaky shortcake that's rich with butter and heavy cream and barely sweet. I usually slice the strawberries and toss them in sugar while the shortcake is in the oven, but you can make them a day ahead of time and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you prefer. Wait to whip the cream until you're ready to serve the shortcake. I prefer to use an all-purpose flour with a mid-range protein content like Gold Medal for the shortcake. This will work with a higher protein all-purpose flour like King Arthur, but it won't be quite as tender. (And southerners, I'm sorry to say I don't have easy access to White Lily, so I don't know how that will work here, but if you try it, do report back!)
This tart uses a press-in shortbread crust inspired by one Alice Medrich uses in everything. This one has a bit of lime zest for fragrance and flavor and powdered sugar to keep it tender.
The lemon ginger curd itself is a riff on one I've been making for years—that one uses Meyer lemons, whereas this one calls for the more commonly available Eureka lemons. The fussiest part is grating the ginger to squeeze out enough juice. A ceramic ginger grater or microplane zester makes this job doable.
The tart crust can be made and baked up to two days ahead, and the curd can be cooked and chilled up to a week in advance, you can then assemble and bake the tart on the day (or day before) you want to eat it.
The meringue is totally optional, but because the tart leaves you with extra egg whites from the curd, it's easy to go that extra step and add the meringue. The amount of meringue isn't as much what you would typically do for a towering lemon meringue pie, but it's plenty for piping decoratively on the top (and enough to cover the whole top with dots like you see pictured if you wanted to do that). You'll need a 9-inch or 9.5-inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.
These raspberry lemon muffins are, at heart, lemon muffins with jammy raspberry middles. The fats in this batter come from olive oil (choose a mellow one) and Greek yogurt. I recommend full-fat or 2% here for the best texture. Be careful when removing the muffins from the tin--the raspberry middles can get a bit messy. You can turn them out and accept a little mess or carefully remove them one by one from the muffin tin, your call.
This recipe, as it was originally written, comes from an era when margarine and shortening regularly appeared in baking cookbooks, before the pendulum had swung back to butter as an acceptable fat. I’ve updated it to reflect our current thinking about cooking with real foods. You can use any white chocolate you like, I usually use Ghirardelli, but this year I used Lindt with equally good results. Avoid anything labelled white baking chips or with oil in the ingredients list as they won’t melt smoothly. If your seedless raspberry jam is on the looser side, you don’t need to heat it, but if it’s on the thicker side you’ll want to heat it in the microwave or on the stove until it relaxes into a spoonable consistency. As with any drop cookie, your life will be easier if you use parchment paper and a small cookie scoop or disher.
This passion fruit tart is one of my all-time favorite desserts. It's like a lemon tart (or lemon meringue pie) but better. The tart crust has a lighter, airier texture than most because of the long creaming time. This makes it more delicate and rustic than some might prefer, but I love it. That said, if you have go-to tart crust or pâte sucrée, feel free to use it. I tend to use frozen passion fruit puree for this. It's often available at Mexican grocery stores and at some big chains. I usually use Goya brand, but I'd recommend sticking to a brand that lists passion fruit as the only ingredient. (You can also order it online.) If you have fresh passion fruit, though, you can absolutely use them. Just slice open the fruit, scoop out the pulp and remove the seeds and use it here.
This tart doesn't need any adornment, really, but I like to top it with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
You'll need a 9.5-in tart pan and a half sheet pan for this recipe.
These scones are similar to the ones you find in American bakeries. They're crisp on the outside, tender on the inside with a dense, close crumb. They are enriched with butter and cream and raised with baking soda. The combination of orange zest and crystallized ginger is lovely here, especially with the tangy vanilla-scented crème fraîche icing. If you don't want to bother with icing (though, really, you should, this one is so easy and good), sprinkle the wedges of dough with sugar before baking.
These strawberry crumb bars are easy to make. The crust and topping are made from the same dough, which comes together in the food processor in about a minute. The lemon zest is nice with the strawberries here, but it is definitely optional, as is the coriander, which is incredibly subtle but enhances the strawberry flavor. The crust is crisp on the day these are made. The bars are still good for the next few days, but they definitely soften. If the weather is hot, store these in the fridge to keep them firm.
This blueberry galette is a delightful free-form pie. The crust has a higher ratio of butter to flour than many pie crusts, which makes it extra flaky. This recipe works best with American butter and not higher fat European butters. Tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) makes a filling with a smoother consistency than cornstarch, which is why I call for it here. You can find it with the alternative flours in most grocery stores.
This buckle is a rustic fruit-laden cake with a golden exterior and an almost custardy interior.
The buttermilk helps to tenderized the crumb and adds a tangy note to balance the sweetness of the cake. You can take the extra step of browning the butter when you melt it to add more depth of flavor.
You can adjust the fruit to what you have available. An all rhubarb or all strawberry buckle would be lovely.
The mix of cinnamon, coriander, and ground ginger is particularly nice with the strawberries and rhubarb.
I use pecans in the streusel here, but sliced almonds would also be delicious.
This strawberry rhubarb crisp is made with a mix of oat flour and old fashioned rolled oats. It's 100% whole grain and gluten free. (If you're making this for someone intolerant to gluten, be sure to look for certified gluten-free oats and oat flour because oats are often processed in facilities that also process wheat and can be cross contaminated.) The topping comes together in a few minutes. I sometimes like to take the extra step of browning the butter when melting it, but I leave that entirely up to you. I like the mixture of strawberries and rhubarb, but you could absolutely make this entirely with rhubarb with no other adjustments to the recipe.
This cake takes advantage of the wonderful aromatic citrus flavors in makrut lime leaves by steeping the leaves in melted butter and then straining out and discarding the leaves. You can find fresh or frozen lime leaves often sold under the name kaffir lime leaves at Asian grocery stores. You can find dried lime leaves at some spice shops and online. Fresh and frozen leaves have the brightest flavor, but this still works well with dried leaves. Because the size of the leaves and the freshness of the leaves we tend to find in the US vary widely, the amount you need here is imprecise. If your leaves smell really fresh you can get away with less, if they are older and drier and smaller you may want to use more. If you can't find lime leaves, you could steep a chopped stalk of lemongrass in butter (or even skip infusing the butter and just use it softened). It will be a different but still absolutely delightful cake. The lime zest and juice I use here is from Persian limes (the limes you usually find at American grocery stores). Be sure to grate the lemon and lime zest directly into the sugar to release the oils and maximize the flavor.