Last month, we had the great honor of being featured in a farm to table dinner with Chef Katie B. of Eat Catering at the Lyons Farmette. In a word, WOW! It was a fantastic event! A perfect evening of bluegrass music, delicious farm fresh foods, a charming venu and a sweet finish to the night with Lillabee Coconut Shortcake. This recipe has a little story… as all recipes do. So buckle up and I will take you on a ride through my creative process (or feel free to skip the dish and go straight to the dessert).
When Katie asked me to be a part of this event, I was honored! Katie has pure passion for these events and pours her heart and soul into every little detail. She’s my kind of gal! So, I really wanted to create something special to capture the essence of the important farm to table movement… something that would highlight the fruits (literally) of our local agriculture, and let Lillabee shine. I thought a lot about summer desserts and the relaxed farm setting of this event. It was very obvious to me that the perfect dessert would be a shortcake. Shortcakes are, in my mind, the quintessential, all-american summer dessert. But I wanted to give it a twist… a Lillabee twist. Of course it would be gluten free and dairy free, but how? Coconut milk to the rescue! I am kookoo for coconuts! It is the perfect creamy rich dairy alternative. Naturally nutritious, coconut boasts a number of health benefits. But aside from that, the flavor of coconut is just simply divine!
So, after a few attempts, I crafted the perfect coconut shortcake recipe. Not too sweet, not too dry, not to dense, but not too light… just perfect to showcase a fruit compote. At the time, I was thinking that fresh, ripe, juicy, in peak season, Palisades peaches would be just the right topping. But then something interesting happened. I was talking to my dear friend Nancy. Nancy is in her 70’s and was born and raised on a family farm in Loveland. She told me that when she was a child Loveland had cherry orchards everywhere. Not sweet cherry orchards, Loveland was know for its pie cherries… sour cherries… yummy! But now, all of those orchards have been sold to developers and lost forever. All of them, except one. She and her husband drive to Loveland every summer to buy 10 lbs of ruby red pie cherries to freeze and then enjoy throughout the year. This news was so exciting to me!! I just had to have those cherries for the farm dinner!! What a story! It just couldn’t get any better than this!! So, Nancy and her husband, made their annual pilgrimage to Loveland and generously returned with 10lbs of cherries for me. Oh, I was so grateful! I couldn’t wait to tell this wonderful story! It would surely be a hit. And the compote, came together so beautifully with the addition of some thinly sliced MMLocal peaches.
The night before our dinner, I decided to get online and try to learn a little more about this special orchard. I wanted to find some other interesting tidbits that I could include in my talk to our guests. I was pleasantly surprised to find an actual website for the Scofield Fruits farm stand. Right on the home page was the story I was looking for!! It told the history of the Montmorency varietal of cherries, commonly known as sour cherries, in Loveland. And as I read on, I learned that up until the 60’s Loveland was know for their cherry orchards. In fact, Loveland was home to the largest cherry orchard west of the Mississippi until a drought and hard freeze wiped out the crops. It happened at a time when this farm land was very valuable to developers and the orchards were sold, leveled and lost forever. So, as I read on, I was expecting to learn about this quaint little farm in Loveland that somehow carried on… and then came the twist. There was no such farm! In fine print, it went on to explain that all of the cherries sold at this farm stand were grown in Utah and trucked in! My heart sank and the first words that popped into my head were the wise words of my two year old daughter… “whoopsy doopsy!”. What was I going to do now? I had failed! The cherries weren’t local! I will let everyone down! Katie will be so disappointed!
And then it dawned on me. This is exactly why the farm to table movement is so important! Learning about our local agriculture, supporting area farmers by buying local produce not only reduces our carbon footprint, but it also helps preserve our local treasures for future generations to enjoy.
So, in honor of the forever lost Loveland Cherry Orchards, I present to you, the recipe for Lillabee Coconut Shortcake with (almost local) Cherry Peach Compote and Whipped Coconut Cream. And aside from the little snafu, this dessert was created with lots of love for our great friend Katie at EAT catering. (BTW: If you are looking for a charming rustic setting with amazing food, look no further. Katie and the farmette would be a dream for a wedding or any other gathering).
And just for the record, I didn’t have the heart to tell my friend Nancy that the cherries are from Utah. Let’s just keep it our little secret.
FOR SHORTCAKES: This can be made up to one day in advance and stored at room temperature. In a large bowl, combine the following dry ingredients and mix together with a whisk:
1 flour pack from a lillabee classic yellow cake mix
3 tbl sugar (from Lillabee classic yellow cake mix sugar pack)
1 1/2 tbl cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
In another bowl whisk together the following wet ingredients:
2/3 c full fat coconut milk
1 Tb butter or margarine (we like Earth Balance buttery spread), melted and cooled (still liquid)
2 Tb coconut oil, melted and cooled (still liquid)
Zest and juice of half a lemon (zest finely minced)
2 tsp vanilla
Mix dry and wet ingredients together with a wooden spoon until combined completely. Place dough in the refrigerator for about 20 mins to chill the oils. With a food proportioning scoop, scoop balls of shortcake and form into patties that are lightly flattened. Brush shortcakes with either more coconut milk or heavy cream and sprinkle 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar from Lillabee Classic Yellow Cake Mix sugar pack. Bake at a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire cooling rack and let cool. Makes 6-8 shortcakes.
FOR CHERRY PEACH COMPOTE: This can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated.
Combine 1 1/2 cups of fresh pitted cherries and 1 cup of thinly sliced fresh peaches (or MM Local’s Western Slope peaches) with the remaining sugar from the Lillabee Classic Yellow Cake sugar pack, 1tsp vanilla extract and juice and zest from 1/2 lemon. Let sit for atleast one hour. You can substitute any fresh or drained frozen fruit for this recipe.
FOR WHIPPED COCONUT CREAM: make this fresh up to 4 hours in advance and keep refrigerated. Whipping coconut milk into coconut cream can be tricky.Most folks find that they need to try it a few times before they get it just right. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t fret. You can serve it anyway and call it coconut creme anglaise (like mine in the picture)! It will still be delicious!! One important note, I do not recommend using vanilla extract. It often thins the coconut fat and the mixture does not whip well. You can use powdered vanilla or vanilla bean extract as listed below, or omit vanilla entirely.
2 cans full fat coconut milk (13.5 oz cans) – unflavored and unsweetened
1/3 cup powdered sugar or to taste
1 Tbsp of powdered vanilla extract or vanilla bean extract (optional)
Chill the cans of coconut milk overnight in the fridge. Open the cans, drain off the clear liquid and transfer the cream to a chilled bowl, using a rubber spatula to scrape all the cream out of the cans. Beat the thick coconut cream in the chilled bowl with a hand mixer until thick and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Add powdered vanilla or vanilla bean extract, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the coconut cream to a covered storage container, and chill for 2 hours until the mixture firms. Serve chilled.
*For flavored whipped cream, add some cinnamon, instant coffee, or cocoa powder (you may want to increase the sugar a bit)