Let patriotic food provide the mood for Fourth of July events
A Fourth of July celebration requires flag-waving and a menu dedicated to the theme.
With a three-day weekend, there are plenty of opportunities to red, white and blue your own party or add a bit of patriotic color to those picnics you're about to descend on.
Patriotic Checkerboard Cake
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Butter for greasing cake pans
2 packages (15 1⁄4 ounces each) white cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix boxes
Royal-blue food-coloring paste
3 containers (12 ounces each) ready-to-spread fluffy white frosting
Red food-coloring paste
Fondant Stars, for decorating (see directions)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch-round cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Prepare a double batch of cake mix according to package directions, using the water, oil and egg whites. Transfer 5 1⁄2 cups of the batter to one bowl; stir in 1 teaspoon of royal-blue food coloring.
Place a checkerboard ring into one prepared pan. Spoon the blue batter into the outer ring and the center, filling three-fourths full. Spoon white batter into the middle ring. Gently lift out the checkerboard ring and wash it. Repeat the process with second prepared pan. Repeat the process with third pan but change the order of the blue and white batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 27 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove the cakes from the pans to the wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour). Level the cake layers with a serrated knife.
Place a cake layer with a blue outer ring on a cake plate; spread about 2⁄3 cup frosting over top of the cake layer. Place a cake layer with a blue outer ring on a cake plate; spread about 2⁄3 cup frosting over top of the cake layer. Place the cake layer with the white outer ring on top; spread about 2⁄3 cup of frosting over the top of the cake layer. Place the remaining cake layer on top; spread the top and sides of cake with 1 1⁄2 cups frosting.
Portion the remaining white frosting evenly among 3 bowls. Tint 1 bowl of frosting with 1⁄2 teaspoon royal-blue food coloring. Tint the second bowl with 1 teaspoon of red food coloring, leaving the third bowl white. Decorate the cake with red, white and blue frosting. Top the cake with Fondant Stars.
Makes 16 servings.
Fondant Stars: Place 1⁄4 (24 ounces) package rolled fondant on a surface lightly dusted with confectioners' sugar, and roll to 1⁄8-inch thickness. Cut with various-size star-shape cookie cutters. Place the stars on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; sprinkle with sparkling sugar, and dry completely (4 hours to overnight).
Red, White and Blue Swirl Cupcakes
Choose festive red, white and blue cupcake liners for an over-the-top look, or serve them in colorful, small cups as pictured. From “Colorcakes: Wow-Worthy Desserts Anyone Can Make” (Oxmoor House, $19.95), by Simple Sweet
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Paper baking cups
1 package (18 1⁄4 ounces) white cake mix
Water, vegetable oil, and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 bottle (1 ounce) red liquid food coloring
2 cups butter, softened
1 bag (32 ounces) confectioners' sugar, divided
1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup milk
1 1⁄2 teaspoons royal-blue food-coloring paste
Large disposable decorating bag
Edible gold star glitter
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the paper baking cups in 2 (12-cup) muffin pans. Prepare and bake the cake mix according to package directions for cupcakes, using the water, oil and eggs and adding the red food coloring. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove them from the pans to wire racks. Cool completely (about 30 minutes).
In a large bowl, beat the butter and half the confectioners' sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until the batter is smooth. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar alternately with the milk, beating until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. Divide the frosting between two bowls. Stir the desired amount blue food coloring into one bowl until blended.
Insert a star tip into the large decorating bag. Place spoonfuls of white and blue frosting side by side, alternating colors and working up from tip of the bag (do not stir). Starting at 12 o'clock on the outer edge of each cupcake and using constant pressure on the bag, pipe the frosting clockwise for 3 rotations, working toward the center and ending in a small peak. Decorate the cupcakes with the edible glitter. Store the cupcakes loosely covered.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
Patriotic Cookie Pops
To ensure the color ropes stay distinct, chill the cookies for about 10 minutes before baking. Practice makes perfect when it comes to these pinwheels. From “Colorcakes: Wow-Worthy Desserts Anyone Can Make” (Oxmoor House, $19.95), by Simple Sweet.
Hands-on time: 40 minutes
Total time: 4 hours
2 pouches (17 1⁄2 ounces each) sugar cookie mix
1⁄2 cup flour
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon red food-coloring paste
1 teaspoon blue food-coloring paste
2 teaspoons white liquid food coloring
Nonstick cooking spray
26 paper lollipop sticks
In a large bowl, stir the cookie mix, flour, butter and eggs until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough into thirds. Tint one-third of the dough with red food coloring, kneading until it is completely blended. Repeat with another one-third of the dough and the blue food coloring. Tint the remaining one-third of the dough with white food coloring. Wrap each portion of dough in plastic wrap; chill for 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2 baking sheets with the cooking spray. Roll each color of dough into 26 ( 3⁄4-inch) balls. Shape each ball into a 12-inch rope. Place one each of red, blue and white ropes together. Starting at 1 end, coil the ropes to make a 2 3⁄4-inch-round cookie. Place the cookies 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Insert one lollipop stick into the bottom of each cookie. Chill for 10 minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes; remove the cookies to wire racks. Cool completely (about 30 minutes).
Makes 26 cookie pops.
Sweet & Salty Sparklers
These pretzel treats from FamilyFun magazine are layered with white chocolate and studded with sprinkles and M&M's. They will add flair to any party spread. Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips, according to the package directions, in a medium, heat-safe bowl. Use a spoon to drizzle 1 pretzel rod at a time with chocolate (you'll have enough chocolate to make a dozen), then lay the rod on the prepared sheet and scatter on red and blue sprinkles and M&M's. Chill the pretzels in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets, for about 15 minutes.
Red, White and Cool Cubes
Tricolored spritzers offer a refreshing way to celebrate the Fourth. Make several trays of ice cubes using beverages colored red, white and blue — cranberry juice, water and Powerade Mountain Berry Blast will work. To serve, place the cubes in separate buckets and let guests make their own drinks with plain seltzer. From FamilyFun magazine.
Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
Thanks to red and purple potatoes, roasted red peppers, cubes of white goat cheese and several cups of blueberries, the American flag is well represented in this salad. This dish, from the Associated Press, would be delicious with the addition of chicken or crumbled bacon. Alternatively, if tarragon isn't your favorite herb, cilantro or basil would play nicely.
Start to finish: 45 minutes
24 ounces small red potatoes, halved or quartered
24 ounces small purple potatoes, halved or quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
8 ounces goat-milk cheddar or gouda, diced
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup diced roasted red peppers
Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Add a hefty pinch of salt, then bring the potatoes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes fork tender, but not falling apart, for 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Set aside to cool completely.
In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar, the olive oil, mustard and tarragon. When the potatoes have cooled, add them to the bowl, as well as the cheddar or gouda, blueberries and roasted red peppers. Stir gently to coat the potatoes with the dressing. Chill for 1 hour to let the flavors develop.
Makes 10 servings.
Red, White and Blue Grilled Fruit Pizza
This year, wow your friends and family with a dessert pizza. And, cook it right on the grill. Red and blue berries, plus a sweet ricotta cheese, decorate a grilled pizza crust for a beautiful, festive and patriotic finish to your meal. From Elizabeth Karmel, author of “Pizza on the Grill,” via the Associated Press.
When grilling the dough, follow these pizza-making tips:
• Always start with very clean cooking grates.
• Ensure the grill is hot before adding the dough.
• Roll the dough as thinly as possible, about 1⁄8 inch thick.
• Brush the dough liberally with olive oil on both sides, then sprinkle with coarse polenta or grits.
• Grill the crust over direct medium heat, usually for 2 to 3 minutes per side (or until golden).
Start to finish: 30 minutes (10 minutes active)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
Zest of 1⁄2 lemon
2 tablespoons uncooked grits or coarse polenta, for rolling the dough
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ball (20 ounces) prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries
1 1⁄2 cups fresh raspberries
1⁄4 cup honey
Heat the grill to high.
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, ginger and lemon zest. Set aside.
Sprinkle the work surface with the grits or polenta. Set the dough on top.
Mix together the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon, then sprinkle this mixture over the dough. Knead the cinnamon-sugar into the dough until it is well mixed. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Gently roll or stretch the dough into a 14-inch rectangle or circle about 1⁄4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
For a gas grill, reduce all of the burners to medium. Pick up the dough by the 2 corners closest to you and carry it to the grill. In one motion, lay the dough flat on the grill grate. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes, then check the crust and, if necessary, continue grilling until the bottom is well marked and evenly browned.
For a charcoal grill, bank all of the gray-ashed briquettes to one side. Pick up the dough by the 2 corners closest to you and carry it to the grill. In one motion, lay the dough flat on the grill grate on the cooler side of the grill. Close the lid and grill for 3 minutes, then check the crust and, if necessary, rotate the dough and continue grilling until the bottom is well marked and evenly browned.
Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the top of the dough, then use tongs to flip it and grill until the second side is well browned.
Transfer the crust to a baking sheet, then immediately spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the top. Arrange the berries over the ricotta, then finish with a generous drizzle of honey. Slice and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.