That’s right – the word “homemade” is in there twice. That’s because I made the frozen yogurt with yogurt I made a few days ago.
I’ve only made my own yogurt a few times so far, and you certainly can use store-bought yogurt to make the frozen recipe….but it’s kind of extra cool to doubly home-make something.
And besides, it’s so easy to make yogurt.
We’ll start there.
The first time I tried making yogurt, I followed a recipe a friend of my sister’s had given her. My sister had been making her own yogurt for a while, and I felt like I should be making my own yogurt, so I gave the recipe a try.
You heat the milk to 180 F, then let it cool down to 116 F, add in some good quality plain yogurt, let it sit, warm, overnight or at least 6 hours, and – ta da! Yogurt.
So I did that. I wrapped the pot in a towel and kept it in a warmed (but off) oven overnight. And I really expected success, just because I’ve been able to make various cheeses with similar procedures.
But it didn’t work. Way too thin…basically just milk with yogurt stirred in. I figure the mixture didn’t stay warm enough for the cultures in the yogurt to do their thing.
I wanted to try again, but I didn’t want to end up with thick milk again. I know they sell those yogurt maker things, but I don’t need one more THING cluttering up my counters or pantry or cupboards or floor or anywhere else. And if you can make yogurt in a pot, then I figured there has to be another relatively inexpensive, low-tech way.
Maybe a crock pot? I figured that the key was to keep the milk sufficiently warm the whole time. Bacteria – good and bad – need warmth to multiply. Don’t we all? But I digress.
Anyway, I went looking around on the internet briefly, and there are plenty of sites that tell you how to go about it.
The one I chose came from a website I already visit on a daily basis (and probably should have checked out first, duh). It’s Chickens in the Road, and I admit it – I live vicariously on a farm in West Virginia through the magical words and pictures of author Suzanne McMinn. She makes cheese (with milk from her own cow, sigh…) and so of course she would have made yogurt at some point, right? Right. You can see her recipe – which I followed to the letter – right here.
I heated my milk to 180 F, which, in my crock pot, on high, took about 2 hours and twenty minutes, maybe a smidge longer. Then I dropped the temp to 116, mixed in the yogurt, covered the pot back up again, wrapped it in a towel, and left it overnight.
In the morning, it looked like this:
I mixed in Chobani 2% plain yogurt, by the way. One cup.
Next, I strained it briefly, just to get rid of the excess liquid. If you strain it for several hours, you can make yogurt cheese. But I wasn’t looking to do that.
Anyway, the yogurt tasted really good, and it went very quickly. So I made more.
And I’d been thinking that once I got the hang of yogurt making I could make my own flavored yogurts to send with the kids to school.
(Going off on a tangent now, but just a brief one.)
Julia loves yogurt, but Alex is pickier about it, and I really want him to have yogurt, so I’ve been (gulp) buying those yogurts in a tube. Sigh. And I don’t like doing it. But I was figuring the probiotic benefits outweighed the added fake crap risks. But even when I told myself this, I didn’t buy it. But I still kept buying the tube things anyway, because Alex would eat them.
And then I got tired of myself caving to pressure from a 9-year-old and stopped buying them.
But I thought…for whatever reason, yogurt in a tube is appealing. So maybe, with my homemade version, I could find a way to make that work…and I tried to think of something I could use as a tube, since I haven’t learned to manufacture BPA-free plastic yet.
All this was going through my mind over the past several months, which, as you may or may not know, is also the time frame of much of our sausage-making.
Can you see the leap my silly brain made? Yeah. I admit it. For a fraction of a second, I thought, “what if I cooked the hog casings……..”
Don’t worry, I didn’t follow through on that. I’m giving up the whole stupid tube idea anyway. Sure, it allows you to eat the yogurt on the go…but really, how often does anyone need to dash around and eat a yogurt without a spoon? It’s not like my kids sit in class and slurp. No, the food I send to school is eaten at lunch time, in the lunch room. They can use spoons.
So I bought a bag of Wyman’s frozen blueberries (they’re the tiny little wild blueberries – my favorites) and figured I’d get some blueberry yogurt made soon.
Until I decided to make FROZEN blueberry yogurt.
My path to that decision was a bit convoluted as well (as all my paths seem to be), but that’s not relevant at the moment, and I’ve rambled on enough for one day.
So I looked around online again for frozen blueberry yogurt recipes, and after reading a couple, I made up my own. I cleaned off my ice cream maker, stuck the insert in the freezer, and yesterday (after a good 36 hours for the insert in the freezer), I got to work.
First, I needed yogurt. I used 3 cups.
Then I mixed together blueberries (about a cup and a half or 8 ounces), sugar (I used a cup, but I plan to reduce that next time and keep reducing it with subsequent recipes until I find the minimum amount I need.), lime juice (acidity brightens the flavor), maple syrup (think blueberry pancakes – it works, right?) and warmed them in a pot on the stove until the sugar dissolved. I smashed the blueberries somewhat, too. Then I let the mixture cool for about ten minutes in the fridge.
Next, I combined the blueberry mixture with the yogurt. Now, at this point, I could just put everything in the fridge and we could eat it as is. It’s yummy.
If you don’t believe me, believe Julia – she was “helping” me.
And practicing her moves.
But we kept going. I set up the ice cream maker and poured/scraped the blueberry yogurt in. I let Julia have the spatula and the bowl.
About twenty minutes later….
Frozen yogurt! Yay!
Julia and I had to taste it a couple of times, just to be sure the flavor was consistent with every bite.
Then I portioned out the rest of the yogurt into these freezer jam containers that I have and never use any more. Perfect use! I’m rather pleased with myself about that idea.
I gave a full one to Julia, one to Alex, and gave Bill a spoonful because he was too full from dinner to eat any more than that. Alex didn’t finish his, so I ate the rest.
I’m SO excited to make more, and to portion everything into these little freezer jam containers.
I’ve got a new batch of milk in my crock pot. I should have yogurt by tonight, and I’ll be able to make a new flavor tomorrow.
It will involve chocolate.
For now, here’s my recipe for the blueberry version….
Blueberry Frozen Yogurt
1 1/2 cups wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar (or less. I’m dropping it to 3/4 of a cup next time.)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons lime juice
pinch of salt
3 cups Greek style yogurt, preferably made from whole milk, but that’s up to you
What to do:
1. Combine blueberries, sugar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt in a small pot over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Mash the blueberries. Remove from heat and cool in a bowl in the fridge for about twenty minutes.
2. Combine yogurt with blueberry mixture. If you don’t want any whole berries in your frozen yogurt, puree everything in your food processor or in a blender or with an immersion blender. Pour your blueberry yogurt mixture (smooth or chunky version) into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It should take about 20-25 minutes to churn.
3. You can either eat it now or freeze it if you’d prefer a firmer dessert.
My mother used to make me strawberry shortcake for breakfast on my birthday when I was a kid. My birthday is in early July, which was at the end of strawberry season around here, but no matter – if she couldn’t get ripe local berries, she’d buy what was available and macerate them in some sugar for a while before making the shortcake.
I also remember that sometimes instead of the traditional biscuit, she’d get those spongy yellow mini-cakes (you can find them near the strawberries in most grocery stores this time of year). I loved those little cakes. Light and fluffy, they reminded me of another childhood favorite – Twinkies. Yep. Twinkies. I think my introduction to those has been blamed on my paternal grandfather.
But I digress….
Or, in this case, it’s a Clementine-Almond Tart.
And yes, it’s supposed to be French Fridays with Dorie, not French Saturdays, but, well, if you’ve read my last post, I figure you understand why I didn’t get to writing this and posting it yesterday afternoon.
Anyway, I decided to make the tart with clementines rather than oranges simply because that’s what I had on hand.
One of the nicest things, so far, about cooking my way through Dorie’s Around My French Table with the wonderful French Fridays with Dorie gang is that I usually have all or most of the ingredients already on hand. It’s so nice! Take this double chocolate mousse cake. I didn’t need to get anything for it. The ingredient list is very short – chocolate, eggs, sugar, coffee, butter, salt. That’s IT.
And it’s a good thing, because I made this, along with last week’s gnocchi, last Wednesday, which was A Day Of Much Snow in these parts, and no one was going anywhere.
Years ago…a lot of them, actually, I had a new apartment back here in my home state of RI, and that year I hosted dinner for my mom’s birthday. I remember I roasted a leg of lamb, and we probably had potatoes in some form with it…maybe Brussels sprouts too, and maybe some orange vegetable as well. Or maybe there was salad. I don’t remember those details.
I do, however, remember the dessert.
Marie-Helene would be quite welcome in our home.
Especially if she showed up with an apple cake.
Of course, we don’t know Marie-Helene, and she doesn’t know us, so the odds of her arriving at our door, still-warm-from-the-oven gâteau aux pommes (I’m dabbling in French) are pretty darn slim.
Good thing Dorie gave us a recipe so I can make this myself!
Okay, so the other night Bill made a fish soup for dinner using the one scup he and Alex brought home from a fishing trip, some leftover haddock, and some conch from our freezer. It was really good - I made little toasts with roasted garlic butter smeared on them to go along with it. Yum.
And while Bill was cooking, I threw together this dessert.
So my son has turned eight. He had his actual birthday, and then, over the weekend, he had his birthday party, which included a bunch of his friends, ribs (smoked for 6 hours - oh, they were so good), other food, decent enough weather that they could play outside in the pool, and, of course, a cake.
Last year's theme was Star Wars - specifically, a battle between Yoda and the Emperor in the Senate Rotunda, from Revenge of the Sith. You can see it (and Julia's cake from last year) here.
This year we continued with the Star Wars theme, but skipped forward a generation to my favorite of the movies, The Empire Strikes Back.
Last week, when we were in Maine, my friend, Ralph, gave me a few little gifts. One was the beautiful Italian-made glass measuring cup you can see Julia displaying in this post. Another was the box in the picture above. Yes. A box of chocolate crème brûlée mix. He gave me that because back when he bought himself a little mini torch, he got the one that comes with the box mix, and I laughed and snorted and snickered about it. So this is how he retaliates. By FORCING the box mix upon me.
I torment him; he torments me. This is why we've been friends for so long.
I'm still trying to get back on the Tuesdays With Dorie train on a regular basis. I didn't participate last week, but I made sure to find out in plenty of time what the next recipe was.
I can hear you all going "HUH???" out there (or worse) (and yes, I'm talking to you, Susan) so I want to explain why I came up with this dessert.
My dad's birthday was last Friday, and he'd requested the main item for dinner, but left dessert entirely up to me. So I was thinking about all the things my father likes for dessert. Part of the list included things like squash pie, grapenut pudding, and, most recently, the eggnog flan I made around Christmas and New Year's. Hmmmm. The wheels began to turn.
Yesterday Julia was talking about wanting to make something with me. Something to eat. I asked what she wanted to make, and she said, after a bit of thought, "pumpkin bread pie."
She also launched into a great long list of other things she'd like to make - various cakes, pies, cookies, and so forth. But this one, this first idea of hers, stuck in my head.
Bill asked me to make Linzertorte for this year's Oktoberfest/Oktoberfeast dessert. He had some for the first time this past July when we had family visiting from Ohio. They had spent some time at the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont before arriving on our doorstep, and they'd brought us a Linzertorte from the Trapp DeliBakery. It was delicious.
I think Linzertorte has now become one of Bill's favorite things. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
We were going to dig steamers yesterday, but with all the rain, we figured shellfishing would be closed locally, so we headed out to pick apples instead.
In the past we've always gone to orchards in the northern part of the state. This time around, Bill suggested we try the place we'd seen the signs for on Route 4. Yes, that's exactly how he put it. Didn't even know the name of the orchard - we just knew they had signs up, and that, in addition to apples, they had peaches.
So off we went....
Seriously - that's the name of the recipe. I didn't make it up myself.
And if you were looking for blueberry recipes and you came across that one, wouldn't you HAVE to make it? Come on now, be honest. You would.
And you'd also be very glad you tried the recipe out, because this little cake is very good.
I found it in Christopher Kimball's The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, which I seem to be turning to a lot lately. I've used a couple jam recipes now, and I figured there would be a tempting blueberry (non-jam) recipe somewhere in the pages as well.
Blueberry Boy-Bait does not disappoint. Not only is the cake good, but so is the little story behind the name. Mr. Kimball writes:
"This is my all-time favorite recipe name. It comes from Renny Powell, a teenager from Chicago, who submitted this recipe in 1954 to the Pillsbury $100,000 Recipe & Baking Contest (now known as the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest) and won second prize in the junior division. This is a very light one-layer cake with blueberries and a simple crumble topping. Ms. Powell evidently found it useful in attracting members of the opposite sex and, based on my testing, I would have to agree that it's pretty good bait. I made a few changes from the original, including reducing the sugar level (recipes from the 1950s are usually too sweet), cutting back on the amount of topping, and increasing the volume of blueberries. We now use this recipe at the farmhouse, so that when neighbors stop by for a cup of coffee we have something to serve with it."
Isn't that delightful? You really have to make it now, don't you?
Okay, here's the recipe:
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed, drained, and blotted with paper towels (or frozen blueberries that have been thoroughly thawed and drained)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan with butter and then flour it lightly. Sift together the flour and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into pieces, then work into the flour mixture using your fingertips or a pastry blender. (If you have a food processor, place the flour and sugar in bowl and pulse to mix. Add the butter, which should be cold and cut into pieces, and pulse 7 or 8 times until the flour takes on the texture of coarse meal.) Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture to use as a topping.
(I made one little addition to the recipe here - I added 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon to the 1/2 cup reserved flour mixture/crumb topping. Just wanted to give it a little extra spark of flavor. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly.)
2. Add the baking powder, the salt, the egg yolks (reserve the whites), and the milk to the flour mixture still in the bowl. (If you used a food processor, put the processed flour mixture in a different bowl now, not the processor one.) Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for about 3 minutes. (This can also be done by hand with a wooden spoon.)
3. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold 2-inch peaks.
Fold gently into the batter.
Spread batter in the prepared pan.
Sprinkle blueberries (make sure they are dry) on top,
then sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup crumb mixture.
4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the center of the cake bounces back when pressed with the flat side of a fork. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving either as a coffee cake or a dessert, the latter with whipped cream.
Once the cake cooled, I cut it up into squares (okay, squares and rectangles)
and stacked them on a cake plate (so I could take a picture of them ON the cake plate, mostly)
and then I stepped back and let the family devour them.
I did manage to snag a couple for myself, and I sent some across the street to my friend, K, who just found out she's pregnant and therefore NEEDS to eat for two.
I'm thinking of making them again and maybe increasing the crumb topping, just because I love the crumb topping part, but the cake doesn't require it. It's incredibly tasty as-is.
Guess I should plan to teach Julia to make this, so later on she can catch herself a man.
HAHAHAHA - just kidding. She won't resort to bait. She'll just whack one on the head and drag him back to her cave.
When I was looking around for different blueberry recipes to make, one of the cookbooks I pulled off the shelf was Cooking Alaskan, by Alaskans. (Really, that's what it says.) The book is a huge compilation of Alaskan recipes by a huge assortment of Alaskan cooks.
I've used it primarily because it has a whole chapter devoted to sourdough, but I had a feeling there would be a good amount of blueberry recipes. And I was right.
I kind of altered this ice cream recipe a tiny bit - it's hard to alter a recipe that only has four ingredients to begin with - by substituting maple syrup for the honey called for, but otherwise I made this exactly as directed.
Here's the recipe:
Blueberry Ice Cream
for an ice cream maker
1 quart (1 L) half-and-half
1/2 cup (120 ml) honey
3/4 cup (180 ml) crushed blueberries
-Scald cream in a pan over medium heat. Remove from stove and stir in honey and dash of salt. Pour into ice cream container and stick in the refrigerator until completely cooled. Add blueberries and then freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions. Makes about 1-1/2 quarts (1.45 L)
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Cookbook
Okay. First, I crushed the blueberries. I used about a cup, actually.
Then I got the rest of the ingredients out. Here's everything:
I poured the half-and-half into a small pan and scalded it - or brought it to just before a boil.
Then I poured the cream into a bowl, stirred in the maple syrup and salt, and put the whole thing in an ice water bath (or a cold-pack water bath) and stirred to get the temperature down quickly.
"Why maple syrup instead of honey?" you might ask. Well, I didn't think we had enough honey on hand, so that was one factor (although it turns out we had more - I just didn't realize it), and also, maple syrup and blueberries go nicely together, at least in my house when I make blueberry pancakes for Alex and he drowns them in maple syrup. So that's why.
Anyway, once the cream mixture had cooled down some, I put it in the fridge for several hours to chill completely.
Around 4 hours later or so, I poured the cream into my ice cream maker and let her rip while I hung laundry out to dry. (We live in a nice little neighborhood not far from all kinds of malls and shopping and car places and restaurants, and we're not far from Providence, either, which is a CITY. But in my mind, I live out on the prairie, and we've got to get the crops in before the hail destroys it all...churn our own butter...hang out the laundry...all that stuff. Except with electricity and indoor plumbing.)
But I digress. Here's the ice cream a-churning away...
And here's some of the finished, churned product, before it went into the freezer to finish freezing.
And know what? It's very good. Not strongly maple-flavored, not overly blueberry-ey, but just a nice, sweet but not overly sweet ice cream.
It's more watery when it melts than a custard-based ice cream, but I don't really mind that, either. Maybe next time I'd add a bit more maple syrup, or maybe I'd add a swirl of blueberry jam or syrup to the mix. But I'm pretty happy with it as-is. And if we had pie left, I bet it would go PERFECTLY with this ice cream. Or with those blueberry twists I made yesterday. Hmmm...I don't think the children have eaten all of those yet....
I also wrote yesterday that the birds and I were battling practically beak a mano over the ripe cherries, and that, by virtue of CHEATING, the birds were kind of winning. Okay, maybe I didn't write that at all, but I wrote something like it and also mentioned that I managed to pick about two cups (after pitting) of sour cherries, and that will probably be all we humans get this year from that tree.
Well, it also happened that while I was at the grocery store earlier in the day, I'd picked up a bag of cherries. Bill loves cherries, so I figured Happy Father's Day to him.
And then, once I'd picked what I could of our sour cherries, I figured I could make a pie or something.
I didn't make a pie. I made a cobbler. I needed 8 cups of pitted cherries (or any kind of fruit), and by some happy quirk of fate, I had exactly that - my 2 cups of the sour cherries plus the bag from the store gave me exactly 8 cups. I mixed them all with the juice of half a lemon and 3/4 cup of sugar and poured them in a 13 x 9 inch pan.
Then I made the cobbler topping, which was, if I remember right, 3 cups of flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 3 T sugar, 1 T baking powder, 3/4 t baking soda...you whisk those together and then, either in a food processor or with a pastry blender or your hands or your dueling sabers - whatever you prefer - cut in 7 T cold butter and 3 T shortening until the mixture is like coarse sand...and then you pour in enough buttermilk to bring the whole thing together into a nice dough. Don't overmix it. (Oh, and the recipe came from Christopher Kimball's Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, which hasn't made it back to the shelf yet. I think his recipe also called for lemon zest (optional) and some minute tapioca mixed into the fruit, but I didn't have the tapioca and I didn't feel like zesting (? how lazy can I be?), so I didn't use those.
Anyway, you bake the fruit first, at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, and then you take balls of the dough and plop them all over the top of the fruit, and then sprinkle 2 T of sugar over the whole thing. (I used sparkling sugar - it stays big and glittery.) Then you raise the oven temp up to 425 and bake another 15 minutes or so (I think I went 20) until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.
Let it sit for 20 minutes or so, and then serve, warm, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. But hey, who am I to tell you how to eat it? You could also serve it with cherry vanilla ice cream if you want...or maybe...after a meal of oven roasted catbirds.
I'M JUST KIDDING.
We had Cornish Hens. They're plumper than catbirds.
I think this may be one of my husband's and my son's favorite desserts. That was part of the reason I bought so many strawberries and so much rhubarb at the farmers' market last Friday - some for the jam, and definately some for pie.
I have any number of books with recipes for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and this time I thought "I'll use that one - it's got to have good pie recipes in it." And I pulled Christopher Kimball's The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook off a shelf. Looked up the recipe, turned to the page - and guess what. I've already used his recipe and liked it enough to put a star next to it. Well okay, then!
(Even better, when I was looking up the recipe, I noticed that there are quite a number of recipes for jams and the like, including a rhubarb-ginger jam that sounds pretty interesting. I might have to make a batch of that next weekend.)
Anyway, while I was cutting up fruit for the jam, I also cut up the quantities I needed for the pie. 3 cups of strawberries and 3 cups of rhubarb. Simple enough, right?
Would you look at the color of those berries? SO red. The slices make me think of Valentine's Day hearts...only prettier, sweeter, and much better for you.
But I digress.
The rest of the filling consists of 1 teaspoon of orange or lemon zest (I used lemon), 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 3/4-1 cup of sugar (I went with the smaller amount), 3-5 tablespoons Minute tapioca (did I even have Minute tapioca? Apparently I did. Probably from whenever I first made this pie) (oh, and I used 4 1/2 tablespoons of the tapioca), and 2 tablespoons butter (optional) (I used it).
You mix all that together and let it sit for fifteen minutes - I'm assuming that's to let the tapioca absorb some of the liquid. The more tapioca you add, by the way, the firmer the cooked fruit will be, so if you like a very oozy pie, go with less tapioca, and if you like a nice, picture-worthy slice of pie, go with more.
Oh, and at this point I also started preheating the oven - 400 degrees F.
I had already made the pie crust, so it was already rolled out and in my pie pan at this point. I used the crust recipe from the same book - it's 2 1/2 cups AP flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 T* sugar, 12 T unsalted butter, chilled in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, 8 T all-purpose vegetable shortening, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes, and 7-8 T of ice water.
* "T" = tablespoons
I combined the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor, added in the butter and shortening (which I'd cut into small pieces), pulsed that til the mixture looked kind of sandy with a smattering of little pea-sized lumps of fat mixed in, then drizzled the ice water in, a little at a time, until the dough started to come together.
Then I dumped it out on the counter and kneaded it ever so briefly until it formed a ball. I cut the ball in half, rolled one half out and lined my pie pan with it. Rolled the other ball out and formed a rough circle, which I wrapped in plastic and folded in quarters to chill. I put the pan and the folded disk of dough back in the fridge to chill. (I skipped the "chill the dough first" step - I was kind of pressed for time. I figured it could chill just fine already in the pan.)
After the fruit sat for about fifteen minutes,
Next I carefully unwrapped and unfolded my disk of dough and gently placed it on top of the fruit.
Nighty-night, little fruit filling!
Then I trimmed the excess dough and tried to decide what to do with the edges. Sometimes I'm in a fancy mood, other times I'm more interested in quick and easy.
I went with quick and easy - I just pressed-and-sealed the edges with the tines of a fork. Then I cut a little vent in the center and folded the corners back - turns out I have to get a little fancy after all - and cut a few slits in the rest of the top crust, and there - pie crust is born.
Then I whisked an egg and a bit of water together, and took out my Sparkling White Sugar. More fancyness. I painted the crust with the egg, sprinkled on the sugar, and at last, into the oven went the pie.
When you put the pie in, you drop the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F. The pie gets a nice shot of really hot from the original 400 degrees, but at 350, you won't be serving blackened crust.
Oh - and put the pie on a cookie sheet with a lip - you really don't want sugary fruit juices spilling onto the floor of your oven.
Because those juices will spill over.
Bake the pie until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly in the center. (That's why I cut the little vent in the middle - so I can spy on the filling.)
I love the drippy syrup pictures.
Below is a picture of an actual bubble taking place in the center of the pie. It's right there on the bottom left part of the fruit portion in my little spy hole. Try to contain your excitment.
After the pie came out of the oven we had to leave for the banquet, so no pie that night. But the next morning Alex and Julia had some for breakfast.
Julia had whipped cream on hers.
And on her face. She's so ladylike, isn't she?
Alex gave his official, professional pie eater opinion. He loves pie.
And, of course, Julia gave her opinion. It had to be the opposite of Alex's, regardless of her personal feelings.
Bill finally had a piece last night and said it was fabulous. Sorry - no picture of him.
And that's the story of this pie. I might make one again next weekend. I give it a thumbs-up, too.
I know, Easter was last month. Move on, Jayne, move on.
Okay, I will, but first I need to post this. It ties up the loose end of this brief post.
I'd offered to bring something to brunch at my cousin's house on Easter, and I was asked to make a rice pie or a cheesecake.
I love cheesecake, but I've never actually made a rice pie before, so that's what I went with. Back when I was a teenager and used to work at an Italian/Seafood restaurant, I remember the time around Easter as being filled with gorgeous egg breads - those braided breads with colored eggs woven into the strands of dough - and the Easter pies. That's when I first tasted them. I think there may have been two kinds - one with rice and one just ricotta. I could be wrong - it was a long time ago and I wasn't as aware of food details as I am now. I do remember, however, that they tasted fabulous.
And I wanted to capture some of that for Easter.
I looked through my Italian cookbooks and found several recipes for Easter pie, or rice pie...and the one I chose was actually not for a rice pie at all - it was a Neopolitan Easter Pie, from Carlo Middione's The Food of Southern Italy. And it makes sense that a Southern Italian recipe wouldn't have rice - rice was a bigger staple of the Italian diet in the north. So what was used instead? Wheat. Whole wheat berries. Soaked for days. Yes, days.
Well, in my last-minute way, I didn't have a whole lot of days to soak anything. Fortunately for me, Chef Middione offered a substitute - barley. Shorter soaking time, shorter cooking time. Perfect. And I had barley, too.
But there was something else to consider, too.
My cousin's wife (would that make her my cousin-in-law?) went gluten-free a while ago, and barley contains gluten. Rice doesn't. So I could sub in rice for the wheat/barley in the recipe, right?
Except that I really, really wanted to stay true to the recipe, or as close as possible without soaking wheat berries for days and days. So I figured I'd make half rice and half with barley. Simple enough, isn't it? Unless you're me, and then you don't just cut the recipe in half - no - you DOUBLE it. So instead of making four 8" tarts, you're making 8 of them. Don't look for logic there - it packed up and left long ago.
So here we go - I'm going to post the recipe for the crust first, and then my two variations for the filling.
Now's your chance to get a snack. There's a lot to cover.
All set? Okay.
First, the pastry dough. "Pasta Frolla" or Tender Pastry. The recipe in the book is for two 9-inch tarts. Since I was making 8, I quadrupled the recipe. Yikes. But I'll just post the original recipe here.
The funny thing about this pastry recipe (to me) is that the butter is at room temperature when you add it to the flour/salt/sugar mixture. I read it twice, just to be sure. But yes - room temperature butter. AND, you don't chill it before rolling it out. I know! I kept looking back at the book. Are you SURE? And the book never wavered.
Here are the ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweet (unsalted) butter at room temperature
Optional: rind of 1 lemon
4-5 tablespoons ice water (or use wine or whiskey, but be sure it is cold.
And now, here are the directions, straight from the book:
"If you are using a marble slab to make the dough by hand, place the flour, sugar, salt and lemon rind if desired) in a mound. Then use your fingers in a circular motion to create a "well" in the mound of flour. Break the butter into little pieces about the size of grapes and throw them into the well. Then pull some of the flour onto the butter and combine them. Do this very quickly and do not overmix. Add the water and very quickly mix the dough to that it just holds together. This should take about 1 minute. (You can do all of this in an electric mixer using the paddle or flat beater attachment. I find that a food processor makes the dough too wet, and I don't like the results. Use one if you wish and if you know what you are doing.) When the dough just holds together and is not crumbly, wrap it in plastic or foil and let it rest out of the refrigerator, but in a cool place, for about half an hour.
roll out the dough with a heavy rolling pin, but do not put too much pressure on it. It will be quite fragile. Lightly dust with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the marble or to the rolling pin. If the dough breaks, do not be concerned because it is easily repaired. Simply push it together again, or break a piece off the edge and use it like you would moeling clay to repair any tears or breaks. Gently but firmly, grasp the top edge of the dough and lay it over the rolling pin. Then roll the dough and the pin toward you and keep rolling the dough onto the pin. Put the dough into a tart pan. Lay the loose end of the dough on the edge of the pan and then unroll the dough slowly and gently, in the reverse direction and let the dough fall into the pan. Adjust it after it is in the pan, if necessary. If the dough breaks while you are putting it in the pan or even afterward, simply repair it as described earlier. Prick the dough, at random, all over the bottom with an eating fork. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
When you are ready to bake the crust, put wax paper or lightweight foil on top of the dough. Fill the tart with dry beans or rice as a weight to keep the dough from ballooning while baking. Medium-sized gravel also would be good to use. It never breaks or becomes rancid because you can soak it in detergent occasionally, rinse it well, and reuse it indefinitely. Gravel is cheap and readily available at pet or hardware stores."
Got all that memorized? Good. Here are the photos and my own commentary....
OH! And keep in mind as you look through these - I had quadrupled the recipe. Because I am crazy.
Okay, here are the ingredients (except the salt, which I forgot to include in the photo, but not in the actual making of the dough. The butter is ROOM TEMPERATURE, which was so odd to me. But anyway.
Here's all the dry ingredients, whisked together. Oh, and I opted to use a bowl instead of the countertop (I don't have a marble slab) because it's easier to clean up after.
Here are my little grape-sized blobs of butter that I "threw" into the flour.
I combined them with a pastry cutter, rather than my fingers. Just because.
And here is the mixture, partly done with the adding of the water. You can see it's starting to hold together in places...I mixed the water in with a fork, by the way.
Aha - this is what we're after. It holds together, but it's still ragged and crumbly. Perfect. I divided the whole mess into two balls and put them in ziploc bags.
And then I put the bags in "a cool place" per the directions in the book. Not in the fridge, as I usually would.
I figured the music room was a pretty cool place. Heh heh.
After the half hour or so was up, I divided each ball of dough into four pieces. Then I gently rolled each piece out into a rough circle about 1/8 of an inch thick and pressed each one into an 8" tart pan. Well, they weren't exactly tart pans, but they were 8".
Actually, 7 were in the disposable pie pans. I did make one in a tart shell. For the pictures.
And then they all went into the fridge while I made the filling.
Here are 6 of 'em. The other two were on a lower shelf.
Okay? Now it's onto the filling.
And here's where it might get more confusing, so bear with me.
The recipe for Pasteria Napolitana, or Neopolitan Easter Pie, includes soaking soft spring whole wheat berries for at least 3 days before you even combine anything with anything else. Yikes! I didn't have 3 days to soak wheat berries...I didn't even have wheat berries to soak! Fortunately the recipe says you can substitute barley. Phew! I have plenty of that.
But, like I think I said at the beginning, I also wanted to make this with rice. And that's why I doubled the recipe (instead of being smart and making one recipe half barley/half rice) - so I could make two versions.
I stayed as true to the original recipe as I could, but happily skipped over the whole soaking of wheat berries part.
Here, to start with, are the original ingredients as listed in the book, for ONE batch (4 tarts), with my notes in parentheses and in italics.:
1 1/4 cups soft spring whole wheat berries, or use barley, (or use Arborio rice)
1 teaspoon lard (I used unsalted butter)
2 1/4 cups milk, or q.b. (q. b. stands for quanto basta which means "enough" or "the amount that is needed.")
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
12 oz Ricotta
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped (I didn't use this - I used some chopped up dried fruit - apricots and peaches, I believe. I thought about using dried ginger, but left that out this time.)
5 large egg yolks
2 recipes Tender Pastry
3 large egg whites
2 additional large eggs for brushing dough (I didn't double this part)
Granulated sugar for sprinkling, q.b.
Rinse the barley well, until the water that runs through it comes out clear.
Then cook according to the package directions. Don't overcook.
Arborio Rice Version:
Cook according to package directions for stovetop cooking. (You're not making risotto.)
Okay then. The rest of the recipe is the same for either version. Some of the pictures that follow may be of the rice version, some may be of the barley version - I'm just using whichever pictures look better for a given step. And rather than keep typing "barley/rice" or something like that, I'm just going to say use rice because it's a whole two letters shorter and I'll finish typing this post SO much quicker that way.
Combine rice with butter (or lard), milk and sugar in a pot
and simmer until the mixture starts to thicken and the rice absorbs most of the milk.
Set the mixture aside to cool. As it cools, it will thicken a bit more and the grains of rice should look moist and plump. The rice will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. It shouldn't be hot or warm for the next step.
** If you want to speed up the cooling process, put the rice mixture in a bowl and set that into a larger bowl half-filled with ice water. Stir the rice mixture often until it is cooled.
In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta with the lemon zest, orange flower water (or Fiori di Sicilia if you have that), vanilla, candied orange peel (or dried fruit - whatever you're using), and egg yolks.
Add the cooked and cooled rice, and mix everything well. Set it aside for later use.
If you haven't already done so, roll out your dough and line your tart pans.
Combine all the trimmed pieces of dough and roll these out into a rectangle about 1/8 of an inch thick. With a crimp cutter if you have one, (or a pizza wheel if you don't), cut the strips of dough about 3/8 inch wide and about 1/8 inch longer at each end than the diameter of the tart shells. These will be the lattice work on the tarts when they are finished.
I didn't have enough dough for lattice work on each tart. I think it's because the sides of the foil pans were higher than a standard tart pan AND because my one real tart pan was 9 inches instead of 8. But that's okay. But that was just me.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and move the rack to the middle of the oven. (Or, if you're a crazy person like I am, set two racks so they split the oven into thirds.) Beat the egg whites until they are fairly stiff.
Put 1/4 of the egg whites into the Ricotta and rice mixture to soften it,
then fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites.
Fill the tarts with the mixture, dividing it equally among the shells.
"Make a lattice design on top of the pastiere with the strips of dough.
(As you can see, I didn't have enough dough to make a really nice lattice. But you get the idea.)
With the point of a small knife, push the end of the dough strip against the dough that lines the tart pan and the filling itself. This will hold the lattice in place and make the pastiere neat. Beat the 2 additional eggs, and brush the tops of the pastiere with the wash. Sprinkle on some granulated sugar, and bake the pastiere for 45 minutes, or until the crust is just golden.
(Obviously a crazy person lives here...)
The pastiere are best when cooled and barely warm. They are very good cold, too. The pastiere will keep, covered in plastic wrap, for 3 days in the refrigerator."
I know my write-up of this pie was kind of scattered - if you have questions, please ask and I'll clarify whatever garbled mess I've made.
I noticed that the finished rice pie is much prettier - the barley pie looked kind of oatmealish in color - because of the bran on the barley. But flavor-wise, both were very good. I also thought the flavor actually improved after a day or two.
P.S. By the way, the Ricotta I used? It is THE most wonderful stuff I've ever had. From Narragansett Creamery. "Renaissance Ricotta." I found it at Dave's Marketplace, and here's a list of other places that sell it. If you like Ricotta, you MUST look for it! It's smooth and creamy and I seriously could just eat a pound of it all by myself. With a big spoon. It's really, really nice.
Bill and I used to cook together a lot BC (before children). Usually on the weekends, when we had plenty of time, we'd try out a bunch of recipes at a time and make feasts four ourselves. The leftovers would feed us for the first half of the following work week.
It was fun. Even (or especially) in the teeny, tiny closet of a kitchen we had in our first home - a little rented cottage with two rooms: a downstairs and an upstairs. Oh, yeah, and the bathroom. With the icky tub that we couldn't rid of previously existing stains (which had formed around those little rubbery feet and other cutesy non-skid shapes you can use instead of a mat. Yeah. Real nice.)
Once the kids started showing up, the cooking together thing - at least to that degree - lessened. Especially when they were very young. Someone just had to be available for diapers or to keep them entertained or out of the fish tank. It was just easier for one of us to cook solo. Which is fine, too. At least we both like to cook, so it wasn't always and forever me doing it.
But lately we've been drifting back into that cooking together thing. Kids are big enough to play unsupervised, to use the bathroom unsupervised, and to keep from falling in the fish tank.
This past Saturday we had one of those cooking evenings. I was originally only slated to make one of the dishes, but after I finished working on projects in my little sewing area, I ended up overseeing a second dish, and we just hung out in the kitchen, through the prepwork, the cooking, and then after dinner for a while, singing harmonies along with Fleetwood Mac's Rumors CD.
Bill had picked out the menu, and one dish was the Sesame Puffs pictured above. They were completely different from what we'd imagined. Both of us were thinking crispy (they're fried), when, in fact, they are more cakey. They're like old-fashioned doughnuts, really. Flavored with cardamom and lemon zest, they are subtly sweet with a nutty, toasty sesame crunch on the outside.
Unfortunately I was too busy slicing phyllo dough (for another dish - I need to re-do that one before I post it - it needs improvement on my part) to take pictures of the process. In fact, the photos I did take were done this morning of the few we still have.
Bill hadn't read the little side note thing that said these were actually a dessert, so we just had these along with the other things for dinner, and had his planned dessert FOR dessert.
But back to the Sesame Puffs. First of all, I think the name needs to be changed. They're not - to my way of thinking - Puffs. They're not puffy at all. Sure, they puff up a bit when they fry, but still...when I think of something called "puffs" I either think of cheese puffs - light and crispy - or of tissues with lotion for your red, sore nose. Neither fits.
The recipe comes from a Better Homes and Gardens book called Wok Cuisine: Oriental to American. Bill gave me the book for Christmas or my birthday or something waaaaaaaaaaaay back when we were building our collection of Asian cookbooks. It's funny, though - because it's not thoroughly Japanese, or Thai, or Chinese, and doesn't particularly look Asian, we don't reach for it all that often. And yet any recipe we've tried has been worth the time and effort.
Anyway, the recipe can be found on page 109, in the Frying section. The recipe on the facing page is for "Deep-Fried Pork Cutlets" - which is probably why Bill assumed the Sesame Puffs were savory rather than sweet.
These were simple as anything to make, and I will definitely make them again. If you feel the need for a bit more sweetness, you could probably dust them with confectioner's sugar, or cinnamon-sugar or - hmmm...this would be interesting...maybe a blend of sugar and a little Chinese 5 spice powder? Have to try that next time.
Anyway - here's the recipe.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T finely shredded lemon peel
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
oil for frying
1 beaten egg white
1 T water
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1. In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, lemon peel, baking powder, salt and cardamom. In a mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat til thoroughly combined. Add eggs; beat til fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 to 12 strokes or till dough clings together. Roll dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
2. In a wok or 3-quart saucepan heat 1 1/2 to 2 inches of cooking oil to 365 degrees F. Meanwhile, cut dough into 1/2 inch slices. Roll each slice into a ball. Stir together the egg white and the water. Roll each ball in the egg white mixture, then in sesame seeds to coat lightly.
3. Fry balls of dough, a few at a time, in hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes or till golden brown and balls begin to expand and crack, turning once. Using a wire strainer or slotted spoon, remove balls from hot oil. Drain on a wok rack or paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree oven while frying remaining balls. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.
These are the cookies I set out to make. I'd found it in Martha's magazine, and you can also find the recipe online here. They're actually supposed to be Key Lime Thumbprints, but the Key limes I bought didn't last too long and I ended up using regular limes.
Anyway, first I made the cookie dough and rolled it into balls.
I doubled the recipe, because I love lime and I figured everyone else would (or should), too.
I par-baked the cookies, as directed, and then spooned the filling into the little hollows and finished baking. I ended up making 142 cookies, (according to my notes) but I ended up with a lot of leftover filling.
And since I figured that was enough cookies, and also since, for me, the ratio of cookie to filling was too skewed in favor of the cookies, I figured I'd make a tart with the rest of it. I used some of my short dough surplus to make the crust.
Maybe I made my cookies wrong - not enough of a thumbrint for the filling.
I don't know. But I was, in the end, glad for the leftover filling. The tart was yummy.
Especially with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top...
(Of course you can use canned whipped cream, or use a mixer, but really, it's very quick and easy to do by hand. Just get a wide metal bowl and whisk in a loop - into the bowl and up and around and in and up - or even back and forth - as fast as you can. It will thicken. Oh, and use your bigger arm muscles to do this, not your wrist. Especially if you have carpal tunnel issues.)
You want some, don't you.
I thought so.
Long overdue, here is the post about the birthday cake I made for my sister at the end of October.
So here we go.
Usually the only rules for my sister's birthday cake are these:
2. No little bits of things in the cake (i.e. chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)
4. And more chocolate
So I was working on that idea, and then I thought...hey, what about cheesecake? She likes cheesecake. Chocolate + Cheesecake should = Fabulous. A quick check with the birthday-girl-to-be, and I was off and mixing.
First, I made the crumb crust. Now, I don't really like a graham cracker crust. In fact, with my cheesecake, the less crust, the better. But still, since some people do like crust, one had to be made.
I had a bag of plain ol' undecorated cookies in the freezer (butterflies, from some time over the summer). I crushed them in the food processor and mixed in some cocoa powder and some sugar and then some melted butter.
And then I pressed the mixture in the bottoms of two buttered springform pans - one was 6" and the other was 10". And I wrapped foil around the bottoms of the pans so there won't be any leaking while they bake.
I baked the crusts for about ten minutes at 350.
Now, onto the fun part. The cheesecake itself.
I used Dorie Greenspan's Tall and Creamy cheesecake as a guideline, but made some changes to suit what I wanted to do.
Here's a list of the ingredients:
2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 12 oz package of frozen raspberries, thawed, pureed, and strained
The cheesecake base is easy to make. First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Next, beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until it is very soft and creamy. Add in the sugar and salt, and beat until the mixture is light. Then add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down after each egg is fully incorporated. And finally, on low speed, blend in the sour cream.
Now, divide the batter into two bowls - about 2/3 in one bowl, 1/3 in the other.
Pour the melted chocolate into the larger portion of cheesecake base, and combine.
Now pour about half of the raspberry puree into the smaller portion of cheesecake batter and combine.
And now you're ready to assemble the cakes.
Pour the chocolate cheesecake batter into the two springforms, filling them about half-way.
Pour some of the raspberry cheesecake batter onto the chocolate cheesecake batter, and drizzle some of the remaining raspberry puree on top of that.
And then run a knife blade through the batter a few times to create some swirls. Don't overdo it - you don't want to mix it all into one homogenous batter.
Okay, now place the springform pans in larger pans (cake pans work nicely) and set them on a center rack in the preheated oven. Pour water into the larger pans about an inch high.
Bake for about an hour and check the smaller cake - the top should be slightly brown and maybe cracked a bit. Remove it from the oven. Check the larger cake about twenty minutes later, and remove when it, too, is slightly browned on top.
Allow the cheesecakes to cool completely in the pans and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
To remove the springform sides, run a thin knife blade around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen. Pop open the spring and remove the sides. Serve the two cheesecakes on separate plates, or set one on top of the other. Garnish with fresh raspberries or a drizzle of chocolate ganache.
Or write "Happy Birthday" or something equally celebratory on top and throw a party!
This post is for everyone who has done a google search for "poached pears" and ended up on my site. I know the search brings them to this post, which I did back in February of this year for a pre-Valentine's day series of recipes for meals and desserts. I thought maybe it'd be nice to add another recipe featuring poached pears to the site, and so this is what I came up with.
Tarte tatin is traditionally made with apples. You cut your peeled and cored apples (Granny Smiths are perfect for this) into wedges and place them in a mixture of melted sugar and butter in an oven-safe pan. It's nice to arrange the apple pieces in some sort of pattern. You then cook the whole thing until the sugar is a lovely caramel color and the apples are starting to soften and release their juices and blend together with the caramel. Meanwhile, you preheat your oven to about 450 degrees F and cut out a circle of either puff pastry dough or regular pie dough. Puff pastry dough is more dramatic and impressive, but I believe regular pie or tart dough is more traditional. Either way, you want the circle of dough to perfectly fit the pan you're cooking your apples in. Once the sugar is a nice dark gold color, you place your circle of dough on top of the apples and pop the whole thing in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and puffed up nicely (if it's puff pastry dough you've used). Remove from the oven, let it sit for about 10 minutes to set, and then invert onto a plate. (That's the exciting part. One of those "no guts, no glory" moments in life.) Admire your creation for a minute or two, then cut into wedges and serve as-is or with some vanilla ice cream (the contrast between hot and cold, crispy pastry and creamy ice cream and lush apples is exquisite, by the way).
Simple enough, right?
Well, since I've had so many people looking for poached pear ideas, I thought it would be interesting to incorporate that into a tarte tatin. And while I was at it, I thought miniature tarte tatins would be fun to do.
So here's what I did.
I had bought 6 small pears earlier in the week for this dessert. You want to look for pears (or other fruit - apricots, peaches, plums) that are firm - maybe a shade underripe even - and free of bruises or blemishes. They'll soften as they poach, so you don't want to start out too soft or else they'll just turn to mush.
Yes, I know. There are only five. And they don't look blemish-free, do they. Well, someone in my household ate one of them. And they sat around for several days and ripened a bit more than I'd wanted them to. But you know what? I still used them.
Before I started peeling the pears, I put together the poaching liquid. Now, you've got a lot of leeway in poaching. You're basically combining liquids, sugar, and maybe some spice or other flavoring agents. Here's what I used for this batch:
2 cups red wine, 2 cups water, 2 cups white sugar, 1 orange, sliced, about 8 whole cloves. I put everything in a wide pot and set the pot over medium heat and stir once or twice to make sure all the sugar dissolves.
You can use other spices, vanilla, you don't have to use orange slices, you don't even have to use wine if you don't want or can't have alcohol - dark juices like pomegranate or cranberry or blueberry would work in place of the wine, if you're looking to get that pretty red color. You also don't have to use red beverages - you can poach pears or anything else in white wine and water, or apple juice and water. See all the freedom you have?
The main thing is to have enough liquid so your fruit can relax in the fragrant liquid without being crowded, and without sticking up out of the liquid. To this end, you'll also need to choose a pot large enough to accommodate all the fruit and liquid. No one likes a crowded tub.
While the poaching liquid was heating up I peeled the pears and sliced them in half, lengthwise.
Next, I trimmed the ends - didn't want or need the stem for this dessert - and used a little melon ball tool to scoop out the seed portion of the core.
You can use a teaspoon or a paring knife to do this as well.
Once they were all cut and cored, I placed all the pear halves in the poaching liquid, scooped side up.
Do they have to be scooped side up? Does it matter? It depends on what your goal is in poaching the pears. I wanted to make sure the outside part of each pear was nicely colored so that later, when sliced, there would be a pretty red band along the outer edge of each slice. I wasn't as concerned about the inner, sliced-and-scooped side. But if you want the entire fruit colored evenly, then you'd need to find a way to submerge the fruit - a cake pan or plate will work - it needs to be just a bit smaller than the diameter of your pot.
Okay. So I simmered the pears for about an hour and then shut off the flame. I didn't want to cook them too long, as they were already on the softer side of ripe, but I wanted them in the liquid long enough to soak in some color. After I shut off the heat, I just let the pears soak in the liquid while they cooled.
While the pears were cooling (this ends the poaching part of our story) I got going on the tarte tatin prep.
First I took out a sheet of puff pastry dough (I'd thawed it in the fridge the day before) and unfolded it, pinched the dough together along the fold lines so it wouldn't split or crack, and then rolled it out a bit so I'd have enough room for the circles I needed.
I used 4 of my 4" mini springform pans. Why only 4 when I had 5 pears? Because I could only get 4 circles out of the first rolling of the puff pastry and I didn't have time to thaw the other sheet. I saved the other pear to snack on.
Anyway, I traced the springform circle with a sharp paring knife. With puff pastry, it's important not to compress the dough at the edges - if you want that lovely puff to occur. If your cutting implement isn't sharp, it could either squish the edges of the dough and prevent them from rising nicely when baked or the knife edge could drag the edges of the dough - which would also result in the same thing. Either way, your pastry won't rise as high as it would have otherwise. Kind of like making biscuits. Sharp and quick cutting is the way to go.
Keep your circles of dough covered with some plastic wrap so they don't dry out while you work on the caramel, and put them in the fridge so they stay cold.
Now, like I said at the beginning of the post, usually you cook the apples or other fruit right in the sugar/butter mixture. However, since I've already poached the pears, to cook them again would turn them to mush, and I don't want that. Neither do you, by the way.
So I just cooked some butter and sugar together in a pan to make the caramel without the fruit. I used a stick of unsalted butter and about a cup and a half of light brown sugar.
A couple of things about that. First of all, I had way more than I needed. If this happens to you, you can save the extra caramel stuff and warm it up another time to drizzle over ice cream or cheesecake or something like that.
Second, I would suggest using white sugar instead of brown because it's far easier to guage color changes and caramelization when you're going from white to golden brown than it is when you're going from golden brown to golden brown.
I put the butter and the sugar in a pot and set the flame to medium to melt everything. I stirred the mixture a few times just to help move the process along and prevent burning. Then I just let the sugar cook for a while. If I'd been using white sugar, then it would have been easy to tell when to pull it from the stove - I'd just keep an eye on the color. But with the light brown sugar - it really didn't look different as it cooked, so instead, I went by smell and pulled it right before it would have burned.
The smell starts changing from a cooked sugary buttery sweetness to something bitter, and if it smells bitter, it will taste bitter, and most of the time, you don't want that. So I just kept smelling the sugar mixture until it was just starting to change and that's when I pulled it.
But I wasn't just standing there sniffing sugar the whole time.
I had pans and pears to prep and an oven to preheat to 450 F. Make sure you've got a rack set in the center of the oven.
Here are my poached pears. Aren't they gorgeous? They're the jewels of the fruit world, I think.
I decided to partially slice the pears, but leave them connected at the narrow end. Then I would arrange two of them in each pan. Kind of like a flower...or a headless baby octopus, depending on how you look at things.
And while we're here, take a closer look at the pear - see the dark pink along the edges of each slice, and the lighter, yellowy-white pear color in the center? That's what I was talking about before, about the color penetrating the flesh and leaving that pretty outline.
I sliced all the pears like this and then put 4 of my little springform pans on a baking sheet.
Once the sugar/butter mixture was where I wanted it, I poured some into each springform pan - not too much - just enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about a quarter to a half of an inch.
Now - here is where I issue my warning about working with boiling hot sugar:
BE. EXTREMELY. CAREFUL. THAT. YOU. DON'T. SPLASH. ANY. ON. YOUR. SKIN. (Or anyone else's, for that matter.) Boiling sugar is incredibly hot (duh) and more than that, it is STICKY. If you get some on you, it's going to grab hold and burn you as fast and as painfully as it can before you dunk your arm under cold running tap water. It hurts, and it scars. Got that? You'll get a BIG BOO-BOO. You might even cry. Okay? So be CAREFUL. Okay, now back to the program.
Once you've got your caramel poured, arrange your sliced pears on top. Poached fruit is kind of slippery and occasionally uncooperative. But rest assured that no matter how they look, they will taste amazing.
Next, place your puff pastry circles on top of the pears, and place your creations in the oven.
Bake for about 25 minutes or so (start peeking at 20), or until the tops are nicely puffed and dark golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for about ten minutes before you unmold them.
While they're cooling, you'll need to get a few things ready. Some plates on which to serve your unmolded goodies. Another plate to use in the flipping process. And a camera so you can take a picture of the finished product. It'll be so pretty, you'll want to preserve the memory. Trust me.
Okay, here's how I unmolded these little guys. (And, see, if it was a large, pie-sized tarte tatin, you'd have the handle of the pan, probably, to hold onto during the flipping process, but these are too small for that. So this is what I came up with.)
Using an oven mitt, (Remember the whole really-hot-sugar warning? It still applies.) I placed one of the pans on an overturned plate. Like so:
Then you invert your serving plate on top of the springform pan. Now with one hand on top of everything and one hand underneath, and with the courage of your confection (sorry) filling your heart, you quickly FLIP THE WHOLE STACK RIGHT OVER and set the serving plate (which is now on the bottom) on the counter. And you remove the other plate you'd used as a launching pad, and this is what you'll have:
Something to keep in mind - while you're flipping the whole thing over, keep some pressure on the plate/pan/plate stack - press while you flip, in other words. This way nothing will spill or drop or crash to the floor in the process. Also, the tarte won't wiggle around on the plate, leaving trails of caramel in its wake. It'll be prettier that way.
And then, with your oven mitt back on your hand, carefully lift the pan straight up and off of the little tarte tatin.
Ta-da! You did it! Well, okay, I did it. But you can, too. Oh- and you may notice that I unmolded my least-perfectly-arranged-pears tarte first. Just in case anything went wrong. I did my prettier ones after this trial run.
I also used four different styles of plates. You don't have to do that. I just did it for the pictures.
You can even see the darker outline from the whole poaching business, if you look closely at the pears....
Well, the next thing you need to do, of course, is taste it.
And since you made more than one, it's nice if you let someone else taste it, too.
Remember? Because it's always nice to share. And since I'm always telling my kids that, I kind of have to abide by it myself. Especially with desserts.
Julia wasn't home when these came out of the oven, and Bill was doing a bunch of yard work (this was Tuesday - Election Day - and schools were closed, so Bill and Alex were both home), so I summoned Alex for the initial tasting. We went outside because the weather was so mild (for November) and I took a ton of pictures while he worked his way through dessert.
I waited while he had his first bite before asking how he liked the dessert. As always, he thought about it carefully before giving his verdict.
And finally he shared his thoughts.
(Nodding sagely) "...Not bad...for a good little old cooker like you...."
Um. Thanks, Alex.
He liked it well enough to eat all but the last bite - which, he told me, he left on purpose, so I could have some.
And what does it taste like, you may ask? Sweet and dark and complex and juicy and crispy. The feel of the syrup-soaked puff pastry reminds me of biting into baklava. But without the nuts. It's hard to describe - it's like apple pie (or pear) elevated to a higher plane of existence. You just have to try it yourself. Maybe you'll come up with a better description.
So there you go. Give this little old recipe a try, and you, too, could be lauded as a "good little old cooker" by your family, too! (My husband simply whimpered and moaned in amazement. Too busy eating to use words.)
P.S. I didn't want to fill up this post with all of the pictures, so I made a little slideshow, in case you'd like to view the entire taste-testing panoply. See below....
Speaking of apples... We had two bags from apple picking day, plus a half a bag of apples I'd bought the week before and still hadn't finished up. So something had to be done because the fruit flies (already populating our house because of enticing aromas of sourdough starter and ripening tomatoes) were just waiting for the apples to bruise.
I kept intending to make a pie, but the days filled up and I kept putting it off. And then Alex was invited to sleep over his friend Jack's house (Alex's first sleepover - he's been looking forward to this since the summer when the subject first came up) and we were all invited to dinner as well. I asked if I could bring something and was asked to bring dessert. Aha. Time to make pie.
Well, I already had dough made (use whatever pie crust recipe you like - I used Dorie Greenspan's "Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough"), so all I had to do was peel and chop apples. And that's where things changed course - I started peeling the apples from the previous week's apple picking trip, and though they were crisp and tasty and all, they were - a lot of them - in various stages of inner decay. Little bits of brown, or big mushy bits of brown. Each apple was different. Which made slicing them uniformly impossible. So I just cut them into small chunks, about a half inch rough dice, and tossed them in lemon juice. It took a while. Sometimes I'd peel a perfectly nice looking apple, and the flesh just beneath the skin would look great too, and then I'd clice the apple in half and the whole inside was brown and icky. It was quite the adventure.
And, since I knew my yield wasn't going to be enough for a full-sized pie, I decided to make a bunch of mini pies in muffin tins. I rolled out the dough and used round cookie cutters to cut out a dozen 4" circles and a dozen 3" circles. I used the 4" ones to line the muffin tins, and then put the tin and the plate of smaller dough circles in the fridge to stay cold. And I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F.
Right about then, Julia decided to help.
She's learned the routine - she has to get an elastic thing for her hair so I can put it in a ponytail, and she has to wash her hands - with soap, Julia - and she has to be clothed, because odds are I'll take pictures. So she showed up presentable.
She saw the extra pie dough and wanted to "make bread," so I gave her a few tools and let her play.
Once I'd peeled and cut up enough safe-to-eat parts of apple, I mixed them all together with lemon juice, a tiny bit of sugar, and a liberal amount of cinnamon. Then I filled the muffin tins....
And then I put the 3" dough circles on top and pressed the edges together as best I could to seal them.
I cut little slits in the tops and brushed them all with an egg wash...
Then I put the muffin tin (on a baking sheet, in case there was any bubbling over) into the oven
and baked them for around half an hour. (Sorry - I didn't write it down - basically you want to bake them until the tops are golden brown and there's steam coming out of the little slits.)
They smelled really, really good, by the way.
I let them sit briefly (naturally I was doing all this right before we had to leave the house) and then I
dug them out of the muffin tin gently slid a knife around each mini pie between the crust and the muffin tin and popped them out. Or tried to. They came out easily enough - no sticking - but in some cases the crust was on the thin side and when I tried to pop them out with the knife, I ended up poking through the crust. Also - and this is something I need to remember for next time - the bottom crusts should have been bigger. As they were, some didn't completely adhere to the top crusts, and so when I was working on loosening them and popping them out, the top crusts would just come right off. Not the worst thing in the world, but certainly a flaw I need to fix next time around.
Most of them came out fine, however.
And they were definitaly cute.
Tasted good, too.
Because, of course, solely for the photographic purposes of this blog, I had to sample one.
You know...just so I could take this picture.
I hope you appreciate my sacrifice.
I couldn't help it.
I know, I know, I said I wasn't going to make creme brulee for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, because I've made creme brulee plenty of times and blah blah blah.
But what I didn't mention on Tuesday was that I'd bought heavy cream and made sure I had plenty of eggs on hand just in case. Just in case I felt like making some. Because it's so yummy and so easy and so...sigh. Well anyway. I had the cream. And the eggs. I didn't make this for TWD, but, well, what ELSE was I going to do with the cream? I mean yeah, I could make ice cream, I guess. Or plenty of other things.
But I know that deep down inside (in my stomach, where else?) I really wanted to make some creme brulee.
So yesterday that's what I did. I couldn't post it til now because I didn't like the final pictures I took of the creme once it had been bruleed yesterday, and I ran out of butane for my torch, and so I had to get more butane this morning so I could finish the pictures.
And why sweet potato? Well, why not? Like pumpkin or squash, sweet potatoes lend themselves to desserty use, and I just happened to have two already-baked sweet potatoes in the fridge.
I didn't use Dorie's recipe, but I did use her cooking method. Ordinarily I make my creme brulee in a water bath. Dorie doesn't, at least not in the recipe in the book, so I figured I'd give it a shot her way. After all, you don't bake a pumpkin pie in a water bath, and that comes out fine, right?
So now, without further preamble, here is my recipe for Sweet Potato Creme Brulee.
You will need...
2 medium-small sweet potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled and mashed. (About a cup and a half, more or less, of flesh.)
1 pint of heavy cream
3/4 cup milk (I used 2% because I would like to continue to squeeze into my clothes, and I figure the 2% milk balances out the heavy cream. Doesn't it?)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (brown sugar might be a nice substitution - I'll try that next time)
4 egg yolks
(I know, eeew. "What stubby little fingers she has!")
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine the milk and cream in a pot and bring just to a boil.
Whisk together the sugar, yolks and vanilla.
When the milk mixture is ready, slowly ladle about a quarter of it into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the yolks.
Then pour the yolk mixture slowly into the milk mixture, still whisking, until combined. Finally, gently whisk in the sweet potatoes. Strain this mixture to get rid of any of the fibrous bits from the sweet potatoes.
Pour strained custard into buttered ramekins.
Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 200 degrees F, until center is barely jiggly when you shake the ramekin.
Mine took an hour and a half. I know. That's a long time. I only used 6 of these little oval baking dishes, and consequently there was a lot of custard in each one. Next time I'd use 8 of them, which would lessen the bake time.
Allow these to cool to room temperature and then cover and chill 4-6 hours.
Once the custards have chilled, sprinkle about a tablespoon of granulated sugar on top, shake the ramekin or dish to distribute the sugar evenly.
And then, with your newly re-fueled butane torch, start bruleeing.
Now, that was last night when I was trying desperately to brulee three custards for my pictures. I had a lovely layout all pictured in my mind, and just needed to brulee three of them. Just three!
But no dice. Not enough butane. I got two out of the deal, thanks to a lot of begging and pleading with the fire gods.
Well, two's better than none, I figured, so I got out my spoon and dug in.
I guess that's an okay shot. But it wasn't what I wanted. So I switched the bowl around, switched the spoon to my left hand (so I could shoot with my right), and dug in again. (Oh, the torture I endure, as I eat up the first spoonful...)
Hmmm...it doesn't look so bad now as it did when I was first looking at it.
Well anyway, that was it for me yesterday. I gave some to the kids for dessert after dinner, garnished with one of those Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread things I made on Tuesday. Julia had a few bites and was finished. Alex, who loves pumpkin pie and similar flavors, dug into his with gusto - a spoon in one hand and the cookie in the other.
A little while later he called me into the room.
"Mom," he began, painfully. (He hates to disappoint me by telling me he doesn't like something I've made. I don't produce enough insulin to handle his sweetness, sometimes.)
"I don't like eating this in foonspuls," he said. "I just like eating it with the cookie."
I told him that was perfectly all right with me, and brought him another cookie.
He can be unbearably cute.
Anyway. This morning after dropping the kids off at school, I went to the grocery store for a few things AND picked up some more butane. I was back in business.
So here we go again.
That was pretty good....
Okay, well, the pictures are done. But there's that partial dug-into creme brulee to deal with now. I suppose I could put it back in the fridge. Save it for someone else.
A while ago, Bill asked if I could make banana ice cream.
I said I'd probably need to add some sort of banana flavoring to it, because bananas don't usually impart a lot of flavor.
I put it on the back burner and went about my usual stuff - sourdough and TWD and kittens and all that.
And then the other day I thought of what I could do, and this post is the result.
Bananas Foster (which I've riffed on before and posted about) is a yummy, fancy-schmancy way to showcase bananas and put rum in your dessert. Right? And traditionally it's served over vanilla ice cream, right?
Well then! The next step seemed obvious - I could make a Bananas Foster-flavored ice cream.
And, since I like pecans, I thought I'd add some to the ice cream and I could make some sort of brittle for a garnish.
So. First things first.
For the "Foster" aspect, I assembled the following:
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup (approximately - I used more because I had a little bit left in the bag and figured I'd just use it all up) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 bananas, sliced into coins about a third to a half an inch thick.
2 T banana liquour
4 T dark rum - I used Myers.
First, I melted the butter and sugar together in a pan.
(Sorry about the ugly flash e ffect - it was too dark for natural lighting in this part of the kitchen.)
I let the butter sugar mixture cook together for a minute or so, and then I added in the pecans and cooked for a few more minutes.
And next I added the bananas and cooked them for a few minutes, spooning some of the caramel over them so they'd be completely coated.
I also added the banana liquour when I put the bananas in. When the bananas were starting to brown and were getting nice and soft, I poured in the rum. Ideally I would have lit the rum on fire at this point, but I think my pan was too cool or I didn't hit it with the lighter fast enough - no flame. So I just simmered it for a while to cook out the harshness of the alcohol, and when the mixture tasted the way I wanted it, I turned off the heat and got started on the ice cream base.
I thought I'd do a quick and easy ice cream base, so I mixed a cup and a half of sour cream and a cup and a half of heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer (my food processor parts were in the dishwasher) until smooth.
Then I thought about the next step. I could just leave the base as it was, maybe add in some vanilla or something, make the ice cream and THEN stir in the whole caramelized portion, OR I could flavor this with some of the caramelized bananas now, make the ice cream, and stir in the rest of the caramelized stuff.
I went with the latter option. I removed about 6-8 pieces of banana and some of the caramel glop (but none of the pecans) to use in the ice cream base. The rest finished cooling and went into the fridge for later.
I added the above banana mixture to the sour cream mixture, combined with the paddle, and the put the whole mess through a strainer to get out the bits of banana.
I chilled the base for about an hour and then ran it through the ice cream machine. When it had set up nicely, I scraped it out of the ice cream machine bowl and into a plastic container. I stirred the banana/nut/caramel mixture into the ice cream base a bit and put the whole thing into the freezer.
That was last night.
Today I made my garnish.
I cooked some sugar to the hard crack stage (about 320 degrees F)
and poured that over some pecan halves on a silpat.
I was a little impatient about it hardening. I know it takes time, but I wanted to get the final pictures taken toDAY in good light. Yeah, it's all about the art now.
Anyway, I let it sit for a while and then I thought (in my impatience) that it should maybe have some kind of shape to it. so I stuck a couple of small rolling pins under the silpat.
Every so often I'd lift up an edge of the sugar to see if it had hardened yet. I was careful not to leave fingerprints on the shiny top side. And no, it hadn't hardened. I'd watch in frustration as the edge of caramel gently fell back to the silpat.
Part of the problem was today's weather. Warm and humid. Ugh. I know how the sugar felt. Droopy and damp and lethargic. So, since I didn't want to wait til November to crack the large free-form sugar mass into shards, I put the whole thing into the fridge. Yes, it's humid in there, too, but it's cold, and that was what I was aiming for.
About ten minutes later, the brittle was brittle. I removed the rolling pins, and the hills and valleys of sugar remained where they were. Yay!
So I whacked it with a rolling pin.
That's so much fun.
I put the tray back in the fridge so the shards would stay crisp, and then I took the ice cream out of the freezer so it could warm up while I got everything else ready to go.
Here's how it looked:
I know. It's not all that pretty. But. Looks aren't everything.
I ended up microwaving the ice cream for a bit (about 30 seconds) to soften it enough so I could start scooping it out for my pictures. And so I could taste it. No - I hadn't tasted it yet. I know - hard to believe, isn't it?
It tasted...well, it tasted like Bananas Foster and ice cream, all blended together. I got bits of actual banana, and they tasted like - you guessed it! - banana. The dark, caramel flavor of the cooked sugar was a nice contrast to the mild/sweet banana flavor, and to the cool, creamy texture of the ice cream base.
No one else has tasted this yet - I'll be dishing some up after dinner tonight. I think Bill will like it. Not so sure about the kids. But we'll see.
I'm pleased with how it came out. And with how simple it was.
So, next time you've got a couple extra bananas kicking around, instead of baking a loaf of banana bread...make ice cream!
Really and for true?
Yep. Just ask this little guy:
I found him crawling on a blueberry
when I was picking out stems and bits of leaves.
He didn't want to stay and chat, though...
He seemed in a big hurry to get somewhere.
So he kept crawling around and around the rim of this little quarter cup capacity plastic container.
Until I felt sorry for him
And helped him find a new home outside.
Okay, back to the blueberries. Once I'd removed all the twigs, leaves, mushed berries and single worm, I came to the realization that I didn't have enough berries for the size batch of sorbet I wanted to make, and so yes, I added a package of Wyman's frozen wild blueberries to make up the difference. I reserved one cup of the berries I'd picked to stir into the sorbet after it churned.
And I used the remaining 2 cups of my berries plus 3 cups of the Wyman's.
I let the frozen berries thaw while I made my simple syrup.
For the simple syrup, I just combined 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water in a pot, and heated them until the sugar disolved.
Except, they didn't strain all that well. I switched to a larger-meshed strainer and poured the simple syrup through with the puree, and that helped. A few tiny seeds made it into the sorbet, but they weren't really noticeable in the final product.
Anyway, once all the puree was strained and the simple syrup was completely mixed in, I put that into the fridge to chill a while.
Now, the next day, when I finished making this, was rather hot and humid. I'd also baked four loaves of bread that morning, so the kitchen was extra warm. And so, in hindsight, my next move wasn't very bright.
I poured the sorbet base into my ice cream maker, which was on the counter in my hot kitchen, and pressed the "on" button. Well, it churned well enough, but at some point, the heat of the kitchen warmed up the ice cream maker so much that my sorbet just wasn't getting chilled any more. Next time, I'd do the churning in the basement.
So I mixed in my remaining cup of blueberries
and then I scraped everything out into two quart containers and put them in the freezer. (I didn't have two quarts of sorbet - more like a quart and a pint, by the way.) When I scraped the sorbet from the bowl of the ice cream maker, I noticed that there was some texture to the sorbet. I figured I'd just check on it now and then and give it a stir to keep it from freezing into two big purple ice cubes.
And guess what?
It came out just fine.
What to do with leftover cherries? Well, you could eat them, of course, but when the weather's been in the 90s and the humidity has been up in the zillions, maybe it would be better to take those cherries and make some ice cream with them instead.
It sure sounded like a good idea to me!
I had a little over a pound of cherries at my disposal - I was using another pound for my TWD recipe this week, and they were already set aside, so I just used what was left to make the ice cream.
But first I had to make the ice cream base.
Here's what I used:
1 pint of heavy cream
1 pint of 2% milk (yes, you could certainly use whole milk, but with all the cheese-making and Tuesdays With Dorie-ing I've been doing lately, I thought I could stand to lose a bit of milk fat somewhere.)
6 egg yolks
1/2 a cup of sugar
3/4 T vanilla
1 T almond extract
And, of course, the cherries - pitted, and then roughly chopped.
Basically, when you make vanilla ice cream, you're making a creme anglaise. All I did differently was add almond extract in along with the vanilla when I flavored it.
First thing you do - pour your milk and cream in a pot and place over medium heat.
I scald the milk/cream mixture - which means I bring it to just under the boiling point. Little bubbles start to form along the sides of the pot, and you can see movement in the rest of the liquid. At that point, it's getting ready to form some big boiling bubbles.
While the milk and cream are heating up, whisk together your egg yolks and sugar until they start to thicken and lighten in color.
When the milk/cream has reached the scalding point, you'll need to temper, or slowly heat, the yolks and sugar. This is done by ladling some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks while you whisk as fast as you can. You want to pour the hot milk sloooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwly as you whisk, so as not to heat the yolks too quickly. If they are heated too fast, you'll end up with scrambled eggs and you might as well go make some toast and try the ice cream again later. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. IF you end up getting a bit of coagulation (and it certainly can happen), just make sure you strain the whole ice cream base before you chill it. This will remove any little squiggly bits of cooked yolk, and no one need ever know....
Anyway, back to the tempering. Unless you have a helper or a third arm, you'll need to find a way to keep your bowl of egg yolks from slipping and sliding away while you pour with one hand and whisk with the other. I saw Alton Brown use a damp dish towel as a sort of nest for the bowl, and that works great.
Some cookbooks will instruct that you ladle in all of the milk/cream mixture to the yolks and then pour the whole thing back into the pot. I just use a couple of ladlesful (ladlefuls? no, must be ladlesful. I think.) of the hot milk until the yolks are hot, and then I pour that into the pot with the rest of the milk and move on from there. Whichever is easier or makes more sense to you is fine. Both ways work. The thing to remember is to keep whisking while you first pour that milk in.
Now. Once the egg yolks and sugar are heated up and mixed in with all the milk and cream, and everybody is back in the pot, you want to switch to a spoon and stir,
stir while the whole mixture heats up and thickens.
Your goal, temperature-wise, is between 170-180 degrees F. You don't want to go over, because at that point, no matter how well you did your tempering, you can still end up with scrambled eggs. Very sweet, runny eggs, but coagulated eggs nonetheless. And you don't want that.
So stir and stir and keep an eye on the temperature. The milk/egg mixture will thicken noticeably as you stir, and when the mixture is thick enough, you'll be able to dip your spoon in, and then run a finger down the back of the spoon and the sauce will stay put and not try to meld back together again. Another fun test (well, okay, fun is a relative term), is to dip the spoon in the mixture and then blow on the back of the spoon. When the sauce is thick enough, it will spread out in a rose blossom pattern. Or, you can just be sensible and use a thermometer. At least until you've made this a few times and know what to expect.
When the milk mixture has reached the proper temperature and thickness, you need to remove the pot from the heat and pour the mixture through a strainer (better safe than sorry!) into a bowl, and put THAT bowl in another, larger bowl filled about half way with ice water.
Keep stirring the hot mixture until it becomes tepid. At that point, go ahead and add in your vanilla and almond extracts (or other flavorings if you wish) and then move the bowl of ice cream base into the fridge and let it chill at least 2 hours.
When the base is chilled, get out your ice cream maker, pour in the base, and let it churn.
Because of the heat, I actually set up the ice cream maker in the basement, near the air conditioner, and I wrapped it in a towel to keep the heat out and the coldness in. Last time I made something with the ice cream maker, I had it up in the kitchen, and it churned and churned and churned - and the sorbet I was working on didn't really thicken as it should have. It tasted good anyway. But still - it was just too, too hot up there for the ice cream maker. Things worked out much better in the basement. The vanilla base thickened beautifully, and when it was ready, I poured it into a plastic freezer container and mixed in the chopped cherries.
Actually, I had only prepped about a cup of cherries initially, but when I poured them in, I thought there should be more cherries, so I quickly chopped up the rest and my kids helped me with the pouring and the stirring while I snapped pictures.
Please forgive the appallingly messy countertop - it was rather chaotic yesterday.
Anyway, I put the container into the freezer and that was that.
Until later, of course. And again this morning.
And would you believe
That I shot 70 pictures
Of this same cone of ice cream
In a (futile) attempt
To catch a sharp and clear image of a drip of melted ice cream in midair - somewhere between the ice cream above and the plate below.
It didn't happen, and I didn't want the ice cream to just melt all over the place. Too wasteful for something homemade.
So I threw in the towel and handed the cone to one of our houseguests.
And soon, that ice cream was gone.
This was just an experiment - I had some leftover eggroll wrappers in the fridge and I had some strawberries. And I thought - hey - deep-fried dessert!
The week my son was born (6 years ago this week), the weather was vastly different from what we've been experiencing lately, here in the northeast. We're finally experiencing a "break" in the weather - which just means the 90-100 degree weather with oh, 200% humidity and 0 breeze, has dropped way down to the low to mid 80s. WITH a lovely breeze that ruffles the curtains throughout my house and makes me feel less ornery than I have been of late.
Six years ago, it was cooler and kind of dreary that week. I had Alex on a Monday afternoon and we brought him home on that Wednesday (if I remember right...I'm pretty sure I had two nights in the hospital) and sleeping was comfortable the rest of the week. But pretty soon, summer hit, no preamble, no fanfare - just HOT and uncomfortable.
Now, I don't really shine in the hot humid weather, other than the glistening sweat that shows up. I don't mind warm, but once we're into the 90s, I wilt like our rhubarb plant does. Give me water, water...oh, I don't think I'll make it! Kind of like that, only less dramatic.
And when you combine that with my (then) postpartum body and all the...um...reorganization (I'll spare you the gory details) that was going on with it, PLUS the sleeplessness that comes with nursing a ravenous newborn, PLUS the accompanying FAT COW WITH ACHING UDDER feeling and the faint hint of warm human dairy product lingering in the fabric of onesies and the shoulders of my shirts...well, it's not a relaxing day at the cabana, I can tell you that.
And I found that one of the very few things that could simultaneously soothe both my overheated lactating body AND my foul, sleep-deprived temper was a chocolate popsicle.
Not a fudgicle (fudgcicle? fudgecicle? however you spell it) from a box. No. It was homemade, and I made it, and I thank Martha Stewart for saving my sanity, because I found the idea in the June 2002 issue of her magazine.
It was actually an article on how to make simple sorbets - a perfect idea for the heat of June and July - mainly from fruits. Basically, a fruit puree combined with some simple syrup, and run through your ice cream maker. SIM-PULL. And in addition to all the various fruit suggestions, there was also...chocolate.
And chocolate, at that point, appealed to me way more than strawberry or melon or lime. I needed chocolate. I needed indulgence. I needed to feel...rewarded.
So I combined the specified amounts of cocoa powder and hot water with the simple syrup I made a little earlier, and instead of making sorbet with it in my ice cream maker, I just poured it into popsicle molds and tried not to check the freezer every five minutes.
Once they were finally ready, and I figured out the logistics of getting a popsicle out of the mold without stabbing at it with a steak knife (it really doesn't work - don't bother trying it), I sampled one.
And it was good.
Icy cold, of course, and dark and richly flavored. This was an adult popsicle. And it was ALLLLLL mine. I ate many of those during the hottest part of that summer, and I am eternally grateful to Martha Stewart for having the forsight the previous autumn or whenever they put together the June issues of things to include an article on sorbets...specifically the chocolate variety. After all, she is a Mom. She must have known what I would need.
Anyway, here we are, six years later. And there have been other hot summers in the meantime, or at least hot sections of summer. But I haven't made the popsicles since then because I couldn't find THAT magazine among the piles of magazines I had hung onto over the years. I couldn't find it. And over the years, I have peeled my own clingy fingers off these piles of magazines to throw them away (in the recycyle bin) because how many stacks of magazines do I really need to save? Do I ever re-read them? Mostly no. Do I have some sort of master index telling me which magazine has that ravioli recipe I thought I'd like to try some time? Of course not. So gradually - usually in fits of "my life's a mess and I need to GET RID OF STUFF," I tossed ancient editions of Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet and Bon Appetit...whittling away at the clutter until all that was left were the couple of stacks on one of the two big bookcases in my dining room and a couple of stacks on the floor nearby. Well, that "my life's a mess and I need to GET RID OF STUFF" feeling hit me again last week, so I pulled out all the remaining magazines (plus loose recipes printed from the internet, stuff I'd scribbled down, old notebooks, all kinds of paper debris) and made two piles - keep, because yes, i'll REALLY use it, and SEE YA.
And that's when I found it. That edition of MSL from June 2002. Open to the page with the little chart of proportions of fruit to simple syrup, like I'd been looking at it just yesterday. I had, apparently, figured that sliding it in at the very end of a shelf would make lots of sense to the future me who would be looking for it again come the following summer. Of course, mothers of newborns don't make a lot of sense at times, and so that explains that silly line of thinking. Maybe I also assumed I'd be going through all those magazines and scraps of paper a lot sooner. Ah well.
Enough of my chatter.
I started this post several days ago and keep getting interrupted. I'll shut up now and get on with the popsicle making. Because it's only June, and we all know the hot weather may go away for a while, but it's bound to be back.
I made two kinds of popsicles this week - lemon and chocolate. I didn't use the ice cream maker - I just poured the mixtures directly into the popsicle molds and shut them in the freezer for several hours. Too many hours if you ask my kids.
First, you want to make yourself some simple syrup.
All you do is pour equal parts (by volume, not weight) of sugar and water in a pot, set the pot on the stove, and heat the water until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
To make the lemon popsicles, you want a cup and a half of lemon juice and two cups of the cooled simple syrup. Combine them and put them in the fridge for at least an hour.
If you're making the chocolate popsicles, then you want a cup and a half of cocoa powder - use the best you can, since that plus the sugar is all the flavor you'll get. To the cocoa powder, add two cups of very hot water.
Whisk to combine.
Add two cups of simple syrup to the cocoa mixture, and put that in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the mixture is chilled (either the lemon or the chocolate), pour into the popsicle molds...
And then put the little stick things in and put them in the freezer.
I got a bit smarter with the chocolate ones - instead of leaving a bit of space between the level of the liquid and the top edge of the mold, I filled most of them up to the brim, or a teeny tiny bit below. Since liquids expand as they freeze, I figured this way when the liquid swelled, it would rise up and stick to the flat part of the decorative stick thing. (I know, I am doing a terrible job of explaining this. I'm sorry.)
Anyway, put the molds in the freezer and try to be patient.
Mine took at least 4 hours to freeze solid. Overnight is probably your best bet.
To unmold them, I ran them under hot tap water. You'll also want to briefly run the tops under some water too, just to loosen them. Then hold the mold sideways with one hand and gently, GENTLY turn the little sea creature handle (if you have this style) and carefully twist the popsicle out of the mold.
Hand to your impatient son and take a picture.
Send him outside, as you don't want the melting popsicle dripping on the floor, and he can rinse off with the hose when he's done. Same thing with his sister.
And then they'll want the chocolate ones the next day.
And that next day, in the morning, when the light is better in your kitchen, you can take whimsical photos of popsicles in cordial glasses (the glasses are for drinking cordials...they are not necessarily polite glasses. (Forgive the daffy humor, I've been trying to get this post finished for several says now...the weather isn't even terrible at this point, but hopefully some reader somewhere is suffering in sweltering heat and will actually be interested in making popsicles now.)
Oh, and I strongly recommend using actual lemon juice that you squeezed yourself, rather than that stuff in the bottles. Just...you know...in case you had a bottle of that in your fridge because you were in a weakened state at the store one day and your daughter thought it was lemonade and talked you into buying it and now you're trying to figure out to use up the rest of the atrocious stuff. Not that that would happen to YOU, of course. But in case it did. Don't use it for these. Use the real juice. Pulp and all.
They melt quickly, so keep a napkin handy as you slurp.
Keep in mind, too, that once you have made one or two basic kinds, you'll probably want to experiment with blends of fruits...or layers of different fruits/colors...the addition of herbs...and so on.
And stay hydrated!
I suddenly realized the other day that Cinco de Mayo was fast approaching and, good heavens, I haven't posted anything relevant. Not that too many people will care...but I had a couple of big theme months recently, food-wise, what with all the Valentine's Day dinners and desserts in February and then the whole corned beef project in March. April...well, April just kind of flew past me. So I think I felt I needed to pay more attention to the holidays again. And because of all that, I came up with these two recipes. Hope you try them, and hope you like them!
My ice cream recipe is adapted from the Lemon Ice Cream recipe from Masaharu Morimoto's cookbook Morimoto.
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
zest of half a lime
3 T tequila - plus enough lime juice and orange or lemon juice (or a blend) to make a quarter cup of liquid or so.
* Our house ratio for a martarita is 3 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec or Grand Marnier, and 1 part lime juice, so I tried to keep close to that. There was more "other" citrus juice in this than lime, simply because I had a blend of freshly squeezed citrus juices on hand (long story) and only half of a tiny lime in the fridge. That's why I used the zest of the lime - for the flavor.
In a heatproof medium bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly. Gradually whisk in the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 minutes. (I actually had to add another yolk - maybe my first two were on the runty side.)
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles appear around the rim of the pan. Gradually whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot milk into the yolks to warm them.
Slowly whisk the yolks back into the remaining milk in the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and cook,
until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Strain into a clean bowl (I didn't strain - I decided to keep the zest in the ice cream), set over a larger bowl of ice and water and stir until cooled.
Whisk in the heavy cream and yuzu (or lemon) juice. (And while I was making this and taking pictures (and probably distracted by something...like a small child...or two) I combined the cream with the milk earlier in the process, so I only added in the tequila/juice combination at this point.)
Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until chilled.
Pour into the canister of an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a covered container and freeze for at least 3 hours, or overnight, until firm enough to scoop.
While the ice cream was in the freezer, I made the Picante y Dulce Almond Brittle.
Once the brittle was ready, and broken into pieces, I assembled the dessert.
Something...maybe crunchy like chips and salsa...but spicy, too, to balance out the cold tang of the ice cream. I started thinking about Mexican flavors that might work in a dessert, and this brittle is what I came up with. In some ways, my choice was influenced by what I already had in the pantry or the freezer. I thought of making some sort of cookie, too, and maybe I'll try that next time, but somehow the thought of a nut brittle of some kind appealed most to me.
I figured I could do a lot with the ingredients...and the broken shards of candy stuck in the ice cream looked good in my mind.
So I thought I'd see how they looked for real.
And that's how this dessert came about.
And how did it taste?
Pretty yummy, actually.
I could taste the smoky tequila flavor along with the citrus in the ice cream, but I think maybe next time I'd zest a whole lime instead of a half. (I'll also, hopefully, be planning ahead then, too.) I'd had some initial concerns about the tequila preventing the ice cream from freezing properly, but the day after I made it, the ice cream was solid as a rock.
The brittle was best when taken from the center of the pan. Around the edges it was thinner and had fewer nuts and just wasn't as texturaly (is that a word?) satisfying. The red pepper flakes added an unexpected (to everyone but me) flash of heat at the back of the throat - which was just what I hoped for. What better way to cool that heat than with the accompanying ice cream?
So overall I'm pretty happy with my little experiments.
And then this morning - I was trying to figure out what to call the ice cream, and I thought "Margarita con Leche!" Margarita with Milk, right? That's kind of what it was. And then, just to make sure I had the meaning of "con Leche" right (I second guess myself all the time) I typed "Margarita con Leche" into Babel Fish and selected the Spanish to English translation. And I learned that it translates to "Daisy with Milk" - so maybe that's what I'll call it, eventually. And just confuse the heck out of everyone.
Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! Enjoy some "Daisy with Milk!"
I wanted to make something crunchy to accompany my Margarita Ice Cream. I wanted it to be sweet, but to have flavors influenced by what I know (not a lot) about Mexican cooking, and I wanted it spicy-hot to play against the cold and tangy ice cream.
I used Gale Gand's Sesame Brittle recipe in her book Just a Bite as a launching pad, and then tinkered with it a bit.
This recipe is what I came up with:
3/8 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp Tabasco Chipotle sauce
and 1/4 cup water (not in photo)
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 oz semi sweet chocolate (not in the photo - I decided to add that once I'd started)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
You'll also need a candy thermometer and a metal baking pan with sides. I used a 12" round when I was shooting these pictures, but I'd use something smaller next time - 10" or even 8" - because in the larger pan, the edges didn't have a lot of "stuff" in them - the nuts in particular - and tasted kind of blah.
Now, to make the brittle...
Grease the pan generously with vegetable oil and set aside.
Toast the sliced almonds (if you haven't already done so) and set aside.
Combine the sugar, cream of tartar and corn syrup with the water in a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
After it boils, stir the mixture occasionally.
Cook the mixture until it reaches 350 degrees F.
The color should be deep golden brown.
(It's getting there...)
When the sugar syrup is ready, remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted,
then stir in the chipotle sauce, the almonds, and the red pepper flakes.
Pour the mixture onto the oiled pan and spread it out a bit with the back of a wooden spoon, to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Let the brittle harden, uncovered, in a cool place, 30 to 45 minutes.
While the brittle is hardening, melt the chocolate in the microwave and stir until smooth. Stir in the cinnamon.
Drizzle the chocolate over the brittle and allow to harden.
The chocolate will take longer to harden than the brittle did. Don't be tempted to put the whole thing in the fridge - it will hurry the chocolate along, but the moisture in the fridge will soften the brittle.
Once the chocolate has hardened, pop the brittle out of the pan and break it into pieces.
Use brittle, if you wish, to garnish a bowl (or Margarita glass) of Margarita Ice Cream.
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or 3 days if the weather is very humid.
I've had a copy of Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cuisine for, oh, months now. It's another beautiful book put out by DK (Dorling Kindersley) Publishing and written, of course, by Masaharu Morimoto, of both the original Iron Chef series and the American version. And, more importantly, chef and restauranteur and rock star of the Sushi world.
Bill and I were both delighted (okay, Bill would balk at that adjective, I'm sure) when the book came out. As you already know, if you have read this blog for a while, that we both love sushi and Japanese cooking and all sorts of other cuisines from Asia and, heck, everywhere. And we've watched both Iron Chef incarnations for years. My favorite Iron Chef, by the way, from the original series, was "Iron Chef France" - Hiroyuki Sakai. "The Delacroix of French Cuisine." But I digress.
Anyway, I've been wanting to make something from this book for a while - alternatively, I've wanted Bill to make something so I could take the pictures and do the write-up. But for some reason, it just didn't happen. And then, a few weeks ago, just out of curiosity, I took a look at the items in the dessert section of his book. And there I saw a recipe for Red Miso Souffle. Hm. I've been wanting to do some sort of souffle for a while, too. And red miso? Wonder how that would taste in there.
"Red miso makes a souffle that is buttery yet has a unique kick. This is especially delicious served with softened Yuzu Ice Cream as a sauce." writes Morimoto.
Yuzu ice cream? Hm. We have an ice cream maker. Somewhere. In the basement, I think. I flipped a few pages and found that recipe. I could make that, easy.
Okay! I'll make the souffle and the ice cream, just like Morimoto recommends!
I made the ice cream the day before, so it would have time to set up.
And then I made the souffle.
2 tsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup red miso
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 whole eggs, separated
6 egg whites
To make the souffle:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 4 8-oz ramekins or individual souffle dishes. (I had 8 small ramekins and a large souffle dish and still had leftover batter for some reason.)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the red miso, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the 6 egg yolks. Blend well.
In another large mixing bowl, beat the 12 egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar while continuing to beat until soft peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the red miso base.
Divide among the ramekins.
Level off the tops with a spatula.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and just set.
And to serve a souffle, what you're supposed to do (I think I saw Julia Child do this on The French Chef years and years and years ago) is to take two spoons and, holding them back to back, sort of, insert them into the center of the souffle and gently pull the souffle apart.
At this point, I dropped in a scoop of the lemon ice cream, and snapped a picture while it still looked pretty.
That's the thing about souffles, by the way. When Morimoto wrote "serve immediately," he meant IMMEDIATELY. Because in very short time, souffles collapse. And they're just not as pretty any more, and the texture becomes kind of gummy.
And how did it taste, you may be wondering. I'll do my best. The red miso gives the souffle a slightly earthy taste, and reminded me of the way the mash smells when Bill is making beer. Basically, it's a sweet, cooked grain. Kind of like something you'd have for breakfast in winter. Hearty with a touch of sweetness. But not too sweet.
Texture-wise, the souffle is smooth and light and warm and soft.
I liked the souffle best in combination with the ice cream. The cold tartness of the lemon ice cream was a perfect balance against the warm, darker flavored souffle. The contrast of hot and cold in the mouth was interesting and enjoyable, too.
Would I make the souffle again? I don't know. Bill didn't love it, and I wouldn't want to eat a whole vat of it. But - with the lemon ice cream - the red miso souffle woke up my taste buds and made them take notice. So maybe for a party, with people would like to try something new.
And, as I tell my kids, it's always good to try new things.
(Adapted from the "Yuzu Ice Cream" recipe in Morimoto.)
"This ice cream is subtly flavored with yuzu, a citrus fruit favored by not only Japanese chefs, but by chefs everywhere who get to sample its inimitable taste. The juice can be had from the fresh fruit or is sold jarred or frozen in Asian specialty stores. When yuzu is not available, though, fresh lemon juice can be substituted."
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup yuzu juice (or fresh lemon juice)
In a heatproof medium bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly. Gradually whisk in the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale, about 2 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until bubbles appear around the rim of the pan. Gradually whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot milk into the yolks to warm them. Slowly whisk the yolks back into the remaining milk in the pan.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a clean bowl, set over a larger bowl of ice and water and stir until cooled.
Whisk in the heavy cream
and yuzu (or lemon) juice.
Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until chilled.
Pour into the canister of an ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a covered container and freeze for at least 3 hours, or overnight, until firm enough to scoop.