Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TWD - Caramel Swirl and Coconut Macadamia Ice Creams

Lynne of Cafe LynnyLu chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, vanilla ice cream. When the recipes were announced, I thought the bookends of the month, the first and last recipes, were a natural together. I planned to make the Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies and serve them with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Then peer pressure took over.

I started thinking, what will my fellow TWD-ers do with this recipe? It's practically a blank canvas, and Dorie's playing around suggestions encourage us to take off in many directions, including mix ins and swirl ins. I could have done one of those, but I had to do something different so that maybe you would stop here and go "Wow! Look what Leslie did with this! I never thought of making it with sriracha."
OK, maybe not that different. So I decided to make my caramel sauce (recipe to come), which is ridiculously easy, and swirl it in after the ice cream chilled some.

I made this ice cream on the same day I made the brownies. The high that day was 102, we don't have air conditioning, and I appreciated this one didn't require turning the oven on.
Until I decided toasted macadamias and toasted coconut would be perfect compliments to the rich vanilla base. The oven went back on.

The custard base was super simple. The star players were heavy cream and whole milk with a vanilla bean (its vanilla caviar, as Gail Gand would say, stripped out and added to the mixture). Egg yolks added richness and stabilized the mixture; the custard was cooked until it thickened slightly. Once cooled, the custard is churned in an ice cream maker.
As I poured the churned mixture, still soft and bursting with flecks of vanilla, into two separate containers, I put aside the dasher to taste once the ice cream was safely in the freezer.

Oh. My. I wanted to climb in the freezer and be with it, it was that good. Better, yes indeed, than the Bouchon vanilla ice cream I made a few years ago. So good, I didn't want to serve it with the brownies. Or add anything that would take away from its pure vanilla flavor. But I did.

The caramel was swirled in after the ice cream froze for a half hour. I may have been a little heavy handed with the caramel, but I knew the vanilla base could stand up to the aggressive bite of the bitter caramel sauce.

Then I chopped the toasted macadamias and added them and the toasted coconut to the other half of the base. Mix lightly and back in the freezer for both flavors.

Then wait. Waiting is hard.

Sneak a bite...

After tasting the caramel swirl, I knew the coconut macadamia could never live up to it. The caramel was rich and almost bitter from being taken practically to the edge of burning before the cream was added. No namby pamby sweet caramel for me. It lends a complexity that the vanilla plays up without competing with it. This ice cream is some of the best I have ever eaten.
Sneak a bite of the other flavor...

Impossible. The saltiness of the macadamias (which I accidentally left in the oven a bit too long, until they were brown) and the sweet toasted coconut with the rich vanilla backdrop made a flavor as subtle and complex as the caramel was in-your-face.

Not to overstate it, but this recipe blew me away. As written, it's the very best vanilla ice cream you could ever hope to eat or make. But when you let your imagination carry you away, it's transformed from the star to a supporting role. Your flavors can shine because the foundation is solid.

I never thought I could make great ice cream, but Dorie has taught me I can make a lot of great things. All it takes is the right teacher, and letting your mind wander until you find the flavors that speak to you.

If you'd like the recipe, check out Lynne's blog. Or better yet, buy the book. We're cooking from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. It's filled with amazing, fun and even some challenging recipes that will increase your baking repertoire.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blondie Hot Fudge Sundaes...Blame Pamela

When I saw Pamela at Cookies with Boys had made these blondies, and they were so good she was almost speechless, it got my attention. When she said she would make them with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge the next time, I knew how I was spending my evening.

The recipe for the blondies came from Bon Appetit, and although it was straightforward, I had to mix it up a little bit. I decided to make them with browned butter instead of just plain melted butter, thinking the browned butter and brown sugar would be reminiscent of these cookies.

Don't bother. The brown butter flavor was lost in these since butter was not a predominant ingredient. These were so good and so easy to make! I love the sweet and salty flavor profile and have loved peanuts with ice cream since I was a kid. I will definitely play around with them more next time, but not with browned butter.

Next, I attacked the ice cream part of Pamela's vision. Dorie Greenspan's vanilla ice cream is my go-to recipe for vanilla ice cream. I've made it so many times, and made so many flavor variations (check back next week for some of them), that I almost know the recipe by heart. It has the most intense vanilla flavor in the very best vanilla base. This time, I didn't have a vanilla bean so I used some vanilla bean paste. While the cream was steeping, I tackled the hot fudge.

I have used the same hot fudge recipe for the last 18 years, since I was a toddler thirty-something. I cut it out of Gourmet and it is the very best hot fudge recipe I have ever tried. That statement may be misleading since I stopped trying new hot fudge recipes after I found it! It's unctuously smooth and has a great mouth feel and huge punch of chocolate. I used Valrhona chocolate and cocoa, but that's an indulgence that childless people like me can afford. We don't have braces and college educations to worry about, so the disposable income goes for chocolate.

Rich Hot Fudge Sauce

Printable Recipe

3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 sticks/153 grams butter, cut into bits (I do chunks, but I'm lazy)
1/2 c/47 grams unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 c/100 grams sugar
1/2 c/120 grams packed dark brown sugar
2/3 c/150 grams heavy cream

In a heavy saucepan melt the chocolate and the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, then stir in the cocoa powder, butter, sugars and the cream (I usually mix the sugars and the cocoa together in a bowl with a fork, bypassing the sifting, and let the sugars melt in before adding the cream). Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring, and simmer it until it is smooth and the sugar is dissolved (it should be glossy). Pour it into a 2 cup measuring cup or microwave safe decorative pitcher (I use either a small glass milk bottle or porcelain pitcher.) To reheat, microwave for about 15 seconds, swirl it around and repeat until it is quite warm but not hot.

Still grainy

It's almost a ganache, so it's pretty firm when cold, so you can scoop it out and roll the balls in cocoa and pretend they're truffles. They're not firm for very long so eat up.

Once all of the components were made, it was time to sample the winning combination Pamela envisioned. I cut the blondies in small squares, topped then with smallish scoops of vanilla ice cream and poured on a little hot fudge.

This combination will blow your mind. It is so perfect with the creamy, chewy, salty and sweet flavors. I took the entire operation to work (these were dangerous to have in the house!) and they were a big hit at work too. Thanks, Pamela, for bringing these blondies to my attention. If you become as addicted to these as we did, blame Pamela.

Barefoot Bloggers - Peach Berry Crumble

This recipe is the best part of a food fantasy. It seems healthy, but it's not.

It starts with a goodly volume of fruit, kissed with sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. It's topped with the simplest crumb mixture scented with cinnamon. I doubled the crumb topping, and increased the fruit (I used peaches, cherries, blueberries and blackberries) by about half. The crumb topping melts into the fruit somewhat, so your crumb topping ends up being thinner than you thought it would be. Don't let this worry you at all. The merging of the fruit with the topping, particularly around the edges, creates an unctuous buttery fruit experience... Excuse me. I need a moment to collect myself.

Where was I? Oh yes. I served this crumble as a breakfast treat, and it was a hit. It would have been far better served warm with vanilla ice cream, but ice cream for breakfast seemed a little over the top, especially when you're already eating buttery fruit.

I love Barefoot Bloggers. We make recipes from Ina Garten, and they are consistently some of the best things I cook and bake. They're almost always calorie laden, which is why I resisted her recipes for so long. But they're always good great. This week's recipe was selected by Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen. I love her blog and I encourage you to spend some time there. You can find the recipe here or here. And if you'd like to join us as we cook through Ina's truly delicious recipes, we'd love to have you! You can find out how to join us here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BBA - Challah

My bread baking gene, long lost but finally discovered, has made it possible for us to enjoy so many delicious breads in the last couple of weeks. I didn't think challah could come close to brioche or casatiello, but it did. It was something of a comedy of errors (don't braid bread before you've had your morning coffee) but one that ended well.

This recipe, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, utilizes the direct method (the yeast is mixed in with the other ingredients). It was easy to put together (until the braiding), and was forgiving of my pouring in too much water and then having to add additional flour (don't mix your dough when you've just woken up from a nap). Because I had added too much water, my dough was stickier than I think it was supposed to be, but when I divided the risen dough into sections to make the strands, I rolled it in some flour to mitigate the stickiness. Problem solved.

I decided to make two small loaves rather than one big one in order to be able to serve "fresh" bread at two different times. Hours apart on the same day. Am I becoming a freshness maniac?

Braiding the loaves was difficult for me (but I'm the same person who had to buy a book when she wanted to learn how to French braid her hair). One of the loaves looked better than the other, but I figured my audience would be forgiving of my braiding goofs. The biggest mistake I made was not tightening the strands in the middle, much like you do when you braid your hair, so the middle of my loaves had poofy strands and the ends had less poofy strands.

Another thing I'll do differently next time is timing when I make the dough. I made the dough one afternoon, and refrigerated the braided loaves overnight until I needed them. Then, forgetting that they do rise in the fridge, I proceeded to let one of them rise (way too much) at room temperature. Several of my loaves developed blisters at the surface where the dough develops air bubbles. I don't know why that is, but I wonder if I'm so enthralled with getting yeast doughs to rise that I'm letting them rise too much.

The other loaf I let come to room temperature and baked it without further rising, and it was the best of the two. Both were delicious, so delicious that M. almost ruined his lunch eating pieces of the second loaf, even after I told him lunch was portobello burgers served on challah. I think it would make fabulous French toast, bread pudding or strata.

When you know as little as I do about working with yeast, every experience is an opportunity for learning, and this one was no exception. I came away with new ideas and better understanding of the bread making process.

I'm very grateful to the Slow & Steady sub-group of the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge for welcoming me in to their group. It gives me added motivation to keep working through the book, which is truly amazing, and add to my yeast repertoire.

TWD - Raspberry Blanc-Manger

Dorie continues to test our limits and teach us to appreciate the untried. I never ever would have picked this recipe out of a cookbook and said "This one sounds great! I can't wait to make it!" That's the beauty of participating in a group like Tuesdays with Dorie. Someone different picks the recipe each week, and we get to try making (and eating) things we're not familiar with. One thing I've learned is that the weeks where I "don't feel like" making the recipe is the week I absolutely need to make it. Those are the recipes that surprise me the most--in a good way.

My first question this week was "What the heck is a blanc-manger??" It is reminiscent of a coeur a la creme, but has whipping cream and milk with gelatin to stabilize it. This was such an easy recipe to put together. I made it the night before I served it and parked it in the refrigerator overnight.

I went back and forth on whether I should grind blanched almonds or just use my Trader Joe's ground almonds (which are ground with the skins on). It was obvious from the photo that Dorie used blanched almonds, but I was feeling lazy and decided to go for that rustic look.

The recipe came together very quickly and easily. It took longer to pick through the two baskets of raspberries to trash the ones that were mushy than it did to make the blanc-manger. I smoothed the top diligently, wrapped it with plastic wrap and put it in a drawer of the fridge, away from strong odors. When it was time to unmold it, I soaked it in hot (OK, boiling hot) water, and it popped right out, but the top was very shiny. In the future, I'd use hot tap water and I think I'd get the effect the picture in the book shows.

The raspberry coulis was easier than the blanc-manger (picking through the raspberries again took more time). I forgot to reserve some berries to decorate the top, so I decided to make an amoeba-like design on the top with the coulis. Well, I decided to make a design, but my design skills are pathetic.

This was a hit at work. Once people got over the "What is it?" and had a slice, it disappeared in record time.

This is a not a dessert for anyone watching their weight as its predominant ingredient is whipping cream, but it's an impressive and refreshing summer dessert. I used the suggested raspberries, but peaches, apricots, strawberries or cantaloupe would all work.

Thanks go to Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. She picked this dessert for us to make this week, and she's something of a visionary in my mind. If you'd like the recipe, please visit Susan, or better yet, buy the book and join us in our odyssey to bake our way through it, one recipe at a time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CEiMB - Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce

Whew! I barely made this one.

My internal calendar broke this week. I knew without a doubt that the recipe this week was the onion rings, and I had made peace with skipping them since it's kinda hot and we don't have air conditioning (so turning on the oven isn't so appealing). Then Peggy posted about these noodles last night and I thought "Peggy's confused about what the recipe is this week." Never occurred to me that I could be confused (which is ironic since I'm confused most of the time).

A quick check of the Craving Ellie in My Belly website confirmed that there's nothing wrong with Peggy's memory. Mine however, not so good.

Since everyone raves so much about this recipe, I wanted to make it, but I was out of peanut butter, snap peas, snow peas, fresh ginger, limes, peanuts... And I was DETERMINED to make the actual recipe this week, not some hybrid aberration that is food on a plate but that's where the similarity to the recipe ends. So, even though I am beyond busy at work this week, at lunchtime I left the office, left campus and headed to Whole Foods. I'm sure people who saw me there thought I had won one of those contests where you get to run through the store and grab everything you can in five minutes. I resisted the urge to run all of the red lights and stopped by the house (wouldn't you know practically everything I bought had to be refrigerated), waking the cat from her nap with the same take-no-prisoners ninja attack technique that had startled so many at Whole Foods. Rush back to work and settle in my office as if I had been there all along.

When I got home from work, I decided that I would nix the steaming of the vegetables and would instead boil them briefly in the pasta water. Otherwise, I made the recipe EXACTLY as Ellie wrote it. I know, I was shocked too. Well, I did double the sauce and use fusilli instead of spaghetti and use a full pound of pasta (the bag ripped and it all fell in the pot) and add lime zest but it was EXACTLY the same as the recipe.

Things were going well until I turned on the food processor and somehow, soy sauce and peanut butter sprayed out of it ON TO THE CAMERA. Primal scream, drop everything, clean clean clean. Cooking is so relaxing.

M. walked in the door just as I had plated the serving for the photo and was thrilled that we weren't eating leftover lentil chili again. Really, I could have given him cereal and I think he would have been happy. But he loved this, and even had seconds. In fact he ate so much, he turned down chocolates after dinner. That's how good it was. It made a ton of leftovers, and I'm glad, because you can dress this one up with grilled portobello mushrooms, chicken, fish, shrimp, or tofu.

Thanks go out to Beth at Supplicious for choosing this wonderful recipe for us. And of course to Peggy, for being my reminder of what week it is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TWD - Nutella Cherry and Peach Brioche Tartlets

Dorie, I've been unfaithful to you.

It was laziness, pure and simple.

I was making brioche from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and I didn't want to double up on brioche with just two of us. So I cut off two little pieces and used them for tartlets instead of making your brioche.

I'm sorry.

I'm not a plum lover, but I know you like it when we play around with the recipe, so I made one tartlet with cherries and Nutella and one with white peaches from my tree and Christine Ferber jam I bought at your favorite pastry shop in Paris. Yes, that one. I sampled a few pastries and swooned while I was there, too.

Are we OK?


I should have checked the tartlets sooner, because after 20 minutes, they were very brown, even underneath (I popped them out to peek at their little bottoms). I cooled them on a rack, then regretted not having any of your vanilla ice cream to have with them. But at the same time I was pinching myself-I couldn't believe I was making this recipe. When the July recipes were announced, I noticed that one of them required a yeast dough. Yeast and I have never been friends. So I finished the other three recipes by June 30th so I could have the entire month free to stress about making a yeast dough.

Then I made Anne's yeast rolls, which were easy and delicious. And then I started tackling The Bread Baker's Apprentice. So making brioche was not the angst-ridden event I had anticipated.

The tartlets? They were fabulous, with the Nutella cherry tartlet the absolute favorite. The Nutella kept the cherry juice in check and the brioche formed a crisp and tender crust under it all. Perfection. The peach was delicious as well. I might as well admit we split the two tartlets for dinner one night. Very decadent, but doesn't that say "Paris" to you? It does me, and it does to the man I love.

Thanks for giving us a dessert that made us remember our trip just two months ago.

Once the brioche dough was made, this is an ultra-easy and impressive dessert. I honestly did very little according to the recipe because M. had just gotten home from a trip and I didn't want to spend a lot of time away from him. So all the rising and slapping down of the dough didn't happen. I let the dough rest in the fridge, then put it in the tartlet pans and added the fillings and let it rise before baking it off. I can't express how wonderful the Nutella tartlet smelled while it was in the oven. I think the next one I try will have a Nutella filling and be served with ice cream or creme fraiche.

We have Denise of Chez Us to thank for selecting this delectable tart for us to make. I'm sure I wasn't the only TWD baker who looked at this one with trepidation, but I again learned that the ones I want to opt out of are the ones I need to make. They're the ones that surprise me, teach me new skills and give me an appreciation of new desserts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

BBA - Casatiello

If you've ever wanted to learn how to bake bread but thought you couldn't master it, you need to check out The Bread Baker's Apprentice. This wonderful book has a wide variety of breads organized from A-Z. We started with anadama and now we're on casatiello.

Casatiello is an Italian bread with added richness. Traditionally made with salami and cheese, I opted for just cheese (I used Emmenthal). I was delighted that this recipe is a one day prep, unlike many of the breads in the book. With M. newly home from a quick trip to China, I knew that homemade bread would make the turkey sandwich I planned for lunch extra delicious.

It feels weird, but the preparation of this bread was unexciting--no measuring snafus, explosive rising or confusion on my part. After adding the flour and eggs to the sponge, the mixture is beaten for a minute before resting and then adding the softened butter. While this dough isn't enriched as much as the brioche, it definitely has its share of fat. Since I wasn't using the salami, I increased the cheese to 1 1/4 cups of coarsely shredded Emmental. It rose rapidly, and I split it between an 8x4 loaf pan and an 8" round cake pan. It smelled wonderful in the oven, and it was done after a total of 35 minutes in the oven.

My 8" round cake pan isn't nonstick, and since the cheese migrates to the surface, I did have some sticking with that one. Next time, if I use this pan, I'll oil the pan instead of using cooking spray.

Once again we didn't wait the full hour before cutting into this one. I mean, warm cheese bread, who can resist?

As much as we loved the brioche, we loved the casatiello more. Much more. It made turkey sandwiches extra special, paired well with a lentil chili I made earlier in the week and was just plain delicious by itself. Where the brioche was almost like eating cake, we most enjoyed the casatiello as we stole pieces through the day.

I will defintely make this one again, and I'd like to try an olive oil version. I'll also cut some of the cheese in julienne instead of shredding it. The shredded cheese disappeared into the bread, and I'd like to have some small cheesy pockets.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

BBA - Middle Class Brioche, aka The Brioche That's as Big as a Turkey

I am thrilled, thrilled I tell you, to have been invited to join the Bread Baker's Apprentice Slow and Steady subgroup, because BBA is closed to new members and I just found my yeast muse. When I posted that I had made Anne's yeast rolls, and then the anadama bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I thought I was embarking on the journey of baking through the book on my own. Thanks, Nancy and Audrey for your kind invitations.

My yeast fear has completely abated and I now want to bake bread all of the time! While I do plan to go back and make up the breads I missed, I decided to jump in and make brioche before attacking the next recipe.

Brioche evokes images of tender buttery rolls that are splendid with jam or, gasp, Nutella. Since making this brioche intersected with the brioche tart that Tuesdays with Dorie was making, I decided to make the BBA brioche and defer making Dorie's for another time.

Before I got bitten by the yeast bug, I used to read my fellow bakers post that they whipped up a batch of brioche to use for... I thought they were insane overachievers. Wasn't something as ethereal as brioche the result of a full weekend of work, nurturing and coaxing? Uh, no. It's so easy even I can do it wrong and still get a great loaf.

Let the yeast proof with some milk and flour.

Combine the flour, yeast mixture and eggs and beat until combined, then add the softened butter a little at time. Beat with the paddle attachment of your mixer (I'm not yet brave enough to knead my doughs by hand) for about 8 minutes, spread on a sheet pan and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night. Divide the dough and shape as desired.

Since my brioche pans haven't arrived yet, I made one loaf, two tartlets and stuck 13.7 ounces of dough in the freezer (can you say "sticky buns?") My loaf proofed in the oven on the dough proof cycle. developing a large blisterish thingy on it. I'm not sure what causes that, maybe adding 50% more yeast than needed?

I only made one mistake. Although I was making the middle class brioche, I referred to the rich man's brioche when measuring the yeast. The rich man's brioche requires more yeast due to the higher percentage of butter. I'm happy to say that this didn't ruin my brioche, but it did give us quite a laugh as it was baking. M. said it looked like I had a turkey in the oven. When I took it out of the oven, M. asked me how long we had to wait to have a piece. When I told him an hour, he let me know that it was unreasonable to expect him to wait that long for something that smelled so good. We cut it after 30 minutes, and it was rich, light and airy. I explained the difference between rich man's, middle class and poor man's brioche, and he was surprised that we weren't eating the rich man's. It was such a big hit that I'll be making the rich man's and then the poor man's. I think middle class is the way to go, but you won't find me complaining about eating more brioche.

Delicious, but not beautiful