Tag Archives: Dessert

Key-lime Lavender Ice Cream

lavender-key-lime-icecream-2Well, last week the fall season began, the season of change, letting go, and a reminder that nothing is permanent. For myself, as I say good-bye to summer, I am also saying good-bye to a 10 year relationship that ended on a very bad note and letting go of the pain that has accompanied it.

For those that have been in long term relationships that have ended, you know that one of the most difficult things to overcome in the first few of months is everything that reminds you of your former significant other. Now, I’m a social scientist. From my sociology anthropologylavender-key-lime-icecream-1 background I know that everything has meaning, but only because we attach that meaning to it. That said, we can also remove and change those meanings, which is why I spent most of my summer exorcising demons from the places and things I had shared with Shawn over the past decade. Of course some things are more easily taken care of (i.e. burning pictures, donating left behind clothing), while others, like places, are harder (I’m probably the only person that hates Charleston, SC). I thought I had cleared them all out of the shadows until the other week.

dessertI had joined my family in Orlando and one non-Disney day, while my nieces napped, I was able to escape for a couple of hours. I found myself a nice restaurant, buying myself a tasty, light lunch and a fun flight of wine. Being on vacation, of course I said yes to dessert. When my server brought out a tray of tall shot glasses filled with sweet delights, I asked her for her recommendation.She told me the key lime pie trifle was her absolute favorite.

I visibly cringed.

I love key lime pie, and although Shawn was not the one that introduced me to it, he is the one that made it a regular occurrence in my life. (BTW, I went for the s’mores and chocolate peanut butter trifles.)

So this post is not only about saying good-bye to this sad, sunny summer, but also about letting the past go and reclaiming key lime pie.

Let me tell you, these poor key limes! I can’t tell you how hard I glared at them before key-limestaking a deep breath and adding them to my shopping cart. Of course the limes hadn’t hurt me, Shawn had. They were just lil ol’ limes. I had to do something nice with them.

Instead of making a key lime pie, like the minis Shawn and I made for this post that recently popped up in my Facebook Memories, I decided to re-try a recipe I had written down two summers ago after Emilie and I had visited Seven Oaks Lavender Farm: a Key Lime and Lavender ice cream.

In my opinion, this is a very elegant ice cream with its lightly floral notes from the lavender and the bitter citrus of the key limes. For me, this take on key lime pie made me think of how much I have grown and changed over the past decade. After all, I made ice cream instead of slashing the tires of his brand new blue Ford F150 truck, right? Yes, I am a grown, refined woman who has no need to stoop that low. Instead I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done, and work to leave the world better than how I found it.

lavender-key-lime-icecream-3

 

Key-lime Lavender Ice Cream

Ingredients

lavender-key-lime-ingredients

• 1/2 cup 2% milk
• 1/2 cup half and half
• 1/2 cup sugar, divided, plus 1 tablespoon separated
• 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
• 1 12 ounce can evaporated, low fat milk
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons dried, culinary lavender buds
• 3-4 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup fresh key lime juice, about 7 key limes (substitute Persian limes if preferred as key limes have a natural bitterness)
• 1 teaspoon key lime zest
• 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
• Pinch of sea salt

Instructions

1. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, lavender buds, and sea salt. Whisk to combine.
2. Add lavender buds to ice cream base. lavender-key-lime-adding-buds
3. Heat the milk mixture gently over medium heat to 180° Fahrenheit. Tiny bubbles will form around the edge, but do NOT bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
4. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes, allowing the lavender to steep and the ice cream base to cool.
5. While ice cream base is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
6. Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl.
7. Pour cooled ice cream base through the strainer, separating lavender buds from the base. Discard buds.lavender-key-lime-strain-buds
8. Very gradually add ice cream base into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs and causing the base to curdle. Retain strainer and bowl and set aside for later.lavender-key-lime-making-custard
9. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.
10. Stirring constantly, continue cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.
11. Strain the ice cream base again, pouring through the mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard any remaining solids.
12. Add key lime zest to warm ice cream base and whisk together.lavender-key-lime-adding-zest
13. Cover ice cream base with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the surface to prevent a skin forming.
14. Place covered bowl in the refrigerator and allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes. lavender key lime covering.jpg
15. After ice cream base has cooled, add key lime juice and whisk to combine.lavender-key-lime-adding-lime-juice

Replace the following steps with the instructions that came with your particular ice cream maker.
1. Turn on the ice cream maker and carefully pour the ice cream base mixture into the frozen freezer bowl.lavender-key-lime-adding-base-to-churner
2. Allow the ice cream base to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.
3. Add crushed graham crackers to the ice cream base and churn an additional 5 minutes.lavender key lime adding graham crackers.jpg
4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.lavender-key-lime-finish-churn

Be sure to check out my Lighten Up the Churn recipe for other notes.

 

Hummingbird Cupcakes and a Tale of Two Crows That Led the Way

hummingbird cupcakes 1Today is All Souls Day, a holy day in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches that honor the dead.  My friends, I have been saving this recipe for over a year now, having been inspired to make these cupcakes from an event that occurred at my grandmother’s burial in May 2014.  I am thinking today is the perfect time to share these Hummingbird Cupcakes with you as we remember and pray for those who have gone before us.

IMG_9038 sm

Jack Jones, my 4th great grandfather and grandson of the patriot Stephen Jones of St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

As I shared with you almost a year ago now in my post, Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandmaafter my grandmother passed in February of last year the final remnants of winter prevented us from laying her to rest until the weather warmed and the snows melted away.  That May I finally got to see where my grandmother’s family had lived since the late 1700s when American settler’s began pressing westward out of Virginia and North Carolina.  Having roots that deep in South-eastern Kentucky, of course we have a family cemetery filled with generations of my grandmother’s family.  It is out of this cemetery that the story inspiring these Hummingbird Cupcakes came about.

My grandmother’s constant companion for years was my very free-spirited cousin, Shelley.   Of course I was not surprised when my dad’s middle sister  checked in with my dad the evening we arrived in Kentucky and announced that Shelley had set up camp in the graveyard and would not be joining us for dinner. (That of course had my mother worried!)

hummingbird cupcakes 6The next morning after the family caravan wound through back-roads, passing house after house (and trailer after trailer) upon which I read  names familiar from my grandparents’ family trees, we found our way to where my grandfather was waiting for my grandmother under the eves of what  is now the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Shelley stood in front of a shelter  at the top of the dirt road waving at us, barefoot and smiling.  She had a story to share.

Her story began with two crows and ended in a place we thought was lost forever.

The previous evening, after my aunt had dropped her niece off, Shelley was communing with the silence , the trees, and the graves surrounding her when a pair of crows began cawing at her.  Shelley just drank her wine and eventually hummingbird cupcakes 7drifted off to sleep despite her noisy, uninvited companions.  In the morning, those two crows were still there and cawing at her when one suddenly spread it’s wings and flew away.  Shelley relayed that she had felt the need to follow it and so she did, chasing it down the dirt road and out of the cemetery. It came to rest at a small farm down the road where an astonished man was just coming out of his trailer when he saw Shelley come out of nowhere.

Turns out this man and the folks living in the neighboring trailers were distant cousins on my grandfather’s side…not completely surprising as we knew my grandfather’s parents had owned much of the surrounding land and had bequeathed it among a dozen sons and a daughter (never mind that my grandfather’s father was one of nearly 30 children).  Shelley was ecstatic. “Do you know about Barbecue Cliff???” she asked excitedly.

Hicks BBQ Cliff 3

Walking along a stone cropping along the path to Barbecue Cliff

Barbecue Cliff was a place our grandmother had spoken about often during the years of their companionship.  It was a huge gathering place for family shindigs (and I’m sure revivals as my grandmother was descended from generations of Baptist ministers).  Shelley had heard many stories about it from Grandma…but her mother, my dad, and my other aunt did not know its location. When Grandma passed, Shelley feared it was lost to our branch of the family forever.

Of course the man knew about Barbecue Cliff! He pointed over beyond the farm to the trees and hills behind and offered to show her.

“We can all go together and see it after we bury Grandma,” Shelley finished.  The woman who had owned the land previously had left a caveat in her will…no member of the entire clan could be denied access to the area.  We were all welcome.

Hawk Creek Exploring Stones

Exploring family history with my cousins.

I wanted to ask Shelly if she thought Grandma had sent the crows to show her the way…but I knew what her answer would have been.  “Of course!”

So now you know the story of the two crows.

Time for the cupcakes!

Now how did crows inspire these, you might ask.  Well they’re birds, right? LOL!  Anyway, besides the avian influence, I was also inspired by the fact that Hummingbird cake is a Southern favorite and my grandmother was a Kentuckian through and through.  Who would have thought  these pretty treats had started out with a pair of crows, huh?hummingbird cupcakes 2

Hummingbird Cupcakes

makes 2 dozen cupcakes
Ingredients
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Wet Ingredients
  • 3-4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, juices drained
  • 3/4 cup dried, shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting –

Garnish options: shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans

Directions
  1. Pre-heat overn to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Line two standard muffin tins with your desired liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.hummingbird cupcakes dry ingredients
  3. In a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla.  With an electric mixer on medium, begin streaming the olive oil into the bowl.  Continue beating the oil, sugar, and vanilla until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and beat mixture until it reaches a smooth, thin custard-like consistency.   Turn mixer off.hummingbird cupcakes oil sugar eggs
  5. Add the mashed bananas and crushed pineapple to the egg and sugar mixture. Turn the mixer on to medium-speed and beat until ingredients are combined.hummingbird cupcakes combining wet ingredients
  6. Turn mixer down to low speed and begin to gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do not over-beat or the cupcakes will be tough.  If preferred, fold the flour in with a rubber spatula instead of using the mixer.hummingbird cupcakes adding dry ingredients
  7. Fold chopped pecans into the batter.hummingbird cupcakes fold pecans
  8. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups.  Begin with approximately 1/4 cup of batter in each.hummingbird cupcakes filling liners
  9. Place muffin tins in oven and bake 20-25 minutes.  When finished, cupcakes will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their center will come out clean.hummingbird cupcakes cooling
  10. Cool completely on wire racks before topping cupcakes off with Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting.hummingbird cupcakes icing
  11. Decorate as desired with shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans.

hummingbird cupcakes 4

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting – The Best Way to That Tangy Cream Cheese Flavor

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 1

‘Tis the season for cream cheese frosting!  No, scratch that. Cream cheese frosting is in season all year ’round. However, once we begin donning our sweaters and coats as the holiday season goes into full swing, so too begins the season of never ending, delicious baked goods fresh from our piping hot ovens that we devour without abandon until the dawn of New Year’s Day. Who hasn’t salivated over a cream cheese stuffed pumpkin muffin or a wonderfully spicy slice of gingerbread loaf topped with cream cheese frosting? Not to mention perennial favorites also slathered in tangy cream cheese deliciousness, such as Red Velvet, Carrot, and (one of my favorites) Hummingbird cake. Yes, let the baking bonanza begin!

The very first frosting I ever made from scratch was cream cheese frosting. Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 5 You’ve heard me tell you before how, growing up, food came out of a box, can, or jar.  Imagine my surprise as I watched a bar of softened cream cheese and a bag of powdered sugar whip up into a creamy, rich frosting for our (box mix) Christmas gingerbread loaf.  My sister and I were totally fascinated.  Now that I think about it, that was probably that point when I was bitten by the cooking bug.  No longer would frozen chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes from a box…or a tub of frosting…suffice.

Since that long ago Christmas, I’ve come to desire more than just the taste of sugar.  I think that just happens as you grow older (For example, I can’t bare the Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 6sweetness of milk chocolate anymore. It literally hurts my teeth lol). You may have noticed from some of my cupcake posts that I shy away from American style buttercream, which is based on powdered sugar for structure.  Instead, I often go for Italian or Swiss style buttercream, which utilize meringued egg whites and less sugar.  Oh, the lovely layers of flavor! That’s why when I came across cooked cream cheese frosting in my research for a cupcake inspired by an experience at my grandmother’s grave site (not as morbid as it sounds, I promise) I had to share it with you all.

If you are a cream cheese frosting fan, I promise you will adore the frosting you get out of this technique.  It preserves so much more of that distinctive tangy flavor, plus that luscious creaminess.  Excited yet? I hope so!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 4

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_sugar and flour
  2. Whisk milk into the flour mixture.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding milk
  3. Place saucepan over medium heat. Continue to whisk flour mixture to create a smooth paste.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste
  4. Bring flour mixture to a gentle simmer. Continue stirring.  Allow to cook until a thick, sticky pudding like consistency is met. Do not leave the stove during this time; the sugar will quickly burn. (Lesson learned: a little caramelization is salvageable).Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste simmering
  5. Scrape flour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_paste into mixer
  6. Whip on high for about 10 minutes or until the cooked flour mixture has cooled. (Warning: if the flour mixture is too warm, the final frosting may turn out too soft to hold its shape. Read about the Battle of Buttercream Hill here.)
  7. Lower mixer speed to medium high and add vanilla extract.
  8. Add butter, whipping until incorporated.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_add butter
  9. Whip in the softened cream cheese one bar at a time.Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_adding creamed cheese
  10. Return mixer speed to high and whip frosting until thick and fluffy.  If frosting is too soft, add the optional 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to give the frosting more structure.
    Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_whipped frosting Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting_powdered sugar for structure
  11. Chill before use for easier work-ability. The frosting will keep its shape at room temperature, but its definitely more messy to work with!Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 2 Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting 3

 

Perfect Chocolatey Rich Brownies

Growing up, my mom always kept a box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker brownie mix in our pantry. If we were craving something sweet on a Friday movie night, or any night really, one of my sisters or I would pull out the box, follow the directions on the back, and an hour later we’d be enjoying gooey chocolate goodness. These mixes came in a pretty amazing array of flavors and varieties and were super simple for a pre-teen to whip up on her own. They are a large part of what inspired me to love baking and cooking.

Chocolatey Brownies - finished 2

In spite of this long and lovely history with the humble brownie, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had not made a batch of brownies from scratch until just a few weeks ago. How can that be?! Especially when you consider the broad, and somewhat random, list of things I have baked from scratch: scones, challah bread, over a dozen cookie types, cupcakes (and more cupcakes), quick breads, and more. Realizing it was finally time to take the plunge, I diligently researched brownie recipes, and found out that there are a lot of “best brownie” recipes out there. I mean A LOT. Which is why I was thrilled to come across the Brown Eyed Baker’s list of top 10 brownie recipes. At the very top of her list was the famous Baked Brownie filled with 11 ounces of dark chocolate and half a cup of butter, it was clear I needed to try the Brown Eyed Baker’s version of the recipe immediately. What a smart decision that was! They are amazing! Be warned, it a large batch of brownies, so you might need to share them (or freeze them), but its worth it.

Already a brownie aficionado and looking to branch out some, be sure to check out the top 10 list! I think these salted caramel brownies are next on my list!

The “Baked” Brownie
adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

1)     Preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

Chocolatey brownies - line the baking pan

2)     In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3)     Melt the butter in a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, and then stir in the espresso powder. Once the espresso powder is almost completely dissolved, add the chopped chocolate to the bowl. Stir frequently until the chocolate is completely melted.

Chocolatey Brownies_melt butter with coffee Chocolatey Brownie - melt the chocolate 1 Chocolatey Brownie - melt the chocolate 2

4)     Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Stir until smooth and completely combined. At this point you can remove the bowl from the pan, although I did not.

Chocolatey Brownies - add sugars

4)     Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir into the mixture. Add the remaining eggs and stir until fully combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Be careful not to over mix the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Chocolatey brownies - add eggs

5)     Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. And fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

chocolatey brownies-mix in flour

6)     Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180º halfway through the baking time. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with only a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

Chocolatey Brownies - pour the batter

7)      Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Brownies - cut the brownies Chocolatey Brownies- finished 1

Strawberry Tarragon & Chèvre Ice Cream – Turning Old Recipes into New Recipes

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 3There is still snow and ice on the ground here in Virginia, yet here I am sharing an ice cream recipe with you all while I bask in the warmth of my fireplace.  I can’t believe that just a few days ago I returned from a week’s vacation exploring Hilton Head Island and Savannah.  Though not exactly bikini, sun bathing weather, the days ranged from the high 60’s and even soared into the low 80s. The nights rarely strayed below 50.  With the lovely early spring-like weather in abundance,  I spent a lot of time riding my bike and playing in the sand. I even dared a little wading into the still very cold Atlantic waters.  Between the sunshine filled dayssmall_8262 and all my activity, I definitely worked up a sweat.  Though in Savannah my favorite cool down treat was Georgia peach sangria to go, which I’d sip delightedly under the beautiful oaks of the city’s famous squares, in Hilton Head I’d ride my bike up the beach to Coligny Plaza to place myself in the giddy conundrum of choosing one ice cream  from nearly 100 different flavors.  It is no surprise that I returned home with ice cream, pretty beverages, and summer time on my brain.  Let’s get back to that ice cream now, shall we?

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 5Most of you know I purchased myself an ice cream machine last summer when I shared my Lighten Up the Churn Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream. I absolutely loved how the lightened up custard base (aka French style ice cream) turned out and so I kept experimenting with it.  You know me, I love to play with flavor.  However, I’m not much of a garlic ice-cream type girl myself, but I wanted to try something savory.  The idea made me think of my strawberry bruschetta, where I took sweet strawberries and gave them a savory twist with tarragon, black pepper, and goat cheese.  Why wouldn’t the same idea work with ice cream? So I decided to give it a go and created  a goat cheese base in which I added the remaining elements of my bruschetta dish. It worked beautifully!

The smooth base had a slight tang from the goat cheese, off-set by both strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 2the sweet strawberry flavor as well as the fruit’s added chunky texture.  Although I couldn’t discern the black pepper as I could in the bruschetta, the tarragon gave all this creamy goodness a cleansing burst of freshness.  And what a pretty ice cream it made, too!

Now what are some of your own favorite recipes that you think would make an awesome ice cream flavor?

Strawberry Tarragon & Chèvre Ice Cream

Ingredients

strawberry tarragon chevre ingredients

  • 1 cup small diced strawberries
  • ¼ cup Chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled for easier melting
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped tarragon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided in half, plus 1 tablespoon separated
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 12 ounce can evaporated low fat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeded
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3-4 egg yolks

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine diced strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, chopped tarragon, and ground pepper.  Toss to mix, then set aside while preparing the Chèvre ice cream base.strawberry tarragon mixture
  2. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Whisk to combine
  3. Next add the vanilla seeds and pod to the milk mixture.adding vanilla bean to base
  4. Heat the milk mixture gently over medium heat to 180° Fahrenheit. You’re looking for tiny bubbles around the edge, NOT a boil. Remove from heat.
  5. Set aside for at least 10 minutes to allow milk mixture to cool.
  6. While milk mixture is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.strawberry tarragon yolks and cream base 1
  7. After milk mixture has cooled at least 10 minutes, begin to gradually add milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs.strawberry tarragon yolks and cream base 2
  8. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.strawberry tarragon ice cream base reheat
  9. Stir Chèvre into warm milk, allowing cheese to melt into mixture. It will be lumpy at first, but will smooth out once the cheese melts.strawberry tarragon add chevre to base
  10. Stirring constantly, continue cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.
  11. Place a mesh sieve over a large mixing bowl and strain ice cream base. Discard the vanilla bean pod and any other solids.strawberry tarragon straining base
  12. Fill another large bowl with ice cubes. Place the bowl containing the ice cream base over the ice.strawberry tarragon base on ice
  13. Allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes.

Replace the following steps with the instructions that came with your particular ice cream maker.

  1. Turn on the ice cream maker and carefully pour the ice cream base mixture into the frozen freezer bowl.strawberry tarragon ice cream base into maker
  2. Pour strawberry mixture into the freezer bowl with the base.  NOTE: Typically, ice cream mix-ins are added in the last five minutes of the process, but I wanted the strawberry and tarragon flavors to infuse into the base.  You can wait to do this until later if you wish.strawberry tarragon fruit into maker
  3. Allow the the mixture to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.
    strawberry tarragon ice cream churning 1 strawberry tarragon ice cream churning 2
  4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.
    strawberry tarragon ice cream ready strawberry tarragon ice cream freezer containers

Be sure to check out my Lighten Up the Churn recipe for other notes.

strawberry tarragon chevre ice cream 1

Breakfast Apple Streusel Muffins

Apple Streusel Muffins 3I have been craving these little beauties since Thanksgiving morning!  I woke up that morning and a vision of these piping hot from the oven and smothered in butter popped into my sleepy head.  Too bad I had finished all my delicious apples from Rinker Orchards by then!  Airy and not too sweet, these muffins are a lovely addition to any brunch pastry basket and the perfect breakfast strategy to stay the grumbling tummies of holiday guests as they awaken from their slumber.

How do I know this? When I first made this recipe back in October, they Apple Streusel Muffins 5disappeared faster than my very popular Banana Chocolate Chip muffins! Now my co-workers are very, very picky when it comes to baked goods.  Or maybe I should say careful.  Pure sugar is a big no, no. So when I brought three dozen of these to the office, I was expecting they would last until about 10 o’clock.  Nope, they were gone by 7:30! I had to dash my muffin/cupcake carrier back to my car to hide the evidence from the folks that came in at 8 so they wouldn’t feel left out.

Needless to say, these muffins are a delicious grown-up treat.  Substituting sour cream and buttermilk for the traditional butter give these Apple Stressel Muffins an almost sponge-cake like airiness. They are not heavy and dense at all.  Then of course there are the yummy apple bits scattered throughout which give you that tart sweet burst against the sweet bread.  And how can we forget that yummy streusel on top?  Just that bit of fun where we can pretend we’re still kids for a couple of bites.  You’ll definitely need a napkin for these!Apple Streusel Muffins 1

Apple Streusel Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

Muffins: 

  • 1 cup whole wheat white flour (sometimes called whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¼ – ½ cup buttermilk (start with ¼ then and add as needed)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium-sized baking apples, peeled, cored, and diced small (I actually kept the peel on some of my apples)

Streusel topping:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Grease a regular-sized muffin tin with cooking spray or butter.
  3. For the streusel, add the flour, brown sugar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. (A cereal bowl worked fine for me.)
  4. Pour in the melted butter. Use your fingers or a fork to combine until small clumps of streusel form.  Set aside while making the muffins.ASM Struesel Topping
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.ASM dry ingredients
  6. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, sour cream, buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk wet ingredients together.ASM wet ingredients
  7. Gently fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Don’t worry about a few lumps. Over mixing will give you dense, gummy muffins.ASM Making Batter
  8. Fold in the chopped apples again being careful not to over-mix the batter.ASM Apple Time
  9. Fill each well of the muffin tin to the top with batter.
  10. Generously sprinkle streusel on top of the batter, pressing the topping lightly into the batter.  This is a messy step, but fun! I had leftover streusel for another dozen muffins, but feel free to use all of it.ASM Struesel Time 1    ASM Struesel Time 2
  11. Bake muffins for 18 to 22 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean.ASM Fresh from Oven
  12. Cool for 10 minutes before removing muffins from the muffin tin.  Store the muffins in an airtight container no longer than three days.Apple Streusel Muffins 4

Lighten Up the Churn – Creamy and Lite Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 1

 If you did not know, July is National Ice Cream Month.  Thought I would let you all know before the month was totally gone.  After all, what kind of person would that make me if I deprived any of you of a legitimate excuse for chasing after the ice cream truck with the neighborhood kids?  And what perfect timing to christen my brand new ice cream maker, too.  The heat index has been soaring to about 105° Fahrenheit over the past couple of weeks.  Who wouldn’t want a reprieve from the heat with a  bowl of cool and creamy chocolaty deliciousness?  Yes friends, it’s time for some homemade churn!

Have you ever hand cranked ice cream?  I have not myself, but a late friend of mine (God rest) grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and hand cranking is how they did it!  It was the 60’s and 70’s after all.  Apparently, it is a lot of work!  Can you imagine churning and churning for at least half an hour if not more?light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 2  You are probably going to need more than one set of arms to get the job done!  My friend had a few siblings to assist, luckily, and it was typically a family activity as everyone would get involved with first making the base then setting up the churn with ice and rock salt, and finally taking turns churning until the ice cream had set.  Only those that helped got a taste…which is exactly how it should be, right?  Up until a couple of years before she passed, she and her sons were still hand churning ice cream with the churn her family had used growing up.  Sadly the crank mechanism broke.  She was never able to find a replacement.  Whenever I go antiquing with friends, I still keep an eye out for one.

Obviously, I did not hand churn this ice cream, as you will see, but I was still channeling my friend.  You see, when I knew her, she had a willowy figure.  Turns out she had spent most of her adult life a bit heavier.  When she showed me older pictures, she was probably in her late 30s, the transformation wowed me.  The only thing that remained the same was her radiant smile.  Needless to say,  my friend was very aware about what she put in her body.  I chose, then, to make a lighter ice cream.  Although not as low calorie as some commercial brands,  this version allows you to use natural ingredients, bypassing all those funky sounding ones.  A delicious treat,  sans the body image guilt.  I am sure my friend is looking down at me with approval. Though truth be told, though, she preferred vanilla :).

 light chocolate hazelnut ice cream 3

Creamy Light Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

makes 4 cups ice cream, appx 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milklight ice cream ingredients
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided in half
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1  12ounce can evaporated low fat milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeded
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3-4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
Directions
  1. In a saucepan, combine whole milk, evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt.  Whisk to combine.light ice cream evaporated milk
  2. Next add the vanilla seeds and pod to the milk mixture.
  3. Heat milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180° Fahrenheit.  You’re looking for tiny bubbles around the edge, NOT a boil.light ice cream 180
  4. Remove from heat and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  5. While milk mixture is cooling, whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.light ice cream beating yolks
  6. Once egg yolks and sugar are combined, gradually whisk in the cocoa powder into the beaten eggs.light ice cream cocoa added
  7. After milk mixture has cooled at least 10 minutes, begin to gradually add milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs.light ice cream combing milk and egg mixtures
  8. Return entire mixture to the saucepan. Turn stove to medium heat.
  9. Stirring constantly,  cook the ice cream base until it reaches 160° Fahrenheit.light ice cream 160
  10. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes. Either place pan in the ice cubes or poor the ice cream base into another mixing bowl and set over ice.light ice cream over ice
  11. Allow ice cream base to cool, about 20 minutes.
  12. Pour the cooled ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve.  Discard the vanilla bean pod and any other solids.light ice cream sieve

Replace the following with the instructions that came with your particular ice cream maker.

  1. Turn on the ice cream maker and carefully pour the ice cream base into the frozen freezer bowl.light ice cream into maker
  2. Allow the the mixture to churn and thicken into a soft serve like, creamy texture, approximately 35-40 minutes.light ice cream starting to freeze light ice cream ready 1

     

  3. Add chopped hazelnuts and chocolate during the last 5 minutes of the churning.
  4. Divide ice cream into freezer safe, air tight containers. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm, about 3 hours.light ice cream freezer ready

Notes:

  • With a heavy cream based ice cream, this typically takes 15-20 minutes.  This lighter version took about 35 minutes  to get to the right consistency.
  • During the churning process, I noticed that the ice cream started tolight ice cream paddle note “stick” the the freezer bowl paddle.  You want the mixture to touch the freezer bowl surface or else it won’t freeze, so I used  a spatula to help move the ice cream away from the paddle and against the freezer bowl.
  • According to my calculations, this recipe totals out to 194 calories a serving…and one serving is 1/2 a cup! leave out the nuts and you’ll shave off another 30 calories.
  • Next time I plan on using either dark chocolate cocoa powder or melting dark chocolate to get a richer chocolate flavor. As is, this recipes produces more of a milk chocolate flavor.

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Popsicles

Peaches n Cream Popsicles, 3

Ruth and I have been writing Cork and Spoon for almost 2 years now- which is a bit shocking to me right now. It certainly does not feel like 2 years; maybe that’s because it has been so much fun. Sure, the past couple of months have been difficult for us both because we have precious little time to cook, let alone photograph the cooking process and write about it, but whenever I do find time I do enjoy it, and I think I can confidently say Ruth does too.

Despite this, I have found my one most dreaded blogging task — taking pictures of popsicles. I know, it seems weird, but this may be the most difficult task I have face in the kitchen. I’ve made a perfect souffle on the first try with Ruth, I have made French onion soup from scratch without a recipe, I have grown and kept alive my own yeast and made bread from it – but I can not take a pretty picture of finished popsicles. It certainly doesn’t help that the food blogging world is filled with multi-talented dynamos who take pictures like these:

The Endless Simmer’s Grapefruit and Strawberry Greyhound Poptail

The Tiffin Box’s Mojito Popsicles and ‘Poptails’

< I have noticed that a lot of the lovely and artistic photos are of popsicles made in more traditional rectangular shapes, but I really don’t think my awesome start shaped molds are the problem. To be honest I am not sure what the problem is, but as we get closer and closer to summer, rest assured that I will keep practicing the art of popsicle photography and you will be the happy beneficiaries of this practice – starting today with peaches ‘n’ cream popsicles.

Peachs n Cream Popsicles, 2These popsicles were inspired by these strawberry and cream popsicles. In making my popsicles, I used frozen peaches this time around because peaches aren’t yet in season, but I look forward to making them again later this summer with peaches fresh from the farmer’s market.

HI!

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Popsicles
makes 6 popsicles

1 6-oz container plain Greek yogurt
1 10-oz package frozen peaches, slightly defrosted
5-6 tablespoons skim milk
4 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon vanilla

1)     Using a traditional blender or a stick blender, puree all ingredients together until smooth.

Puree the ingredients

Pureed ingredients

2)     Pour into prepared popsicle molds, leaving about ½ and inch of space at the top for expansion during freezing.

Fill the posicle molds 1

3)     Place in freezer for at least 1 hour before serving. Can be kept in the freezer for up to a month before risking freezer burn.

Fill the popsicle molds, 2

Mini Berry Crostatas

Many many years ago, back during my college days, I hosted my first “grown-up” dinner one summer while my family was away. I had a couple of friends over, made chicken and vegetable kabobs, baked fresh bread with flavored butters, and fresh green salad. For dinner, I used a recipe from one of my mom’s ever present issues of Country Living Magazine. The simple rustic tart, a crostata so the magazine informed me, was full of fresh fruit and bright flavors and, despite how easy it was to make, looked amazing elegant, especially on my grandmother’s crystal cake stand. I remember being incredibly impressed with myself that day as everything I made quickly disappeared from my guests plates and knowing, from that moment on I would be the type of person who cooks for those she loves.

Fast forward nearly a decade to last week when I went a little crazy with the berries on sale at the Harris Teeter near my office. I went into buy a bag of frozen peas and walked out with 2 packages each of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. With 3 of those containers, I planned to make fruit salad for breakfast the rest of the week, but that still left a container of each berry in the fridge at the risk of going bad. That was when I remembered the mixed berry crostata I had made all those years ago, and went online to try and find the old recipe. This time I changed the recipe a bit to create a lighter flakier crust and, instead of making one large crostata, I decided to make several smaller 2-serving tarts that could be frozen and warmed up when I am craving something sweet.

crostata up close

Mini Berry Crostatas
Makes 5 crostatas, could serve up to 10 if people share

For the Crusts
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Filling
1 8-ounce container blueberries
1 8-ounce container blackberries
1 8-ounce container raspberries
1 ½ tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lemon, cut in half with seeds removed
1 egg, beaten
Turbinado sugar, for sanding

1)     Using your hands, combine pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, eggs, and butter in to a soft pliable dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or over night.

Crust ingredients

Knead dough for crust

2)     When ready to make and bake crostatas, pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or brown paper lightly sprayed with cooking spray and dusted with flour.

3)     Rinse and dry berries well. Mix together in a medium sized bowl. In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

berries and flour sugar mix

4)     Break dough into 5 roughly equal portions. To make one crostata, roll a portion of dough into a rough circle about 4 inches in circumference. Sprinkle about half a tablespoon of the flour, leaving an inch ring on the outside. Pile about a fifth of the berries on top of the dusting of flour and sprinkle with lemon juice. Carefully fold the crust up and over the edge of the berries, brush the crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with Turbinado or sanding sugar.

pile on berries and mix

5)     Place prepared crostatas on baking sheets and bake for 40 minutes, rotating cookie sheets half way through baking time. Let cool some before serving.

baked crostata

Pinspired: Matzoh Chocolate Cherry Crunch

pieces of Matzoh toffee crunch, 3

Today’s recipe is inspired by 2 wonderful spring events that are both happening right now. The first is the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival, which started last Wednesday, March 20th. For someone like myself who has spent nearly a decade in Washington, D.C., the Cherry Blossom Festival is the official-unofficial start of spring. The month long festival is packed full of events like the signature Blossom Kite Festival, a rugby tournament, and a parade. The festivities, though, expand beyond the official Cherry Blossom Festival with restaurants and bars throughout D.C. celebrating with special menus and drinks.  M Street Bar and Grill, for example, has a special Cherry Blossom drink menu with 14 themed drinks like Cherries and Roses and Jack & Jim Pickin’ Cherries.  Charlie Palmer Steak also has a cherry themed menu with their torchon of Hudson Valley foie gras with cherries and whipped Moscato.

cherry blossoms 2012

The Jefferson Memorial through cherry blossom branches from last year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival.

The second event, which begins tonight at sundown tonight and lasts until April 2, is the Jewish Passover holiday. This holiday celebrates the delivery of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is a pretty food-centric holiday, with families hosting the traditional, multi-hour Seder dinner, usually on the first or second night, which requires that every adult present consume 4 glasses of wine.  Observant Jews are also forbidden from eating leaven bread for the length of the holiday in recognition that their ancestors left Egypt in such a hurry that they did not have time to let their bread rise. Matzo, which is an unleavened bread much like a cracker, is a vital symbol throughout Passover.

With the intersection of these to events, I’ve been thinking alot about cherries and matzo. So, when I saw Buzzfeed’s collection of foods you could make with matzo, I immediately pinned some of my favorite ideas, including this awesome recipe for matzoh toffee crunch. It is a very simple recipe that leaves alot of room for customization. So, using this recipe as a base, I created my own tribute to Passover and the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

pieces of Matzoh toffee crunch, 3

Matzoh Chocolate Cherry Crunch

Roughly chop dried cherries and almonds- Matzoh toffee crunch

  • 4-6 matzoh crackers
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounce bag dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped dried cherries
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped toasted almonds

1)     Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Arrange matzoh on cookie sheet, cutting crackers as necessary to keep the crackers tight together.

Line cookie sheets with matzo-Matzoh toffee crunch

2)     Melt butter over medium-low heat in  medium or large sauce pan. Add vanilla and brown sugar to butter and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add brown sugar and vanilla to butter- Matzoh toffee crunch

Cook caramel for 3 minutes-Matzoh toffee crunch

3)     Pour caramel sauce over matzoh and use a spatula or wooden spoon to spread it evenly over the crackers.

spread caramel over matzo-Matzoh toffee crunch

4)     Bake candy covered matzoh until the candy begins to bubble, about 10 minutes.

bake Matzoh toffee crunch until carmel bubbles

5)     Remove matzoh from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes, until the chips are softened. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy.

spread chocolate over Matzoh toffee crunch

6)     Sprinkle matzoh crunch with cherries and almonds. Place in refrigerator for about and hour to let the candy set.

sprinkle Matzoh toffee crunch with toppings

7)     Once the candy has set, break it into small pieces and store in an airtight container.

break Matzoh toffee crunch into pieces

pieces of Matzoh toffee crunch, 1