Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream & recipe

I can't imagine my life without ice cream, gelato or semi freddo. Yup, I could easily live on this creamy, sensual, smooth, cool concoction without even the slighest blip. It can be in a dish, on a stick, in a cone, soft or firm. I'd take it anyway, shape or form, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack!!!
There are many different ways to make ice cream. Some versions use egg yolks which really vamps up the creamy factor. The milk to cream ratio changes the consistancy as it is juggled around from recipe to recipe. And then we get to the multitude of flavors and additions.The combinations are endless!
A few years ago I was thrilled when I received an ice cream maker as a gift. (Of course the gift givers also gave me a list of flavors that they wanted first dibs on too!) So when I read this week's project with the Heavenly Bakers and saw that it called for ice cream- well now!. A perfect reason to whip up a batch of fresh strawberry ice cream!
The version I used for this project was adapted from "A Passion for Ice Cream" by Emily Luchetti.
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/3 cup homemade (of course) strawberry preserves
Put the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a heavy sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occassionally, until the liquid is almost simmering. Cool over an ice bath to room temperature. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Churn in a ice cream machine according to directions. In my case, the liquid is passed through a strainer directly into the freezer bowl of my machine. It is churned for 25 minutes. During the last 5 minutes the preserves are added to the partially frozen mixture.
Scoop the soft ice cream into a freezer container and place in the freezer overnight. Or it can be served immediately. Easy, right! It's like nothing you've tasted before!!! Now I better hide it in the freezer before the taste testers see it.
My favorite is nutella with chopped hazelnut. "J" loves strawberry (the reason it is hidden). What is you favorite combination?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Genoise Rose with Triple Sec Syrup

This week with the Heaenly Cake Bakers group the selected project was the Genoise Rose soaked with a Triple Sec syrup. But first a little about the genoise cake. Genoise is a french term for a sponge cake that was originally taken from Italy. Its distinguishing technique is that the eggs and sugar are heated together over hot water before being whisked. The genoise is usually used for special occassion cakes, wedding cakes, jelly rolls and petits fours. The crumb is strong and capable of holding liquid without getting soggy. The cake is typically soaked in flavored syrups to add moisture and another layer of flavor. Some versions have no butter while others can have 2-8oz of butter. The key to success is in the folding of the dry ingredients into the whipped eggs. Since the eggs are whipped to add tons of air it is important to keep it there. Therefore a light hand in folding is a must, so read the directions in your version very carefully.
This week it was Rose Levy Beranbaum's version, the Geniose Rose baked in a metal rose tube pan. I however do not have a rose pan but I do have a mini bundt pan just waiting for its chance to shine. The last time I used this pan was a disaster. I was being very stubborn (if you know me you will agree I can often be very stubborn), I just did not want to use a "baking spray". There was something chemical about it that I was not willing to expose my family or friends to. I buttered the pan diligently then floured it. Alas it was not enough and sadly my little cakes would not come loose from the pan. This time I wanted not only the little darlin's to come loose but I wanted them to remain completely in tack, no divots. Where am I going with this you ask? All this was just to make a point, that being- use a baking spray with flour as the recipe suggests when preparing the pan of your choice for this project.
Back on track now. The list of ingredients is pretty short with two very interesting changes from the verison I usually prepare. Rose calls for beurre noisette (or clarified butter) this adds a delicious nutty taste to the cake. Vanilla, eggs, sugar, cake flour and cornstarch also different from my norm. The cornstarch and cake flour will help give the cake a nice rise.
After preparing your pan of choice set it aside. Next is preparing the neurre noisette (aka: brown butter). To do this heat the butter (a little more than called for) in a heavy saucepan until the milk solids are golden. Then strain out the solids through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof cup.Stir in the vanilla, cover and keep warm.
As I mentioned earlier the eggs and the sugar are warmed over a pan of simmering water just until lukewarm to the touch, stirring constantly. They are then whipped on high for at least 5 minutes. The eggs will be light yellow, thick, airy and quadruple in volume. While you whip the butter, sift the flour and cornstarch; set it aside.
Now on to the mixing and folding. Take about one cup of the egg mixture and whisk it into the butter mixture. Sift half of the flour-cornstarch over the top of the egg mixture. With a large balloon whisk fold gently yet rapidly until the flour has been absorbed. Repeat with the remaining flour. Fold in the butter mixture just until incorporated. Pour the batter immediately into the prepared pan. Bake 20-30 minutes on 350 degrees. The genoise cake should be unmolded as soon as it has been baked, onto a wire rack that has been coated with baking spray to avoid collapse. Yay! Success! The little cakes fell out of the pan with ease! Ok, so maybe I'll keep a can around to use with this pan. Let cool completely.
In the meantime preparing the syrup is a snap. Sugar and water are combined to make a simple syrup to which Triple Sec is added when cooled. I can easily see that any number of liquours can be used for flavoring. The cake is soaked with this syrup after it has cooled completely.
I found this cake to come together easily, have a beautiful fine crumb and hold the syrup well- as stated in Rose's introduction to this cake. On the same note, I found it to be extremely dry and I needed additional syrup to make it edible on its own. That being said I would not hesitate to use it again in a Tiramisu Cake or any other cake that was to be soaked with a syrup.
I look forward to next week's ice cream cake!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coconut Cheesecake with Coconut Cookie Crust

Cheesecake conjures up a variety of images different for each one of us. They can range from being as creamy as custard to a heavier more dense consistency. There are a zillion different flavors and or fruit combinations to choose from: chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry, mocha, lemon, and on and on. Some combinations are simply marbled throughout the cake. Then we have toppings: fresh or cooked fruit, coconut, chocolate shavings or simply naked. So when cheesecake came up on the baking list for the Heavenly Bakers I was interested and looked forward to trying something new. So it was Rose's Coconut Cheesecake that went into my oven this week.
After reading over the instructions and ingredient list I could see why this was on the quick and easy list. The coconut cookie crust as well as the batter could be made in advance too! It all fit into my schedule easily. Unfortunately it went so smoothly and fast that I only have pictures of the finished cake this time. So sorry....
Anyway on to the task. First up was the coconut cookie base: coconut, store-bought vanilla wafers (typically I would make my own cookies-not this time), butter, and a little salt. The dry ingredients pulsed in a food processor after which the melted butter was added. The mixture is pressed into the prepared spring-form pan and set aside.
The filling is equally as easy to prepare. The ingredients for this was cream cheese, yolks (a whopping 8 of them!!!), vanilla & coconut extract, salt, sour cream and.................the star of the show (in my opinion) cream of coconut. As it turned out what I thought could be the only snag, the cream of coconut was actually easy to find. The only secret to success here is waiting for the cold ingredients to warm to room temperture. Oh, don't forget not to over mix.
A creamy cheesecake should always be baked in a bain-marie. This not only helps to prevent cracking, but it helps to keep the filling creamy as well as evenly cooked throughout by disssipating the bottom heat. The instructions suggests leaving the cake in the oven to cool for one hour after its 45 minutes of cook time. When the cake is finally removed from the oven I suggest running a sharp knife between the cake and pan. This will also help to prevent cracking as the cake cools and shrinks. Just before serving a layer of toasted coconut is sprinkled over the top of the cheesecake. Chill preferrably overnight and it's that easy.
I found this version of cheesecake to be moist and creamy (as I like it) and unmistakably coconut-y. With cream of coconut, coconut extract and flaked coconut it was hard to get away with not tasting coconut, not like I'm complaining! However, I found the cookie crust drawing from the moisture of the filling made it a bit soggy. "J" was also please with the smooth texture and enjoyed all the coconut additions.
Care to share your favorite version?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake

This week with the Heavenly Bakers it was a Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake. A multiple component project, the cake not only has multiple types of chocolate (white being my personal favorite) but the filling contains my beloved fruit the strawberry! How could this be anything but delicious! The cake is a soft and moist white chocolate cake with a luscious light strawberry mousseline filling and a dark chocolate frosting. Oh my! This is just spot on for satisfying multiple levels of you inner most desires. Rose's directions have never disappointed me and is one of the many reasons this is one of my favorite books.
Multiple components allows me to prepare in steps as I attempt to do with any baking project I take on. It helps keep life in this house running smooth. I like smooth, oh yeah back to cake, sorry.
The cake batter as mentioned contains white chocolate (mmmmmm..), eggs, milk, vanilla, cake flour (this promises to have a fine crumb now), sugar leavenings and of course BUTTER! Yes, I found this batter came together with ease and baked up very nicely. Oh yeah, btw: I always lick the beaters since my little one is no longer little and I have no competition for it except when my mother in-law is visiting! As you can see I chose to make only a half batch, and you can see it still baked up very nicely. Good to know since you can't always cut a recipe in half successfully.
The instructions did not mention how thick the layers should be and this is where I took some liberty that later I would reget. I had already tasted the batter and was more than happy to test the cake tops that were cut off, so I knew this cake was superb. I then decided (bad move) to keep the layers at 1 inch. Please learn by my mistake and make them 1/2" to 3/4" max when you get to this point.
Next ups is the strawberry mousseline. I do not find that mousseline spreads well after refrigeration so I did not prepare it in advance. Again Rose's directions were easy to follow and fool proof. The ingredients are; butter, eggs, sugar, water, cream of tarter, strawberry butter (I used pureed strawberry preserves), and vanilla. The butter is beaten until smooth and set aside. A sugar syup is made and heated to 248 to 250 degrees. Meanwhile the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks with cream of tarter and some of the sugar. Then the sugar syrup is slowly poured into the beaten egg white to make a meringue. This is put in the refrigerator to cool to 70 degrees. Now I have to mention this is the aspect of Rose's Heavenly Cakes recipe that I love the most. Temperature. Temperature of components can be the difference between success and failure. If the recipe mentions temperature, whether it be of the butter or chocolate or in this case the meringue then it must be and this time was important. So be careful don't skip ahead or try to rush! Back to the business at hand... The meringue is added to the butter in portions with caution and beaten until well blended (again not so much that it seperates). The strawberry butter or preserves is added and the filling is complete and set aside.
On to putting it all together: Rose tell us to sandwich each layer with the strawberry mousseline topped with some of thr strawberry butter/puree. However, I got a little carried away with the strawberry and with my layers so thick this caused some instability. This you will see in my final picture and do the "tisk, tisk" noises along with me.
The frosting was next up as the final step to this wonderful cake. I had some trouble here which was either my impatience or humidity. The ingredients were; two dark chocolates a 99% cacao and a 62% cacao. I had to substitute a semi-sweet chocolate. Also some butter, corn syrup and vanilla was on the list. It seemed pretty straight forward and came out smooth and shiney as promised. I poured the top while is was still fluid and waited the requiset 30 minutes for the sides. But as you can see I wound up warming the frosting again and pouring. A big mistake I know that now. However, it is what I did.
All that being said I must say this is one of the best tasting cakes I've tasted. It was light, fine and moist. The strawberry mousseline was flavorful, smooth and creamy. The chocolate frosting was definitely a contrast but balanced. Overall, very nice! I hope you give this a try and share your frosting escapades with me. Or maybe some suggestions for the next time I give it a go.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Onion & Olive Calzone

My food experiences growing up were very limited. I was the oldest of three and we were all picky eaters. If it wasn't due to alleries then it was the texture or color or the smell. But, don't fret I really didn't know what I was missing.It wasn't until I met my husband and his family that I began to taste and experience new and interesting foods. Now don't get excited again I'm the one with food allergies!
As a newly wed I wanted to learn how to make the foods that my husband liked. It was my dear, sweet (no lie) mother in-law that came to my rescue. She taught me all her savory dishes. One such item was a Onion & Olive Calzone. Now this isn't your typical calzone- nope no cheese in this one. It is simple to make and very tasteful. For us it is a finger food, something I make as a nibble for company or a easy lunch for my family (easy yes just time consuming but worth it).
Onion Olive Calzone starts with a pizza dough; made from scratch which I will explain shortly or with a store bought or pizzeria bought dough. It is filled with carmelized onions and sliced olives. Sounds simple, right? So here goes:
Basic Pizza Dough:
1 pkg or 1 tbs Yeast
1 cup Water (@ 110 degrees no higher
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tbs Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Sugar
2 1/2 to 3 cups Flour
In a large bowl combine the water, sugar, and olive oil; sprinkle the yeast over the top and give it a stir. Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to proof. You should see a foamy layer on top. If not the yeast is dead and you need to start all over with fresh yeast.
Add half the flour ( about 1 1/2 cups) and the salt and stir with a large spoon until smooth (it will be very sticky). Add another 1/2 cup and dump (nice word) mixture on a lightly floured surface. Begin kneading with your hands adding about 1/4 cup more of the flour until you have a moist (tiny bit sticky) mass. Knead this at least 5 minutes sprinkling flour only as needed. The amount of flour will depend on the humidity and your measuring skills. (It could change each time you make this dough.)
The dough with be smooth, pliable, and won't stick to your hands. Now the dough goes into a large well oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let rise in a warm, draft free spot until doubled in size ( about 1 hour).
Then punch (so violent) the mass down and divide into two portions. Cover and let rest 15 more minutes in a warm place. This amount of dough will make a finished calzone of approximately 12x18. You can make 2 smaller ones if you prefer.
In the meantime thinly slice up about 3-4 LARGE onions. In a large skillet add the onions, 2 tbs butter, and 2 tbs olive oil. Cover and let sweat until slighly softened. Uncover and continue to cook until golden and caramelized; set aside. Slice up some black olives (as many as you like); set aside.
Pour about 2 tbs of olive oil into your baking pan. Put one ball of dough in the prepared pan, using your finger tips spread the dough to fill the pan. Spread the onions and olives across the surface. On your work surface using your fingers aand some olive oil make a disk large enough to cover cover the onion-olive mixture. Place in and tuck the edges all the way around. Cover the calzone and let rise 15-20 minutes. In the meantime preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
When the oven is ready smear a little olive oil on the surface of the calzone and bake 20-30 minutes until golden; top and bottom. Remove from the oven and let cool. Turn out of baking pan.
Slice in strips about 1-1 1/2" thick. It can be served warm or room temperature.
I know this sounds like alot of work, but it really isn't. If you like onions and olives you will love this.
Hope you try it! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis

Panna Cotta or "cooked cream" is a northern Italian dessert with different versions found in Greece & France. My best description is that it is a distant cousin to custard without the eggs. Panna Cotta is simple and quick to prepare, looks impressive, tastes light and smooth. It can be made in many flavors; chocolate, mocha, vanilla, strawberry, and more. It can be chilled in a glass then served or chilled in a bowl then inverted onto a dish for serving. You can serve it with a fruit coulis or fresh fruit or on its own. If you have never tried it I highly recommend it.
This week I decided to make a simple Vanilla Panna Cotta and top it with a fresh strawberry coulis, since it is still strawberry season and I love strawberry anything!
1/2 cup whole Milk
1 1/2 tsp powdered Gelatin
1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
Pinch Salt
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
Coulis or fruit as desired
Place the milk in a heavy saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface and let stand for 5 minutes to soften (a.k.a.- bloom) the gelatin.
Stir over medium heat just until the gelatin desolves, but the milk does NOT boil, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the cream, sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat.
Divide equally into desired vessels, place a small piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface (to prevent skin). Chill until set (several hours). Remove plastic, serve as desired with or without fruit.The possibilites are limited only to your imagination.
Coulis is a sauce make with fruit puree. I took some strawberry jam that I made a couple of weeks ago along with some fresh strawberries and gave them a whirl in the food processor. This lucious sauce was spooned over the chilled and set panna cotta. Topped with some fresh sliced strawberries and done! That easy and boy oh boy does this make a hit!
I hope you give it a try.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chocolate Butter Cupcakes

This week the Heavenly Cake Bakers baking project was Chocolate Cupcakes. I love individual sized portions and I love cupcakes so I was happy to partake. Rose describes these as velvetly, moist and deeply chocolatly. The only thing she left out was: quick and easy. With the heat and humidity this past week the quick and easy part was whole-heartedly appreciated.
I usually mise en place the dry ingredients a day or two before I plan on baking, then seal it in an airtight container or zip lock bag. The butter and eggs come out the morning of, to achieve room temperature. Then the wet ingredients are combined just before I start.
The chocolate butter cupcake batter is made with cocoa combined with boiling water. I was very happy to use cocoa again since I find it not as chocolately as the chunks of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate are . Not to mention I am totally out of quality chocolate and shy away from purchasing a fresh supply during the summer months.
Ok, back to the matter or batter at hand. The liquid ingredients; eggs, water and vanilla ar combined and set aside. The dry ingredients which were cake flour, superfine sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt are mixed in the bowl of the mixer. The butter and the chocolate mixture is added and mixed on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. After scrapping down the sides the wet ingredients are added in two parts, mixing only until blended (about 30 seconds).
At this point I decided to make small or mini cupcakes. It is easier on the waistline and much easier to share. To finish these little cakes off I used a butter cream frosting and gave it a little green tint to match the liners. Cute, huh?!
These little cakes were just delicious, the fine choclate crumb were tasty and moist, as promised. The buttercream melts in your mouth making every bite of these little cakes simply "heavenly"!
What is your favorite topping?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Miracle of Life

Look closely and you will see one of the miracles of the animal world. Early summer is the usual time of year when the doe population in our area give birth. Although it is common to see the deer traveling through the yards, occassionaly we are lucky and get to see one of the many fawns born each year. The doe isn't usually too far from her young but, she does need to eat. So during the first few weeks of life she will instinctivly leave the fawn or fawns in a "safe" place while she feeds, then go back to that "safe place" to retrieve her young. This little fawn was happened upon by accident and I took advantage of the opportunity to snap a few pictures. She kept her eyes closed and stayed very still so she wouldn't be noticed! But, don't worry she was fine and not an hour later she was reunited with her mom and off they went. Once the babies are a few weeks old they will follow their mother wherever she goes and eventually feed beside her. This is special and is a beautiful thing to watch. I wouldn't trade it for anything.