Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pink Lemonade Ice Cream





I have a thing for pink lately.  Or maybe it has a thing for me.  Either way, though, we're very happy together.

And who wouldn't be happy dipping a spoon into this pretty pink ice cream?  I'm calling this pink lemonade ice cream, and it's a custard based ice cream which gets its color from strawberries that were cooked down and pureed for a smooth, creamy frozen custard that's beautifully pink and luxurious.

Fresh lemon zest adds a nice tartness, but since I didn't add any lemon juice, the ice cream is missing the acidic punch that's characteristic of lemonade, and the strawberries are really more pronounced than the lemon.  Still, though, I like the name and the balance of flavors.

The pretty little melamine spoons are from Shop Sweet Lulu, and I just love them.  I really need to get a set of forks as well, and they have so many lovely colors.  Sadly, I don't think they carry the polka dot and striped acrylic spoons any more, but there are so many other baking and party supplies to tempt me.








This afternoon, I planted an herb garden.  Next to the rhubarb plant which emerged last month to our pleasant surprise, I planted strawberries, tomatoes, sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and plenty of sweet basil.  It's our first spring in our own home, with our own backyard, and I love that I'll have fresh herbs for cooking this summer.  A pair of birds are sitting on our fence, grooming their feathers and surveying my carefully planted herb garden, probably watching for a worm to crawl from the moist soil.

As spring gently sweeps through Colorado, our lilac bushes are full and blooming with a bounty of purple flowers.  There's flowering trees in our backyard, too, that sprinkle the grass with a confetti of white petals.

It's going to rain tonight, and the sky is turning cloudy and gray.  The air, so warm earlier, is chilly enough that I might close the windows.

Another busy Saturday, come and gone.






Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means that I may make a small commission if you purchase a product using those links.  This in no way affects my opinion of those products and services.  All opinions expressed on this site are my own.



Pink Lemonade Ice Cream
printable
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • zest of two small lemons
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur

In as saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the strawberries, salt and half the sugar.  Simmer until juicy, puree in a blender until smooth, and return to the saucepan.  Simmer until reduced and some of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Pour the cream and milk into the saucepan and add the lemon zest.  Warm over medium heat just until hot to the touch, but not boiling.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks.  Slowly drizzle about a cup of the hot cream into the eggs, whisking them to temper.  Scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Whisking constantly cook the custard until thickened, about 8-10 minutes.

Set a strainer over the bowl of strawberry puree; pour the custard through the strainer to remove the zest and any bits of cooked eggs.  Whisk the strawberries with the custard and whisk in the orange liqueur.  Cover the bowl with plastic, resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate overnight to chill completely.

Churn the custard according to the manufacturer's instructions of your ice cream maker, then transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rhubarb Sour Cream Coffee Cake






I've been waiting to make this cake.

Since the rhubarb plant we discovered growing in our back yard this spring is not large enough to eat yet, I've been watching for rhubarb to make an appearance behind the green piles of cabbage and kale at our grocery store.  And now that it has, we have become hoarders of rhubarb, buying some on every grocery trip, washing it, chopping it and freezing it to save it for as many recipes as I can dream up this summer.

Jamie is hinting at a rhubarb pie, too, now that I no longer have an excuse not to make one for him.









This coffee cake is incredibly moist, as it's filled with a sinful amount of sour cream in the batter.  Tart bites of pink rhubarb throughout complement the generous layer of sweet, crunchy streusel on top.  It's rustic and imperfect, and I like it that way.

The baking is not to be rushed.  Since it's baked in one deep layer, the center takes longer than you might think to reach complete doneness, and I took my cake out of the oven a teeny bit too early.  Although I will say, I'm still getting used to the oven in our house, and I have to overcompensate on the temperature as it consistently under-heats by 75 degrees, so everything takes longer to bake in my oven.  Know your oven, and keep an eye on the cake towards the end.

But you know what?  That creamy dollop of just-undercooked batter at the point of each slice was my favorite bite.











Rhubarb Sour Cream Coffee Cake
printable


Streusel.
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
Cake.
  • 2 cups full-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a 9-inch round cake pan (with 3-inch high sides) with parchment paper, so that it is fitted tightly against the bottom and comes up the sides with a few inches of overhang.

Streusel.
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon.  Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture until moistened and crumbly.  Chill in the freezer while you prepare the batter.

Cake.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until moistened, then stir in the rhubarb.

Spread the batter into the parchment-lined pan and sprinkle the top with the chilled streusel topping.

Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes until golden brown on top and a sharp knife inserted in the center, all the way to the bottom, comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to remove the pan.  Turn the cake right side up and cool for another 30 minutes before cutting.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yields about 12-14 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, April 19, 2015

When life gives you melted cupcakes...






I realize that baking blogs make everything look so pretty and flawless.  I continually set higher standards for myself, my recipes, my photos - only sharing the most beautiful, the most delicious.  It's good to aim for bettering oneself, in all areas, and my blog is a place where I try to always improve my skills.

And it's not enough to just have a great-tasting recipe anymore, if the photos don't do it justice.  But I'll admit it's a painful process, deleting photos that two years ago would have been my best, but now are no longer good enough for me.

The day that I shot these Orange Poppyseed Cupcakes with salted maple buttercream, orange curd and salted pistachios, started beautifully.  I baked the cupcakes, frosted them, filled them with orange curd, sprinkled them with pistachios, and happily snapped away.  When something is as pretty as those cupcakes were, setting up a photo shoot is such a fun way to spend a half hour.








After the photo shoot, I packed the cupcakes up in my cupcake carrier with plans to take them to work the next day, and set them under the dining room table to keep them out of the way while we continued our way through our project of painting the entire house.  And although it was only the first weekend in March, the day turned unseasonably warm for Colorado.

Six hours later, on that strangely hot day, I happened to glance at the cupcakes, and my heart sank with dismay.  It was a rookie mistake, not refrigerating cake and buttercream on a hot day, and my lovely cupcakes suffered for it.  The pretty buttercream swirls had softened and the orange curd had thinned and soaked into the cake, running over the sides of the drooping buttercream.

I tasted one, and it was so moist and delicious, but, oh, it looked so awful.  Jamie tried to convince me that no one at work would care how they looked, and that they would only think about how amazing they tasted, but I wasn't having it.  I was too embarrassed to let anyone see what had happened.

Disappointed and angry, I peeled off all the paper liners, flung the cupcakes into a large mixing bowl and started stabbing at them with a wooden spoon, as though that would somehow make the situation better.  As I mashed up the cupcakes, they took on a thick, creamy consistency, a blend of cake and frosting, which as we all know, are the ingredients for cake balls.  I tasted the mashed up mess - a delicious mess of orange cake speckled with poppy seeds, salted maple buttercream, zesty orange curd, crunchy salted pistachios - and realized I could salvage my work after all.  I rolled it all into little balls, and after chilling the cake balls, dipped them in dark chocolate and sprinkled them with pistachios and salt for garnish.

And in spite of arriving there completely by accident, the cake balls were so fantastic.  I sent a few to work with Jamie the next day, and froze the rest, saving them for our first party in our new house.

I'm still a little peeved that no one but Jamie and myself got to taste the cupcakes as I intended them, and there is nothing to remember them by other than the pretty photos, but when life gives you melted cupcakes, you make cake balls and just be happy about it.






Cake Balls:
To make cake balls, bake the cake and make the buttercream.  Combine the two, mashing them together until they become creamy, almost paste-like.  The proportions of cake to frosting are a judgement call; you want them to be thick enough to shape into balls.

Chill the cake balls until firm, then dip in melted chocolate; sprinkle with garnishes before the chocolate sets.  Place on parchment paper and chill until the chocolate hardens again.

The two-dozen cupcakes from the above cupcake recipe yielded about 4-5 dozen cake balls.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies






It's been a strangely saturnine week in Colorado.  After the sun and warmth of last weekend, the air turned cold and a storm moved in Wednesday, blanketing all the spring flowers in wet, heavy snow.  The night before last, Jamie bundled up and went outside to shake the snow off the lilac bushes and the flowering trees in our backyard, as their lush branches threatened to break under the weight of the unexpected snow.  Our rhubarb plant suffered a few broken stalks as well.

After the storm, we slept in this morning and made breakfast, then while I was photographing some freshly churned ice cream and lavender cocoa shortbread cookies, the sky turned gloomy again and a chilly breeze swept through, bringing with it freezing rain and hail.

I don't mind the weather, though.  It helps me succumb to the need for a quiet weekend, without guilt over not working on the house, or the yard, or even getting dressed today.  We all need days like these.






Every time I make homemade ice cream, my husband asks for cookies, too.  I rarely make one without the other anymore, not only because he likes the combination, but because cookies and ice cream really are made for each other.

When I made the banana caramel ice cream, I thought that oatmeal chocolate chip cookies would pair perfectly with the caramelized bananas and swirls of salted caramel throughout the ice cream.

These oatmeal cookies are soft and chewy, spiced subtly with cinnamon and vanilla and studded with dark chocolate chips.  Filled with ice cream and frozen, they emerge still soft as though they were just baked.

And days like this are meant for freshly baked cookies.







Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
printable
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375.  In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add by spoonfuls with them mixer on low, mixing until combined.  Add the chocolate chips.

Shape into balls with your hands, flatten slightly, and place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet.

For larger cookies, bake for 7-8 minutes, and for smaller cookies, bake for 5-6, until golden brown around the edges, but gooey in the middle.  Let the cookies set up on the baking sheet for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yields about 1 1/2 - 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

S'mores Ice Cream Cake






While I'm not actually that fond of marshmallows on their own, I do like them in the form of a s'more.  I suppose it's the memories of camping with my family that their toasted crisp shell and soft pillowy centers evoke when I eat them.

Camping was about the only "vacation" my family could ever afford, and now I feel like I camped enough during my childhood to make up for my lack of interest in camping now.  There's a brief window in the spring or fall, when the nights are neither too hot nor too cold to make sleeping on the ground somewhat bearable, but ideal weather aside, camping is not my favorite thing to do.

Still, though, I do love the taste of food cooked over a campfire, followed by mouthfuls of golden brown marshmallows, perfectly toasted over hot coals.








I've had this s'mores ice cream cake planned for a while, although originally I had thought of making it for my own birthday this summer.  But with some of the work completed on the house, we invited a few friends over for dinner on Saturday night, and I thought nothing would do but ice cream cake for dessert.

I slow cooked baby back ribs, seasoned with a blend of spices for a dry rub, finished on the grill and brushed with my homemade barbeque sauce.  There were creamy garlic mashed potatoes, and cold bean salad, sharp with vinegar to balance all the rich food.  And homemade biscuits with honey butter.

This ice cream cake has everything I want in dessert - sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, decadent and tempting.  Buttered, salted graham crackers are layered with chocolate ice cream, bittersweet chocolate ganache and marshmallows, topped with scandent stacks of s'mores for a dramatic garnish.  Just before serving, I spooned marshmallow cream onto each slice and toasted the cream with a brulee torch so the house was filled with the scent of s'mores.

After dinner, and too much wine, our stomachs almost-but-not-quite-too-full of barbeque, we ate ice cream cake, and talked and laughed about anything and everything.








S'mores Ice Cream Cake
printable

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 1 box honey graham crackers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 small jar marshmallow cream
  • 1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
  • mini marshmallows
Make the ganache first so it can cool.  Finely chop the chocolate and place in a bowl.  Warm the cream over medium low heat, just until it simmers around the edges.  Remove the cream from the heat, pour over the chocolate and let stand for three minutes, then stir with a spatula until smooth.  Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, until cooled and slightly thickened, but still spreadable.

Take several graham crackers and make s'mores with a spoonful of marshmallow cream and some ganache between each.  Place in the freezer; these are to garnish the cake.

In a food processor, crush enough graham crackers to make 2 cups of fine crumbs.  Combine with the salt.  Melt the butter, and drizzle over the crumbs; toss with a fork to combine.

Set out the ice cream to soften slightly.

Working quickly, line a spring form pan with removable sides with parchment paper around the sides of the pan.  Take half the graham cracker crumbs and press firmly against the bottom of the pan.  Place graham crackers halves standing up on the crumbs around the sides of the pan.  Spoon half the ice cream onto the crumbs and spread out to the edge, arranging the whole graham crackers to stand up again if they fall down.  Top the ice cream with half the ganache.  Sprinkle with a handful of mini marshmallows.  Repeat with another layer of the rest of the graham cracker crumbs (reserving a few to garnish the top), ice cream and ganache.  Top with the s'mores and garnish with a few more crumbs and marshmallows.

Freeze overnight.  To serve, top each slice with a spoonful of marshmallow cream, torched with a brulee torch.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Cream Cupcakes






Easter Sundays of my childhood meant new spring dresses to wear to church, with fingers crossed that the weather was actually warm enough for a lightweight dress.  The weather was not usually an issue growing up in South Carolina, though, where spring comes early, the warm, damp air is scented with sweet honeysuckle, and the pink and white dogwoods and azaleas are already in full lovely bloom.

In Colorado, there are no guarantees when it comes to spring weather, and as I type this, it's barely 40 degrees out, grey and overcast after a cold rain last night.  But tomorrow, the sun will come out again to pay a visit.  We do get plenty of sunshine in Colorado, even during the colder months.

I have no memories of dyeing eggs for Easter, or even hunting them in our backyard or around the house, but we always woke up to a basket of candy on each of our beds, jelly beans carefully sorted and counted by my mom, a milk chocolate bunny whose ears were always the first to get eaten when my dad got ahold of our baskets, a highly coveted Cadbury Creme egg, and maybe a few peanut butter, vanilla cream or strawberry cream filled eggs.









Besides the Cadbury eggs, my favorite Easter candy as an adult are the chocolate eggs filled with fluffy coconut cream, so I created a recipe for Easter cupcakes inspired by that candy.  Dark chocolate cupcakes, with the centers hollowed out, filled with homemade toasted coconut cream custard, topped with a swirl of salted dark chocolate buttercream, toasted coconut and mini candy eggs.  The cupcakes were a more elegant and satisfactory rendition of those chocolate coconut eggs.

I also experimented with dyeing eggs using only natural food dyes, and I think the results are so much prettier than with food coloring.  Some results were expected - pink eggs from beets, of course, and blue from blueberries.  But others were surprising - green from red onion skins and blue from red cabbage?  It's a mystery to me how it all works, but so interesting.

And now that Easter is over, this week I've been enjoying plenty of deviled eggs made with a recent discovery of mayonnaise made with healthy avocado oil, which is as yummy as it sounds.










Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Cream Cupcakes
printable


Toasted Coconut Cream Custard.
  • 2 cups unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted
Chocolate Cupcakes.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, special dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Salted Chocolate Buttercream.
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or milk
Garnish.
  • mini candy eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, toasted

Custard.
Note, make the custard one day in advance and chill overnight.

In a saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks.  Over medium low heat, cook the custard while whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil, then cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until thickened.  Remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter, coconut extract and toasted coconut.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cupcakes.
Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with 24 liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.  Add the eggs, milk, sour cream, oil and vanilla and whisk vigorously until well combined.

Divide batter between the liners and bake for 14-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Buttercream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and meringue powder on low speed to combine.  Add the vanilla and cream, then whip on medium high for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Assembly.
Use a cupcake corer to remove the centers of each cupcake.  Fill a piping bag with buttercream and pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of each cupcake.  Spoon or pipe the custard into the centers of each cupcake.  Garnish with the eggs and toasted coconut.

Yields 24 cupcakes

Baker's Note: If you have any leftover buttercream and custard, make a trifle along with the centers of the cupcakes you removed.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chocolate Almond Tart






I cannot seem to find the time to compose an interesting or well-written blog post these days.  The house seems to consume all of my time and attention, and when I'm not working on the house, I'm baking, then setting up photo shoots, then editing photos, and all my energy is spent with nothing left over for the writing.

Our weekend disappeared in a haze of back-breaking work on the kitchen.  After the counter installation last Friday, we spent all day Saturday putting up white subway tile backsplash, and then finished the grout work on Sunday.  What an exhausting project.

I have completely fallen in love with my "new" kitchen, and I can't wait to share photos of the changes we've made.  It's not quite finished - there are a few more finishing touches needed.  We need a microwave; and Jamie is still working on sanding and staining the walnut island top, so in the meantime, I prepared Easter dinner on a slab of spare drywall set over the top of the island, which worked quite well in the interim.

Somehow, after all that work, and with my feet and shoulders aching beyond belief, I mustered up the energy to bake a ham in a sweet orange glaze, roast some carrots and potatoes, whip up a batch of cupcakes, and even bake homemade rosemary rolls.  Because what is leftover ham without a soft bun and a spoonful of mustard for the most delectable mini sandwich?










But now that it's been a week since my last post, I feel I can't wait any longer to share this recipe.  So I hope you will forgive my lack of eloquence over this chocolate almond tart, but believe me when I tell you it is fantastic.

It's no secret I love any sweet thing baked with almonds, and this tart epitomizes my long-time love affair with almond pastries.

I had been promising Jamie a pie - so one Friday night when he went out to pick up sushi for dinner, I mixed up almond shortbread dough and baked it in my pretty French tart pan.  The tart may look complex, but it's actually fairly simple with very few ingredients.  After baking, the crust is filled with almond pastry filling - available at most grocery stores - and topped with dark chocolate ganache, made with a 1-1 ratio of bittersweet chocolate and cream.  I finished the tart with sliced toasted almonds and coarse sea salt.  And then, it just needs some time for the ganache to set, and the tart is ready to be served.

Beautiful, simple and elegant.









Chocolate Almond Tart
printable

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 can almond pastry filling (8-10 ounces)
  • 4 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • sliced almonds
  • coarse sea salt

In your food processor, combine the flour, sugar, almonds and salt until the almonds are finely ground.  Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, and pulse to incorporate.  Add the egg yolk, and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles moist cornmeal; stop processing before the dough comes together into a ball (if it does, then you'll have to roll it out instead).

Grease a tart pan with a removeable bottom.  If you're using a round 9-inch tart pan, use all the dough; if you're using a long rectangular tart pan like mine, measuring 5x14 inches, then just use half the dough and freeze the rest (see note).  Press the dough crumbs firmly against the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Freeze in the pan for 30 minutes before baking.  (Note, to freeze the excess dough for later use, you can either put the crumbs in a freezer bag which you can thaw later and press into a pan, or you can gather the crumbs into a ball, press into a disk, then wrap and freeze to roll out later, or you could go ahead and press the crumbs into an extra tart pan and freeze the dough in the pan to bake later.  Whatever works best for you.)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a piece of foil with non-stick spray and fit against the frozen dough.  Fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Lift out the foil with the weights and bake, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Spoon the almond filling into the warm crust.

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle simmer over medium low heat.  Finely chop the chocolate.  Remove the cream from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 3 minutes, then stir until smooth.  Pour over the almond filling and smooth out the top.

Sprinkle with the almonds and coarse salt.  Let stand for several hours, or overnight, at room temperature, until the ganache is firm, then slice and serve.

Yields 10-12 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen