Monday, July 8, 2013

cherry blueberry cheesecake ice cream, homemade pretzel buns, cherry lattice pie, 4th of July cakes, and more...

For our 4th of July holiday, Jamie and I shared a peaceful and relaxing day off work together.  I had plenty of projects to work on that day and throughout the weekend, some of them treats for us and some for others...

After getting in a workout at the gym that morning - and I was pretty proud of myself for working out on a holiday instead of sleeping in! - I baked a white cake from a recipe I had been working on lately.  And although the cake was more yellow than white, and not exactly what I was hoping for, it still tasted moist and delicious with plenty of vanilla flavor, so after cooling the cake I sliced it into thin layers and cut each layer into various sizes of stars using cookie cutters.  In anticipation of decorating something for the holiday, I had thawed out a little bit of bright blue buttercream that I had leftover and frozen after decorating a cookie monster cake, and it was exactly the right color for these cute little cakes.

I sandwiched the stars together with the blue buttercream, with red stripey straws looking so festive inserted in each.  As it turned out, the straws were prettier than they were practical, since you couldn't really pick the cakes up with the straws unless the cakes were kept chilled with the buttercream cold and firm, but regardless, I loved the way they looked with all the red, white, blue and gold sparkling sugar sprinkled over them.  We took the cakes to a friend's house later that afternoon, and everyone's bright blue tongues were evidence of how much they enjoyed them.

For our own meal, we grilled corn on the cob in the husks, and the corn was so juicy and sweet.  The butter melting and dripping over the corn was so pretty.

Jamie also pickled some okra and zucchini slices, and with my help he even made homemade pretzel buns for our hot dogs!  He's not into baking himself - he prefers to leave that to me - and he's never worked with yeast before, but I loved watching him work with the dough.

I used the same recipe for soft pretzels that I'd made last year, and adapted it for buns, so I sat at the counter and read instructions to Jamie while he made the dough, let it rise, shaped the buns, and finally boiled and baked them, and they were really wonderful.  They browned beautifully with a nice glossy sheen from the help of a light egg wash, and they tasted fantastic with our grilled hot dogs, topped with sauerkraut, whole grain mustard and the pickled veggies.

And for dessert, there was cherry blueberry cheesecake ice cream, which I might just say is about the best ice cream I've ever made.  A big statement, but it was that fantastic.  After cooking and cooling the pie filling with both cherries and blueberries, I made a vanilla custard, which I then whipped together with cream cheese.  And after the custard was chilled, it was so thick and creamy that it only needed a few minutes in the ice cream maker to get to soft-serve consistency.  I folded the pie filling and broken graham crackers into the ice cream and then let it freeze.

We snuck a few bites while it was really soft, and it was amazingly delicious.  All it was missing was a piece of pie, and I realized just how long it's been since I've baked a cherry pie.  Cherry pie was actually one of my first blog posts two years ago, although I never included a picture, so it was time for me to remedy that.

I had to work on Friday, so after I got home, I set to work right away on everything I had to get done that evening.  Not only did I plan to make a cherry pie for Jamie - although it wouldn't be ready to eat until the next day - but I also had two cakes to bake and decorate for a coworker's party, and she would be picking up the cakes on Saturday morning.  She had told me that I had complete creative freedom to make whatever I wanted - something that every baker loves to hear - so here is what I came up with that I thought would not only taste fantastic but be perfectly appropriate for a July 4th party:

"Cherry Cheesecake Pie" Cake
Vanilla Cake
Cream Cheese Buttercream
Cherry Pie Filling on top
Salted Crushed Graham Crackers (with blue sparkling sugar) pressed around the sides

"Red White and Blue" Ruffle Cake
Dark Chocolate Cake
Coconut Buttercream, with sweetened coconut between the layers
Red-tipped vertical ruffles up the sides, alternating with rows of white drop flowers with red centers
Blue-tipped ruffles around the top of the cake
White-chocolate dipped strawberries, dipped in blue sprinkles to garnish the top

I'm not sharing the actual recipes for the cakes, since I've already posted recipes many times for these flavors of cake and buttercream, and you can find them in my archived posts/recipe index, but I have listed a few steps at the end of this post for how I decorated them.

With the cakes baked, decorated and boxed away and the cherry lattice pie with its blue sugared stars cooling on the counter, it was time to relax, drink some wine, and watch a movie with Jamie, with the scent of the freshly baked pie filling the house...

One Year Ago:    Coffee in the Afternoon, and a Cake for Goodbye
Two Years Ago:   Rhubarb Cherry Loaf Bread

Cherry Lattice Pie

pie crust and filling:
  • 2 prepared pie crusts (1 recipe for my All-Butter Perfect Pie Crust), plus flour for rolling
  • 2 pounds pitted cherries, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water (I actually used cherry wine instead)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • coarse sparkling sugar
Prepare the pie dough.  Roll out half the dough and fit it into a deep-dish pie pan.  Fold the edges under and crimp the edges.  Roll out the other half to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1-inch strips for the lattice top (10-12 strips).  Roll out any scraps and cut into stars or other shapes.  Freeze the crust in the pan and the lattice strips for an hour while you get everything else ready. 

In a saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt.  Simmer over medium low until the mixture gets juicy.  Increase to medium/medium-high and bring to a boil while stirring constantly, but gently so you don't break up the cherries.  Boil for 1-2 minutes until mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon.  Stir in the vanilla then set aside to cool for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Sprinkle the bottom of the frozen pie crust with about a tablespoon of flour (to prevent it from getting soggy).  Pour the cherry filling into the crust.  Arrange the dough strips in a lattice pattern over the pie filling; dip your fingers in a little water to seal the strips to the edge of the crust and trim off the ends of the strips.  Arrange the stars over the lattice strips.

Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake pie at 425 for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 40 minutes.  Halfway through, cover the edges of the pie with a pie shield to prevent over-browning.

Cool pie on a wire rack for at least 5-6 hours, or overnight, before cutting.

Yields 8 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Cherry Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

cherry blueberry filling:
  • 1/2 pound pitted cherries, halved (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 pound blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
ice cream:
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup broken graham cracker pieces

Make the Fruit Filling:
In a saucepan, combine the cherries, blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and water.  Simmer over medium low heat until juicy, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat a spoon.  You can leave the fruit whole, or mash slightly.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate until well chilled.

Make the Ice Cream:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  When the cream mixture is hot but not boiling, slowly drizzle about a cup into the eggs, whisking them constantly to temper the eggs.  Scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Cook the custard, whisking constantly, over medium heat, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg.  Whisk in the vanilla.

Place the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add the warm custard to the cream cheese, beating until smooth and creamy.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate until very well chilled, preferable overnight.

Freeze the cream cheese custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions until the ice cream is soft-serve consistency.  Fold in the chilled fruit and the graham cracker pieces, being careful not to over-mix; you want ribbons of fruit sauce throughout.  Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Pretzel Buns

  • 1 1/2 cups very warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F.)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • coarse salt
  • black sesame seeds, or other seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, sugar and salt.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy.  Add the butter and flour, and combine on low speed, using the dough hook, until well combined.  Increase to medium speed and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour, to an hour and a half.
Preheat the oven to 450.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

Fill a large stock pot half full of water, add the baking soda, and bring to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (the easiest way is to just cut the dough into pie-shaped pieces.  Shape each piece of dough into a hot dog bun-shaped log, about 7-8 inches long.  Place on one of the baking sheets.

One at a time, place the buns in the boiling water and boil for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a large slotted strainer/spatula and place on the other baking sheet.

Brush the buns lightly with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse salt and sesame seeds.  Using a sharp knife, score the tops of each bun with 3 shallow slashes.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until deep golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes, then cut an opening for the hot dog and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

These are best eaten the same day they're made.

Soft Pretzel recipe from Alton Brown., with Curly Girl Kitchen adaptations for pretzel buns.

"Cherry Cheese Pie Cake" Design

what you'll need...
  • 1 vanilla layer cake, cooled, filled and frosted with a crumb coat of cream cheese buttercream
  • cream cheese buttercream (I used this recipe, and it was enough to fill, frost and decorate the cake)
  • cherry pie filling, chilled (see recipe above for cherry lattice pie; I made the same filling for the cake, just half the amount)
  • 1 cup crushed graham crackers
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • blue sparkling sugar
  • piping bag
  • large star or drop flower tip
  1. After crumb-coating the cake, let it chill for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator before frosting with a final, pretty coat of frosting.  It doesn't have to be perfect on top or around the bottom edge, since these parts will be covered up.
  2. Pipe a thick row of large swirls of buttercream around the top edge of the cake.
  3. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and drain any excess liquid from the chilled pie filling; you don't want liquid running all over the cake.  Spoon the cherries over the top of the cake, inside the row of swirls.
  4. Combine the crushed graham crackers with the salt and blue sugar and press around the sides of the cake, brushing away the excess crumbs that collect at the bottom.
  5. If you have enough buttercream left, you could also pipe a row of swirls around the bottom of the cake, too.
  6. Chill until ready to serve.

Design from Curly Girl Kitchen

Red White and Blue Ruffle Cake Design

what you'll need...
  • 1 layer cake, any flavor, cooled, filled and frosted with a crumb coat of white buttercream
  • white buttercream (I used this recipe, x5, and it was enough to fill, crumb coat and decorate a 3-layer 8-inch round cake)
  • piping bags
  • rose tip, drop flower tip and small round tip
  • red gel food coloring
  • blue gel food coloring
  1. After crumb-coating the cake, let it chill for 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator and prepare your frosting.
  2. Fit a piping bag with the drop flower tip and fill with buttercream.
  3. In another piping bag, use a small, clean paintbrush to paint a stripe of red gel food coloring up one of the seams inside the bag.  Attach a rose tip, and line up the narrow side of the tip with the stripe.  Repeat with a separate piping bag and a stripe of blue gel food coloring.  Fill each bag with buttercream.
  4. Pipe a row of white drop flowers (5-6 flowers) up the side of the cake from bottom to top.  Then, take the piping bag with the red stripe, and pipe a ruffle right next to the row of flowers.  The stripe/narrow side of the tip should be facing away from the cake; wiggle it back and forth slightly as you pipe to create a wavy ruffle.  Repeat, with alternating rows of flowers and ruffles, all the way around the cake.  Now pipe a red-tipped ruffle around the bottom edge of the cake.
  5. Next, take the piping bag with the blue stripe, and with the stripe/narrow side of the tip facing up, start at the middle of the cake and pipe a ruffle around and around, working your way to the edge of the cake.
  6. Lastly, take any leftover white and/or red-striped buttercream and color it red.  In a piping bag fitted with a small round tip, pipe a red dot in the center of each flower.
  7. If desired, finish garnishing the cake with a few dipped strawberries.  Dip the berries in white chocolate or candy coating, shake off the excess, and then dip in blue sprinkles or sparkling sugar.  Place on parchment paper and chill in the fridge until set, then place on top of the cake.

Design from Curly Girl Kitchen