Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cherry Almond Crumble Pie

The first dessert recipe I ever posted on this blog was for a cherry pie.  And since I never posted an accompanying photo, I thought it was about time I made up for that.  So here it is, four years later, my cherry almond crumble pie.

In July, my brother and his girlfriend came to visit, and together we drove south to Colorado wine country.  We stayed in a cute little guest house at one of the wineries, which had a kitchen where we could cook dinner after days of wine tasting and exploring.  Of course, before we left home, I baked tempting treats to take along on our trip, one of which was this pie.

Over the years, I've broken several cherry pitters and stained my hands red for days while pitting cherries for pie, so I wouldn't blame you at all if you used frozen pitted cherries, even though fresh cherries are pretty wonderful.

I love crumble topping on pie, and it's especially perfect on juicy fruit fillings; each bite bursts with bright summer flavors and rich buttery crumble.  Almonds pair beautifully with cherries, although if you don't like them, you could easily leave them out of the recipe.

I hope you enjoy the pie - click here for the recipe in my original post.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Cookies and cream ice cream is a classic that will never go out of style, like a little black dress.  The clean flavors of vanilla and dark chocolate, with the contrasting creamy and crunchy textures are so perfect in their simplicity.

Besides mint chocolate chip, cookies and cream was always one of my top choices of ice cream as a kid, but it was very important to select the right brand, since not all are made the same.  Some only contain little crunchy bits of chocolate cookies, but the best ones have whole pieces of Oreos all throughout the ice cream, their crisp exterior and sugary filling still intact.

On their own, Oreos don't really do it for me, but dunked in a glass of milk until soft, and I can't stop eating them.  And the Oreos folded into this ice cream achieve the same beautiful texture.

This recipe is incredibly smooth and creamy, so luxuriously rich, with such lovely, clean flavors of fresh cream and milk, vanilla and cookies.  I don't think this batch of ice cream is going to last more than a couple of days...

Cookies 'n' Cream Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • Oreo cookies, about 1/2 package

In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk.  Warm over medium heat, just until hot to the touch.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks.  Gradually stream in a cup of the hot cream, whisking the eggs to temper them.  Scrape the egg mixture into the saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough to coat a spoon.

Pour the custard through a mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked eggs.  Stir in the vanilla and vodka.  Cover with plastic, resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

Churn according to the directions of your ice cream maker, then fold in the crumbled cookies.  Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

S'mores Icebox Cake

Each season in our house this past year has been a new experience.  Winter passed by in a flurry of painting and projects, then with spring came the renovations in our kitchen and living room, not to mention the never-ending yard work.  And now summer is nearly over as well, after my spending half of it with my right arm in a sling, and I can't believe it's almost fall already.  As much as I love the warmth of summer, I'm excited to see the color of the trees in our backyard when the leaves change.  And I'll admit, I love my boots and cozy fall outfits.

The nights have been cool this week, and it feels like fall is in the air, but I know we still have plenty of hot weather ahead.  Right now, the evenings are the perfect temperature for campfires, though, and we've been enjoying the fire pit on our back patio.  Just the other night, we lit the torches, built a fire, and made s'mores.  As commonplace as they are, there's really nothing quite so satisfying as a fire-toasted marshmallow with sweet, melty milk chocolate and crunchy graham crackers.

A friend found this cute little cup and saucer for me, thinking it would be perfect in a photo shoot of something s'moresy, and she was right!  It features scenes from Yellowstone National Park - a place my family camped at when I was little - and it conjures up so many memories of exploring the woods and streams, sleeping in tents shivering under blankets on those cold nights, and making s'mores by the campfire.

Since it's the season for s'mores, I made this beautiful icebox cake for a small dinner party with a few good friends when my brother and his girlfriend were visiting last month.  An icebox cake is a chilled dessert that usually features some sort of hard cookies that are softened with cream or pudding so that the finished layers can be sliced like cake.

For this s'mores icebox cake, I filled graham crackers with layer after layer of whipped cream cheese and chocolate marshmallow custard.  It was a lot of piping, but it looked so impressive when it was finished, I was glad I took the time to pipe each individual star.  While you could pour ganache over the top of the cake as well, I loved the look of the piped stripes on top for a beautiful finishing touch.

S'mores Icebox Cake

  • 1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • graham crackers

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese with the powdered sugar for several minutes until smooth.  Add the whipping cream, and whip until thick and fluffy.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

In a saucepan, whisk together the corn starch, cocoa powder and granulated sugar.  Gradually whisk in the milk and the egg yolks.  Add the marshmallows.  Over medium low heat, warm the mixture until the marshmallows melt, stirring occasionally.  Increase the heat to medium and cook while stirring constantly, until thickened like pudding.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

To assemble, lay 8 single graham crackers (4 doubles) on a rectangular serving platter.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a small star tip with the whipped cream cheese.  Pipe a layer of cream over the graham crackers.  Add another layer of crackers on top of the cream.  Using a separate piping bag, pipe a layer of chocolate marshmallow custard on the crackers.  Repeat with additional layers, until you have 8 layers of crackers alternating with 4 layers of cream and 4 layers of custard.  Pipe rows of the remaining cream and custard on the top layer of crackers.

Refrigerate for about 4 hours, until the crackers soften.  Keep refrigerated until ready to slice and serve.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Thursday, August 13, 2015

    Hazelnut Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

    I may only have the full use of one arm at the moment, but that didn't stop me from making ice cream last weekend.  With a little help, of course.  While I instructed, my mom whisked and tempered and chopped and stirred, creating my recipe for this hazelnut espresso chocolate chunk ice cream.

    I love hazelnuts and chocolate, but I've never really cared all that much for Nutella.  The flavor and creamy texture is delightful on toast, but it's a little sugary for my taste, and I will always prefer dark chocolate over it's too-sweet cousin milk chocolate.  Although, now that I'm thinking of it, I'm tempted to try making my own Nutella.

    It's funny, but while wearing this sling on my right arm, I've discovered just how kind people can be.  Strangers wave me across streets and offer assistance with whatever I'm carrying.  My coworkers cut my meat for me at lunch.  My husband has become an expert at helping me put on my bra (rather than taking it off...) and he has even learned how to fix my hair.  It will be another 3 weeks before I'm allowed to raise my arm over my head and behind my back, and while I can't wait to dress myself without help, fix my own hair, and start baking again, I keep reminding myself how blessed I am to have these people in my life who love me.

    The espresso powder in this ice cream is probably my favorite thing about it, and it enhances the flavor of the hazelnuts beautifully.  Finished with a splash of bourbon and a handful of chopped chocolate, it's smooth and creamy, but crunchy with a hint of salt.  Everything I could want in a dessert.

    Hazelnut Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

    • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
    • 5 egg yolks
    • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 tablespoon bourbon
    • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
    • 1/2 cup chopped chocolate
    In a saucepan, whisk together the cream, milk and espresso powder.  Warm over medium low heat, just until hot to the touch.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.  Slowly stream in about a cup of the hot cream to temper the eggs, then scrape the egg mixture into the saucepan.

    Whisk constantly while cooking over medium heat, just until thick enough to coat a spoon.  Whisk in the salt, vanilla and bourbon; pour the custard through a mesh strainer to strain out any bits of cooked egg.  Cover with plastic, resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate overnight.

    Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate.  Transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

    Yields about 2 quarts

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

      Sunday, August 9, 2015

      Strawberry Tart

      Summers are for strawberries.  If only I'd had the chance to go berry picking this summer before my shoulder surgery, and by the time I'm able to in another month, it will be too late for strawberries.  There's always next summer to look forward to, though.

      This strawberry tart was one of many pies I made in June and July, and although the recipe for this one didn't work out well enough to be ready to post, it was sure tasty, and the photos were too pretty not to share.

      Like so many other things that will have to wait until I'm able to use both my arms, perhaps I can try it again next summer, with berries freshly picked from one of our local farms.

      Wednesday, August 5, 2015

      Peaches and Cream Pecan Crumble Oatmeal

      For four summers now, we've taken the same trip to Paonia, Colorado, and yet, we never tire of it.  We've sipped wine at the same wineries, stopped to breathe in the aroma of stone fruits and lavender at now-familiar orchards, let our fingers graze clusters of tiny green grapes, still sour and not yet ready to be harvested for wine.  We've ended the afternoon at our favorite terrace to drink cool glasses of Riesling, while contemplating whether or not we, too, could own a vineyard there.

      We've left the rolling green hills of Paonia and crossed the dusty desert stretching over to Palisade, where fresh peaches fall from the trees, their warm skin so touchable, like velvet ribbon.  We've driven up and over the cool mesa, where the temperature drops 20-30 degrees as the elevation rises, where horses and cattle graze and countless lakes beckon us to stop and linger.  Each time we tell ourselves, we really should go camping here.  But there's never enough time.  One of these summers, though, we will make time.

      Last summer, we brought home cases of wine for our wedding, as well as peaches, apricots, cherries and plums for homemade jam for wedding favors, but this year, only wine.  The peaches were in short supply in Paonia, due to a late freeze, and even the reputable Palisade peaches weren't as good as they should have been.  That was a disappointment, but there are worse things than an under-ripe peach in July.

      As we meandered along the "wine trail" in Palisade, we passed a neglected apricot orchard, and I couldn't help but stop to wander through the trees, the path in between a carpet of beautiful sunny apricots.  The thought of all the lovely jam, crumbles, pies and tarts that could have been made with those forgotten apricots made my heart hurt just a little.  If only I could have saved them from their fate of a sweet snack for the bugs and birds lucky enough to be passing by.

      When we came home, since we hadn't brought back any peaches, I went straight to the store and bought a big bag of beautifully ripe peaches.  First, there was fresh peach pie, and then, this oatmeal.  Really, it's one of the best things you'll ever eat, if you decide to make it.  I could quite happily eat it for breakfast every day.

      Read more about our trips to Paonia:
      A Birthday Weekend and Wine Tasting in Colorado
      Peach Season in Palisade and our Weekend of Fruit and Wine
      An Apricot Tree in Paonia
      Curly Girl Wedding: Homemade Jam for Guest Favors

      Peaches and Cream Pecan Crumble Oatmeal

      • 1 ripe free-stone peach
      • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
      • 1 3/4 cups whole milk
      • 2-3 tablespoons dark brown sugar or pure maple syrup
      • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
      • pinch nutmeg
      • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
      • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
      • pinch coarse sea salt
      • cream or whole milk

      Reserve a few slices of the peach for garnish, and dice the rest; you can peel the peach, if you like, but I don't mind the texture of the peach skin in this recipe.  In a saucepan, combine the diced peaches with the oats, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.  Cook over medium low heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

      Spoon the oatmeal into two bowls and top with the peach slices, chopped pecans and a pinch of salt.  Add a splash of cream or whole milk to finish.

      Yields 2 servings

      Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen