baklava and pistachio ice cream for a little get together with a couple of my neighbors recently. Both turned out quite well, I must admit.
I am really enjoying my DIY ice cream adventure this summer. Besides being delicious, it is fun to try different things and see what recipes are out there. The one thing that has been true for all of my homemade ice creams, is that you have to take it out of the freezer a bit before you actually want to scoop it. Since we do not have a commercial ice cream maker, we don't incorporate as much air into the ice cream, thus it freezes a bit more solid. If you want ice cream right away, you will need a chisel! (Not as pretty but still delicious!)
I found this recipe on Epicurious. It is very straight forward and didn't incorporate green food coloring, as I found in other recipes. YUCK. Why do you need to add food coloring? I did not alter the settings of my camera or do any fancy photoshop technique and as you can see, the ice cream does actually have a natural green color. No food coloring necessary, to get that not truly natural color of pistachio ice cream you might find at the grocery store. Not that I am anti-food coloring in general, trust me. Did you see my rainbow cake? Yep, lots of food coloring there. But let's save it for applications that actually NEED food coloring, okay?
Oh, one thing to note: The recipe calls for unsalted shelled pistachios. I actually bought salted pistachios on accident, so I gently rinsed the pistachios in a colander and then spread them out on a sheet pan and put them in a very low oven (around 200F) to dry them out. It seemed to work. Still some salt but the ice cream was tasty so it didn't matter!
Anyway, here is the recipe I used for this truly amazing pistachio ice cream:
Pistachio Ice Cream
adapted from Epicurious
makes about 1 quart
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (I used salted and tried to get some of the salt off... )
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted, coarsely chopped
Put 1 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor and finely grind. Heat the milk and pistachio/sugar mixture to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract.
Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Slowly ladle the hot pistachio/milk mixture into the yolks, while whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and gently heat on low until the custard thickens. When the mixture leaves a trail on the back of a metal spoon when you run your finger down it, it is ready. Ths takes about 10 minutes of constant stirring. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Strain into a large bowl and chill overnight (or at least 2 hours).
Stir in 1 cup of whipping cream. Process in your ice cream maker according to it's instructions. When it is at the correct consistency, stir in the 1/2 cup pistachios by hand. Transfer to an air-tight container and freeze overnight.
If you are a pistachio fan, go for this ice cream. Yum. There really is nothing like homemade ice cream!
Friday, August 15, 2014
As an aside, I find that most news in general is just awful. Something isn't "news" anymore, it seems, unless it is just outrageous in some way, usually in a not so pleasant way. Why is that? Why can't super-awesome things be newsworthy? Or just regularly-occurring good things? *sigh* Probably for the same reason that there is all sorts of trash "reality" television out there. Outrageous sells.
Anyway, here is the deal: A young man was shot and killed by a police officer in my home town. The race of the individuals in question really should not matter. Someone was killed. That is horrible. A human life ended. His family and friends will grieve him for the rest of their lives. Another human being shot and killed that young man. Yes, police officers are trained for this type of thing but regardless, it awful for anyone to live with. That police officer will carry this with him forever. And people around the location where this happened saw someone get shot and killed. To actually see something like that would be horrifying, and not something you would ever forget. It is a tragedy all of the way around. The circumstances surrounding the incident do not change the fact that this is an awful tragedy.
But then random people seemed to go crazy. There was all sorts of rioting/fires/looting/insanity going on. Why? What is the purpose of this? I just don't understand the mentality of why people think this might be an appropriate response to a tragedy.
Here is what I think... I think those angry rioters need to stay home and eat a piece of cake. Cake makes you happy! And while they eat that cake, maybe their brains would get in a better place and they could re-evaluate their decisions! Don't we all need moments like this? When we are fed up and wound up and about to blow up? We need someone to say, "here, sit down and have a piece of cake" so we can decompress a little bit.
And if you are going to do that, you might as well eat this beautiful Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake. I am certain it will put a smile on your face!
And how can you go out and do angry things when your taste buds are singing? You can't! See? Problem solved.
Lemon Buttermilk Rhubarb Bundt Cake
adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (for rhubarb pieces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar
zest of one lemon
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon oil (I used lemon extract)
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced, making 3 cups
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons (to taste)
1 TB softened unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350F and thoroughly butter a 10-cup Bundt pan.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together in the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, until the mixture is light and fluffy. This will take about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each. Stir in the lemon oil/extract. Mix in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Start and end with the flour. This batter will be thick! Toss the rhubarb slices with 2 TB flour until all pieces are well coated. This helps prevent them from all falling to the bottom (or top since this is a Bundt pan) of the cake.
Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 30 more minutes, until it is golden brown on the edges and the top springs back when gently pressed. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue cooling on the wire rack.
Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon juice and butter together in a medium bowl. Place a piece of waxed paper under the cooling rack that holds your Bundt. Drizzle the glaze over the cake.
Relax and eat some cake. Place your anger aside for a bit and decompress with some yummy-goodness. Now, isn't this a much better alternative??
Note: My parents are fine. Yes, they still live there, but they are in a different area and are staying away from the drama. They are really saddened by the situation and the dreadful news reports that are linked to their town. It is hard for any town to recover from this type of bad news.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
This was my first endeavor into Baklava, and though I had some phyllo-fear going into the experience, it was not that bad at all! Yes, you have to take some precautions when it comes to phyllo, and you have to be super gentle, but it wasn't so bad!
I found the recipe on allrecies.com, and of the over 1800 reviews, 1600 love it, so I figured that was a good sign. Crazy, right? I read SOME of those reviews (a very small percentage, considering) and took a couple of suggestions that were made.
adapted from Allrecipes
1 16oz. box phyllo dough, containing 2 packages/rolls of dough
1 pound chopped nuts (I used pistachios)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange
3/4 cup honey
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter a 9x13 inch pan and set it aside.
Make the sauce: Boil the water and sugar until the sugar melts. Add the vanilla, zest and honey, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and then set it in the refrigerator while the baklava bakes.
Chop the nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set this aside. Melt the butter in a separate bowl and set this aside as well, with a pastry brush nearby. You are creating an assembly line for when you start! If your box of phyllo dough came did not come with two rolls, unroll the one roll and cut it in half so the sheets will fit in your pan. Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out as you work. (The towel keeps it moist, the plastic keeps it from sticking to the towel!)
Using a sharp knife, cut the uncooked baklava into diamond or square shapes, STOPPING about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the pan in each slice. This helps so the bottom doesn't get as soggy. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy.
Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the COOL sauce over the top. Let it cool completely, then cut the slices through the rest of the way. Serve in cupcake wrappers.
You can freeze leftovers. Or put it in your refrigerator uncovered (again, to prevent sogginess).
This tasted just like the baklava we get at a local Greek restaurant! Delish. Don't fear the phyllo! It really isn't so bad, especially since you can get it in the boxes with two rolls so you don't even have to cut it!
My neighbors know I'll always show up with dessert. It works out for all of us! I get to try out new recipes and they get to enjoy a great (hopefully!) dessert. Win - win!
Thank goodness for great neighbors. What would we do without them??
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
This was supposed to be a week that I do a Tuesday's with Dorie post, but I just couldn't make it happen this time. We've been on vacation and to be honest, the recipe for the group didn't excite me enough to make it happen way in advance so I could post about it on time. I am interested to see what other bakers thought of the recipe - maybe they'll encourage me to give it a shot! Who knows?
Instead, I bring you crunchy granola bars. I have been searching for a crunchy granola bar recipe for approximately forever. I have tried recipe after recipe, and ended up with either chewy bars or very crumbly bars, not the crunchy bar that I wanted. Enter, Nigella's Breakfast Bars. I will admit, I was VERY skeptical about the recipe. Would it REALLY make crunchy bars? The reviews all seemed to agree that it would. However one of the ingredients really threw me - sweetened condensed milk! When I think of sweetened condensed milk, I think of super sweet, cloyingly sweet, instantaneous cavity-producing sweet. I was extremely skeptical that the granola bars would actually taste good and not make my teeth hurt, but I decided to give it a try anyway. And boy am I glad I did!
I am not sure how it works, but the sweetened condensed milk does NOT make these granola bars horribly sweet. In fact they are just the right amount of sweet, actually. It is magical! And the bars are very easy to make and completely adaptable to your own personal tastes. I will give you Nigella's recipe and the ingredients that I chose, to give you a jumping off point!
Crunchy Granola Bars
adapted from Nigella Lawson
makes approx. 16 bars
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries (I used cherries)
1 cup mixed seeds (My pantry was low, I only used sunflower)
1 cup natural unsalted peanuts (I used blanched slivered almonds)
Optional supply: disposable rubber gloves
Preheat the oven to 250F. Spray a 9x13inch baking dish with cooking spray, or, better yet, line the pan with parchment.
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a microwavable dish and warm it a bit. It doesn't need to be very hot, just warmed up a bit. You could also do this on the stove.
Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Fold in the warmed sweetened condensed milk with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Put on your disposable rubber gloves and press down on the mixture, pushing it out into the corners and making the surface even. You can also do this with your spatula or wooden spoon. I would not suggest using your bare hands. Even if they are dampened, the condensed milk makes this one sticky mixture and you may end up with more on your hands than in the pan!
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. I used a metal 9x13 pan and should have baked for a little less time, so start checking the time at 45 minutes. You want the bars to be nice and golden on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a rack. After 15 minutes, cut into bars, then allow to cool completely. If you used parchment, you can easily lift the bars out of the pan and onto the rack with the excess parchment on the edges. Easy cleanup and no sticking! Store in an airtight container.
Just don't think about the sweetened condensed milk. These granola bars are so easy, and so versatile, I foresee having some version of them in my house in regular rotation. What a great breakfast or mid-day snack! What a find. My search is over!
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Not only is this Vanilla Pound Cake beautiful, it is also delicious. I made it to bring to a friend's house for Independence Day here in the States, and dressed it for the occasion with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, to give it the appropriate red, white, and blue accessories.
But to be honest, I did like the cake best when it was solo. That is when the vanilla flavor really came out and I could savor the flavor and the texture in my mouth a bit longer (instead of shoveling it in my mouth on July 4, while sharing dallops of my whipped cream with the clever boy.) This cake is not only tasty when it is made, but it is also delicious the next day, and actually for several days thereafter if wrapped well in plastic wrap. In fact, I'd almost say it was even better a day later, as it seemed like the vanilla was even more prominent at that point.
This recipe is a definite keeper. It is easy and delicious. What more do you need?
Vanilla Pound Cake
adapted from Baking with Julia
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature, whisked to blend
1 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto some waxed paper or parchment paper. Set this aside.
Beat the butter in an electric mixer using the paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar in a steady stream while the mixer continues to run. Stop and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Beat at medium until the butter and sugar mixture is very light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the mixture becomes watery or shiny stop adding eggs and turn the mixer to a higher speed until the mixture smooths out again. Then decrease the speed ad continue adding the eggs, scraping down the bowl and paddle as necessary. This process will take 3-4 minutes. The mixture is properly combined when it looks white, fluffy, and increased in volume.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour alternately with milk. There will be 4 additions of flour and 3 of milk. Scrape the bowl frequently and mix until the batter is smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix just to blend.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 55-65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, an cool to room temperature. Serve the cake in very thin slices.
Keep the cake covered at room temperature or wrap airtight and freeze for a month.
Very soon after making this pound cake, a friend told me that he was craving a chocolate pound cake. Anyone have a favorite recipe to share? I'd love to see it!
Check out the TWD blog to see what other bakers thought of this pound cake!
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Are you wondering what this has to do with meatballs? I'll tell you, I promise. We went to the yummy Italian place for dinner, where the clever boy absolutely went to town on these giant meatballs that we ordered. He LOVED them. A-HA! I thought. I must make giant meatballs! I decided to serve them with creamy polenta because, well, it's a really great idea and because the clever boy loves polenta as well. Win-win dinner plan!
After lots of research into the best Italian Meatball recipe, I settled on the recipe below. Though many swear by using beef, pork and veal in meatballs, I have a THING about veal so I needed a 2-meat meatball. These were perfect! Don't be alarmed by the long list of ingredients - they are easy to find and the recipe is pretty easy and fast to put together!
adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes about 16 meatballs
1 pound ground beef (at least 16% fat)
1 pound ground pork
2/3 cup milk (whole or 2%)
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 TB chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
about 1 cup flour, for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups (24 oz.) tomato sauce (your own or use following recipe)
2 TB olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onions
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28 -oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes, including the juice (I recommend using San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 2 TB chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
If you are using the above recipe for tomato sauce, start with that. The sauce will simmer while you prepare the meatballs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and parsley (I chopped them all together in the food processor). Stir to coat with the oil, reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan. Cook until the vegetables are soft and coked through, about15-20 minutes. Remove the cover, add the garlic, and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds and then add the tomatoes. If you are using whole canned tomatoes, break them up with your fingers as you add them, otherwise just dump in the can of crushed tomatoes. Add the tomato paste and basil and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a low simmer, reduce the heat to low, and allow to cook uncovered until thick 15-30 minutes. Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor, or push through a food mill, and pour it back into the large skillet.
For the meatballs: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until steamy. Turn off the heat, tear the bread into little pieces, and soak it in the milk until the bread partially dissolves. Mash the bread until it is paste-like. Pour it onto a plate to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the meats, cheeses, eggs, salt, herbs, pepper, garlic and the bread-mixture (all of the ingredients ABOVE the flour for dusting). Mix well with your hands until it barely combines. Don't overwork the mixture, this will make for tough meatballs! It's ok to have some clear bits of bread or meat in the mix - better than than tough meatballs.
Pour the flour into a pie pan or other flat dish. Wet your hands and form meatballs. A traditional size is 2-3 inches. Mine were closer to 3+. Once the meatball is rolled in your hands, roll it in flour. Set each floured meatball on a baking sheet as you finish the other meatballs.
When all of the meatballs are ready, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on at least 2 sides. They will continue cooking in the sauce, so don't worry about getting them all the way done.
Arrange the browned meatballs in the sauce, turning each one over so it is coated. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Serve with the sauce and creamy polenta!
adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 4 cups
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 cup cheese (optional)
1-3 TB butter (optional)
Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Pour the polenta into the boiling water while whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk as the polenta thickens. Cover the pan and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring vigorously every 10 minutes or so. Make sure you scrape down the sides and around the corners of the pan. If you are using cheese and butter, add this after the polenta is at the consistency that you prefer. Serve immediately, or cover and let sit for up to 15 minutes before serving.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Honestly, I am not sure why one might make a leaf-shaped focaccia bread. Maybe for a bread basket at a fancy Thanksgiving dinner? But then it would be sliced up already so no one would see the leaf shape. But I guess you could say this about any fancy shaped bread - the braids, the wreaths, etc. And I do love those. Maybe I was just not as excited about the leaf.
However, the dough is not at all difficult to make, only sort of time consuming, as it has to rest for at least overnight if not a bit more in order to get the texture that you want. And honestly, it must be pretty forgiving dough, as I messed up a bit and then had to finagle it a bit and it still worked out! I made a half recipe, and when I was measuring out my 3 1/4 cups of flour, I accidentally grabbed my 3/4-cup measure instead of the 1-cup measure. I kept thinking, "wow, this dough is really sticky and moist" and silently cursing the humid climate we have here in Houston. So I added a little more flour, and then a little more.... I did get the "window" in the dough, so I hoped for the best. I set the dough aside to rest for the first rise and started cleaning up the kitchen, and then noticed the cup measure switcheroo. Hmmm. I did debate in my head tossing the entire thing out and starting over, but laziness prevailed and I just hoped for the best. And it worked! So there you go! Forgiving dough! Bread success after chaos! I'll take it!
My fougasse looks so weird because I had troubles transferring the dough from my peel, where it looked nice and pretty and was a decent take on the photo in the book, to the hot baking stone in the oven. The dough preferred to stay on the peel, even though it was nicely dusted with cornmeal to help it slide better. I had to shimmy and shake it onto the stone and then sort of reshape it before slamming the oven door. I wonder if anyone else had a better method of transfer??
This is a tasty dough, and has a nice chew. I reviewed my thoughts of this recipe for when we did the focaccia, and that time I made it too thin and didn't get the nice puff that foccacia is supposed to have. This time I did and it was much better! I think the lesson to be learned here is to GO WITH THE FLOW and it will all turn out okay!
A nice lesson for life, I think!
This recipe can be found on pages 146-147 of Baking with Julia. Check out how the other bakers fared with this recipe by going to the TWD blog and clicking on LYL- Leaf-Shaped Fougasse.