Tuesday, June 30, 2009

{TWD} Tale of a Perfect Party Cake - Guest Post!

Hi, j.d.e. here, guest-posting for my mom this week. You may not have known that I was into food blogging way before my mom was. I’m not going to take all the credit, but I am actually the one who told her that she should make a food blog. *Ahem!*

Anyway, long long ago, in a land far, far away, way before my mom had her blog (which is to say, the 2007-2008 school year), I was reading all of these food blogs and came across a post featuring the recipe for Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. I knew I had to make it soon.

Some backstory: I tried to bake a red velvet cake for my boyfriend G’s birthday last May, right before I came home from college, but I didn’t have cake flour, so I used regular flour instead. DON’T EVER DO THAT. That cake ended up turning out rather like a brick (red, dense, and rather dry). Let me tell y’all: brick cake is not where it’s at!

My boyfriend, the saint that he is, did indeed eat some of The Brick Cake—and even managed to squeeze out a compliment or two—but I felt so bad about his failed birthday cake that I decided to make him another cake when he visited Georgia over summer break. And that second cake was Dorie’s cake.

Now, the funny part is that my mom doesn’t remember ANY of this. She recently told me that TWD was making the Perfect Party Cake, and she was extremely surprised when I told her that I’d already made it once. Even my [terrible quality] pictures (see, above and below), very obviously taken in our kitchen, prompted a blank face.


- I did make four layers, but I didn't put both frosting and jam in each layer. Instead, I put frosting in two layers and jam in the middle one. Much easier.

- I used raspberry jam for the jam layer. If I remember correctly, it had seeds. I thought that the raspberry was great with the lemon, so if I made this again, I probably wouldn't be tempted to use one of my mom's many other exotic jellies. Though we have many.

- I do remember that my mom was very impressed when I split each cake round evenly in half, thus making four cake layers. (This doesn’t sound like a huge feat, but if you’ve ever seen me mangle bagels in the morning, you’d be impressed too!) She also liked the lemony taste of the whole cake overall. And that’s all I can say about the affair.

Don’t let my tale convince you that this cake is not memorable—it really is (for some of us). I do think that this is the cake I’d want if someone threw a party for me. In fact, this cake is what convinced me to buy Dorie’s book later that week. And Dorie’s book is what prompted me to tell my mom about Tuesdays With Dorie. And Tuesdays With Dorie is what prompted my mom to start this blog. The End.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Of Galley Kitchens

For the past few weeks my husband and I - and the dogs - have been living in the basement level of our house while the floors on our main level are being refinished and the rooms repainted. I've been preparing meals in our laundry room, in what is generally called a "galley" arrangement - two opposite counters with a narrow floor running between them. The room has our extra fridge, a kitchen sink, and a microwave in addition to a washer, dryer and utility sink.

This weekend we visited our daughter A.L.E. in Buffalo New York and spent Saturday morning at the Naval Park touring three WWII era ships: the USS Croaker (diesel sub), the USS Sullivans (destroyer) and the USS Little Rock (cruiser). I got an up close look at a real galley, which made cooking in my laundry room "galley" look downright luxurious! The picture above is a line of huge pots in the destroyer's galley; they could make a serious amount of soup or pasta!

What really caught my attention was the shipboard mixers. The destroyer had a floor model (above). I could not imagine how anyone ever lifted the mixing bowl in and out of the mixer, especially when it was full. The little diesel submarine had a much smaller countertop mixer (below)- but it was still many times bigger than my Kitchen Aid! I would love to have seen what those Navy cooks mixed up in those big mixers.

After my brief experience in our galley laundry room my hat's off to the cooks who prepared meals for an entire ship's worth of sailors in tight quarters!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

White Chicken Chili

Even though I blanketed this chili with chopped fresh parsley (which usualy does the trick) it still looks pretty dreadful in the picture. But don't let the appearance stop you from trying this recipe - it's a delicious and healthy alternative to red chili; perfect for summer!

I've been making this recipe for so long, I can't remember exactly where I found it. It's very similar to one that Williams-Sonoma had, but I've made enough changes over the years that I like to think of it as mine! This is one of my favorite recipes for using leftover chicken (white meat or a combination, as in the batch pictured). When my husband used to go camping with another dad and all the kids, I always made this chili for them to heat over the campfire.

White Chili

1 lb dried great northern white beans, rinsed and picked over (or can use canned white beans, see note below)
2 lb boneless chicken breasts (or use cooked chicken)
1 T. olive oil
2 med. onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves
2 4-oz cans chopped green chilies
2 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp dried oregano, crumbled
¼ tsp gr. cloves
¼ tsp cayenne
1 cup frozen white shoepeg corn, thawed
6 cups chicken stock or broth (or less, if thicker chili desired)
1 T. lime juice
3 c. grated Monterey jack cheese (12 oz)
sour cream, salsa, chopped cilantro

1. place beans in pot, cover by 3 in water and soak overnight

2. cook chicken, cut into cubes

3. drain beans. heat oil in same pot over med-hi heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent (10 min)

4. stir in garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano, cloves, cayenne and sauté 2 min.

5. add beans and stock and bring to boil. reduce heat and simmer 2 hrs, until beans very tender.

6. add lime juice, chicken, corn and 1 c. cheese, and stir until cheese melts.

7. season with salt and pepper.

8. serve with remaining cheese, cilantro, salsa and sour cream.

This is easier if you have cooked chicken on hand and you use canned great northern beans. You’d use about 1 ½ of the 15 oz size cans of beans per recipe (so it’s easiest to double the recipe and use 3 cans! Or freeze ½ can for next time.) If using canned beans, skip step #1, and step #5. Reduce the amount of stock by at least 1/3. Add the stock and canned beans with the chicken, corn, and cheese in step #6, and just cook until heated through. This recipe freezes well – prepare through step 5, and freeze with or without cooked chicken. After thawing, continue starting with step 6.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Linguine with Pesto, Potatoes and Green Beans

One of my current favorite cookbooks is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. The hefty book is chock-full of recipes and variations, and is a wonderful kitchen resource. On the other end of the spectrum is Bittman's slim and spare book The Minimalist Cooks Dinner
which is based on his food columns in the New York Times. 100 recipes, one per every 2-page spread. Even with this economy, being Mark Bittman's work, the book does provide ways to vary each featured recipe.

I've paged through the book and marked a bunch of recipes, but given the bountiful basil supply in my garden, the Trenette with Pesto jumped to the front of the line this week. This traditional dish from Genoa combines pasta with potatoes and green beans, and sounded perfect for summer dining.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe online .

- Bittman explains that in Genoa the trenette pasta shape is always paired with pesto. Linguine is a close substitute, so that's what I used.

- The recipe has very easy instructions for boiling all the ingredients in the same pot. The version in the book has the potatoes cook for 3 minutes before adding the pasta, so that's what I did. The beans get added when the pasta is half cooked (about 5 minutes after adding the pasta) It worked perfectly!

the verdict:

I served this pasta with grilled chicken Italian sausages. We enjoyed it so much that we didn't even mind eating it twice more that week!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Plum Ice Cream

My cooking and baking activity has been a bit limited of late, with floor-refinishing, painting and other work going on in my kitchen. I've managed to unseal the stove and counters on the weekends, though, so I'm not in total cooking-withdrawal!

I saw some lovely black plums at the store a couple of weeks ago, and turned to David Lebovitz for inspiration. He has a recipe for plum ice cream in his book The Perfect Scoop. I wasn't sure exactly how plums would be in ice cream, but there's only one way to find out, right?

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe here. As far as ice creams go, this one has a minimum of rich ingredients.

- I used black plums for this recipe

- An immersion blender makes quick work of pureeing ice cream bases and there's little to wash up afterwards!

- After pureeing, I strained the mixture to remove most of plum skin.

- I couldn't believe the gorgeous color of this ice cream.

the verdict:

I loved this - so simple, with just a few ingredients. The ice cream is almost almost like sorbet, with its very concentrated tart-ish plum flavor, but the texture has a rich smoothness that betrays the cream in it. I'm savoring this one, doling it out a spoonful at at time! It would be great with Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake (see my posts here and here)!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June m.o.m. - Banana Walnut Muffins

This month's Muffins Of the Month (m.o.m.) are especially "mom-ish": Not only did I make the muffins to give to my mom (as always), I baked them in my mom's kitchen, and am writing this post from my mom's computer. I've been doing some construction at my house and have very limited use of my kitchen right now. At the same time my modem/router connection went on the fritz and I also have limited use of my home's computer. So I'm glad that I've got my mommy around when I need an oven or a computer!

I went with a classic for June: Banana Walnut Muffins. Rather than use my usual banana bread recipe (which I love) or my mother's banana bread recipe (which is also yummy), I decided to try a recipe from Beth Hensperger's Muffins book for Williams Sonoma.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- When I preheated the oven, it was the first time the new oven in my mom's new unit had been turned on!

- I prefer oil-based muffins and quick breads. Easier, healthier, and often moister, imo.

- The recipe uses walnut oil. I had been storing some in my fridge and couldn't remember what recipe I'd purchased it for, so I was thrilled to try it in this recipe.

- I used black walnuts. If I'd had more time I would have toasted them first.

the verdict:

These were the best banana muffins I've ever tasted. Moist and strong banana flavor. Loved the walnut oil (and walnuts!) My mom said they were "super!" I will make this recipe again and again. What a find - and I can't wait to try more of Beth Hensperger's recipes!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

{TWD} Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

This week for TWD Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen chose the Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise (pronounced dah-kwaz). This is one of the more dramatic-looking recipes in the book and it consists of a nut/coconut meringue which is layered with a white chocolate ganache and roasted fresh pineapple. Dorie finishes the “cake” by pressing toasted coconut on the sides.

I’m going to come right out and say it: The dacquoise was not a success in my kitchen. It was entirely user-error: a combination of not reading the recipe quite carefully enough and over beating the ganache at the very last step. As I tweeted at the time, "As far as baking experiences go, the dacquoise is somewhere between infuriating and heartbreaking”

It started out well enough. I had the perfect occasion to make the dacquoise. J.D.E. was home from college with her friend G who stayed for about a week's visit. When I learned that G loves tropical flavors (and that he used to have pineapples growing in his yard when he was young!) I knew that I had to bake the dacquoise for him! And because this is a wheat-free recipe I planned to split the recipe and make a small dacquoise for my good friend D, who is on a gluten-free diet (coconut is her favorite flavor!)

Things continued fairly well. I baked the dacquoise on a Saturday, G’s final full day at our house. It would be our dessert after dinner. At the same time I was baking bagels (you can read my bagel post on my bread blog, here) and making the Honey Peach Ice Cream (posted here). And a bunch of my baking-and-blogging friends were baking in their kitchens (most were making bagels too). We kept ourselves amused – and informed - by live-Tweeting our baking session.

Although this week’s P&Q post reveals that several of the TWD bakers found this an easy recipe, for my baking level it was plenty challenging. As the day progressed the elements were coming together, for the most part, although the dirty dish-count in my kitchen was staggeringly high. Spreading the meringue onto the squares I’d drawn was how I imagined troweling mortar on a brick would be. The pineapple was a bit tricky to roast, but it was browned and ready.

I didn't hit the shoals until the ganache. I don't like white chocolate but I thought that I'd buy the good stuff and give it another chance. Whole Foods had the Valrhona Ivoire that Dorie mentions and luckily it was in fevres (small oval pieces) so I didn't have to chop it up. One dacquoise-worth of the stuff cost $15 - gulp! Despite Dorie's admonition not to overbeat the cream + white chocolate, that's exactly what I did. Ugh. Rather than silky ganache I ended up with (very expensive) weepy white chocolate butter.

And who would have guessed that the ganache would have to chill for 3 hours and there was a 4-6 hour wait time after assembly of the dacquoise? Not me! (A more careful reading of the recipe would have eliminated the guesswork, though...) We ended up eating our dessert as a midnight snack.

the verdict:

Maybe it's because we waited so long for the dessert to be finished, but the four of us scarfed our portions. At first we all thought it was good. Then we all realized how very sweet and rich it was. The pineapple was a welcome - and needed - counterpoint to the other elements. You definitely wouldn't want to skimp on the amount of pineapple. To me the white chocolate flavor was just too much for the dessert.

Luckily, G enjoyed the dacquoise more than the rest of us, and had some for brunch the next morning before leaving for the airport... and the final portion was tossed.

And what about that lovely creamy confection in the top picture, you ask? After ruining the ganache I couldn't give dacquoise to my friend D. The small meringues sat around my kitchen for awhile. Then for lunch one day I sweetened some nonfat Greek Yogurt with honey and layered it with the pineapple and meringue. Add a few white chocolate curls to the top. Delicious!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Do You Like Pina Coladas" Sherbet?

If you visited my kitchen about 3 weeks ago, you’d have found yourself in a little tropical haven! When I bought the ingredients for a Coconut Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise for Tuesdays With Dorie (come back tomorrow for that post!) I picked up an additional pineapple to make Pina Colada Sherbet, from the David Lebovitz ice cream book: The Perfect Scoop.

n.o.e.’s notes:

- You can find the recipe here.

- This frozen treat gets its creaminess from (Thai) canned coconut milk rather than from dairy or custard.

- The recipe comes together in a snap – cutting the pineapple is the only real work involved. If you are pressed for time, you could use a pre-cored pineapple, but you might want to use 1 ½ of them; there’s a lot less pineapple wasted when you trim your own.

- I added at least double the lime juice.

- Although my dark rum was sitting on the counter, I forgot to add it in.

- This sherbet has an exquisite soft yellow color.

the verdict:

This refreshing sherbet hit the spot with the 4 of us who tasted it! The tropical flavors really come through, in a light, clean way. The coconut was subtle but combined nicely with the fresh pineapple taste. Our daughter was here with her friend G, who took a bite and said, "Oh, man, this is delicious!" And in the most random feedback I’ve ever received, J.D.E. said, “This kind of tastes how tunafish smells.” That didn’t stop her from enjoying her dish of sherbet, luckily.

The rum would have added a completely different dimension, and I would like to try it sometime that way. That’s a vanilla wafer in the picture up top, but the sherbet would have been great with a little of the coconut meringue from tomorrow’s dacquoise....

The whole time we were making and eating this sherbet, we all had this song stuck in our heads:

Honestly, has there ever been a more insipid song?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hong Vit Salad with Three Radishes

Back in September I joined Moore Farms and Friends (my famous “farm box” people), an association of regional and local farms that offers a variety of products throughout the year. My membership is more flexible (and probably more expensive) than a CSA. Each week the farm projects what will be offered in its $20 and $30 size “Farmer’s Pick” boxes. If I like the assortment then I select the appropriate box, and can order additional produce and products. Or, for a few extra dollars, I can bypass the pre-picked boxes and order exactly what I want from the long list of available produce (and other products). I can skip any week that I want – I only pay for what I order. I’ve surprised myself by ordering a box every single week since I’ve joined, except for weeks when I am not in town on Wednesday to pick up my order. All through the winter there was delicious regional food, including citrus, bitter greens, farm eggs and butter. Everything tastes noticeably fresher - we love our food from “the box!”

I don’t end up with anything that I don’t expect or choose. But there are some unusual offerings that I decide to try just for the adventure! A couple of weeks ago, the farm box offered hong vit, an Asian salad green that is in the radish family. Only this family member is grown not for its root but for its leaf. At the same time I ordered a beautiful assortment of white, red, and purple radishes. I thought it would be fun to combine these two radish-y cousins in a salad.

The first thing I did was a little online hong vit research. Information was a bit sparse. On a Chowhound post, I saw this tantalizing summary of a dish the poster had enjoyed at
Napa's celebrated Ubuntu restaurant:

"RADISHES with local chevre and nori
banyuls vinaigrette, smoked salt, HONG VIT"
Hmm, no pictures, not much to go on. A bit more digging turned up a tiny description of the dish here. From what I could gather it is a radish salad with accents of greens, and both sweet and smoky notes.

Although it was hard to tell exactly, the Ubuntu salad seemed to be in the same general direction I was headed - the combination of radish and radish green- and it gave me some further inspiration. I even had smoked salt! I wanted add more emphasis to the greens, without ignoring the radishes.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The hong vit had a good bit of field grit. After 4 washes it was a little draggled!

- I used a vinaigrette that I'd made, inspired by Mark Bittman’s instructions in How To Cook Everything, using white wine vinegar and just a touch of Dijon mustard.

- My daughter A.L.E. gave me some wonderful smoked sea salt from a small spice purveyor in central
New York. I sprinkled that over the salad, along with some freshly ground pepper.

- To get a sweet and cheesy element I added some cubes of
Gjetost, a caramelized cheese from Norway. My daughters had given it to me for Mother’s Day, and I knew it would be perfect complement for the sharpness of the radishes.

- The garnish on top was a perfect farm box strawberry!

the verdict:

We loved this new set of flavors. The hong vit was very fresh tasting, and paired nicely with the crisp radish and sweet tangy cheese. The mellow vinaigrette tied it all together.
Overall, a fun experiment with a new (to us) salad green - thanks, farm box!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pim's "15 minute" Fresh Tomato Sauce

No matter how far afield I stray culinarily, I’m always glad to return to the familiar territory of pasta with tomato sauce. There are good jarred tomato sauces to be found, but it’s so satisfying to prepare one from scratch, especially one that promises to be both easy and delicious. I came across 15 Minute Tomato Sauce on the blog Chez Pim and was instantly intrigued. A super-quick sauce made from fresh tomatoes? This is one I just had to try.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- Pim has illustrated her recipe post with step by step photos which is useful and reassuring, even for a simple recipe.

- The first time I made this, I may have let the tomatoes break down a little bit too long – I ended up with a lot of juice and not a lot of pulp. You can see that in the picture below. I was much happier with my sauce the second batch, pictured up top.

the verdict:

I served this sauce over short pasta, alongside grilled hot Italian chicken sausage. There was enough sauce for two dinner-sized servings of pasta, so if you are feeding a (hungry) crowd, you’ll have to increase the recipe accordingly. The sauce was bright and fresh, and I how the nice acidic taste of the tomatoes comes through to the finished sauce.

This recipe is a great choice if you need a fast sauce and you have fresh tomatoes.

If you have less time and/or no fresh tomatoes, you can make Heidi Swanson’s 5 Minute Tomato Sauce with nice quality crushed tomatoes: I made it here.

If you have fresh tomatoes and a bit more time, here’s a great recipe from Delia Smith for Classic Fresh Tomato Sauce, a long-simmered tomato sauce: I posted it early in my blogging days.

And there you have it, a veritable quiver of tomato sauce recipes, fit for any occasion or type of tomatoes!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Grilled Potato Salad with Vinaigrette

My husband claims it's my German heritage, but I have never met a potato that I didn't love! (He's more of a rice man himself, but we both agree on the fabulousness of pasta.) A week or two ago I had some lovely fingerling potatoes in my farm box and figured they'd be delicious in potato salad. I turned to my new favorite cookbook, Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything and prepared his Grilled Potato Salad, with a Vinaigrette also inspired by the book.

The best part about the HTCE book is that in addition to the hundreds of recipes, Bittman also has lots of charts and tables with options for varying each type of recipe. You are free to branch out as much as you'd like, but he is there providing structure to advise and support you. This potato salad was a perfect case in point.

Making this simple dish (and it was simple) involved flipping among 3 different recipes/methods in the book:

1) his instructions for potato salad, choosing the grilled version

2) his method of grilling potatoes, using the broiled version

3) his recipe for vinaigrette, where I loosely combined many of the optional ingredients that he lists (my version is detailed in the notes, below)

n.o.e.'s notes:

- My potatoes were small red fingerlings.

- To cook the potatoes, I tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and broiled them 6" from a medium-high broiler for 12 minutes then turned and broiled 10 more minutes.

- Here's the approximate vinaigrette that I made (did not use all for my 1/2 pound of potatoes):
3T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp chopped garlic
1 T chopped spring onion
1 T fluffy parmesan from microplane
- I shook the vinaigrette and poured it over potatoes while they were hot. Then I sprinkled the salad with a couple sprigs of chopped Italian parsley and oregano, stirring until coated.

- I cooled the salad before serving.

- Sorry about the picture; I did not take a good shot of the salad itself before we ate it all!

the verdict:

This was a nice, simple, fresh way to enjoy new potatoes in the early summer! I love having a simple recipe like this in my arsenal, and I love the flexibility it provided me to use what I had on hand and produce a lovely salad.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Savory Mashed Root Vegetables: Thanksgiving in June

You've heard of Christmas in July? And if we back it up a month, we have… Thanksgiving in June! Seeing as the pros are busy testing Thanksgiving recipes now, I figure I wasn’t too far off base enjoying turkey and trimmings on the edge of summer.

Actually my menu was dictated by my fridge (and, not to be forgotten, my freezer). Along with lovely spring/summer produce like strawberries, peaches, spring onions, and sugar snap peas, my farm box people are continuing to offer produce that we’ve enjoyed through the winter: delicious collards, kale, and a variety of root vegetables.

Back in January, in a burst of practicality, I roasted a 28 pound turkey, using the same Tyler Florence method that I had enjoyed on Thanksgiving. It seemed reasonable at the time; we had enough for several meals and more than enough left over for the freezer, including an entire turkey breast. “I wonder,” I said to myself in January, “why don’t I cook a whole turkey more often than just for Thanksgiving?” Here’s one answer to that question – I will have so many leftovers that I will end up having a turkey dinner in April, and again in … June!

We had the perfect meal, if you ignore the little fact that the mercury outside was topping 87 degrees: turkey breast, homemade brown rice bread, Brazilian-style kale and collards, and mashed root vegetables. I realized too late that I could have thawed some turkey drippings and made gravy (like I did in April)... and it really would have been Thanksgiving in June! The only nod to the actual season? We had peach ice cream rather than pumpkin pie for dessert!

But let’s talk about the mashed root vegetables. Over the years I've done a fair amount of travel through Scotland, so I'm pretty familiar with mashed "neeps," or turnips. I like them pretty well, but they are usually a bit on the sweet side for me. When I saw Tyler Florence's recipe for Savory Mashed Root Vegetables I knew I had to try it. I loved the idea of boosting the savory quotient by infusing cream with fresh herbs before adding it to the mashed vegetables. An added bonus: I liked the idea of using Tyler’s mash recipe to accompany the turkey breast I had roasted using Tyler’s method.

n.o.e.’s notes:

- I made a half recipe, using the root vegetables that were in my fridge: large turnip, small beet, several yellow carrots, 2 small radishes.

- I increased the garlic cloves from 2 to 3.

--To reduce the richness of the recipe, I substituted some milk for cream. I also reduced the overall amount of liquid, so for half recipe, I used2.5 oz cream and 4 oz whole milk.

- I kept the same butter-to-liquid ratio as Tyler's recipe: (1T per 1/4 cup liquid), so that was 3 T butter in my case.

- For infusing the cream/milk, I used 1 sprig rosemary, 5 or 6 of thyme, and 1 or 2 of oregano, all from the herb garden. I cut through the pile a couple of times with a knife before putting it in the saucepan.

- My veggies took a little longer than 30 minutes of simmering before the were tender.

- Even though I reduced the amount of liquid, there was a bit too much; I had several tablespoons left over.

- My mash was still lumpy after mashing with my hand masher, and was separating, so I lightly ran the immersion blender through the mash.

the verdict:

I loved the way the savory herbs, the garlic, and seasoning transformed these simple roots into a delicious dish - a perfect accompaniment to roast turkey. I’m glad I included a bit of radish, as it added just a hint of a bite to the finished dish. The herb-infusion really added a wonderful depth of flavor, and kept the roots from being too sweet for my taste. The half recipe lasted us for 3 meals and it was delicious re-heated as leftovers! I can see myself ordering roots from my farm box just to make this recipe - it would be a great side dish for any meat or poultry main.

I'm submitting this to Tyler Florence Fridays, a weekly roundup of delicious food made from Tyler Florence recipes, natch! Stop by any Friday and see what the TFF bloggers are cooking up!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

{TWD} A Peach of a Showdown: Dorie and David square off in the Peach State

Although a really good vanilla ice cream could be the indispensable foundation of an ice cream emporium, I’d imagine that a shop’s reputation could also be made on the strength of a killer peach ice cream. Maybe it’s because I live in Georgia, “The Peach State”- witness the peach in the center of our license plates – but peach is an iconic ice cream flavor, and when done right is the perfect taste of summer: cool, refreshing, peachy, creamy.

Dorie Greenspan’s Honey Peach Ice Cream was the recipe chosen for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie baking group by Tommi of Brown Interior . I was a little worried that it might be too early for local peaches, but the first ones hit the stores and showed up in my farm box order the very week that I had planned to make this ice cream.

To be honest, I didn’t set forth to have a taste test, but it’s pretty hard to resist ripe local peaches. I picked up a couple of pounds more, and in addition to eating sliced peaches with California cherries in my yogurt, I decided that more peach ice cream was in order. I happened to have David Lebovitz’ ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, out of the library, and decided to try his recipe for peach ice cream, and we could compare with the container of Dorie’s that was still in the freezer.

As a final bonus, I made a half batch of David Lebovitz’ peach variation of his nectarine sorbet. Three different frozen peach treats in my freezer! I’ll describe each of the ice creams separately, then pick a winner at the end.

Dorie Greenspan’s Honey Peach Ice Cream

n.o.e.’s notes:

- You can find the recipe on Tommi's blog post.

- Dorie’s recipe calls for 2 pounds of peaches, and she estimates that at 4 peaches. I’m not sure that our peaches ever get as big as half a pound each! I used 11 small, early, local peaches, and measured out 2 lbs of peach cubes (900 grams) after peeling and pitting the peaches. I think that meant that I used a bit more than Dorie’s recipe contemplates – her measurement was 2 lbs of whole fruit.

- It’s no fun to peel 11 small peaches with a knife; instead I blanched the peaches for 1 minute in boiling water then immediately shocked them in a bowl of ice water. This
makes the peach skins easy to rub off, and not as much peach is lost to peeling.

- Looking back over the recipe, I realize now that I didn’t follow Dorie’s directions exactly. Rather than keeping half of the peaches to use as chunks in the ice cream, I cooked and pureed all of them. Cooking the fruit prevents the fruit bits from becoming icy in the freezer.

- Custards are getting a little less scary for me, and luckily this one behaved well.

- The ice cream completely filled the 2 quart bowl of my ice cream maker.

the verdict:

My husband is a really big fan of peach ice cream, and he really did love this. Honey is one of my favorite ingredients – I add it to my plain yogurt for lunch and to my morning tea, but I thought the honey and peach were not totally compatible in this ice cream. It’s possible that I should have used a milder honey (I used tupelo) but I thought it was a little bit too prominent. I’m glad that I pureed all of the peaches, as the texture was nice and smooth.

David Lebovitz’ Peach Ice Cream

n.o.e.’s notes:

- The recipe came from The Perfect Scoop. You can find the recipe on page 89 of the Google preview or on this blog but you should do yourself a favor and buy the book - it's wonderful, and jam-packed with information and recipes.

- I made 1.5 recipe, which was just about 2 pounds of peaches. I tried David’s blanching method of cutting an “x” in the bottom of the peach skin, but I didn’t see any real difference; the skins come off plenty easily for me without the cuts. Since we are in “peach country” our peaches are always very fresh and I let them get very ripe before I use them, so maybe that helps the skins come off.

- I had some freshly squeezed lime juice already in the fridge so I used it rather than lemon juice.

- This recipe does not require a custard!!

- I’m not fond of sour cream, but I used it exactly as specified and crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t dominate the ice cream.

– My 2 qt ice cream maker was filled to the brim with ice cream!

the verdict:

Wow! This is some seriously excellent ice cream. When my husband tasted it, he said, “This is the real deal!” The sour cream and lime served to brighten and support the sweetness of the peaches. It was summer on a spoon!


David's Peach Ice Cream on left, Dorie's Honey Peach Ice Cream on right

The great thing about ice cream is that it’s meant to be kept in the freezer, and remains good for quite a while. So we still had a good bit of Dorie’s when I made David’s, and could do a side by side taste test (actually we’ve done several of these, since we had half a gallon of each ice cream!)

Both recipes make delicious peach ice cream. Dorie's is denser, creamier, with a more complex (almost muddled) honey accented peach flavor. David's was softer, fluffier, fresher, with a straightforward peaches+cream flavor.

Ultimately, the cleaner, peachier taste of David’s ice cream took the prize, and will become my go-to peach ice cream recipe.

Peachy Bonus: Peach Sorbet

Peach sorbet on left, Dorie's Peach Honey Ice Cream on upper right, David's Peach Ice Cream on lower right

This past weekend I had a pound of peaches (4) from the Farm Box that were on the verge of being too ripe, and decided to make a peach sorbet. I used the peach variation of David Lebovitz’ Nectarine Sorbet. The peaches were so ripe that the skins came off easily without any blanching at all! The only ingredients are peaches, water, sugar, and a bit of kirsch or lemon juice (I used kirsch), and the result is an deeply-colored and -flavored peachy treat. I actually prefer a fruit sorbet to ice cream, so this really hit the spot for me. Chilly, intense, essence of peach! My husband thought it was good but likes ice cream better; luckily there’s still plenty of that in the freezer for him!

In anticipation of this week’s peach supply, I’m already freezing my canister for Peach Frozen Yogurt (also from The Perfect Scoop). It’s tough duty living in the peach capital of the U.S., but somebody’s got to do it, right?

little peeled peach waiting to become peach ice cream!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I've always looked at Neapolitan ice cream and thought, "Why?" As in, why mess up perfectly good chocolate and vanilla ice cream with that strawberry stuff? At birthday parties when I was a child, I always ate around the strawberry part. As an adult I probably still would.

But with a pint of strawberries that were needing to be used, I thought I'd give David Lebovitz's Strawberry Frozen Yogurt a whirl. For one thing, the picture accompanying the recipe doesn't look anything like the insipid pale pink stuff sandwiched in the middle of the Neapolitan carton. All in all it seemed like a decent gamble with my just-past-their-prime strawberries.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I didn't have a single lemon in the house, so I used lime juice and held my breath that it wouldn't dominate the flavor.

- Straining out the strawberry seeds is an optional step that I skipped.

the verdict:

The path to frozen deliciousness doesn't get much shorter or easier than this recipe! The fresh berry taste takes center stage, and the tang of the yogurt and the lime give a bit of punch to the sweetness of the berry/sugar combination. The frozen yogurt is great on its own and would be fantastic paired with a plain or lemon poundcake. I will make this again and again!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We interrupt this blog...

... for technical difficulties! My internet service at home has gotten very squirrely for the past week, and I am mostly without an internet connection. So that's why I haven't been posting or commenting very much. Well that, and a spate of construction at my house has kept me hopping.

Blog posts should resume as soon as I resolve the computer issue! In the meanwhile, the photo up top is of a 1 pound block of fresh yeast that I bought at a local specialty market. I had an intensive baking session for the two weeks right before my construction, baking bread nearly every day. You can see my Italian Knot Rolls, made with fresh yeast, on this post on my bread blog, Corner Loaf.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

{TWD} Parisian Apple (and Peach and Plum) Tartlets

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie assignment, the Parisian Apple Tartlet, has got to be the fastest and easiest recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Baking From My Home to Yours. It takes no longer than 5 minutes to assemble, and in about half an hour, there’s dessert! If you do what I did, make 4 tarts with different types of fruit, then you add about another 5 minutes to the assembly time. And that’s it! Perfect for me this week, as I am extra-busy, and this recipe fit right into my crazy day on Sunday.

And to match the short recipe, this post will be uncharacteristically brief. You can all breathe a sigh of relief!

n.o.e.’s notes:

- Dorie’s recipe calls for store-bought all-butter puff pastry. I located a 1 lb box at Trader Joe’s. From reading this week’s P&Q I gathered that having a strikingly easy assignment wasn’t as welcome to some of my fellow bakers as it was to me; there was lots of discussion about making puff pastry at home rather than reaching for a handy box of Trader Joe’s, or Dufour, or even good old Pepperidge Farm. I'm very impressed with their energy, and no doubt I'll be even more impressed with their pastry! Someday I may try making my own, but for this week I was grateful to open a box and be done with it.

- I cut my tartlet circles using my little tartlet molds, which are just under 4".

- I peeled the apple and the peach but left the skin on the plum.

- My tarts were pretty juicy, especially the plum one ,which ran all over the baking sheet. They were a tiny bit soggy on the bottom, so in the future I might not use the silicone or the double cookie sheets (I keep my cushion-aire baking sheet in the oven and just put everything I bake on it). And maybe do something about that juicy fruit!

- A few minutes before the end of baking I sprinkled some more brown sugar on the tarts, so they'd be pretty.

the verdict:

These tarts were good, and I'll have to say, they have a special place in my heart because of how easy they are!

We thought that we would like the peach ones the best (which is why I made two of them) and we did enjoy them. What's not to like about ripe peaches and warm pastry? But we liked the other fruits even more. My husband preferred the apple. I could not get him to taste the plum - he claimed that he was too full! What? When has that ever stopped dessert at our house? Anyway, I loved the plum. This particular plum was quite tart, which was a nice contrast to the rich and refined pastry. I think that I'll sprinkle on some cinnamon along with the brown sugar next time I bake these.

As I was eating my tart(s) I was trying to figure how how to evaluate the recipe. It was quite delicious, but certainly not in the same league as the French Pear Tart or the Tartest Lemon Tart. But the sheer simplicity of the recipe (well, for those of us who used the boxed puff pastry, that is!) helps these tarts to cut closer to the front of the line. I was reminded of the blog Effort to Deliciousness, where Margot evaluates recipes based on a combination of effort and, well, deliciousness. While I can't replicate Margot's scientific approach, I can say that this recipe delivers - both in taste and appearance - far beyond the 5 minutes it takes to throw it in the oven.

Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for picking this delicious dessert for us this week.

Here's a little sneak peek at the TWD recipe for two weeks from now...!