Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blueberry vanilla panna cotta

My family and I are in the middle of moving. My husband and I found our dream home, and it's only half a mile down the street from where we currently live. The new house has a gorgeous kitchen and plenty of room for all of my cooking-related items. Now might be the time where I can finally buy a food processor! I never had room to store one before... but I digress.

So far, the process leading up to our move has not been easy. We were supposed to close on our house on a Friday. It was originally scheduled for 11:00 am, but we ran into a few snags. The lawyers needed some paperwork from the mortgage company and the homeowners association, and the paperwork was either incorrect or incomplete. I was sitting on pins and needles anxiously awaiting the phone call that would tell me when we needed to come in to sign our names on the (million) dotted line(s).

And because I had to be available to leave in an instant, I didn't want to make or bake anything that would require a lot of time. I came across this blueberry vanilla panna cotta on the Williams-Sonoma website and thought it would be perfect. It didn't take long to put together and didn't require an oven or a mixer. Instead, I let the refrigerator do all the work for me. Plus, I wanted to feature the fresh blueberries from my biweekly CSA box.

The phone call from our realtor finally came, and our closing had been delayed until 5:00 pm. Sigh. I'm glad we were able to close on the day we wanted, even though we were the last appointment for the day. At least I had some amazing dessert waiting for me in the fridge to help celebrate the purchase of our new property!

[Note from Eva: Clearly, I have zero skills when it comes to unmolding any type of desserts from a ramekin or other round pans. If you have any tips for me, please share them with me! I tried running the ramekin under hot water to loosen it, but it obviously didn't work for me.]

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 tsp. (1 package) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries, plus more for garnish
Directions
In a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk. Let stand for about 2 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the cream and sugar. Using a small knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the cream and add the pod. Heat, stirring, until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Let cool briefly.

Remove the vanilla bean. Slowly add the warm cream mixture to the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla extract and the 2 cups blueberries. Pour the mixture into four 3/4-cup ramekins, dividing evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Just before serving, run a thin knife around the inside of each ramekin and invert onto a dessert plate. Garnish with blueberries and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Williams-Sonoma; originally adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers’ Market, by Tasha DeSerio & Jodi Liano (Weldon Owen, 2010).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chocolate chip cookie dough pudding

I was beyond excited when I found out that I won a cookbook of my choice from Lynsey Lou's food blog.  Lynsey is an online friend of mine, and we "met" through a cooking forum. Lynsey had given her readers the opportunity to win one of several cookbooks. Although all of them looked enticing, I had my heart set on The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook. I had heard wonderful things about it through many other blogs that I follow, and I hadn't bought it for myself yet.

True to her word, Lynsey sent me this cookbook, and I immediately flipped through each page. What is wonderful about this book is that the author, Lindsay Landis (of Love and Olive Oil), has photos for every single recipe in the book. That, my friends, is rare. This might be the first cookbook I've ever heard of where the author has pictures of every dish.

My husband was swimming one weekend morning, and I was at home with our daughter. I read the recipe, and it looked very easy. The "active time" listed on the page said it would only take 20 minutes from start to finish. I decided to multi-task and both play with my daughter and make this pudding at the same time. 

This pudding really does taste like cookie dough! Because I am a chocoholic, I didn't think that the sprinkling of chocolate chips was enough. In the future, I will probably add chocolate chips into the pudding itself and add some on the top. That might sound like a lot of chocolate chips, but that's the way I roll. Those of you who aren't as big into chocolate like me should stick to the original recipe.

I can't wait to start making all the recipes in this fantastic book. Thanks again, Lynsey, for selecting me to win this cookbook!

Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Directions
In a saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, salt and cornstarch until no lumps remain. Add milk and heavy cream and whisk over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken and starts to bubble, about 5 to 7 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until thick, about 5 minutes more.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, vanilla and butter until smooth.

Pour pudding into a large serving bowl or individual dishes. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto the surface of the pudding, and chill until set, about 1-2 hours. Before serving, remove plastic wrap and sprinkle pudding with chocolate chips. 

Yield: About 4-6 servings

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cherry chocolate chip ice cream

My little brother is a huge fan of cherries. He loves eating fresh cherries (especially the "white" Rainier variety), and he even loves cherry-flavored foods like ice pops and soda. Heck, he even likes to drink Shirley Temples and eat the maraschino cherry on top! Me, on the other hand, well, I'm more of a chocolate kind of girl. If I had to pick a favorite fruit, I'd probably choose strawberries (kiwis are up there too).

For this month's What's Baking challenge, Jaida of Sweet Beginnings chose "summer fruits" for our theme. I'd already made things with strawberries and peaches recently and wanted to try something new, so I decided to make something with cherries to honor my younger brother. Plus, the generous team at OXO gave me this Cherry & Olive Pitter to try out.

I originally thought about making cobbler, but this summer has been so hot (it was 103 degrees in mid-July) that I wanted something that would be cool and refreshing and wouldn't require me to turn on the stove or oven. Because July is National Ice Cream Month, what better way to celebrate the occasion than with a cherry chocolate chip ice cream?

I found several recipes on the internet but got turned off by the ones that made me puree the cherries and discard them after extracting the fruit. Why would you want to throw any part of the cherry away? Isn't that one of the best parts of a cherry flavored ice cream? Anyway, I eventually ended up at Love & Olive Oil and am glad I did.

Let me tell you how fun this cherry pitter was to use! I've never seen one or even heard of one before, but I am now a believer! I felt like I was in middle school again because the cherry pitter is very reminiscent of those gun type of tools that are used to pierce your ears. Every time I pitted a cherry, it sounded and felt like I was giving someone an earring! I'll be using it again when I muster up the courage to make my husband's family's cherry pie recipe.

Oh, and this ice cream really hit the spot. I am so glad that this didn't require me to throw out any cherry skin or other parts of the fruit because it was fun to bite into the ice cream and get a little surprise burst of fruit. Plus, being the chocolate fan that I am, I really appreciated the bits of chopped chocolate in the ice cream too. You can never have too much chocolate, I tell you!

Happy National Ice Cream Month, and thanks again to OXO for introducing me to the cherry pitter!  And of course, to my little brother - I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (I used whole milk)
  • 8 ounces fresh cherries, pitted (you could use frozen but make sure to thaw them out and discard any liquid)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch salt
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Directions
Combine cream, almond milk, 6 ounces of cherries, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until cherries are finely chopped. Add remaining cherries and pulse briefly until coarsely chopped.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. At the very end, mix in chopped chocolate. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Yield: 1 quart

Disclaimer: OXO provided me with a complimentary Cherry & Olive Pitter, but the review and opinions are 100% my own. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Healthy No-Bake Thin Mint Brownies for Vivica (Desserts for the Deserving)

One of the blogs that I follow is i am baker. Amanda is most famous for her gorgeous cakes, and I even made my own version of her rose cake for a coworker's bridal shower. Amanda started a campaign last year called Desserts for the Deserving where she asked her readers to nominate someone who deserved a package of freshly baked goods. She received over 170 gut-wrenching stories of people across the country who truly sounded like they could use a bit of sunshine in their lives. The next part of Amanda's challenge was to pair these nominees up with people who would volunteer to bake and ship something for these individuals.

I nominated a coworker's husband, Mike, who is currently dealing with chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Mike's battle has been difficult at times, but he does have his good days. You can read about Mike's journey at his CaringBridge website. In turn, I volunteered to bake for another deserving individual and was ultimately given Vivica's name.

Vivica is a courageous 12 year-old girl who was diagnosed with kidney and heart failure at a young age. She had the first of many kidney transplants when she was just seven days old and has already undergone 3 heart surgeries and is currently on the waiting list for a 4th transplant. My life was truly touched when I read about her story, and I definitely wanted to do something for this brave young woman who has faced so many hardships than I will ever have.

As you all know, I love making desserts, but I had a feeling that I probably needed to alter my recipe for Vivica since she's had multiple surgeries. I went online and looked for recipes that were kidney and heart friendly and then remembered that a blog that I follow, Chocolate-Covered Katie, features tons of healthy desserts that I could pick from.

I settled on these thin mint brownies because chocolate and mint is one of my all-time favorite dessert flavor combinations. Plus, the instructions seemed pretty similar to the blueberry muffin Lärabars that I posted recently.

I sent Vivica a batch of these brownies and hope that it brightens up her day.

If you would like to know more about Vivica's story or even make a small donation to help her single mother, please consider going to her Facebook page or CaringBridge site. Thank you!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup walnuts (I used lightly salted cashews)
  • 1 and 1/3 cups pitted dates (I used Dole)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • A few drops of pure peppermint extract (depending on how minty you want them… Start with less; you can always add more.)
  • Chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • Dash of salt (optional but recommended; I omitted since the cashews I used were already slightly salted)
Directions
Combine all ingredients, using a food processor or blender. Form into brownies, balls or bars.

Yield: One 8x8 inch pan

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Root beer float ice cream

You might think I'm a crazy person when I tell you that I don't drink a lot of soda (or "pop," as my husband refers to it). I don't have any soda in my house, and I very rarely have it when I'm out and about. If and when I do have soda, it's usually root beer. My brother and I would always try to find reasons to ask my mom to buy us Barq's root beer when we were little, and it's definitely my favorite flavor of soda whenever I do have it.

Occasionally, I love to indulge in a classic root beer float. I didn't get a chance to have any this summer so I'm making up for it now. I saw this recipe pop up on Joelen's website a while ago and hadn't gotten around to making it yet. I had a good excuse though--I couldn't find root beer extract. Now that I've got it, I finally was able to make this root beer float ice cream. Plus, what better way to celebrate National Ice Cream Month?

The root beer flavors in this ice cream are not too strong yet still give me the nostalgia of sipping on a root beer float. The vanilla hues remind me of the generous scoops of ice cream that I prefer in my floats. The overall taste is creamy and fantastic, and I almost want to find a straw to slurp up the last bits of ice cream that are left in the bottom of my bowl. The method of making this ice cream is different than the custard base that I'm used to making, but it still turned out really well!  It is a Ben & Jerry's recipe, after all!

Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon root beer extract

Directions
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.

Pour in the cream, milk, and extracts and whisk to blend.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Orange berry muffins


One of my coworkers recently had her second child. Her friend went to TakeThemAMeal.com to help friends coordinate meals that we could bring to the newly expanded family. As someone who has been through the challenges of being a new parent, I knew how much my coworker would appreciate having a prepared meal brought over.

I signed up to bring food to my coworker and her husband, but I wanted to bring them something that most people wouldn't bring. When my coworker had her first child several years ago, I made them Chinese food because I knew nobody else would cook it.

This year I decided to make them breakfast since it is a meal that often gets overlooked. I made them homemade cereal bars, banana bread and these orange berry muffins. My oven must have been running hot all weekend long because even though I baked all of my breakfast goodies at or under the minimum recommended time, everything looked slightly overdone. Oh well.

Despite my oven temperature issues, these muffins were really tasty. The orange zest and juice were subtle enough to provide a good background flavor to the muffin, and the blueberries added that extra pop of juice when you bit into them. I love a good blueberry muffin, and these orange berry muffins are a good variation to the classic recipe.

I'm happy to report that my coworker, husband and their 2 year old daughter thoroughly enjoyed these muffins. My husband enjoyed them too, so it looks like Dorie Greenspan came through once again for us!

Ingredients
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • About 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh preferably, or frozen--not thawed)
Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-sized muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Pour the orange juice into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and pour in enough buttermilk to make 1 cup. Whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrance or orange strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough - the batter will be lumpy and bubbly, and that's just the way it should be. Stir in the blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes (mine baked for 22 and seemed a bit overdone). If you want to top the muffins with decorating sugar, sprinkle on the sugar after the muffins have baked for 10 minutes. When fully baked, the tops of the muffins will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Yield: 12 muffins

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, page 3

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chocolate zucchini bread

I joined a CSA for the first time earlier this year. I researched a bunch of farms but most of them didn't appeal to me because I had to go pick up my produce at a faraway location, or they would charge me for weeks that I was on vacation.  My boss at work told me about the CSA that she belonged to, Dominion Harvest. Not only did they deliver to my house, but I also get the option of getting a produce box every week or every other week. In addition, I had a choice of three different produce boxes. My husband and I chose the box that provided produce, eggs and cheese.


In our last delivery, we received some beautiful yellow zucchini. I've never actually cooked with zucchini before, but I was excited to try it out. Being the baker that I am, I wanted to try to bake with it, and the first thing that popped in my mind was zucchini bread. You all know me - I wanted some chocolate in my zucchini bread, so I found this chocolate zucchini bread from Joy of Baking.


This zucchini bread couldn't have been easier to put together. And the taste was just amazing. I couldn't even make out the zucchini flavor in this bread, so it tasted like a loaf of decadent chocolate.  I'll tell my husband that the vegetables in the recipe cancel out any bad ingredients. That way, we each can have another slice without feeling too guilty!

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini (I used 4 small zucchini) 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt  
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 
  • 1/2 cup safflower or canola oil 
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar  
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar 
  • 2 large eggs  
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease (or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray) a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and ground allspice. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended (about 2 minutes). 

Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips.  

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes

Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Yield: One loaf

Source: Joy of Baking

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Green tea (matcha) ice cream

Happy 4th of July!  I know I should be patriotic today, but I don't have any red and white and blue desserts to share with you. Instead, I'm bringing you something that can keep you cool during the holiday.

Green tea ice cream is a frozen treat that my parents absolutely adore. On the rare occasion that we visit a parent-approved Japanese/Chinese buffet, my mom always hits the desserts after her meal and grabs a bowlful or two of green tea ice cream. Mom knows how to get good value for her hard-earned dollars. This stuff is expensive.  I saw a quart of green tea ice cream at my local Asian supermarket and saw that the price tag was close to $10 without tax. Yeah, expensive.  Not to mention, those store bought brands always have some type of added preservative to keep the ice cream lasting longer. Ugh - who wants to eat that?

After I successfully found and bought matcha (green tea) powder at the Asian grocery store, I knew that green tea ice cream would eventually find its way to my to-make list. I found the recipe in my copy of David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop and quickly put the custard together. Since I am such an ice cream fiend, I'm getting pretty good at making David's custard bases efficiently.

I did find that the matcha powder clumped together a lot, and it was frustrating. No matter how much I stirred or whisked the custard mixture, clumps of green tea powder were everywhere. I decided to strain the mixture, and the resulting cream looked much better. I would recommend sifting the green tea powder while mixing it into heavy cream so you don't get ugly clumps like I did.

The resulting ice cream is smooth, creamy, and has a nice punch of green tea flavor. Don't be scared! It's not too strong where it'll knock you out. It tastes like a cup of green tea, only in ice cream form.

Enjoy your 4th of July holiday!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons matcha (green tea) powder
  • 6 large egg yolks
Directions
Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and whisk in the green tea powder (I recommend sifting the powder so you don't get clumps like I did). Set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream, then whisk it vigorously until the custard is frothy to dissolve the green tea powder. Stir until cool over an ice bath (I skipped this part).

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (I chilled overnight), then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Source: The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, page 40

Sunday, July 1, 2012

7 egg white bishop's bread

There are some days that seem to fly by, and then there are those that seem to take forever. This was one of the latter. I made some pastry cream and cookies and ended up with 7 egg whites. I didn't want to keep accumulating egg whites to make an angel food cake, and I didn't feel like making meringues or pavlova. Since I usually do my baking on the weekends, I knew that meringues and pavlova might get stale by the time Monday rolled around for me to share these with coworkers.

I must have spent hours on the internet looking for recipes that contained 7 egg whites. I even got to the end of my Google search - as in, Google said that after 50 pages of results, that I would need to start over. Whoah. I didn't know that was possible!

Since I put all of my egg whites into one bowl (and don't own a kitchen scale), it would be hard to separate them out to make swiss meringue buttercream, macarons or other delicious-tasting things. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I came across this bishop bread on What Recipes Don't Tell You.  Hooray!

This bread uses exactly 7 egg whites and is flexible with the add-ins. Because I don't like nuts, I omitted them. I used chocolate chips and raisins in my bread since that is what I like and had on hand. You can use any combination of nuts, chocolate chips and dried fruit that you want.

The bread is super light and fluffy, almost reminiscent of an angel food cake. Obviously, there are some mix-ins, so that is what differentiates it from the cake. I was initially worried about baking this because the batter looked too wispy but it baked out just fine. The comment I got from my husband was, "Man, this bread is good!" He was disappointed that his first bite didn't have any raisins in it, but I'm sure his next slice will.

If you have 7 leftover egg whites (and I constantly do), then this 7 egg white bishop's bread is a great recipe to try!

Ingredients
  • 7 egg whites
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • ½ c walnuts, coarsely chopped (I omitted)
  • ½ c raisins or other dried fruit (or any combination)
  • ½ c semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp finely minced lemon zest (I omitted)
  • ¼ tsp salt (oops - I forgot to add this)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix walnuts, raisins and chocolate chips in a bowl and blend in lemon zest.

Whip egg whites with cream of tartar in a mixer with whipping attachment, starting at slow speed for a minute then increase speed to medium-high until the soft-peak stage. Turn speed to slow and add sugar gradually.

Turn whipped egg whites into a large wide bowl.

Sift flour on top of egg whites little bit at a time and fold it in along with part of the nut-fruit-chocolate chip mixture. Continue with flour and nut mixture, folding gently until all is added and totally incorporated (avoid overworking that tends to deflate the egg white foam).

Pour into parchment- or foil-lined bread pan or well-greased tube pan with removable bottom.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

Yield: 1 loaf

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