Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

There are a few sweets that really take me back to my childhood: Slush Puppies, Pixie Sticks, Ring Pops. Was I experiencing a sugar high throughout all of my formative years? Possibly. But one frozen treat reigned supreme, especially in the summer... the Chipwich!

Chipwichnew  sq

Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chewy chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

With summer upon us, we knew it was time to recreate our own version of the Chipwich. These are the perfect dessert for an evening get-together in the hot summer months because you can make them a day early, and they'll be ready to go after dinner.

For the chocolate chip cookies, we turned to a much-loved recipe from the New York Times that we adapted to suit our purposes. These cookies are just the right chewiness to work for an ice cream sandwich, and the addition of a sprinkle of coarse salt put these over the top.

Chewy Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3 2/3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks softened butter
  • 1 1/4 packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup  granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp.vanilla extract
  • 1/2 heaping cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 heaping cup dark chocolate chips
  • Additional coarse salt to sprinkle on top before baking
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. In another bowl cream butter & sugar. Add eggs & vanilla and beat to fully incorporate. Add dry ingredients in 2-3 parts, mixing completely with each addition. Fold in chocolate chips by hand. 
Form golf ball sized balls of cookie dough, bake on parchment paper or foil for 8-10 minutes or until golden on the edges but still white in the middle. This will ensure cookies that are pliable and chewy in the middle when cooled, which makes for chipwiches that don’t shatter when you bite them!
This makes a lot of cookies – about 4 dozen depending on how big you make each cookie.  I store my extra dough, wrapped in plastic, in the fridge. It’ll keep for a week.

To assemble your chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, you'll need:
  • 2 pints of your favorite ice cream, softened slightly
With a large spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out ice cream and place on one cookie. Place another cookie on top, squish them together a little, then let sit in the freezer on a plate covered tightly with foil for at least an hour before serving.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fresh Mint Syrup in a Mint Gin Rickey

I recently discovered that my weed-like mint plant was stealthily taking over my herb container garden.  It was getting so powerful that I had to dig it up and put it in quarantine (aka, its own pot).  After all its displays of vigorous good health, I figured it had plenty of leaves to donate to an experiment on creating fresh mint syrup.

The experiment was a success!  1 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water.  Simmered and strained, it creates a glowing yellow syrup.

mint syrup

Fresh Mint Syrup

  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a pot, gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then strain the liquid to get rid of the mint leaves.  You’re left with mint syrup that will last for up to 4 weeks in the fridge.
We tried our newly minted syrup (har har) with lime juice and gin, for a fresh spin on the classic Gin Rickey.

Mint Gin Rickey

  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1 ounce mint syrup
  • 3 oz carbonated water
  • ice
Combine the first three ingredients over ice, then top off with carbonated water.
mint drink

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cherry Ricotta Muffins

Yesterday was the solstice, so it is official: summer has arrived. And with it comes beautiful, mouth-watering cherries.
Who can deny the lusciousness of these lovelies? Not us. So we decided to pair them with ricotta in some tasty muffins that we found over at Joy of Baking. The original recipe came from Mollie "Moosewood" Katzen's Sunlight Cafe. A wonderful excuse to use some homemade ricotta, or a good enough reason to just go buy a container. 
The ricotta in these muffins makes them quite decadent, almost custardy. They are sweet, but not verging on cupcake-sweet. The cherries makes them bright and lively. I'm already looking forward to having them tomorrow morning.
Cherry Ricotta Muffins
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • grated lemon zest from one lemon
  • 1 1/2 cup cherries, pitted and halved
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with 12 paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta and eggs. Add buttermilk, vanilla, lemon juice, and melted butter, mixing well. Set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in the cherries. (You can save 12 cherry halves to use place atop each muffin, but this is purely for aesthetic purposes.) Divide the batter amongst 12 muffin cups. Bake about 25 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Place on wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lemony Spiced Sea Salt

Almost every morning, I make myself an egg and toast. It has practically become a ritual. The toast is usually sourdough, the egg is generally fried (but sometimes scrambled). There may be jam, there may be honey. But six out of seven days a week, I'm eating an egg and toast. (That seventh day? Pancakes!) Today I visited our wonderful local bulk store to pick out some spices, so that I could make my own spiced salt concoction to give my eggs (and whatever else) a little pizzazz.
I had been holding on to one of those spice grinders from Trader Joe's that came pre-filled with mixed spices, but had already been used up. It worked really well for this, but any pepper mill would also fit the bill.
I wanted something fresh and lemony that would work on both egg dishes and pasta dishes (I already used it on some pasta with spinach, dill, and feta this evening) and other spring fare (sprinkled over thinly sliced radishes perhaps?)
What is fun about this, is creating whatever spiced mixture suits your fancy. Cardamom? Cumin? Cinnamon? I stayed a little bit subdued.

Lemony Spiced Sea Salt
  • 2 tbs peppercorns (mine was a mix of different colors)
  • 1 tbs dried lemon zest
  • 1 tbs dried minced garlic

Mix up all of your spices and add to your grinder of choice. You can do your peppercorns a favor and give them a gentle grind in a mortar and pestle first. Not too much, just a little. This helps them to not sink to the bottom as the largest heaviest items. Grind and enjoy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Top 10 Almond Paste Recipes

Top 10 Almond Paste Recipes

We made a nice big batch of homemade almond paste a few weeks ago.  It tastes delicious and it’s the most fragrant almond paste I’ve ever come across.  Only three ingredients, and multiple times less expensive than imported tubes of the stuff you’d find at the grocery store.  So obviously we began hoarding recipes using almond paste immediately.  This is the result.  Enjoy!

Homemade Almond Paste

Stick to your Teeth Chewy Sugar Cookies

by Food 52
Simple sugar cookies that are made better than usual with their addition of lemon zest and almond paste.

Almond Cream Coffee Cake

by Two Tarts
This decadent yeasted coffee cake is filled with almond cream, topped with crunchy almonds, then drizzled with icing before serving. We served it at a Spring Brunch.
Almond Cream Coffee Cake

Limoncello Macaroons

by 101 Cookbooks
A really simple cookie made from egg whites, almond paste, lemon, and sugar. The flavor of homemade almond paste will really make a difference on this one.

Almond Cake

by David Lebovitz
A dense simple cake, reminiscent of a pound cake but with floral almond aromas. Delicious served with fruit and whipped cream!

Almond Lovers Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Picky Palate
Chocolate chip cookies that are spiced up with crunch almonds for texture and almond paste for tons of flavor.

Cherry Almond & Chocolate Mini-Cakes

by Canelle et Vanille
So rich and delicious looking, with just a few quality ingredients.

Dutch Almond Bars

by Whipped the Blog
A traditional treat served at Dutch bakeries.  These little bars have a moist almond filling sandwiched between flaky pastry dough.

Pine Nut Cookies

by Martha Stewart
These Italian cookies are rolled in pine nuts for a unique flavor combination.  As the cookies bake and the pine nuts slowly roast, their flavor deepens.

Almond & Cherry Scones

by Serious Eats, via Nicole Rees of “Baking Unplugged”
Almond paste gives these rich, traditional scones a grown up flair.

Nectarine Almond Tart

by Two Tarts
A moist almond-cake-custard layer topped with fresh sweet nectarines. So pretty, too!

Nectarine Almond Tart

Anyone have any other favorite ways to use almond paste?  Leave a comment!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nectarine Almond Tart

Our homemade almond paste asked us to pair it with whatever fruit was in season and on sale at the grocery store.  It requested to take the form of a tart.  I said OK, I guess I can do that for you.

I’m really happy I did. The crust is a typical flaky pastry crust. The filling is our fresh homemade almond paste, combined with egg yolks, butter, and vanilla.  It starts off creamy and silky and is transformed to a dense moist almond-cake-custard upon baking. The juicy nectarines are thinly sliced and arranged prettily on top. Recipe inspiration courtesy of

Nectarine Almond Tart

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons vodka or kirsch
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

  • 1/2 cup packed almond paste (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Nectarines
Preheat oven to 375.

For crust:

Whisk egg yolks and vodka in small bowl to blend. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add chilled butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk mixture and process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. Roll dough into a rough circle shape, then press evenly onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; chill while preparing filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

For filling:

Blend almond paste and sugar in processor until almond paste is finely ground. Add 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter and process until thick paste forms. Add eggs and vanilla extract and process until smooth. Spread filling in crust; cover and chill while preparing nectarines.
Cut each nectarine in half and remove the pit from each half.  Slice each nectarine half into thin 1/2 moon slices. Arrange nectarine slices in concentric circles, starting at outer edge of tart.  A little overlapping is fine.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Brush over nectarines.
Bake tart until fruit is tender and crust is brown, about 50 minutes. Cool 30 minutes. Remove from pan and serve warm or at room temperature. (Tart can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)  Serve with cool whipped cream.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Berry & Cream Striped Popsicles

Behold – beautiful berry and cream popsicles. The bright color and taste of fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries alternating with sweet cream.  And they’re patriotic to boot.  We’ll definitely be whipping these out at our Fourth of July picnic!

We made the berry stripes with fresh strawberries and blueberries, blended and sweetened with just a little vanilla sugar.  The cream layer is delicious full fat Greek yogurt, sweetened with a touch of honey and then thinned to a pourable consistency with cream.  CREAM!  You have to try these. 

The more stripes you manage, the more pretty they become. 

And of course, these are a major hit with the toddler set. All the things they like best, combined in a cool and portable (if a bit messy…) package.

Once they get the hang of how licking is done, they’ll be popsicle fans for life.  We strongly advise outdoor eating.  Seems like this will be critical for at least a few years?

Berry & Cream Striped Popsicles

Yield: about 8 popsicles, depending on the size of your molds

Berry Stripes:

  • 1 quart (about 4 cups) fresh berries.  3 cups if you use frozen (but thawed) berries.
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla sugar or honey
For the berry stripes we simply blended fresh berries with a little vanilla sugar.  We learned a few things over the course of our experimentation:
  • The liquid available in the fresh berries made blending occur very easily. 
  • If you choose to use frozen berries (which taste just as good), be sure to let them thaw before blending.  There are two reasons for this:  First, you want liquid to be available to aid in the blending process.  Second, you want the blended berries to be thin enough for pouring into the molds.  They’ll be too thick if they’re still frozen.
  • Finally, we recommend your reduce the quantity  of frozen berries used (from 4 cups to 3 cups) because they tend to shrivel a bit and lose some of their volume during the freeze/thaw process.

Cream Stripes:

  • 1 1/2 cups full fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp cream; basically just enough to thin the yogurt out to a pouring-consistency
  • 3 Tbsp honey
The main thing you’re doing here is sweetening the Greek yogurt, and then thinning it out enough with cream so that you can easily pour it into popsicle molds.  We chose to use Greek yogurt rather than regular to make the cream strips as creamy as possible, rather than icy or grainy.

Assembly Notes:

For assembly, simple pour alternating stripes of berries and cream into your popsicle molds.  Allow each stripe layer to freeze for at least 30 minutes.
When you’re 2/3 of the way done, it’s time to add the popsicle stick.  Add a layer and freeze for only 15 minutes, or until slushy.  Stick the popsicle stick in and freeze completely, then carry on with the layers. I had the best luck inserting the popsicle stick into the cream layer – it’s easier to push into when semi-frozen.
If you’re doing thin stripes (like we did on the blueberry & cream popsicles), it is best to insert the stick when you’re only 1/2 way done rather than waiting till 2/3.  The thinner stripes have more of a tendency to come apart as the popsicle thaws, so it’s nice to have the popsicle stick farther in there to help hold things together.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Homemade French Fries

After we’d successfully made our own ketchup, we knew we had to tackle french fries next. 
french fries bowl sq
Although our toddlers are happy to dip just about anything in ketchup, we can’t say the same for ourselves.  Pretzel sticks and ketchup? Nice work on thinking outside of the box and not being constrained by societal norms, but no thank you.  French fries and ketchup?  Sign me up!
french fries cone sq
Over the course of our research we learned of a few different methods for creating oven roasted french fries.  You can parboil the fries before roasting. You can soak them in water. Or, you can just cut them up and roast them in oil.
We opted for soaking the raw, cut fries in cold water for 15 minutes, draining the cloudy starchy water, then rinsing the fries very well.  The final product is not quite a deep-fried fry, but they’re also a far cry from plain old roasted potatoes.  I think the thinly cut strips, along with the soaking in cold water to remove starch, are the reasons these work so well.  And of course, the homemade ketchup was just icing on the cake!
french fries overhead sq

Homemade French Fries

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. peanut or canola oil (chosen for its high smoke point)
  • generous sprinkle of salt
Preheat oven to 450. 
Cut the potatoes into 1/4” strips.  We found the thinness did a lot to prevent these from tasting like regular roasted potato chunks.
Toss the cut fries into a bowl of cold water as they are cut.  Let soak for 15 minutes, then drain away the cloudy starchy water.  Rinse very well, then dump the wet fries onto a dish towel and blot them dry.  If you were to roast too-wet fries they’d steam instead of roast, and be mushy in the end. Ew.
Toss the dried fries with the 1/4 c. oil, then spread them in a single layer – we used two large rimmed baking sheets, that we spread thinly with oil.  We’d recommend against using un-rimmed cookie sheets…you don’t want to start a grease fire!  Sprinkle generously with salt.
Roast for 15 minutes, then retrieve the baking sheets and toss the fries around with a spatula.  Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so (you may need an extra 5 to 10 minutes -- one of our batches required more time, possibly because of the type of cookie sheet), until the fries are golden brown and blistered in spots.
So, does anyone else out there have any hard won french fry making advice?
french fries bowl

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Homemade Almond Paste

If you’ve got a food processor and the willingness to *pop!* blanched almonds out of their loosely fitting brown skins, you can make your own almond paste! 
almond paste 1
It will be a little less smooth than the grocery store kind that comes in a tube, but it will be much more flavorful, with tons of that lovely sweet almond essence that really only comes from freshly ground almonds.  It will also be less expensive, and you will rest assured that its three ingredients are not weird chemicals or preservatives: almonds, sugar, and egg whites.
almond paste 2
Your food processor will do most of the work once you’ve blanched & peeled your almonds.  Peeling the almonds, however, is one of those jobs that takes a little time.   I never knew how loose almond skins would get after a quick bath in hot water, or how perfectly the little nuts would pop out of said skins.  I recommend tackling this job with a friend, preferably while sitting on a porch swing.  Or something along those lines.  Try to avoid having toddlers grasping at your ankles and saying Mommy! Hold me!  This mars the romance of peeling almonds.
naked almonds
Really, though, peeling the almonds is not tough at all. Dulcie and I peeled the 3 cups of blanched almonds for this recipe in less than 20 minutes.  The rest of the recipe takes about 5 minutes.
almonst paste sq 2

Homemade Almond Paste

  • 3 cups raw almonds (not roasted, or the blanching step will not work correctly)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
Heat a big pot of water to boiling.  Dump a scant 3 cups of almonds into the boiling water (they’ll expand quite a bit as they boil) and boil for one minute.  Drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes before peeling their loose brown skins off.  Discard skins.

Re-measure the 3 cups of blanched almonds to make sure you have exactly 3 cups - you may have a few extra due to how they expand in the hot water.  Add the 3 cups of blanched almonds to a food processor and let run until the almonds are broken down into very very tiny pieces – 1-2 minutes.

Next add the 3 cups of powdered sugar and let run for another 1-2 minutes.  Take your time on this step – you want to get the mixture as finely ground as possible.  Once you add the egg whites, the whole mixture will ball up into a very firm and sticky mass and unless you have a really powerful food processor you will not be able to process it much past this point!

Last step – add the 2 eggs white and process until they’re fully incorporated.  Store tightly sealed in airtight containers in the refrigerator for a week.  I’ve frozen my almond paste for a few months with great results.

almond paste sq 1

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has been quite fashionable these days, and it is easy to see why. It is thick and decadently creamy, even in the low- or zero-fat varieties. It also has much higher protein than regular yogurt (making it my snack of choice all throughout my pregnancy.)
But while Greek yogurt has increased in popularity here in the U.S., it isn't always easy to find. Where I live, it is easy to find conventional and low-fat Greek yogurt, but nearly impossible to locate Greek yogurt that is both organic and made from whole milk. Fortunately, it is very easy to make your own Greek yogurt from store-bought (or homemade) yogurt!
Greek yogurt is much more expensive than regular yogurt, but when you strain the regular yogurt, it decreases by about half. I found that even with the yield being cut by half, I was still saving money (although prices vary by store and region). It was nice to save a couple quarters, but it was especially nice to get such a creamy, delicious, and all natural end-product!
We snacked on our fresh Greek yogurt mixed with local honey and raspberries. This might be our toddlers' new favorite food!
Homemade Greek Yogurt

1. Place a colander over a large bowl, ensuring that there is enough space below the colander for the yogurt to drain and not sit in the whey.
2. Fold cheesecloth four times and place into colander.
3. Place yogurt (store-bought or homemade) into cheesecloth, and then fold ends of cheesecloth over the yogurt so it is completely covered.
4. Place a small plate on top of the cheesecloth-covered yogurt, and something heavy (like a ceramic bowl) on top of the plate. This helps press the whey out of the yogurt.
5. Let drain in the refrigerator for about 6-10 hours, and then remove yogurt from cheesecloth and store in sealed container. You can save your whey for another use (like our Lemony Barley Salad) or discard.
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