Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

My initial plan was to make some seasonal baked good.  However we've been subjected to this "heat dome" and I was surfing through some of my favorite food blogs and came across an ice cream cake that someone had made.  So I started thinking that ice cream seems way more appropriate.  I mean, this heat dome is quite stifling and that's a lot coming from someone like myself who actually does like the heat and humidity.  I know--some may think I'm crazy for admitting such a thing but the other thing is this:  I live in Chicago--and it's excruciatingly cold in the winter and I hate the cold. So when days come around where I can walk outside in a t-shirt and shorts and not be the least bit nipped I fully accept them and cherish them.  That said--there was this one day when I was a little overwhelmed with the heat.

Let me set the scene:  I was waiting for the train on the train platform on my way to work --keep in mind that this platform faces directly east.  I was in work clothes (work clothes are a pair of khakis and a short-sleeved polo).  It's about 8:30am and the sun is at such an angle that the entire train platform is drenched in sunlight.  There is a small canopy overhanging a portion of the train platform that can sometimes provide shelter and shade from such things as rain or sunlight.  But not on this day.  Like I said, the sun was at such an angle that the entire platform was covered in sunlight and there wasn't an inch of shade to be found.  Oh, and did I mention that the trains were running late that morning?  And that the entire platform was packed with people baking in the sun?  I mean--it was pretty awful.  Sweat was pouring down my back, down my legs--like it was soaking through my pants at my knees it was so bad.  And I kept looking around at the other people waiting and they were looking on their phones or reading books or listening to music and I was like, I can't do any of those things because I can't concentrate on anything but the laser beam sunlight that is piercing my soul with all the fires in hell and causing sweat to seep out of every conceivable pore of my body. If there was any moisture left available in my body I might have started to cry.  And then...then...the trains finally start coming and of course, they are packed to the max so I can't get on yet because if I do I'm going to be sweating all over everyone that will be squeezed up against me.  So I wait for the next one.  And the next one.  And the next one.  And then finally I get on. 

I get on to a slightly less packed train where all the seats are taken so everyone else is standing, the air conditioner is just barely puttering along and the other occupants have just all been baking and sweating in the very sun that I was so we are all re-radiating heat onto one another while more sweat pours out of our bodies.  So I am just standing as perfectly still as I can doing my very best not to touch or come into contact with anyone for fear that I'll transfer sweat to them or vice versa--which is totally gross.  Plus, at that point I was in a state of extreme irritation so any contact with me would have been a toxic experience for anyone because I wasn't having any of it unless it was a fan blowing ice cold air directly into my face.

Well, eventually I get to work and all I can think about for the rest of the day was the cold.  The cold that I hate so much on any normal given day.  But on a day where a heat dome is enveloping the city I ease up on my animosity towards it and learn to appreciate it just ever so slightly.  Then I saw that ice cream cake I mentioned earlier so any notion of me baking something in a hot oven was immediately put to a halt.

But then...I was reminded of Audrey Hepburn's brownie recipe from another food blog I was perusing and I thought about how much I love vanilla ice cream and those brownies...and I had cooled down from my commute from hell...so I put the hot oven back in the mix and I decided I had to make brownie ice cream sandwiches come to fruition. So I did.

These brownies are very easy to make.  They are definitely more fudge-like than cake-like and very very rich.  I was reminded of them while looking at David Lebovitz's blog and so I just grabbed his recipe here .  The only thing I didn't add were the nuts but that's just because I didn't have any on hand.  I've made them before with walnuts and they were pretty darn good. 

As for the ice cream--which I did make on my own as well (I just didn't document it like I did for the brownies) I used just a simple vanilla ice cream recipe that came with my ice cream maker.  I wanted something that I could make quickly. This was actually the first ice cream recipe I ever made and I still really enjoy it.  But, you could obviously make any recipe you want--the possibilities are endless.....  I substituted the 1 cup of whole milk with skim milk because I had it on hand and I did not have any whole milk.  I've done it before and it works out fine but I'm sure you would get a richer mixture if you used whole. 

A couple of notes about the process:

Make sure the brownies are completely cool before you cut them up.  They are very fudgey and like to stick together.  I used as sharp of a knife as possible to get as clean of a cut as I could but--as you can see--it's not completely perfect. 

I cut the brownies into 2x2 squares and since I used a 9x9 pan I had an inch leftover which I willingly devoured just to make sure that the recipe came out alright.  Obviously.

I used one scoop of ice cream to top the brownies and just sorta spread it on them as best as possible before adding the top half.

One thing that might be worth trying if you want a very clean looking sandwich is to freeze the brownies before you cut them--they might cut cleaner and also it might be an easier way to spread the ice cream on them and lessen the initial melting of the ice cream while you are trying to put them together.

That's about all.  Enjoy...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Strawbery Rhubarb Whoopie Pies

Last summer/spring I discovered that I love going to the farmers markets.  I was anxious at first because I had never been and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know what to buy or just how to interact with the market merchants.  But, these feelings were unfounded.  Thus, I fared well and since then I’ve been going every Saturday during the summer.  I bring my boyfriend (or “partner” because he thinks the word boyfriend makes our relationship sound less serious seeing as how we’ve been together for almost four years) along and we spend about an hour traipsing through there.  I usually leave him behind somewhere because he’s a bit too slow for me.  I have this awful feeling that if I don’t hurry and see everything first, that I’m going to miss out and by the time I get there all the good stuff will be gone.  So, while he’s perusing at a much more leisurely pace, I’m plowing through my fellow farm market goers and grabbing the cream of the crop—or at least that’s how I see it in my head…  I love being a person who cooks with seasonal ingredients.  More than just cooking, I love baking with seasonal ingredients.  Last summer I made a peach pie, 2 heirloom tomato tarts, a key lime pie (even though key limes aren’t seasonal to my area—key lime pie is one of my favorite desserts), a stone fruit gallette, a dozen small zucchini bundt cakes, and 1 large chocolate zucchini bundt cake.  All were tasty treats that I’ll gladly end up making this season no doubt.

However, this season--thus far--I've been meddling with strawberries and rhubarb.  I keep buying them--even when I'm not entirely sure that I'll have time to bake with it.  I know, I could just eat them as is.  Fresh fruit is great and so healthy and nutritious and blah blah blah.  But, I'd rather mound sugar on top of them, embed them within a pie crust or batter and bake at 350.  It's just more fun that way.

So the recipe I ended up making on this particular occasion was strawberry whoopie pies sandwiching a sweet rhubarb curd.  

To make the whoopie pies, I used this recipe found here with a one adaptation.  I substituted the yogurt with a 1/2 a cup of sour cream purely because I had it and I didn't have any yogurt...

For the rhubarb curd, I used this recipe here.  

All in all they turned out well.  My own qualm was that the curd wasn't super thick--it wasn't very runny either--but it keep oozing out of the sandwich and for someone who is anal retentive about such things it can be frustrating when you are trying to take pictures of it.  So I kept them in the fridge for a bit so they could firm up.  It was the first time I have ever made a curd so I am not entirely sure if it should have been thicker or not.  Maybe I'll add another egg yolk or so next time to see if that makes any difference...


             The process was pretty simple

 They look pretty good right?