Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cherry Pie

Admittedly--to memory--this was my first cherry pie.  Which is interesting because I really do like cherries. But then when I was making my pie, my mom called and I told her what I was making and she asked why. She told me that she thought I never liked cherries and admitted that she never did.  So maybe that explains why I've never had a cherry pie...

Nevertheless, with it being my first one I have eaten or made, I have to say that I wasn't fully impressed at first.  But I'm also not sure if mine turned out exactly how it was supposed to.  Strike that, I'm almost certain it didn't.  It tasted great--perfect amount of sweetness.  But I think the texture and togetherness of the whole thing was askew.  The filling should have been thicker.  Right?

I used fresh cherries that I got that same day at the farmers market.  They were beautifully ripe and sweet and juicy. Like really juicy.  And I think that may have been my pitfall because I poured all of that juice into the pie crust and it never thickened up with the added corn starch and sugar.  All it did was make a soggy bottom crust and a lot of leftover liquid sitting in the pie pan after I cut the first slice out.  It kind of blows because I was excited about this summer pie.  I even bought a cherry pitter--which by the by worked fantastically--to ease my cherry pie making time.  It was going to be a great pie.  But it was just ok....at first.

Then it was great pie!  Sometimes--with pies--I feel as though they taste better as they age.  I don't mean age as in weeks or months but just a couple of days later and they taste even better.  It's as though all of the pie ingredients have marinaded and melded together and are in perfect harmony.  Also, the filling seemed to thicken up a bit which was awesome.  Still, it probably should have been thicker at the outset but since it was my first cherry pie, I'm not going to mull over what should have been.

Recipe adapted a tad from Simply Recipes:

1 - 9" or 10" pie dough recipe of your choosing--enough for a top and bottom crust (I used this one from Saveur again)

Pie Filling

2lbs (~4c) sweet cherries pitted and possibly drained of excess juice?
100g (1/2c) granulated sugar
1/2tsp almond extract
2T lemon juice
3T corn starch

Egg Wash

1 large egg
1T water

Course sugar for sprinkling

-Roll out the bottom crust for the pie dough and set within your pie pan and then stick it in the fridge while you get your filling together
-In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together until well combined and the cherries are fully coated
-Set filling aside
-Roll out your top crust (I made a lattice using a tutorial from Simply Recipes)
-Remove pie pan from the fridge and pour the filling inside
-Place your top crust over the filling and trim, crimp and pinch to your liking (Note about pie dough trimming: On a small edge of my pie, there was a portion that I didn't trim enough so it was cantilevering off of the edge of the pie pan.  So when I stuck it in the oven, it drooped over the edge and was like a waterfall of pie crust over the edge of the pie pan.  Thus, lesson learned:  Trim your pie dough just to the edge of your pan to avoid this droop)
-Place pie in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 425 F
-Once the oven is preheated, brush the top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle the course sugar on top and place the pie pan on top of a baking sheet to catch any juices that may drip down.  Bake pie for 15 minutes
-After the 15 minutes is up, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the top crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling and, ideally, thickened
-Remove from oven and let cool completely

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream

Perhaps it's a little late to be posting about something that contains strawberries and--heaven forbid--rhubarb. I mean, I know it's a bit late in the season.

But in my defense I made this ice cream weeks ago and just had it in the backlog of things to post.  Actually, it was technically birthday ice cream for my partner but we didn't actually end up eating it until after his birthday and we've been downing it scoop by scoop since then.

Nevertheless, here it is in full force.  This is an ice cream to be reckoned with.  You know how everyone claims ice cream is really really fattening?

Well this ice cream easily makes a case for that claim.  I mean...it has quite a bit of fat.  We're talking whole milk, buttermilk, heavy cream and cream cheese.  Kinda scary right?  Well, don't fret because I just read an article about how fat is back.

That's right--butter, cream, whole milk and cream cheese are ok to eat now--at least in moderation.  But if you're still worried then I have one more defense for this ice cream which is the simple fact that it's worth it.  And I know that that's not really a strong defense but I'm not writing to guide people on nutrition.

Plus, like I mentioned earlier I think these things are ok in moderation.  And it has fresh strawberries and rhubarb so it all balances out.  Sorta. But let's really get back to this ice cream and stop discussing the mental dilemma of do I/don't I.  You do. Simple as that.  Let's move on.

I found this recipe from a fellow hometown blogger who--from what I read--adapted it from a boutique ice cream shop chain named Jeni's.

Jeni's is based out of Columbus, Ohio and they are known as a kind of a farm to cone type of place.  They use local ingredients and dairy products from pasture raised cows and all that good stuff.

And their ice cream is really good.  So I knew that this recipe, especially after seeing its list of ingredients, would be just as good.

It has a lot of great qualities such as its creaminess and abundance of great summer fruits so it's double cool.  So make this and eat this.  And with that I bid you adieu...

Recipe--which can be found on Dinner was Delicious as well:

1 pint of fresh strawberries hulled
2/3c rhubarb cut into 1/4" slices
3T balsamic vinegar
1/8tsp salt
1c sugar
1T vanilla extract
1 1/2c whole milk
1/4c buttermilk
1 1/4c heavy cream
3T cream cheese softened

-Preheat the oven to 400F
-Toss the strawberries and rhubarb along with the balsamic vinegar in a large baking dish
-Roast in oven for 15 minutes
-Remove and let cool completely
-After cooled, take 2/3 of the roasted strawberries and rhubarb along with the juice and puree it until completely smooth
-Set aside the rest of the fruit to fold in to the ice cream later
-In a medium sauce pan, combine the pureed fuit, sugar, salt and vanilla
-Cook over medium heat until the mixture is syrupy and thicker (took me about 15 minutes)
-Remove from heat and let cool completely
-Meanwhile, combine all of the fat in a large bowl (Note:  In the original recipe it's mentioned that although the cream cheese is to be softened, there may still be a few stray chunks in the mixture which will work themselves out in the ice cream maker.  This was true for me and they never really got worked out in my ice cream mixer so there were small chunks of frozen cream cheese in my ice cream--which isn't a bad thing but fyi...if you don't want that then either make sure the cream cheese is really really soft or strain it out before you put it in your ice cream mixer)
-Now combine the fat with the fruit syrup and stir together
-Then pour that into your ice cream mixture and mix/churn according to the instructions that your ice cream mixer model embodies and don't forget to fold in the fruit about 5 minutes or less before the ice cream is done (took mine about 20-25 minutes to churn out a good mixture)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cookies and Cream Chocolate Towers

When I saw the picture for these I was immediately drawn into the recipe.  You can't deny their allure.  They look like triple stacked Oreos or something.  And who doesn't like Oreos?

No one.  That's who.  It's America's cookie.  That said, I actually do have one qualm with the Oreo.  Admittedly, I've never been all that "into" the cookie portion of it.  I'm more of a cream person.

In fact, my favorite type of Oreos are the double-stuffed ones.  The whole cookie-cream combo works great but the cream is what really shines through for me.  With that in mind, when I saw this recipe I was concerned that there was a whole lotta cookie in those towers.

Grant it, there's clearly a lot of cream too but like an Oreo--in my opinion--unless you have a double-stuffed one, the cookie over-powers the cream filling.  Plus, it's too crisp--I like a cookie with a softer edge.

But, after making these chocolate towers, I assumed wrong--for the most part.  Yes, the cookie does sorta over-power the cream but I didn't care when it comes to these cookies.  I didn't care because these cookies were tender and chocolatey and melt-in-your-mouth good--not anything like the Oreo.

I was afraid they were going to be crispy and upon biting into one, all of the amazing cream would be squeezed out.  But no.  Nope.  No way Jose.  The cookie is like a chocolatey soft sugar/butter cookie and it gently collapses when you bite into it--unlike the Oreo which tends to crack and crumble.

And the cream is light but sweet and plentiful.  It's a pure delight to eat.  So with that I encourage everyone to make these because yes they are tall but they are cute too. And they're better than the Oreo.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine

Chocolate cookies:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter softened at room temp.
3/4c powdered sugar
1 large egg at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4c unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4c all-purpose flour

-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, beat the butter and sugar together until well combined
-Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined
-Add the cocoa powder and salt and mix until just combined
-Add the flour and mix until just combined
-Divide the dough into two discs and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap
-Refrigerate until firm--at least 1 hour--or overnight
-After the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 325F
-Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
-Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured clean surface
-Using a 2 1/2" round cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out at least 30 cookies
-Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes
-Remove from oven and let cool completely

Chocolate pastry cream:

1c half-and-half
3 large egg yolks
1/4c granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and set aside
-In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt together until pale and fluffy and then turn off mixer
-In a medium saucepan bring the half-and-half to an almost simmer--just heat until you see bubbles form around the edges of the pan and it starts to steam a bit
-When the half-and-half has started to steam, turn mixer back on low and slowly pour half of the warm half-and-half into the egg mixture and whisk until just combined
-Pour the egg/half-and-half mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the half-and-half
-Put the saucepan back on the stove and heat over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture has thickened and just starts to slowly bubble
-Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in the melted chocolate and vanilla and whisk until fully combined
-Strain the pastry cream through the fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl
-Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the pastry cream and refrigerate until it is completely cool and chilled--maybe 1 hour or so

Whipped Cream:

1c heavy cream
1 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

-In the bowl of stand mixer, whisk all of the ingredients on high speed until stiff peaks form

To assemble everything

-Transfer 3/4 of the whipped cream mixture to a small bowl and add 3 tbsps of the chocolate pastry cream to it and mix until fully combined and a light chocolate mixture forms
-Then take 3 separate pastry bags fitted with large plain tips and add the chocolate pastry cream to one, the light chocolate cream mixture to another and the whipped cream to the last
-Now lay out all 30 cookies onto a clean work surface
-Pipe the chocolate pastry cream onto 12 cookies--about a tablespoon of it
-Pipe the light chocolate cream onto 6 cookies--again about a tablespoon
-Pipe the whipped cream onto the remaining 12 cookies--another tablespoon or so
-Next stack the towers as illustrated:  Start with a chocolate pastry cream cookie, top it with light chocolate cream one followed by a whipped cream cookie and then another chocolate pastry cream cookie and lastly another whipped cream topped cookie.
-Lastly, pipe a dollop of the chocolate pastry cream onto the top of each cookie stack
-Refrigerate the cookie stacks for at least 6 hours to overnight until they are set
-Consume ravenously