Archive for June, 2011

June 27, 2011

Marshmallow-Toffee Combination Creation

Marshmallow and toffee.  Sounds a little strange, right?  Sounds like a  sugar-shocked, sticky sweet, caramel covered cavity waiting to happen, right?  Wrong!  Turns out, marshmallow and toffee are a match made in candy-coated Heaven.

I first discovered the divinity of this delicious combination on a trip to Dairy Queen, of all places.  I was experimenting with Blizzard flavors, trying to decide what would pair well with marshmallow topping, which I always request to be mixed into my DQ treats.  I decided to try the Heath Blizzard with my usual swirl of mallow, and since then, haven’t ordered anything but that exact dessert.  There’s just something about the nutty flavor of the almond and the sharpness and crunch of the burnt-sugary English toffee that pairs so beautifully with the silkiness of the smooth vanilla marshmallow cream, it’s melt- in-your-mouth irresistible.

I haven’t yet visited Dairy Queen this summer, but the delightful duo of toffee and marshmallow has still been ever present in my mind.  I decided to create my own frozen dessert using these flavors and textures in a different way.  I made a semifreddo/ice cream base, split it in two layers, and incorporated marshmallow and toffee flavors in both layers in different ways.  While DQ’s concoction uses the chocolate-covered version of Heath’s toffee pieces, I decided to use plain toffee pieces and add chocolate in other ways throughout the dessert.  A marbleized marshmallow swirl runs through rich, chocolate-mocha ice cream, and the almond flavors of the English toffee are found in the crust, along with more chocolate and ground toffee.  Marshmallow can also be found in the second ice cream, which is speckled with crunchy toffee pieces and topped with a chocolate-toffee crumb topping to finish off this tempting treat.  No hot ovens to turn on and no ice cream machine needed, just an hour or so of free time and a persistent sweet tooth!

Toffee-Marshmallow Ice Cream Cake

Inspired by: Dairy Queen’s Candy Lover’s Heath Blizzard” with Marshmallow Topping

 Adapted from Martha Stewart’sFrozen Mocha Toffee Crunch Terrine

8 ounces English toffee pieces
(ex. HEATH “Bits ‘O Brickle” Toffee Bits)

7 ounces chocolate wafer cookies

¼ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

6 ounces of cream cheese

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons instant coffee granules

2½ tablespoons cocoa powder

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup marshmallow fluff (recipe below)

–recipe yield: 9x5x3-inch loaf; 12-15 slices

Line a large loaf pan with plastic wrap.  In a food processor, grind ¼ cup toffee pieces and 20 wafer cookies.  Add almond flour and melted butter and pulse until crumbly.  Press crumbs into bottom of loaf pan and place in freezer. Grind together 15 more wafers and ¼ cup toffee.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth.  On a low speed, mix in ½ cup heavy cream until the mixture has reached medium soft peaks.  In a separate large bowl,  whip remaining heavy cream until it has just reached stiff peaks.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the whipped cream cheese mixture and place into the freezer to chill.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together granulated sugar and ¼ cup water and place over medium-high heat.  Allow liquid to rapidly boil for 5 minutes.  In the meantime, whisk together coffee, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons boiling water in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  While sugar syrup continues to boil, place egg yolks in a large bowl and beat on high for 3 minutes.  When sugar syrup has been boiling for full 5 minutes, remove from heat and pour a small amount of the syrup into the yolks, continuing to beat.  Gradually add in the remaining hot syrup to the yolks while beating the mixture.  Beat for 8-9 minutes, or until the mixture has tripled in volume.

Divide yolk mixture in two equal parts, pouring one half into a separate large bowl.  Remove loaf pan and chilled whipped cream mixture from freezer.  Divide whipped cream mixture in half with a spatula, and fold one half into to one of the bowls of the yolk mixture, along with the cocoa-coffee mixture.  Continue to fold until mixture is streak-free and chocolate-y.  Pour this mixture into the loaf pan on top of the crumb layer.  Add heaping teaspoons of marshmallow fluff into the loaf pan onto the surface of the chocolate layer until about 1/3 cup of fluff has been dotted into the pan.  Run a butter knife through the fluff and chocolate layer to swirl the two together.  Place loaf into freezer to chill.

Add ½ cup of marshmallow fluff to the remaining half of the yolk mixture.  Beat well until combined and fluffy.  Fold the fluff-egg yolk mixture into the remaining chilled whipping cream, along with 1/3 cup of plain toffee pieces.  Remove loaf pan from freezer.  Sprinkle half of the chocolate wafer-toffee crumb mixture into the loaf pan on top of the swirled chocolate-mallow mixture.  Once the crumbs have been sprinkles in an even layer, pour into the loaf pan (on top of that layer) the marshmallow-toffee ice cream mixture.  Place loaf pan in freezer to set up overnight.  Remove semifreddo by pulling up on the plastic wrap on the sides.  Peel away and discard plastic wrap and sprinkle any remaining chocolate wafer-toffee crumbs on top of the loaf, along with bigger toffee pieces if desired.  Cut the ice cream loaf into slices and serve.

Marshmallow Fluff

1 egg white

¾ cup corn syrup

pinch of salt

¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ Tsp vanilla extract

–recipe yield: lots of fluff!

In a large bowl, beat together the egg white, corn syrup and salt for 10 minutes (set a timer).  The mixture will be very thick.  After ten minutes, gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar on a low speed.  Mix in vanilla extract until incorporated.  To store, cover the bowl of marshmallow fluff with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the fluff so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store in the refrigerator or freezer for 2-3 weeks.

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June 23, 2011

Pineapple… Frozen, Torched, Grilled, & Honey Ice Cream Filled

My mom and I recently visited a small downtown thrift shop filled with hundreds of  little treasures, including a very wide selection of vintage kitchen supplies.  I somehow even got my hands on a beautiful embroidered apron from the 1940’s that I’m in love with, despite the fact that I can’t bring myself to wear it while baking and risk dirtying it.  My mom generously treated me to quite a few goodies after our hunt through the baking supply section.  Among the many retro tools and trinkets I ended up taking home was an Anne Willan cookbook, costing Mama Lew a whopping 99¢.

Leafing through the pages of my new French cookbook, there was one recipe that immediately caught my eye.  It was a frozen dessert topped with a browned meringue, a play on a Baked Alaska, except with a hollow pineapple shell taking the place of the cake layer.  The finished product made for a very dramatic presentation, one that may even be considered a slight bit tacky (Anne Willan is a legend, and the book is from 1980…  so, we’ll give her a break).  For whatever reason, I felt very compelled to recreate this dish.  And that’s exactly what I did.

While Anne filled her pineapple shell with pineapple sherbet, I chose to go with a “Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo,” inspired by the increasingly popular summertime treat of grilled pineapple drizzled with honey.  I decided to grill and glaze the pineapple pieces in the dessert, which added a caramelized sweetness to the final product.  I assembled the dessert in Anne’s extravagant pineapple boat, and also did my own version in a smaller pineapple “bowl,” which turned out to be a little easier to handle and serve out of, and less messy.  Both the bowl and the boat turned out very delicious and super cute… the type of thing that looks like lot of work went into it.  In all honesty, the most difficult part of this dessert was trying to figure out what to call it.
I brainstormed lots of ideas, including “Baked Hawaii” (instead of Alaska), or anything else suggesting a tropical honeymoon.  I bounced a few off Whitney, who admitted that every time I brought up “the pineapple,” all she could think about was Doody calling Frenchy a “beautiful blonde pineapple,” in her favorite childhood movie, Grease.  I loved the Grease reference!  I also loved the fact that she called it her favorite childhood movie.  I, too, loved the movie as a kid, but my mom decided maybe it wasn’t the best childhood movie after my sassy 8-year-old self starting saying things like “Eat your heart out,” and asking what a “hickey from Kinicky” was.  Anyway, as the dish came from a French cookbook published right around the time of the premier of the movie, and the “beautiful blonde pineapple” reference was describing French-y, I decided it was a perfect fit.

The “Beautiful, (Honey-)Blonde Pineapple”

Inspired by: Grilled Pineapple, Baked Alaska, “Ananas en Surprise”

Adapted from Anne Willan’s “Ananas en Surprise,” LaVarenne’s Basic French Cookery

Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo

Adapted from “Honey Semifreddo,” Tasty Palettes

20 ounces crushed pineapple, plus juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold

zest and juice of two lemons

pinch of salt

1 egg, plus 6 egg yolks

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

1¼ cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup honey

–recipe yield: about 8-10 servings

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine crushed pineapple, juice, brown sugar, ½ tablespoon butter, zest and juice of one lemon and salt.  Whisk ingredients together over medium-low heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and, stirring occasionally, allow mixture to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by half and pineapple is caramelized.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over mesh strainer, reserving all the liquid and replacing it back into the saucepan, along with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the strained crushed pineapple shreds.  Discard the excess dry crushed pineapple.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the egg yolks and the cornstarch.  While whisking, pour in a few tablespoons of the hot pineapple juice mixture into the yolk mixture, slowly warming the yolks without cooking them.  When yolks are brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan containing the pineapple juice mixture.  Heat mixture over medium-low heat while constantly whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon.  When mixture has thickened (about 2-4 minutes), remove saucepan from heat and stir in juice and zest of remaining lemon, along with the remaining ½ tablespoon cold butter.  Once butter has dissolved, transfer pineapple mixture to a small bowl and continue to stir until cooled.   Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Line the inside of a 9×5 inch large loaf pan with plastic wrap In a large, chilled glass bowl, beat the heavy cream until it just reaches stiff peaks.  Place the bowl in the freezer and allow it to chill while preparing the rest of the ice cream.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a very large glass bowl.  Combine the remaining 4 egg yolks, the whole egg, and the honey in the large bowl of the double boiler over medium-low heat and beat the mixture for 8-10 minutes, or until pale yellow and tripled in volume.  Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat on high to cool and thicken the mixture.  Once the thick yolk-honey has cooled to lukewarm, fold it into the chilled whipping cream until there are no colored streaks visible in the mixture.  Gently pour the ice cream base into the lined loaf pan and place it in the freezer to set.  Once the ice cream has been been freezing for about an hour, remove the pineapple-honey mixture from the refrigerator.  Discard the plastic wrap and stir the set custard to loosen it up.  Remove the loaf pan containing the semi-frozen ice cream from the freezer and dollop pineapple custard in heaping tablespoons onto the ice cream.  When all of the custard has been dotted onto the cream, insert the tip of a butter knife into the cream and run it through the cream a few times to cut and swirl the custard into the cream, creating a marbleized effect.  Replace the loaf pan back into the freeze allow swirled ice cream to set up and freeze overnight.

Rum Scented Meringue

This meringue shouldn’t be prepared until about 20 minutes before serving time.  The rum extract adds a nice depth of flavor to the meringue, but can easily be replaced by vanilla extract.

4 egg whites

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½-¾ cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon rum extract

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl over medium-low heat.  Using an electric mixer, mix egg whites and salt until slightly foamy.  Add in cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks have been achieved.  Gradually add tablespoon after tablespoon of superfine sugar, continuing to beat on medium speed.  Continue to beat mixture for 7-8 minutes.  Remove bowl from heat and mix in the rum extract.  When the meringue has been brought to stiff peaks, the meringue is ready.

Assembly

To prepare the pineapple shell, the pineapple must be sliced and hollowed.  For a bowl-shaped shell, simply slice across the width of the pineapple below the leaves, leaving only the bottom portion to be hollowed out.  For a boat-shaped shell, slice across the entire length of the pineapple (my cookbook sliced through the leaves as well in order to make two boats with the halves, I chose to make one boat and leave the leaves in tact for a prettier presentation).  Using a sharp paring knife, slice around the inner perimeter of the halved pineapple (boat or bowl).  Cut the inner portion into cubes and, using a spoon or the knife, remove the cubes.  Scrape the inside of the hollowed pineapple to smooth out the inner-surface.  Place the hollowed bowl or boat shell(s) into the freezer to chill.  Any leftover pineapple should be cored and sliced.

In a small bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ tablespoon lemon juice

Pour the glaze over the sliced pineapple pieces and toss until coated.  The pineapple can, at this point, be grilled (over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, turning once) or used as is.  If choosing to grill the pineapple, be sure to brush the pieces with the leftover glaze afterward as well.  Sprinkle the glazed pineapple pieces into the chilled pineapple shell(s) in a even layer along the bottom.  Scoop the set, frozen semifreddo into each shell directly on top of the layer of pineapple pieces.  The shell should be completely filled by a mound of the scoops of semifreddo.  Place filled shell(s) back into the freezer and prepare the meringue.

Transfer meringue into a pastry or plastic zip-top bag, (fitted with a large star tip, if desired).  Remove filled pineapple shells from freezer and pipe meringue  onto the top of the shell, completely covering any semifreddo or sliced pineapple pieces.  Brown the top of the meringue-covered pineapple shell using a kitchen torch, or place the dessert in the oven directly under a preheated broiler for 6-8 minutes, or until desired golden brown color has been achieved.  Serve immediately.

To serve,  scoop directly through the meringue down to the bottom of the shell to include pineapple pieces, ice cream and meringue into each serving.  It will be messy!  Garnish with an extra slice of grilled and/or glazed pineapple and a drizzle of honey.

June 19, 2011

Food For Thought

Where there would normally be an abundance of sugar, flour, butter and maybe the occasional frozen pizza, lately, I’ve been finding some less-likely foods. Goodies such as avocados, tuna salad, pomegranate juice, and mixed nuts have been gracing the shelves of my refrigerator and pantry most recently. When I inquired about the sudden additions to our snack collection, Evan, who has been avidly preparing for his GMAT exam, shared with me an article he’d read. The article described how to improve brain function and memory by means of consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fats, antioxidants and fiber. It also listed the top 20 foods to “supercharge your brain.” I was intrigued. And after reading through the list of “brain foods,” I was inspired.

I set out to create a dessert recipe using at least ten of the twenty foods as ingredients.  There were the obvious choices, like nuts (#4), coffee (#6), oats (#7), chocolate (yes! # 12), and cocoa nibs (#20).  And there were the more challenging choices, like avocados (#1),  seeds (#5), pomegranate (#9), and olive oil (#14).  After recipe hunting, tweaking, taste-testing and a bit of improvisation, I came up with today’s recipe.  It includes all of the brain-fueling ingredients listed above, as well as the #2 ingredient, blueberries.  That’s 10 of the “20 Best Foods For Your Brain,” with 7 ingredients coming from the top 10.  The result?  A heavenly combination of velvety smooth chocolate cascading over crisp, fresh blueberries, tart pomegranate jam, and a crispy-crumbly crust… a decadent pie to spark both the appetite and the brain.

Choco-Pom-Berry
“Brainpower Pie”

Inspired by: “The 20 Smartest Foods On Earth”

Adapted from Renee Mahon & S. Duquet’s
Dark Chocolate, Avocado & Berry Pie

This recipe is gluten free, 100% vegan and should be enjoyed by all!  The avocado is used in place of butter or margarine as the main source of fat in the chocolate filling and makes for a delicious, almost pudding-like texture (and tastes nothing like guacamole, I promise!).

1/3 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons orange juice

1½ tablespoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

0at, nut & seed crust (recipe below)

½ cup pomegranate jam (recipe below)

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 ripe avocados

12 oz. semisweet chocolate (vegan)

–recipe yield: one 8- or 9-inch pie
(about 8-10 servings)

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together milk, orange juice and vanilla extract and place over medium heat.  Once liquid has come to a delicate simmer, remove from heat and whisk in coffee granules.  Set aside and allow mixture to steep.  While liquid is steeping, spoon pomegranate jam into prepared crust and spread into a thin, even layer to coat entire surface.  Sprinkle blueberries over top of the jam layer and arrange them to cover the jam entirely.

Core and slice avocados into a food processor.  Strain the warm, steeped liquid into the food processor as well, discarding any whole coffee granules that may remain.  Puree the mixture until desired consistency is reached.  Transfer the smooth avocado mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.  Constantly stirring, heat mixture for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour in chocolate chips.  Stir to completely melt the chocolate until the mixture is completely homogeneous.  Pour the entire mixture into the pan over top of the blueberries.  Using an angled spatula, smooth out the chocolate mixture into a flat, even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator (or freezer) to chill overnight until set.  Serve cold.

Pomegranate Jam

Adapted from “Pomegranate Jelly,”
Taste Of Home

1½ cups pomegranate juice

¼ cup water

2 cups sugar

2½ tablespoons pure fruit pectin

–recipe yield: about 2 cups jam

Pour juice and water into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and allow liquid to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Measure out sugar in a separate container and set aside.  Add pectin into juice, whisking until dissolved.  Bring liquid to a full, rolling boil.  At this point, quickly dump in the sugar while constantly whisking.  Return to a rolling boil and allow to boil for exactly 1 minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and skim off any foam on the top of mixture.  Pour into jars/containers and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.  Store, covered, in refrigerator or freezer.

Oat, Nut & Seed Pie Crust

Adapted from “Vegan Oat-Nut Pie Crust,”  SmarterFitter and The Whole Food Bible

½ cup walnuts                                    ¾ cup almond flour                        ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup rolled oats                                 ¼ cup flax meal                              3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cocoa nibs                   ¼ teaspoon salt                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spread walnuts out onto a sheet tray and toast them in a 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes, tossing them halfway through baking time.  Remove them from oven, allow to cool, and increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 8- or 9-inch springform pan by well-oiling the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides.  Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together walnuts, oats, and cocoa nibs until ground.  Add in almond flour, flax meal, and salt, and pulse to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup and vanilla.  Pour the liquid into the food processor and pulse to mix.  Remove mixture from food processor and press into pan in an even layer.  Bake crust for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are slightly crisp.  Set aside to cool.

-Optional
Pomegranate seeds or cocoa nibs may be used as a garnish.  To make swirl design, heat pomegranate jam and use a small paintbrush dipped in the jam to paint onto dish.

June 15, 2011

Key-nadian Twist On A Father’s Day Favorite

I really thought that I’d tried every Key lime dessert recipe known to man.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my dad’s all-time favorite indulgence is Key lime pie, which I grew tired of making about fifteen Birthdays/Father’s Days ago.  Since then, I’ve found ways to incorporate all of those delicious Key lime pie components into many different dessert shapes and forms.  I truly believed that I’d done it all… every Key lime concoction on the planet.  But there was one region of the Earth that I missed… Canada.  Cana..DUH!

Originating from the Great White North, a Nanaimo bar is a layered dessert traditionally composed of a sometimes nutty, brownie-like layer, a custard or buttercream layer, and a chocolate layer.  There are many different versions of Nanaimo bars, leaving me with lots of options to incorporate all of the flavors of the Key lime pie.  I was sold.  As the Vancouver Canucks have demonstrated this season, Canada knows great hockey, just as my dad, a die-hard Red Wings fan, does.   And, as it turns out, Canada also knows a thing or two about dessert!

Upon grocery shopping for ingredients, I also stumbled upon a couple of products that I’d been previously unfamiliar with, pure Key lime extract and natural crystallized lime.  The extract allowed me to achieve a nice, strong lime flavor without having to add too much actual lime juice and watering down the custard.  And the crystallized lime also added an extra kick without ruining the consistency of the filling.  This is an issue I’ve dealt with in the past, having never wanted to sacrifice any of my dad’s favorite lime flavor but also not wanting to jeopardize the quality of the dessert.  Both of these great new products will be of great use to me for years to come as I continue to make Key lime confections for the world’s greatest dad.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa Lew!

Key-nadian Lime Pie Bars

Inspired by: Key Lime Pie

Adapted from “Nanaimo Bars,” The Daring Kitchen  and Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives

Graham Layer

½ cup unsalted butter              2/3 cup almond flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar     1/3 cup flaked coconut, finely ground in food processor

1 egg, lightly beaten                ¼ cup unsalted pistachios, finely ground in food processor

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl.  Melt the butter and brown sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Pour a small amount of the melted butter-sugar into the dish containing the egg while whisking, bringing the egg slowly up to temperature without cooking and scrambling it.  Once the egg has been slightly warmed, pour it into the glass bowl with the remaining melted butter-sugar, stir, and continue to heat.  After the mixture is homogeneous and slightly thickened, remove the bowl from heat and stir in graham crumbs, almond flour, and ground coconut.

Key Lime Layer

3 egg yolks                                           ¼ cup cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons granulated sugar          2 tablespoons custard powder*

3 tablespoons Key lime extract            1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar

zest and juice of 1 lime                        3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

-optional: crystallized lime, green/yellow gel food coloring

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lime extract, juice, zest, and cornstarch.  Place over medium-low heat and continue to stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Allow about 5-7 minutes for the mixture to thicken, and then remove it from heat and transfer it to a small bowl.  Constantly stirring, gradually mix in small pieces of the cold butter, allowing each piece to dissolve before adding the next piece.  Once all the butter has been added and the mixture is smooth and cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

When lime mixture has set, remove it from the refrigerator, peel away and discard the plastic wrap.  Set mixture aside, stirring occasionally, and allow it to come to room temperature.  In a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter and cream cheese until thoroughly creamed.  Beat in the room temperature lime mixture and food coloring (if desired) until homogeneous.  Mix in the custard powder and gradually beat in the powdered sugar.  If an increase in lime flavor is desired, also beat in desired amount of crystallized lime (I used about 1½ teaspoons).  When desired flavor is reached, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until combined and fluffy.

*Vanilla instant pudding mix may be used here.

Chocolate Layer

2 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter

½ tablespoon heavy whipping cream

6 ounces white chocolate

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, bring butter and cream to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent it from scalding.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the white chocolate and place it over medium heat.  Stir in the hot cream to the melting chocolate and continue to stir until fully melted.  Remove from heat.

Assembly

Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the excess to drape over the sides  for easy dessert removal.  Press graham mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the lined pan.  Spoon on the lime layer and spread evenly across the entire surface of the graham layer.  Then, pour the warm, melted chocolate onto the top, evenly coating the dessert and reach all edges of the pan.  Let the dessert rest until chocolate has cooled and set before removing it from pan and slicing into bars.

June 11, 2011

S’more Truffles & Even MORE Macarons

As I’ve openly professed my love for all things marshmallow throughout the duration of Pumpercake’s existence, it should come as no surprise to my most loyal readers that I’m also a big fan of s’mores.  Smore’s are one of the only hot desserts that are perfectly acceptable during even the hottest summer nights.  A few years back, there was one summer in particular that Alicia, Katie and I lived solely off of graham crackers, milk chocolate and melted mallow, maybe with the occasional dollop of creamy peanut butter thrown in.  So when our families planned a visit during my last trip to Michigan, I knew I had to create a couple s’mores-inspired treats to pass around as the girls re-told the story of my being too impatient to wait for my metal marshmallow skewer to cool before devouring the mallow and nearly burning off my bottom lip.

Both desserts combine all the elements of the beloved s’more in different ways.  The truffles have crushed grahams and melted marshmallow that make up the base of  the candy, as well as a surprise mini-mallow hidden in the center.  The truffles are finished with a coating of milk chocolate and an extra pinch of crumbs.  The macarons, much sweeter than the truffles, present the flavors of the s’more in a more familiar, sandwich-like display.  Both bite-sized treats were delicious, looked beautiful together, and went over very well.


S’mores Truffles

Inspired by: S’mores

These truffles are most delicious when served cold, straight out of the refrigerator or cooler, if possible.  This allows for the texture of the truffle interior to match that of the marshmallow hidden inside, creating a velvety, homogeneous bite.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

15 large marshmallows

6 ounces cream cheese, softened

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs*

½ cup mini marshmallows

2 cups milk chocolate chips

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter.  Add in large marshmallows, toss them to coat in the melted butter, and allow them to melt entirely.  Once melted, transfer the mixture to a medium bowl containing the softened cream cheese.  Beat together the melted marshmallow and cream cheese until homogeneous.  Mix in the graham crumbs until completely combined.  Refrigerate mixture for about 10 minutes.  Once the mixture has chilled, it’s time to shape the truffles.  Using a melon-baller or a small cookie dough scoop makes this job a breeze, otherwise, I suggest using a round tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop and measure out the mixture.  Each time a truffle is scooped, place a mini-marshmallow into the center of it and roll the truffle to re-shape it into a ball with your hands.  Once all the balls are formed and stuffed with a marshmallow, transfer them to the freezer to chill for 15-20 minutes.

While the truffle centers are chilling, prepare a double boiler fitted with a medium glass bowl containing the chocolate chips.  Over low heat, slowly, evenly start to melt the chocolate until it has almost completely melted.  Remove bowl from heat and continue to stir chocolate to melt the remaining solid pieces and to slightly cool the mixture.  Remove the truffles from the freezer to prepare to coat them, one at a time, with the melted chocolate.  I find that the easiest way to do this is to use the fork and spoon method, thoroughly described in another of my candy-making posts, here.  Once each truffle is coated and dropped onto a sheet of parchment paper, they may be dusted with a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs before the chocolate has hardened.  Store cooled, hardened truffles in between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.


S’mores Macarons

Inspired by: S’mores

A truly delicious rendition of  the dessert.  Each of the components that make up this recipe can be found throughout Pumpercake.

Chocolate Shells

Marshmallow Frosting

Graham cracker crumbs*

Flaked sea salt

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have been sandwiched with frosting, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush on top of the shells.  Sprinkle a bit of graham cracker crumbs and pinch of flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies.

*Both desserts can also be made gluten-free by use of gluten-free graham crackers crumbs.

June 7, 2011

Mango Peach Tart For A Sweet Summer Start

Salsa is one of those go-to snacks that’s fit to satisfy all year round.  With different levels of spice, heat, and sweet, and a seemingly endless number of flavor combinations to choose from, there’s bound to be a salsa for everyone.  Evan’s favorite salsa is the mango-peach salsa made by Garden Fresh, a brand originating from Ferndale, Michigan.  And no, I promise it’s not just the homegrown comfort of the salsa that makes it so appealing to us Michigan-natives.  It’s legitimately incredible salsa.  And it also happens to be my inspiration behind today’s recipe.

I decided, if salsa-makers can marry mangoes, peaches and peppers together in sweet-heat harmony, so can I.  I used jalapenos and poblanos along with a dash of red pepper flake and cayenne to add some zip to the tangy-sweet fruit and piled it all into a buttery, cake-y shell.  All tasters agreed that it could handle even more heat, so feel free to turn up the amount of peppers and spice.  Please don’t be put off by the idea of a somewhat spicy dessert… it really was delicious.  Those too timid to add the peppers should definitely still whip up a batch of the cayenne cream.  That whipped cream and a spoon could keep me happy all summer long.

Mango Peach Tart with Cayenne Whipped Cream

Inspired by: “Mango Peach Salsa” -Garden Fresh Gourmet

Adapted from Marco Canora’s “White Peach Tart,” Food & Wine
and 
“Easy Peach Preserves,” Delicious Living

2 large mangoes                                                   1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

4 medium peaches                                                1/3 tablespoon gelatin

½-1 tablespoon grated red jalapeno                    1 tart crust (recipe below)

½-1 tablespoon grated poblano peppers             ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flake                       2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar                                        1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-recipe yield: 1 ten-inch tart

Peel and remove the core from both mangoes, then set one aside.  Chop one mango and two peaches (skin on) in a medium-small dice.  Transfer the diced fruit, grated peppers, pepper flakes, sugar and vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over the stove, constantly stirring.  Continuing to stir periodically, reduce heat to medium-low and allow mixture to rapidly simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until fruit has somewhat broken down.  In a separate small bowl, sprinkle gelatin into ¼ cup cold water and let set for about 1 minutes. Then, add it to the fruit and allow it to heat, stirring it until the gelatin is completely dissolved (about 3 minutes).  Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool completely before using or covering and refrigerating.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice remaining mango and peaches into ¼-½ inch wedges and set aside.  Prepare tart crust dough (recipe below) and bring mango-peach gelatin mixture to room temperature.  If cold gelatin has solidified, stir with a fork and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until lukewarm and spreadable.  Spoon ¾-1 cup of mango-peach mixture into tart pan atop the dough and spread into an even layer, setting aside the remaining mixture to be used later.  Arrange mango slices into a large circle on top of the fruit mixture in the pan, and then peach slices on top of the mango slices.  Arrange fruit so that it is slightly overlapping.  Place smaller fruit slices in the center portion of the tart. Place tart into the oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove the tart and, using a pastry brush, brush a bit of the liquid from the gelatin mixture onto the exposed fruit slices on the tart.  Place the tart back into the oven and allow to bake another 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is puffed and golden and the fruit is tender.  Allow tart to rest for at least 30 minutes, or until completely cooled, before slicing and serving.

To prepare the cream, place chilled whipping cream into a medium bowl and beat until soft peaks have been achieved.  Beat in the confectioner’s sugar and cayenne pepper until it’s reached stiff peaks.  Serve on top of or alongside tart slices.

Tart Crust

1½ cups all-purpose flour           ½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup granulated sugar              ½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon baking powder        1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, softened butter, salt, and lemon zest . Pulse ingredients until combined.  Add in egg and egg yolk and process until a soft dough forms.  Remove dough from the processor onto a clean surface and knead until it just comes together. Press dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

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June 2, 2011

Macaron Mess, Part III: Practice Makes Perfect

I’ve been going a bit overboard with macaron practice and production lately.  The delicate cookie that I once loathed has recently become my favorite kitchen experiment and my favorite gift to give away.  I’m constantly thinking and talking about them, and I may have even had a few dreams revolving solely around the macaron and its endless flavor combination possibilities.  It became clear to me that it was time to re-visit the chocolate-peanut butter macaron recipe from my very first attempt (emphasis on the word “attempt”) about a month ago.  Regardless of the fact that I’ve been a mac-making machine lately, making chocolate macaron shells still brought about a whole new challenge for me.  The addition of cocoa powder into the batter scared the living daylights out of me.  And as David Lebovitz suggests cutting back on almond flour while Tartelette suggests cutting back on powdered sugar when attempting chocolate macarons, I was torn and confused.  What’s the difference between unsweetened cocoa powder and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa anyway?

Luckily, my chocolate shells turned out very nicely due to David’s recipe (although that doesn’t mean that Tartelette’s wouldn’t have turned out just as well!).  I went with my original inspiration and filled the shells with a salted-peanut butter buttercream, mimicking my sister-in-law’s peanut butter buckeyes.  I kept my promise to my sister-in-law and my brother and made sure that they got to taste these less-fragile, correctly made cookies.

In other (much more exciting) news, Evan’s great friends, Sam and Megan, were married at a gorgeous black tie ceremony in Detroit this past weekend.  Evan selected some really nice wedding gifts to be shipped to their home, but I also decided to bake them something nice and have it waiting for them in their suite after the reception.  I wanted to make them something really special and pretty… something personalized just for them on their special day.  I didn’t even find out until after I’d given them the cookies that Megan just so happens to be allergic to gluten.  Thank goodness I’d ended up making these… one of the few fancy and gluten-free treats that I’ve come to grow so fond of whipping up!

As purple was one of the theme colors of their wedding decor, I chose to make Megan and Sam some violet shells with a blackberry buttercream filling.  I hand-painted some of the macs with tiny designs and flourishes, including one with their initials.  I saw the beautiful couple two days after the wedding and found out how much they enjoyed the cookies.  Congratulations, newlyweds!

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Inspired by: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buckeyes

Chocolate Macaron Shells

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “French Chocolate Macarons”

1 cup confectioners sugar

½ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

¼ cup superfine sugar

2 egg whites, aged & room temperature*

small pinch of cream of tartar

-recipe yield: about 17 filled macarons

Substituting the vanilla ingredients for the chocolate ingredients and proportions above, follow the French Macaron Shell directions portion of the recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  The cocoa should be added into the food processor and ground along with the confectioners sugar and almond flour.  Baking time may need to be increased by an extra minute or so.

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream

½ cup smooth peanut butter           ½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter        ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract              2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and  butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and continue to beat.  When the sugar has been combined, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy, being careful not to over-whip.

-Optional:

Once macaron shells have baked and cookies have assembled and sandwiched with buttercream, prepare a small batch of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil over the stove, reduced to a syrup and cooled) to brush over top of the shells.  Sprinkle a little kosher or flaked sea salt over top of the syrup-brushed cookies for an extra salty bite.

Blackberry Wedding Macarons

Pretty Purple Macaron Shells

For purple (or any other color) macaron shells, follow the French Macaron Shell recipe (as well as the extra tips listed just before the recipe).  Desired amount of gel food coloring can be added to macaron batter just after dry ingredients are sifted in and just before starting to fold dry ingredients into the meringue.  A good way to do this is to squeeze the gel directly onto a clean spatula before using the same spatula to fold the batter.

Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from sammyw‘s “Raspberry Buttercream Frosting”

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup seedless blackberry preserves

2-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium bowl, whip butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in blackberry preserves and beat until homogeneous.  Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until desired sweetness has been achieved.  Once sugar has been dissolved, drizzle in heavy cream and whip until fluffy.

-Optional

To make the designs, I diluted some more of the purple food coloring with a drop or so of water and used a fine paintbrush to apply a small amount of the thick purple liquid to the tops of the cookies in different designs.  Allow painted shells to dry completely before stacking, packaging, handling or serving.