Wednesday, July 21, 2010

24 Hour Dill Pickles

I have a friend with a green thumb. I don't know about all of you, but my thumb is about as green as an overripe banana. My friend on the other hand has an overwhelmingly abundant garden with several kinds of lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, squash, a ton of herbs and probably a ton of other things I can't even keep track of. So when she called me to make pickles I rushed right over. She had a recipe for sweet pickles that need to sit for a month to mature, but once we had those bottled we got restless. "But I want something now! All this work and nothing to taste, what gives?" So we went out back and using my tiny little key chain flash light (it was dark by then and I was not patient enough to wait for her to find an actual flash light) I filled up my shirt with about a dozen more beautiful pickles. We snipped off some dill growing nearby and headed back in. I hopped online and found this recipe

Dill Pickles

24 Hour Refrigerator Dill Pickles
via Liska

4 cups water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tbsps kosher salt
1 tsp white sugar
5 or 6 pickling cucumbers cut into quarters
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp celery seeds (we didn't have any and it came out just fine without)
8 medium cloves garlic, cut into long thin pieces
6 large sprigs of fresh dill

In a small non-reactive pan, bring water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place pepper, allspice, mustard, and celery seeds in the bottom of two clean quart-size ball jars or one great big half liter jar like I did. Pack cucumbers in tightly, the more you pack in, the more you'll have in the end. Drop garlic pieces into the jar around and between cucumbers.

Dill Pickle Jar

Carefully pour your brine over your cucumbers, being sure to cover them completely (you should have approx. 4 cups brine after boiling and cooling and you’ll probably have a little left over), and place dill sprigs on the top of the jar before sealing very well. Turn and shake jar until seeds have distributed throughout the brine. Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Try not to sneak any out of the jar early, but after the 24 hours...yum! Pickles! Take THAT Claussen!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cherry Rose and Coconut Ice Cream

It is too hot for words. Walking outside feels like wading though hot pudding and my glasses fog up each time I dart from one air conditioned space to another. This is the time for envy towards anyone with central air. I have one air conditioner in the dining room and I literally close off spaces to tunnel the cold air towards my bedroom. One day got so hot, I actually slept in the living room and that was only because I would not fit inside the actual AC unit. I tried.

Cherry Rose Coconut Ice Cream

Needless to say, cooking in this weather is absolutely out of the question. Spinning ice cream on the other hand is perfectly acceptable. Oh, and so is eating it straight from the machine instead of dinner. There's fruit in it, and dairy, and a coconut has the word "nut" in it, so it counts as a protein, right? Anyways. I've had this recipe earmarked for a while and when I found beautiful ink-black cherries at the farmers market, I decided that this will be a week for ice cream. I basically made it as is (how can you not, it's beautiful), except that I substituted rose tea for the actual rose buds. The flavor was very understated in the ice cream, but I loved the cherry spiked coconut flavor, with just a hint of something floral. It felt very tropical. Now where's the cabana boy? I need an umbrella drink!

Cherry Rose Coconut Ice Cream 2

Cherry, Rose and Coconut Ice Cream
via Tartelette

For the rose infused cherries:
1 cups pitted and halved cherries
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 tea bags of Numi Organic Tea White Rose

For the ice cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whole coconut milk
1 cup granulated sugar

Prepare the cherries:
Place all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat off and let steep one hour (longer for an even intense rose flavor). Remove the tea bags and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large saucepan set over medium low heat, bring the cream, milk, coconut milk and sugar to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, preferably overnight.
Process the mixture into your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's intructions.
Once the ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, pour into a freezable container. With a spatula, swirl in the cherries and a few tablespoons of their liquid. Freeze a couple of hours. Or, if you're impatient like me, swirl some of the syrup and the cherries into your ice cream during the last minute of churning in the machine, that way it's ready to eat as soon as you find a spoon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Death By Chocolate

I will only share a small part of this recipe with you today. It's not that I don't want to share, I do, it's just that the recipe is long. Very very long. I like my fingers and I don't want them to fall off. Oh, and I'm too lazy to type it out. And besides, you should get the book, it's fantastic! The book in question is Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion. I've had this book for years, in fact it was one of the first in my collection and everything I've ever made from it has come out sublime. And the meringue recipe I'm including at the bottom is so multi-purpose that I'm sure you'll forgive me for not including the rest.

Death By Chocolate

The recipe I'm here to tell you about is the very last one in the book, the one that the whole book is named after, the one and only "Death By Chocolate" cake. It consists of a layer of a decadent brownie, a layer of rich ganache, a layer of cocoa meringue, a thick layer of chocolate coffee mousse, another layer of brownie, a thick coat of that rich ganache, and a thick piped topping of yummy chocolate mousse. Oh, and if that's not enough chocolate for you, it comes with a chocolate rum sauce on the side, you know, to really nail in that coffin. You can't eat this cake without going into a minor chocolate coma or without having bits of chocolate all over your face leaving you wondering how it got there. And with the extra meringue batter, extra mousse, and extra ganache you will inevitably end up with, you can make these yummy little sandwiches, that won't tip you over, but will make you swoon.

Chocolate Sandwiches

Cocoa Meringue
via Death by Chocolate: The Last Word on a Consuming Passion

4 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp corn starch

- Preheat the oven to 225F.
- If you want this to be a layer in a cake, using a 9 inch cake circle as a guide, trace a circle with a pencil on a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet. Turn the paper over and, with trace mark down, place on a baking sheet. Or you can just make freehand shapes to make sandwiches.
- Place 4 egg whites, the cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whip and whisk on high until soft peaks form, about 45 to 50 seconds.
- Gradually add 1 cup sugar while continuing to whisk on high and whisk until stiff, about 1 1/2 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in and thoroughly combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa and the cornstarch.
- Fill a pastry bag (fitted with a large round tip) with the cocoa meringue. Fill the traced parchment shapes with meringue: start in the center and pipe a 3/4-inch wide spiral towards the outside.
- Place the meringue in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes before handling. Don't skip this part, the meringues will crack if handled too soon.
- Fill with ganache, chocolate mousse or whatever you like and enjoy!

So the moral of this story is, get the book, make the cake, and acquire about a dozen marriage proposals or kill off a few sugarholic friends. Enjoy :D

Monday, July 12, 2010

Super Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

This is actually from just before Pastry Boot Camp, but they came out pretty cute and the recipe is basically fool-proof, so here you go. I was already getting psyched for the class and I was given free reign on what I could make, all I was told was "Daniel LOVES Superman!" Plus kids love blue cupcakes, right? So in went some food coloring to touch up the purple from the blueberries.

Superman Cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is based on a Friendship Bread recipe, but without the hassle of nurturing a starter or dealing with the extras. Turns out you don't even need the aging and you can whip it up with spectacular results whenever you like. I also made strawberry cake into cake balls to put on top of the cupcakes, gave them little fruit roll up capes and piped little white chocolate superman logos for the fronts. The kids loved them, which means I couldn't be happier. Try the recipe, it's so flexible and so utterly easy, you can't help but succeed.

Superman Cupcakes 2
No-Starter Friendship Bread
I found this recipe online, but I can't recall where. If this is yours please let me know, I'll be happy to give you credit.

3/4 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Milk
3/4 cup Flour

Mix starter ingredients together and set aside.

1 cup Oil
1/2 cup Milk
3 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cup Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 large Box Lemon Pudding (or 1.5 of the small boxes)
1 cup blueberries

- Pre-heat oven to 325F.
- In a small pot, cook down the blueberries until they pop and mush into a paste. Let cool.
- Mix oil, milk, eggs and vanilla until thoroughly blended. Add to starter mix.
- In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients well then add to liquid ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Add in the blueberry paste and food color if you want the blue shade, or leave alone if you want the natural purple.
- Scoop into lined cupcake pans, filling 3/4 full and bake on middle rack for 20 min or until tested done.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Week At Pastry Boot Camp and a Strawberry Fig Tart

That's right boys and girls, a whole week of nothing but flour and sugar and French pastries. This post will be a bit picture heavy, but I promise, there will be a recipe in the end. You see, I've just completed the Pastry Bootcamp at the French Pastry School where under the tutelage of the wonderful Chef Kristen Ryan, I learned a bunch of back pocket recipes that I'll most definitely be making in the future. The most fantastic brioche recipe, rich and fabulous Chocolate financiers:

Chocolate Financiers

Fantastic bread brushed with a beer crust:

Beer Bread

Here's Chef showing us how to shape the loaves before proofing:

Beer Bread

A smooth vanilla ice cream that shames all others, shaped into perfect little quenelle shapes over a warm chocolate lava cake:

Chocolate Lava Cake

A classic fruit tart with the crust painstakingly shaped by hand with the help of my friend and partner Joy:

Joy Making Tart

The best pate de fruit I've ever had (kind of like marmalade candy), perfect little Madelines with just a slight hint of lemon:


And lots and lots more. And every day, right after coming home after hours and hours in the kitchen, I'd get right back into it. How can I not when there are figs at the market?


I don't know if I'm allowed to share the recipes I learned in class with the world yet, but until I know for sure, I'll leave you with one of the recipes I made on my own. It's got fresh figs from the market and strawberries from the last picking expedition:


It's a slightly different crust then the one from the last post, and it was quite a bit easier to work with. The hazelnut pastry cream and the wonderful fruits made for a unique and very tasty treat.

Strawberry Fig and Hazelnut Tart

Strawberry Fig and Hazelnut Tart
via Martha Stewart Magazine, June 2010
Makes one 10-inch tart.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

3/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons Armagnac or other brandy, such as Cognac
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces figs (about 7), trimmed and halved lengthwise
8 ounces strawberries (1 1/2 cups), halved if large

Make the crust:
- Pulse flour, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined.
- Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.
- Drizzle 1/4 cup ice water evenly over mixture and pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse.
- Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
- Roll dough to a 14-inch circle (1/8 inch thick) on a floured surface. Fit dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim excess dough flush with edges of pan using a knife. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove weights, and bake until set, about 5 minutes more. Let cool. Leave oven on.

Make the filling:
- Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add sugars, zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, Armagnac, eggs, and vanilla; pulse until mixture is almost smooth.
- Spread filling evenly into tart shell. Top with figs and strawberries. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees; bake until set and dark brown on top, about 1 hour more. Garnish with whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sour Cherry Heaven

I'm usually pretty good with directions. It's not necessarily that I have an inner compass and always know where I am, but that I like maps and when one is not available, I usually have my trusty Tom Tom GPS, which only lies to me when I set it to the Irish brogue. Once in a while though I get cocky and I decide that I don't need these aides and that I totally know where I'm going. These are the times I get lost. Not completely and irreparably lost, mind you, because I usually still know which way is east and the general direction of where I need to be, but the take-the-back-streets-the-whole-100-miles lost. I like to call that the "Scenic Route". Sometimes, it's even pretty.

Sour Cherries

That's just what happened last Saturday morning as I was heading out to meet some friends at my favorite (or the only one I know) cherry orchard, Curran's Orchard. I went up there last year by myself and then shared the pickings with some friends, whose daughter remembered me when they were making plans to head up there this year and insisted that I join them. Since picking with friends is way more fun then going alone, I agreed and we made plans to meet there at 9am. I woke up early, packed up the car with cookies and cupcakes for a housewarming I'd be going to after picking (aren't they cute? the party was an Alice in Wonderland theme) and set out, being absolutely sure I knew exactly where this place was. An hour and a half later, I found myself at my favorite strawberry farm....about 40 miles away from the cherry farm. Dang. So much for my memory.

The day was beautiful and the 45 min drive from one farm to the next was lovely, but I still ended up getting there an hour after my friends, who were almost done with their picking. Not to worry, they said, "we'll help you pick!" And that, by the way, is why I love my friends.

Sour Cherries

Unfortunately, the late frost had killed a lot of the blossoms this year, and the recent series of storms have brought down a few of the trees, so the crop was very light and everyone was limited to 20 pounds of fruit to give more people the chance to try it. That means there will be no cherry liquor this year, but there will be pie! And ice cream! And since I split my crop with my mom, there will also be lots of yummy pastry thingies that have no name which she makes and we devour. Mmmmm. I love sour cherries.

I will have some extra super exciting stuff to share with you later this week because while it's been quiet here, I've been incredibly busy bouncing off the walls in excitement over what I'm up to this week. I'll give you a hint: there will be lots of butter, sugar, flour and absolutely NO DISHES to wash! While you're busy guessing, if you find yourself with some of this year's highly sought after sour cherries you can try out this wonderful recipe:

Sour Cherry Clafoutti Tart 2

Sour Cherry Clafoutis
via Martha Stewart, June 2010 issue

Tart Crusts:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Coarse salt

2 large eggs
2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Table salt
6 ounces sour cherries (about 1 1/4 cups), halved and pitted

1. Beat butter and confectioners' sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add yolk, and mix until combined. Add flour and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; mix until just combined.
2. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
3. Set six 4-inch tart rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.
4. Cut out six 5 1/2-inch circles, rerolling scraps as needed. Press dough into bottoms and up sides of tart rings, patching any holes or tears. Trim excess dough flush with edges of rings using a knife. Prick bottoms of tart shells all over with a fork, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
5. Bake until pale gold, pressing down dough if puffing, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

1. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. Gently whisk together eggs, creme fraiche, granulated sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of table salt.
3. Divide mixture evenly among tart shells, and carefully drop cherry halves, cut sides down, into each. Transfer to oven, and bake until just set, 17 to 19 minutes. Let cool.