Just in time….

We’re expecting our first heat wave of the summer this week so it seems like a good time to share one of those iced treat recipes I promised (warned about) a few weeks back. We hosted a bbq last weekend and one of the guests graciously brought us a huge bag of sweet limes from their tree. So I thought It’d be a good time to make some Lime Paletas or Ice Pops/Popsicles but with a Southeast Asian spin using lemongrass, mint and ginger. The easiest way to get all those flavors in there is by making an infused simple syrup.

I peeled and juiced all the limes and I was able to yield about a 1 1/2 cups of sweet lime juice. Simple syrup is pretty easy to make, its just equal parts sugar and water and heated until the sugar is dissolved then cooled down to room temperature or chilled depending on how you’re going to use it.  In this case I added a hefty chunk of smashed ginger and about 2 TBS of crushed lemongrass to give it that Southeast Asian vibe. I let the syrup cool to room temperature then strained it and let it cool further in the fridge. This will help the ice pops to freeze faster.

Once the lemongrass and ginger simple syrup was chilled, I got out the trusty ol’ blender and blended 1 1/2 cups of lime juice with 2 cups of the lemongrass ginger simple syrup, Then I tossed in 1/2 cup of fresh mint and blended until the mint was finely chopped. I poured the mixture into silicone molds then left to freeze for at least 5 hours.

I didn’t have good luck with the silicone molds and found that the ice pops get stuck even after running a little warm water on the outside of the mold. My suggestion is to use the zip top style ice pop bags, I got the ones I used on Amazon. If you don’t have molds or these fancy little bags, just freeze them mixture in ice cube trays. Hmm, if you pour a little rum over them you’d have an amazing little mojito…just sayin’

That’s it, I hope this helps you beat the summer heat…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sweet lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • 3 TBS crushed ginger
  • 2 TBS crushed lemongrass
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar

No scratches or bee stings required

Fresh out of the oven and piping hot Blackberry Cobbler

One of the many things I miss about living in the PNW (that’s Pacific Northwest) is how easy (and free) it is to get your hands on ridiculous quantities of blackberries. They’re like weeds and grow everywhere and you don’t even have to go far off the beaten path to find them they grow along the side of the road. To make this week’s recipe, you just need to get a hold of blackberries, fresh, frozen, foraged or otherwise.

We hosted our first bbq of the summer this past weekend and I wanted a dessert that’s easy to serve to a crowd, can be made ahead and reminds me of summer. Blackberries, cobbler and corn remind me of summer and cobblers are great crowd friendly make ahead desserts. Since blackberries pair really well with corn, I decided to make a corn biscuit top.

As I mentioned, this was designed to feed a crowd so adjust your quantities accordingly. I used a combination of fresh and frozen blackberries. This recipe will serve 8.

Blackberry Cobbler with Corn Biscuit Top

  • 8 cups of blackberries (if using frozen, thaw the berries and retain the liquid)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Corn Biscuit top

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 cup freeze dried corn (ground)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 TBS chilled butter (cut into cubes)
  • 3/4 cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and let sit for an hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350F.

Biscuit top-

Combine flour, cornmeal, freeze dried corn, salt, sugar, baking powder and chilled butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until butter forms little pea sized balls. Slowly add in buttermilk/yogurt (you may not need all of it) until dough just starts to come together. The dough will be fairly loose and sticky and that’s ok.

Spray a 2 quart (deep dish) casserole with cooking spray and fill with berry mixture. Using a Table spoon that’s been sprayed with cooking spray, drop dollops of biscuit batter across the top of the berries.

dollop corn biscuit batter

 

Place casserole dish on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 1 hour or until middle portion of the cobbler is bubbling. If top starts to brown too much over with aluminum foil. The cobbler can be served warm, room temperature or cold and pairs well with ice cream.

 

Easier than a Rice Krispy Treat

Simple and easy with big coconut flavor

Want a super easy sweet treat that goes together is a matter of minutes? As it turns out, macaroons are just that treat. Since Friday May 31st is National Macaroon Day (not to be confused with National Macaron Day which is in March) this recipe is just in time for that macaroon emergency. This is also a great little recipe if you find yourself like me with left over coconut and the dregs of a can of sweetened condensed milk that you don’t know what to do with.

Recipe

  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 TBS AP Flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condendensed milk
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips or bakers chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, coconut, salt and condensed milk in a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined. Spray your hands with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil and form coconut mixture into 1″ balls and lay out evenly on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 11-15 minutes or until coconut is golden brown. Allow to cool and drizzle with dark chocolate if desired.  Yield 12-15 macaroon

Yep, its that easy. If you spray your mixing bowl with cooking spray, it will make clean up a little easier.  Oh and stay tuned. I’ll post my recipe for Coconut Layer Cake with Coconut Buttercream and Coconut Cake Truffles in a few weeks.

That’s how the cookie crumbles..

What’s better than milk and cookies?

I was having all sorts of technical issues this week, but finally go them resolved and was able to actually upload images again. So now that’s all taken care of for this weeks post I’m making cookies. Though this time around, I’m dressing up that timeless classic chocolate chip cookies. One of my co-workers gave me a package of Horlick’s Malted Milk Powder from her prized stash and it got me thinking that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies before. So after a little bit of testing here’s the recipe I came up with.

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup/2 sticks of room temperature unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground coffee
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cup sifted All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed malted milk balls like Whoppers or Maltesers
  • 2 oz of chopped extra dark chocolate
  • coarse salt and chopped dark chocolate for the top (optional)

In a large bowl, cream butter until it turns a light pale yellow then add granulated sugar and light brown sugar and beat for a couple of minutes until it is light and fluffy. Add in eggs, malted milk powder, coffee and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add in salt, baking soda and sifted flour until the flour is mostly combined. You may have to mix this by hand or use a stand mixer. Stir in the chocolate chips, crushed malted milk balls and dark chocolate. Form into golfball sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour before baking. To bake, preheat oven to 350F. Place dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet leaving 2″ space between cookies and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

It’s like eating a cloud….no really

Fluffy airy Pavlova with a mix of fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar

The  weeks recipe is handy to keep in your back pocket for occasions when you find yourself with a lot of leftover egg whites. After making the custard for last week’s coconut cream pie, that’s exactly the situation I was in. Pavlova are sweet baked meringues but with crispy airy outer shell and a gooey marshmallowy center. They’re a perfect vehicle for seasonal fruits like fresh berries and other fruits.

Though you don’t need special equipment, you could mix them by hand. But unless you want your arm to fall off, I’d suggest at a minimum using a electric hand mixer but ideally a stand mixer.

Pavlova

4 eggs. whites

1 cup super fine sugar*

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons corn starch

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar

Preheat 275F

Wipe the inside of the stand mixer. bowl with white vinegar to make sure there is not oil or grease in the bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the 4 egg whites on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Mix the salt and sugar and gradually add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time into the egg whites,  whisking in between additions of sugar. Scrape down the sides of the Whisk until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Add in the cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk until incorporated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use the back of.a large spoon or a piping bag to form meringue mixture into 2 7″ rounds or 6-8 4″ diameter rounds. Bake on the middle rack at 275F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Turn off the over and let Pavlova’s cool in the oven while leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Serve with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit

The Best Coconut Cream Pie Ever….no really….

My wife is a huge coconut fan, so I gave her a choice of whether she wanted a coconut cake or a coconut cream pie. She decided on coconut cream pie. So this week I’m going to share my recipe for super coconutty coconut cream pie. My goal with the pie is to infuse rich coconut flavor in each layer of the pie. With that said, I use my graham cracker coconut crust recipe as the base. You can  find the recipe here. Next comes the filling which is a rich coconut custard, that’s not only flavored with vanilla but also coconut extract and toasted shredded coconut. And finally, I make a vanilla and coconut flavored whipped cream and finish the whole thing off with toasted coconut chips. Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Cream Pie Filling

1 prepared graham cracker crust

1 13.5 oz can coconut milk

1 12 oz can evaporated milk

4 large egg yolks

¼ cup corn starch

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut (plus extra for garnish)

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp coconut extract

pinch of salt

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine eggs, salt, corn starch and sugar with ¼ cup of the milk and set aside. Heat the coconut milk and evaporated milk in a heavy bottomed pot until it comes to a slow bowl and turn the heat down to medium low. Slowly drizzle 1 cup of the heated milk mixture into the egg and starch mixture while continuously stirring with a wire wihisk. Now add the egg and starch mixture into the pot and stir until it thickens into a pudding like consistency. Add in 1 cup of the toasted shredded coconut. Fill the pie shell with the custard and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Finish with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with toasted coconut chips.

 

Enljoy

I Scream You Scream – Riff Off Edition

Cherry Chocolate Sundae with chocolate sauce and my homemade interpretation of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream.

You may have been able to figure out that I’m a bit of a food nerd, so one of the things I like to do to keep my mind occupied (especially at work when I’m frequently doing repetitive/tedious tasks) is deconstruct recipes in my head. Mostly to try to figure out a way to make a well known recipe using equipment/ingredients I have at home or to be able to sub in and out ingredients because of allergy and intolerance issues.

I’ve posted in the past about using coconut milk as a substitute for heavy whipping cream in ice cream recipes (you can see other ice cream related posts here) to reduce the amount of total lactose. This week’s recipe uses that same 1 to 1 whipping cream to coconut milk substitution. While this recipe is lactose free, because I use sweetened condensed milk for the sweetener, it should be a little more gut friendly than traditional ice cream.

Out of all my attempts to make home-made versions of recipes, I think this one comes the closest to matching the original. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: 1 quart

Base:

2 cans full fat coconut milk

1 can sweetened condenses milk

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp food grade cherry oil* or 1 tsp cherry extract

1 tsp vanilla paste

Mix – ins:

⅓ cup coarsely chopped extra dark chocolate

1/4 cup chopped premium maraschino/cocktail cherries (Luxardo, Woodford Reserve or similar)

¼ cup chopped candied cherries (great way to use them up if you have leftovers from holiday baking)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the ice cream base and stir until everything is well mixed, Pour into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Towards the end of the churn time, add the chocolate and cherries into the base and let churn for a few more minutes to allow the chocolate and cherries to distribute through out the ice cream.

If you like your ice cream super soft you can eat it immediately, otherwise package ice cream into freezer safe containers and let chill for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. This will allow the ice cream to harden.

*note: Food grade oils are better than extracts for using in ice cream, they are more intensely flavored and the oils stand up to freezing better than water and alcohol based extracts. You can find them online or at specialty cake decorating/candy making shops.  LorAnn is the most common brand.The typical substitution of essential oil to extract is ¼ tsp essential oil to 1 tsp extract.

 

White Chocolate and Citrus Confetti Cake with White Chocolate Citrus Buttercream

4 layers of cake with layers of curd and buttercream standing tall

There’s this misconception that a lot of people have that baking is super complicated and requires people to be super precise. I argue for most cakes, muffins and cookies that home cooks are inclined to attempt, that’s not the case. Like with all cooking, being organized is the secret to success. Reading the recipe thoroughly a few times, assembling and prepping all your ingredients before starting any part of the cooking/baking process is essential to a successful result.

One of the things I like about baking, is that by simply swapping out an ingredient here and there you can completely change the flavor profile of what is essentially the same recipe. Case in point…the cake pictured above is the same base as the Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake from a few months ago. I just swapped out white chocolate for the cocoa and dark chocolate and swapped out citrus for the peppermint oil and instead of crushed peppermint candy between layers, I used sprinkles and crushed Belgian Butter Cookies and Corn Flakes. Then I used the same method for assembling the cake. Otherwise the only other thing that was done differently, is that I baked the cake in 2 sheet pans and then used the outer ring of my springform pan to cut out the individual layers. It turns out that the cake cooks more evenly, faster and the top is more level than if you use round cake pans.

So my hope is if you learn anything at all here its that you discover that these are just ideas and you can riff off of any of them by changing ingredients here and there.

Here are the ingredients to make this particular cake,

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp each lemon and orange extract
  • 8 oz. melted white chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 TBS each lemon zest and orange zest
  • 3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles/jimmies
  • Icing (see below)
  • 2 cups lemon curd
  • 1 cup of assorted sprinkles for decorating

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, citrus extract and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 2 prepared ½ sheet pans and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 2lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp each lemon and orange extract
  • 1 tsp each lemon and orange zest
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup cornflakes

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl add zest, vanilla extract, citrus extract and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

For assembly

Use the outer ring of a springform pan, or a make a 6″circle out of cardboard to cut out 3 layers from you sheet cakes. Crumble the remaining scraps, to use as your base layer. Slowly build your layers, cake, curd, buttercream, sprinkles and cornflakes. Then keep repeating that process. At the top, you can drizzle some lemon curd, or pipe buttercream roses and finish the rest of the sprinkles.

Sweet and tangy tropical goodness…

passion fruit bars dusted with powdered sugar

I was the happy beneficiary of some fresh passion fruit from one of my co-workers about a week or so ago. Well, they finally ripened up enough for me to use so I decided to make passion fruit bars. Passion fruit, is a somewhat sour acidic tropical fruit which lends itself very well to this application as well as being turned into curds as discussed in previous post or really anything that you’d use citrus.

There’s two parts to this recipe, first is the shortbread base and then the curd that goes on top. You’ll need to bake and completely and allow to fully cool to room temperature before working on the curd topping. We have quite a few Vietnamese markets here that sell frozen passionfruit juice and its also available at our local Whole Foods. Look for one that doesn’t have sugar added, if you can’t find unsweetened, reduce the sugar in the filling by a couple of tablespoons. If you’re not able to locate passion fruit, use any combination of citrus juice you have available. You’ll need a 9×9 brownie pan to make this recipe. I’d suggest using a metal pan versus glass so the sides of the bars do not brown too much.

Shortbread Base

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup All Purpose Flour

¼ tsp salt

3 TBS granulated sugar

3 TBS powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325F

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients by hand until it is a sand like texture.

Shortbread dough mixed to a sand like texture

Press into a 9×9 brownie pan that’s been lined with parchment paper and spayed with cooking spray or greased with butter.

Pressing shortbread dough into a brownie pan lined with parchment

Dock the dough a few times to prevent the crust from rising/bubbling up.

docking the shortbread crust.

Bake crust in an oven preheated 325F and bake for 30 minutes or until shortbread turns a light golden brown along the edges.

Filling

3 large eggs

½ cup passion fruit juice

1 tsp fresh lemon zest

2 TBS lemon juice

½ tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

pinch of salt

3 TBS All Purpose flour

Powdered Sugar for dusting

Mix all the ingredients except for the flour together until well mixed. Slowly mix in the flour a tablespoon at a time until mix is free of lumps and the flour has been thoroughly incorporated. Pour filling mixture into the baked and cooled crust. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 35-40 minutes or until filling is set.  Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares to serve.

Here there be dragons…..

Homemade fortune cookies decorated for Valentine’s Day.

Every once and a while as I’m wandering around Pinterest and Instagram I see an idea that I find inspiring and I try to reproduce it or riff off of it and usually it works out how I imagined it in my head. So, with it being Lunar New Year (’cause I tend to write posts a week ahead) and with Valentine’s Day coming up I thought I’d try my hand at making fortune cookies from scratch. I love the idea of being able to customize the fortunes as well as the cookie itself being an interesting package to hide surprises. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day, right?

I can deal with doing a lot of seemingly tedious culinary tasks. I can spend hours decorating cookies and using tweezers to apply sugar pearls and such to cakes and cookies. But I have to admit these fortune cookies are a little too tedious for me. The recipe I’m going to share will make 2 dozen fortune cookies. But I actually made 10 and called it quits. The batter is super easy but the tedium comes into play with baking them 2 at a time. Then putting the fortune into the hot from the oven cookie before the cookie cools too much and starts to crack. And off course accomplishing this without burning your fingers. Turns out this is much easier said than actually done. So cool idea but a bit of a PITA. Good luck and may the odds be in your favor.

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp orange extract (or whatever other flavor you’d like)
  • 6 TBS melted butter
  • ⅔ cup AP flour
  • 24 precut sayings or fortunes

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs and sugar with a wire whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Then mix in, salt, extracts and flour. The batter will be really thick and that’s ok. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to stir until the batter is the consistency of instant pudding.

Using a silicone mat, spread 1 TBS of the batter into a 3 ½ round.

Try to spread the batter as evenly as possible. Bake the cookies at 375F for 5-8 minutes or until they start to brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven and place onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a metal spatula to loosen the cookies from the mat and place the fortunes in the middle.

Slowly press the edges of the cookie together (the cookies will still be hot to the touch) and fold over the edge of a cookie sheet or glass. I used a metal ruler I had laying around.

Allow to cool and decorate as you like. These should be eaten same day. Since there are no preservatives in them, they a susceptible to humidity.