cranberry apple brandy

cranberry apple brandy 3

When I was simmering sugar syrup, smashing fruit, and measuring alcohol for these cocktails, my mom made the excellent point that opening a bottle of wine is a heck of a lot easier. And while I appreciate how wine compliments food and how beer signals relaxation, I love cocktails too. Cocktails are special. They mean fun and celebration. You can’t help but be happy when enjoying a cocktail with friends and family. And that’s why they’re worth the trouble.

cranberry apple brandy 1

This one takes more work than the citrus squeezing, liquor measuring, and syrup simmering of my favorite vodka gimlets and magaritas, as apples need to be sliced, then crushed along with cranberries before the liquor and syrup are stirred in – and that’s in addition to the squeezing, measuring, and mixing of citrus, liquor, and syrup, respectively.

cranberry apple brandy 2

It’s a strong drink, undoubtedly, as it is mostly brandy.  But it has all of the ingredients in a good apple dessert – sugar, a touch of citrus to brighten the flavors, cranberries in case you needed another reminder that it’s the end of fall and the beginning of winter.  Fortunately, that’s just the time for celebrations worthy of the trouble involved with mixing up a seasonal cocktail.

cranberry apple brandy 4

One year ago: Cranberry Apple Galette
Two years ago: Carne Adovada
Three years ago: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms

Printer Friendly Recipe
The Normandy
(from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser)

Serves 1

9 cranberries
2 thin slices green apple
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 ounces Calvados or other good-quality apple brandy

Combine 6 cranberries, 1 apple slice, the brown sugar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and muddle (crush with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon). Add the simple syrup, Calvados, and a few ice cubes, cover, and shake well. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with the remaining 3 cranberries and apple slice.

cranberry sauce with port and dried figs

port cranberries 3

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of canned jellied cranberries? They’re exactly the same as homemade cranberry sauce: cranberries, sugar, water. The first time I made homemade cranberry sauce, I eagerly took my first bite and then…huh. It tastes exactly like the canned kind. Don’t bother making cranberry sauce from scratch if it’s because you’re expecting it to taste better than it is from the can.

port cranberries 4

But there are other reasons to make it from scratch. The first is that it’s fun. Raw cranberries are neat, pucker-inducing and hard and dry. Then when you cook them, they pop. It only takes 15 minutes and can be done up to a week in advance, so why not spend a few minutes playing with your food?

The other reason is that you can play around with flavors, personalizing the sauce. Orange is the most common addition and after doing that for several years, I was ready for more experimentation. Sweet port wine and balsamic vinegar seemed like they would complement the tart cranberries perfectly.

port cranberries 1

Even with all of the extra flavors in this – port, balsamic vinegar, figs, rosemary, black pepper, cinnamon – it didn’t taste so different from the stuff in the can. It had a warmer tone to it, and I liked the crunch of the fig seeds. But everyone would have been just fine with the canned stuff too. And that’s okay, because the few minutes I spent making this cranberry sauce were well spent just for the fun of it.

port cranberries 2

Two years ago: African Pineapple Peanut Stew
Three years ago: Pumpkin Goat Cheese Ravioli

Printer Friendly Recipe
Cranberry Sauce with Port and Dried Figs (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

At first, I served this as you see it here, but for the leftovers, I put the sauce through a food mill to separate the skins, and I much prefer the smoother version.

1½ cups ruby Port
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) packed brown sugar
8 dried black Mission figs, stemmed, chopped
1 6-inch-long sprig fresh rosemary
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar

Combine the port, vinegar, brown sugar, figs, rosemary, cinnamon, and pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Discard the rosemary and cinnamon. Mix in the cranberries and granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced and the berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a bowl; chill until cold. (Cranberry sauce can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

white wine gravy

white wine gravy 8

Here’s why this gravy is so good:

First, homemade turkey stock. I know, I go overboard, and while you aren’t wrong, keep in mind that this is not a difficult step. You throw turkey wings – they’re not expensive – in the oven, caramelize vegetables in a stockpot, and then mix the two with water and leave it alone for a few hours while it simmers away. Oh, and deglaze the roasting pan the turkey wings were in. That’s where the good stuff is.

white wine gravy 1

Second, a medium-dark roux. You aren’t just cooking the raw flavor out of the flour here, you want the flour itself to contribute a nutty flavor. It loses some of its thickening power when you do this, but you didn’t want gloppy gravy anyway, did you?

white wine gravy 2

Third, wine. You might be doing this already, but if not, what the heck? Deglaze that roasting pan after your turkey roasts with wine. If you want flavor, and why wouldn’t you, water isn’t enough.

white wine gravy 3

The first time I made gravy like this, I poured it over everything on the plate, and that’s the thing about gravy – it affects the turkey, the stuffing, and the potatoes. That’s half the Thanksgiving plate, which means that gravy shouldn’t be an afterthought. This gravy was so good I ate the leftovers with a spoon. The method isn’t so different from any other gravy, so why not follow these simple tricks for such a payoff?

white wine gravy 6

One year ago: Prosciutto-Wrapped Neufchatel-Stuffed Jalapenos
Two years ago: Pumpkin Scones
Three years ago: Gratin Dauphinois (Potatoes au Gratin)

Printer Friendly Recipe
White Wine Gravy (adapted from Emeril and Cook’s Illustrated)

4 cups Golden Turkey Stock (recipe below)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small saucepan, bring the turkey broth to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; cover to keep warm.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour just starts to smell nutty and become caramel-colored, 6-8 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Turn off the heat and cover.

3. After the turkey has roasted, strain the pan juices through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass-measuring cup; skim or pour off the fat from the strained liquid. Discard the solids in the strainer.

4. Place the roasting pan on 2 stovetop burners over medium heat; add the wine and defatted pan juices to the pan, bring to a simmer, and scrape to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

5. Add the liquids from the deglazed roasting pan to the broth mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary.

white wine gravy 4

Golden Turkey Stock (from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Makes about 7 cups

If you’re roasting a salted or brined turkey, don’t add salt to the broth, because the gravy might end up too salty.

4½ pounds turkey wings, cut in half
1 large onion, chopped coarse
1 large carrot, chopped coarse
1 large celery stalk, chopped coarse
6 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the turkey wings in a large roasting pan; roast until deep brown, turning once, about 2 hours total.

2. Transfer the wings to a large bowl. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the turkey fat from the roasting pan into a large pot (reserve roasting pan). Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot. Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are golden, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, add 2 cups of water to the roasting pan; place the pan over 2 burners and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits. Add the liquid from the roasting pan to the pot with the sautéed vegetables. Add the turkey wings, herbs, and enough cold water to cover the wings by 1 inch.

4. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until the stock is very flavorful and reduced to 7½ to 8 cups, about 2½ hours. Strain the stock into a large bowl. Cool 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Can also be made and frozen 2 weeks ahead.) Spoon off the fat from the surface before using.

white wine gravy 7

apple brandy hand pies

apple brandy hand pies 8

Adding ‘brandy’ to the title of this recipe is probably an exaggeration, because I suspect most of the brandy gets left behind in the sugary liquid given off by the apples. Plus, with two teaspoons of brandy in over a dozen hand pies, that’s approximately one drop per pie. On the other hand, how much more fun do apple brandy hand pies sound than apple hand pies? A lot more fun, that’s how much.

apple brandy hand pies 2

And these are fun. To eat, that is; to make, they’re a lot of nitpicky chilling steps. You measure the ingredients and chill them; make the dough and chill it; roll it out and chill it; cut circles and chill them; fill the hand pies and chill them.

apple brandy hand pies 3

It isn’t too bad though; you don’t have to actually do anything during those chilling steps, so it’s really just an issue of starting early. The reward at the end is crust so flaky it’s almost like puff pastry dough, not to mention a sweet and spicy apple filling – whether it’s actually spiked with brandy or not.

apple brandy hand pies 5

One year ago: Coconut Cream Tart/Pie
Two years ago: Sun-Dried Tomato Jam
Three years ago: Peter Reinhart’s Pizza

Printer Friendly Recipe
Apple Brandy Hand Pies (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and from Cooks Illustrated’s apple pie recipe in The New Best Recipe)

Makes about 14 pies

Dough:
1¼ cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup ice water

Filling:
2 large apples, peeled, cored, diced into ¼-inch cubes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple (or regular) brandy
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cups (1.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice

1. To make the pastry, in a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. If preparing ahead of time, the dough can be stored at this point for up to one month in the freezer.

2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one half of the dough to ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch-round biscuit cutter, cut seven circles out of the rolled dough. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place in the refrigerator to chill for about 30 minutes.

3. Toss the apples with the lemon juice and zest. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, salt and spices. Toss the dry ingredients with the apples.

4. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto one half of each circle of dough. Quickly brush cold water around the circumference of the dough, and fold it in half so the other side comes down over the filling, creating a semicircle. Seal the hand pie, and make a decorative edge by pressing the edges of the dough together with the back of a fork. Repeat the process with remaining dough and filling. Place the hand pies back on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

5. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled hand pies from the refrigerator, cut 3 small slits in each and lightly brush with the egg yolk wash. Sprinkle sanding sugar generously over the pies. Bake until the hand pies are golden brown and just slightly cracked, about 20 minutes. Remove the pies from the oven; let cool slightly before serving.

apple brandy hand pies 7

prosecco raspberry gelee

raspberry gelee 7

One New Year’s Eve, I was standing in line at the grocery store buying sushi rice (because I had a very exciting evening of cooking ahead of me to ring in the new year), when I heard the person behind me tell someone on her cell phone, “I’m buying vodka…and Grandma got the good jello!”

raspberry gelee 4The advantage of only making a half recipe – half a bottle of champagne to use up!

What, I wonder, is the “good jello”? Jell-o brand, and not store brand? I assure you that the two will make equally gag-worthy but redeemingly drunk-making jello shots.

raspberry gelee 2

I think I have found my own good jello, and it involves, as all good things must, bubbly wine. Not precisely prosecco, because apparently that Italian sparkling wine isn’t available in my area, but I’m sure my favorite New Mexico champagne will work just as well.

raspberry gelee 5

And good wine is key here, because very little is done to it. It’s mixed with raspberries, of course, and solidified, and slightly sweetened, and that’s it. In the end, it’s a dessert that tastes almost exactly like champagne with fruit, and the best part is that it even keeps its fizz. It keeps its buzz too, as I accidentally learned on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. I wouldn’t call this a jello shot, but it’s definitely good jello.

raspberry gelee 6

One year ago: Whole Wheat Bagels
Two years ago: Quick Baking Powder Pizza Crust
Three years ago: Eclairs

printer friendly recipe
Prosecco Raspberry Gelée (from Bon Appétit)

Mixing fresh raspberries with sugar doesn’t do much if you don’t cut or crush them, but just go with it. You’ll end up breaking them up slightly when you mix them with the rest of the ingredients, which will tint your gelée a pretty blush color.

I might add a couple tablespoons more sugar next time, just to make this feel more like dessert and less like a glass of wine that happens to be solid(ish).

I did use the orange-flower water, and I recommend it if you have it.

2 cups (9 ounces) fresh raspberries
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 750-ml chilled bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), divided
3½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin (measured from two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
¾ teaspoon orange-flower water (optional)

1. Place the raspberries, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl; toss gently to combine. Let stand at room temperature until the raspberries release their juices, tossing occasionally, 20-30 minutes.

2. Place ½ cup Prosecco in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let stand 5 minutes to soften. Bring 1 cup Prosecco to a boil with the remaining ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.

3. Transfer the gelatin mixture to a large pitcher. Add the raspberries with their juices, the remaining Prosecco, the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and orange-flower water (if using), stirring to dissolve any sugar.

4. Using a slotted spoon, divide the raspberries equally among coupe glasses or other small wide shallow glasses or cups. Divide the Prosecco mixture equally among the glasses, about ¾ cup per glass. Chill gelée until firm, about 3 hours. (Gelées can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

raspberry gelee 8

bourbon ice cream

bourbon ice cream 4

Dave and I have developed a little whiskey collection. The first bottle I bought for cooking, and one Dave wanted because it’s what Dirk Pitt drinks. Then I bought a bottle of Scotch for my dad for Father’s Day last year, but right before I was going to give it to him, he said he didn’t like Scotch so I ran out and bought some bourbon for him and kept the Scotch for myself. And then I bought another bottle of bourbon for my dad for Father’s Day this year (I’m very creative with my Father’s Day gifts, obviously), but then decided to get him something else.

bourbon ice cream 1

So Dave and I decided we should do a whiskey tasting with our collection. But somehow time got away from us over the weekend, and we didn’t get to it until Sunday night. And let me give you a piece of advice: Sunday night is not a good time for a whiskey tasting, assuming you have to go to work Monday morning. Which we did. Grudgingly.

bourbon ice cream 2

Dave and I apparently agree with my dad in his whiskey preferences, in that we both liked the bourbons better than the Scotch. I enjoy both, but the bourbon is so sweet and caramelly that it’s no wonder it’s my favorite. And doesn’t the sweet and caramelly description make it seem like bourbon is a perfect flavor for ice cream?

bourbon ice cream 3

Like all desserts, it’s difficult to get the flavor of the alcohol to shine through the creamy custard base. I even increased the amount of bourbon, at the risk of ice cream that would never freeze, and still the bourbon was a subtle overtone. Dave thought it was just right; he thinks bourbon ice cream should be ice cream first with just a taste of bourbon, which was exactly what this was. Me? I thought I liked my bourbon on ice, but now I think it’s even better on ice cream.

bourbon ice cream 5

One year ago: Rice and Peas
Two years ago: Strawberry Cake
Three years ago: Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bourbon Ice Cream (from Bon Appétit via Erin’s Food Files)

I had never seen powdered milk used in ice cream before, but if it’s what caused this batch to be so perfectly smooth and creamy, I’m sold.

Erin and a number of epicurious reviewers warn that this ice cream stays rather soft, but even with using an extra tablespoon or two of bourbon, my ice cream set up just fine.

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
6 large egg yolks
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Bring the cream, half-and-half, and milk powder to a simmer in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the milk powder dissolves completely. Remove from heat.

2. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, brown sugar, and coarse salt in large bowl; whisk until thick and blended. Gradually whisk the hot cream mixture into yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the same saucepan; stir over medium-low heat until the custard just simmers and the temperature registers 175°F to 178°F, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Mix in the bourbon and vanilla extract. Refrigerate the custard, uncovered, until cold, stirring occasionally, at least 3 hours. (Custard can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

3. Once the custard is completely chilled, churn according to the directions of your ice cream maker. When the custard has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream (usually after about 20 minutes of churning), transfer it to a chilled container, press plastic wrap directly on the surface, and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

bourbon ice cream 6

strawberry cream cake

Strawberries, cream cheese, and cake – is there any better combination? Strawberry shortcake is the iconic strawberries and cream dessert, and for good reason, but for me, this cake is a step above. Mostly because of the cream cheese, but I’m also partial to soft and tender cake over a craggy biscuit. And you can’t beat the wow factor of a beautiful layer cake with the innards exposed. Cake innards are my favorite.

Of course there’s a price to pay for alternating layers of sunny cake, swirled cream, and ruby strawberries, and that is in fussiness. And who doesn’t love fussiness? Not I.

Because this is a Cooks Illustrated recipe, there are a handful of tricks that make it work. The cream cheese stabilizes and thickens the whipped cream, not to mention it tastes so darn good. Half of the strawberries are halved for maximum visual impact, and the remainder is macerated to remove liquid. The extracted juice, full of strawberry flavor and not to be wasted, is cooked down to a syrup that won’t make your cake soggy.

Three parts that must be separately prepared and then alternately layered to make a tall, striped, impressive dessert.  A dessert which, when sliced, will collapse into a jumble of fruit, cream, and cake that shows a remarkable resemblance to strawberry shortcake.  But it was worth the trouble of all that layering, because fussing is fun, right?


One year ago: Cream Cheese Spritz
Two years ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Three years ago: Ricotta Spinach Tofu Ravioli

Printer Friendly Recipe
Strawberry Cream Cake (from Cook’s Illustrated)

12 servings

I hate splitting cakes. I baked my cake batter in three separate cake pans instead of one pan which would later need to be split.

I made a half recipe in 6-inch pans.  6-inch round pans are slightly smaller than half of a 9-inch pan, so my layers are taller than the original recipe will result in.

Cake:
1¼ cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling:
2 pounds fresh strawberries (medium or large, about 2 quarts), washed, dried, and stemmed
4–6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kirsch
Pinch table salt

Whipped Cream:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a round 9 by 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

2. In a clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60 to 90 seconds. Stir one-third of the whites into the batter to lighten; add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a greased wire rack; peel off and discard the parchment. Invert the cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.

3. FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING: Halve 24 of the best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter the remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries) in a medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain the juices from the berries and reserve (you should have about ½ cup). In the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, give the macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1½ cups). In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the reserved juices and Kirsch until the mixture is syrupy and reduced to about 3 tablespoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the reduced syrup over the macerated berries, add a pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until the cake is cooled.

4. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: When the cake has cooled, place the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add heavy cream in a slow, steady stream; when it’s almost fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2½ minutes more, scraping the bowl as needed (you should have about 4½ cups).

5. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Using a large serrated knife, slice the cake into three even layers. Place the bottom layer on a cardboard round or cake plate and arrange a ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around the perimeter of the cake layer. Pour one half of the pureed berry mixture (about ¾ cup) in the center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of the whipped cream (about 1½ cups) over the berry layer, leaving a ½-inch border from the edge. Place the middle cake layer on top and press down gently (the whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, the remaining berry mixture, and half of the remaining whipped cream; gently press the last cake layer on top. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top; decorate with the remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.

strawberry daiquiri ice cream

When it comes to alcohol, I pretty much like it all. Red wine, white wine, dark beers, light beers, vodka cocktails, straight whiskey. It’s all good. I don’t drink foo-foo drinks often, only because they’re too much work to mix up at home and too low on alcohol to pay for in a bar. But that doesn’t mean I have anything against the combination of fruit and liquor.

Still, doesn’t it seem like fruit puree, citrus, alcohol, and the cream that’s inevitably served, whipped, on top, would be an even better combination churned into ice cream?  The same combination of strawberries and lime, but smoother, richer, and, okay, less alcoholic.

I wish it had occurred to me earlier – like before we ate all the ice cream – to pour rum over the ice cream. Rum float!  Or to mix so much rum into the base that the ice cream doesn’t freeze completely.  Rum slushy!  Or I suppose we could keep this recipe as a dessert and not a cocktail.  If I must.

One year ago: Artichoke Ravioli
Three years ago: Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

Printer Friendly Recipe
Strawberry Daiquiri Ice Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz’s Raspberry Ice Cream recipe in The Perfect Scoop)

Makes about 1 quart

Mine wasn’t as limey as I would have liked, so I’ve doubled both the zest and the juice from what I used. I don’t believe the extra juice will be detrimental to the smoothness of the ice cream. You could also let the half-and-half mixture steep with the zest for up to an hour before reheating it and mixing it with the yolks.

When strawberries are pureed, I often prefer to use frozen berries that have been defrosted. Because they are picked at their peak and immediately frozen, they are often of higher quality than fresh strawberries. Furthermore, they make a smoother puree.

To make this more kid-friendly, feel free to use only half the rum.  Don’t leave it all out, as it helps keep the ice cream softer.

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, separated
Zest from 2 limes
Pinch salt
1½ cups half-and-half
1½ cups heavy cream
4 yolks
1½ cups (6 ounces) strawberry puree
¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
2 tablespoons rum

1. In a medium saucepan, rub the lime zest into ½ cup (3.5 ounces) of the sugar until fragrant. Add the half-and-half and heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it simmers. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large bowl; set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl.

2. In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar. When the half-and-half simmers, very slowly pour it into the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pot and bring just to a simmer over medium heat, still whisking constantly. Pour through the strainer into the bowl with the cream; stir to combine. Mix in the strawberry puree, lime juice, and rum. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

3. Freeze the ice cream custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen to the consistency of soft serve ice cream, transfer the ice cream to a chilled bowl and freeze until firm.

 

scampi fra diavolo

I remember last semester, when I was teaching in the evenings, I had all these plans for what I wanted to do once the semester ended. I was going to organize my recipes and study photoshop and learn Italian and basically rule the world. Instead, I’ve been cooking.

So if you’re in my little town on a Saturday night, the best meal in town is at my house. There’ll be appetizers, there’ll be wine, there’ll be some sort of meaty main course, there’ll be a dessert you have no room for but can’t resist anyway. There’ll probably be bread. In between courses, there’ll be live music courtesy of Dave. You’re all invited! Just keep in mind that I live hundreds of miles from a major airport. Plus Dave thinks you’re all secretly rapists. Okay, I take it back, you’re not invited.

Which is too bad, because you’ll be missing out on some good food, the best of which I believe was this shrimp. A cross between the bright flavors of shrimp scampi and the heat of shrimp fra diavolo (“shrimp of the devil”), this fresh spicy dish was the perfect opening to a evening of cooking and eating. Around these parts, that’s just an average Saturday night.

One year ago: Whole Wheat Brioche
Three years ago: Almost No-Knead Bread

Scampi fra Diavolo (tweaked from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

3 tablespoons butter, divided
⅓ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
1¼ pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups thinly sliced red onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
⅔ cup dry white wine (preferably Sauvignon Blanc)
Lemon wedges

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the panko and stir until it’s golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; mix in 2 tablespoons of parsley. Wipe out skillet.

2. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and sauté until it’s beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté 1 minute. Add the shrimp and sauté until barely opaque in center, about 1 minute per side. Add the white wine and simmer until the liquid is slightly thickened and reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining parsley. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Top with the sautéed panko and serve with lemon wedges.

chocolate mousse comparison

I realized something potentially important with this comparison. When Dave and I and whoever else participate in comparisons, we just dive in and start throwing out adjectives. That’s never been a problem before, but this time, Dave and I had some confusion over what we each wanted in a mousse. Perhaps my tasters and I should clarify beforehand what we’re looking for. I know I wanted an exceptionally chocolately flavor and an exceptionally light texture. I don’t think Dave knew what he wanted…or even what chocolate mousse is supposed to be.

I compared David Lebovitz’s recipe from A Sweet Life in Paris (DL), Cooks Illustrated’s Premium Chocolate Mousse recipe from 2006 (CI Premium), and Cooks Illustrated’s older Chocolate Mousse recipe (found in The New Best Recipe) (CI). It drives me crazy when Cooks Illustrated publishes multiple recipes for the same thing without referencing the previous recipe. I’m always left wondering which is the better version. What better way to find out than to make them both?

DL – This recipe is simple: chocolate melted with water, egg yolks added, beaten egg whites folded in. I haven’t read A Sweet Life and couldn’t find this recipe on David’s blog, but according to Annie, he explains in his book that this is the most traditional version of chocolate mousse.

CI Premium – This recipe is designed specifically for fancy schmancy chocolate. (I was using Valrhona.) The recipe contains the chocolate, water, and eggs called for in Lebovitz’s recipe, but spices things up with cocoa (balanced by the addition of sugar), brandy, and espresso powder. Folding in whipped cream lightens the mixture.

CI – Unlike the other two recipes, this one contains butter and no water. In addition to the requisite chocolate and eggs, it includes coffee (or alcohol), vanilla, sugar and whipped cream.

DL – Lightened by only beaten egg whites and not whipped cream, this was the heaviest mousse of the three. It was thicker, grainy, and more solid, with a cocoa-like flavor (despite containing no cocoa) and a bitter aftertaste. For Dave, it was too much – too rich and too dense.  For me, it just wasn’t as light as I want my mousse.

CI Premium – This was softer and sweeter than the other mousses. Dave thought it was the most balanced.

CI – This was light and airy and chocolately, and for me, perfect in every way. I love its bittersweetness, I love the meringue bubbles that pop in my mouth, I love how it’s firm but light.

The confusion came when Dave said that none of them were as good as my standard recipe – but I hadn’t made chocolate mousse in nearly four years, and CI’s recipe from The New Best Recipe was what I used then. Furthermore, Dave’s favorite of the three was CI’s Premium recipe, because it was “puddinglike”. But a mousse shouldn’t be puddinglike (and I confess it probably hadn’t chilled long enough).

It looks like for this comparison, there is only one opinion that matters, and that is mine, of course. Good thing Cooks Illustrated’s Chocolate Mousse was so clearly the winner. Well, I was the winner too, because I got to eat three delicious chocolate mousses – and one perfect mousse – in one sitting.


left to right: CI Premium, CI, DL

One year ago: Chicken Mushroom Spinach Lasagna
Two years ago: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Three years ago: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chocolate Mousse
(from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe)

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped coarse
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons strong coffee or 4 teaspoons brandy, orange-flavored liqueur, or light rum
4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup chilled heavy cream, plus more for serving

1. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a large saucepan of barely simmering water or in an uncovered Pyrex measuring cup microwaved at 50 percent power for 3 minutes, stirring once at the 2-minute mark. Whisk the butter into the melted chocolate, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir in the salt, vanilla, and coffee until completely incorporated. Whisk in the yolks, one at a time, making sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next; set the mixture aside.

2. Stir the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl set over a saucepan of hot water until slightly warm, 1 to 2 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan. Beat with an electric mixer set at medium speed until soft peaks form. Raise the mixer speed to high and slowly add the sugar; beat to soft peaks. Whisk a quarter of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites.

3. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse. Spoon portions of the mousse into 6 or 8 individual serving dishes or goblets. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to blend, at least 2 hours. (The mousse may be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Serve with additional whipped cream.

Printer Friendly Recipe
Dark Chocolate Mousse
(from Cooks Illustrated)

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 62 to 70 percent cacao, chopped fine
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
7 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brandy
3 large eggs, separated
⅛ teaspoon table salt
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 more tablespoons (chilled)

1. Melt the chocolate, 2 tablespoons sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and brandy in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat.

2. Whisk the egg yolks, 1½ teaspoons sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until the mixture lightens in color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Let cool until slightly warmer than room temperature, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. In the clean bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 1 minute. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it; gently fold in the remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula until a few white streaks remain.

4. Whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 15 seconds longer. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes or goblets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set and firm, at least 2 hours. (The mousse may be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chocolate Mousse
(from David Lebovitz via Annie’s Eats)

I just got David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris, which contains this original recipe, in the mail. I’ve copied the recipe in his words. I also noticed that he calls for 2 tablespoons brandy or coffee, which I didn’t use.

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons water
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
Pinch of coarse salt

1. In a medium-sized bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, begin melting the chocolate with the water, making sure not to let it get too hot. Take the bowl off the heat when the chocolate is almost completely melted, then stir gently until smooth. Set aside.

2. In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks when you lift the whip. They should still be smooth and creamy, not grainy.

3. Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate, then fold one-third of the whites into the chocolate to lighten it up.

4. Fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate just until there are no visible streaks of whites. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours. (You can also divide the mousse into individual custard cups, ramekins, or goblets before serving.)