Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quite a mouthful

I've been making ice cream for a long time.  I got my first ice cream maker shortly after college, and it served me well for a long time.  But it finally died, and I got a new one about three years ago.  I've actually used that one a lot more, in part because it came with two freezer canisters.  One has a permanent spot in my freezer.  Whenever I take it out, I replace it with the other one.  Well, this weekend I went a little crazy and crammed both canisters into the freezer so I could make more than one flavor on the same day, in anticipation of my Ice Cream Week plan.  

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe fit nicely with my plan.  Spike of spike.does.stuff picked Sour Cream Chocolate Cake Cookies for us to make this week.  How's that for a long recipe name? =)  I wasn't originally sure if I was going to make these, but then I read the P&Q.  Several people mentioned using the cookies to make ice cream sandwiches.  Perfect!  Amazingly enough, with all the ice cream and cookies that I've put on this blog, I've never actually put the two together.  It's about time. =)

I can understand why the cookies turn out cake-like, because you end up making more of a batter than a dough.  You cream butter with regular and brown sugar, then add vanilla and melted chocolate.  Next in are a couple eggs.  Then you alternate adding dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder--no spices in mine) with sour cream.  I used my #40 disher to scoop out the cookies, and ended up with 45.  I baked them for 12 minutes.  Once the cookies were cool, I paired them up and froze a bunch of them before making the sandwiches.  

As for the ice cream flavors, I made The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World (another impressive title) from my new cookbook.  (Some are also filled with Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream, but that's another post.)    For the chocolate ice cream, you first make a chocolate syrup, using coffee, cocoa powder, sugar and bittersweet chocolate.  I'm used to chocolate recipes calling for coffee or espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor.  We don't usually have coffee on hand, though.  Rather than turn to instant espresso powder the way I usually do, I tried something new.  I've read on several blogs about Starbucks VIA instant coffee.  So I picked some up at the grocery store.  Since I needed half a cup of coffee, I used half the packet in half a cup of water.  It worked well, but the finished syrup tasted strongly of coffee, more than I wanted it to.  I'll definitely use the VIA powder again, just less of it.  For the chocolate, I used one of my favorites, Scharffen Berger 62%.  (I would have used 70%, but didn't have any.)  I used Scharffen Berger for the cocoa powder as well.  

The verdict?  The ice cream sandwiches were a big hit with the girls.  The cookies worked great, since they don't get super hard, even when frozen.  Since I had a lot of cookies, I also sandwiched some with chocolate-hazelnut spread and took them to a friend as a treat.  They were quite well received.  

If you'd like to try the dark chocolate ice cream, you can find the recipe here.  For the cookie recipe to make these yummy sandwiches, head over to Spike's blog.  To see what everyone else did with this week's recipe, check out the Links.  And don't forget to check back for more of Ice Cream Week!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ice Cream Week!

I have to admit, I'm a picky eater.  I've definitely gotten better about it as I've gotten older, but there are still a lot of things that I don't like to eat.  This is a big contrast to my husband Jamie, who eats just about anything.  Fortunately, one of the few things that he won't eat is very high on my list as well.  Coconut.  Neither of us can stand it.  I don't like the flavor or the texture.  And I'm sensitive enough to it to be able to pick it out even when it's not obvious to others.  Yuck. =)  If my children ever learn to like coconut, it won't be because they got it at home, because I don't let it in the house.  Almond Joys that come home in trick-or-treat bags?  I immediately take them to work.  I break open filled chocolates before eating them because I don't want to risk biting into a coconut one.  I once had one of my employees request German Chocolate Cake for his birthday.  Now I try to honor all requests, so I did make it, but I took the leftover coconut to work along with the cake so it wouldn't be in the house any longer.  

So why all this talk of coconut hatred?  Well, I got a new cookbook about a week ago, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home.  When we were on vacation in Ohio recently, we had a chance to go to one of the Jeni's shops.  The ice cream was fabulous, and I was excited to learn that she was about to release a cookbook.  I ordered it as soon as we got home.  There are lots of wonderful flavor combinations in the book, but I was also excited to read about some of the stuff in the back of it--various mix-ins and sauces.  The one that immediately caught my eye was the Chocolate Bombe Shell.  Basically, it's homemade Magic Shell!  I mentioned this to a couple people at work and was disturbed to find that they had no idea what I was talking about.  It's not that the flavor of Magic Shell is that great, but the texture is so cool.  And now I can make it at home with my favorite bittersweet chocolate.  There was only one problem--the ingredient that makes it magic is coconut oil.  No!

But then I read further and learned that there are a couple types of coconut oil out there.  Virgin, or unrefined, coconut oil does taste like coconut.  Blech.  But the refined version isn't supposed to taste or smell like it.  I admit, I remained skeptical, but I went to Whole Foods and found a jar of refined coconut oil.  I was excited when I got it home and found that it actually didn't seem to have anything to do with coconut--no smell or taste of it!  

Of course, I also needed some ice cream to put it on.  The first Jeni's flavor I tried was vanilla bean.  I actually found the recipe online before my book got here.  The one pictured here, though, is one of Jeni's signature flavors, Salty Caramel.  I never used to make or eat a lot of caramel things, but then I discovered how much better caramel is with salt added.  Mmmm.

The basic approach in these recipes is to use cornstarch for thickening, rather than egg yolks.  I don't have anything against egg custard ice creams, but it's nice not to have to worry about "orphaned" egg whites.  Jeni also uses corn syrup and cream cheese in most of her recipes to make the texture similar to what she creates in her commercial kitchen.  I highly encourage you to get a copy of the book, but you can also find the basic technique online, since Jeni did an article a while back for Food & Wine.  The main difference for the Salty Caramel recipe is that the sugar in the recipe is first heated to make a dry caramel.  Then the cream, milk and corn syrup (2 tablespoons, rather than 1 1/2) are added and the recipe proceeds as usual.  Half a teaspoon of salt is added to the cream cheese before the liquids are whisked in, and the recipe uses 2 teaspoons of vanilla rather than a vanilla bean.

The verdict?  The chocolate shell is just amazing.  I can't believe how easy it is to make.  And it's been very tasty on a variety of ice cream flavors, including the Salty Caramel.  I've made several caramel ice creams, and I think this one may be my favorite.  Jamie liked it a lot as well.  The girls didn't try this ice cream flavor, but they both liked the chocolate shell.  We'll definitely be making both again.  And I can't wait to try more flavors from my new cookbook.  I've decided that this is going to be Ice Cream Week here in Di's Kitchen, so watch for more to come.  I'm not going to publish the Salty Caramel ice cream recipe here, but you can find Jeni's Vanilla Bean one here to get you started.

Chocolate Bombe Shell 
(adapted from Jeni's)

170 grams (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (I used El Rey, a mix of 58% and 70%), chopped
30 grams (2-3 tablespoons) refined coconut oil

Place the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is fully melted.  Add the coconut oil and stir until smooth.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Words with kids

Several months ago, I treated myself to an early 40th birthday present and got an iPod touch.  I admit, that was partly because Jamie got one for Christmas and I saw how cool they are and wanted my own.  (And then I followed that up by treating myself to an iPad 2 once I got my annual bonus.)  I'm still on the hunt for good apps, both for cooking & baking and other stuff.  Several of my twitter friends introduced me to Words with Friends, which I really enjoy.  Brianna, of course, has been looking for any excuse to get her hands on my iPod, so she kept asking if she could help me with my games.  I finally gave in and let her play her own game against Jamie.  It's always interesting when she asks me about the meaning of some of the words that he plays.  Being of sound mind, I put a dictionary on my iPod, too, so now she can just look things up for herself.  She also likes to do the math to figure out how many points she'll get for a particular play.  For those who currently have games going with me, I have to admit that B has been playing some of my turns against you, too. =)

Gillian has her own word thing going on.  She's at that age where she hears things but doesn't always understand them.  It's often quite entertaining when she repeats what she thinks she's heard.  I'm sure many of you have heard young kids singing, for instance.  One of my all-time favorites was listening to G singing Bon Jovi--"You give love a bandaid, bandaid!"  Lately, though, she seems to be saying things to see what she can get away with.  I had to have a conversation with her the other night after she and B were in the bathroom, and I heard her tell B to "get off the freakin' step!" (We keep step stools in all the bathrooms.) And it was all I could do to keep a straight face one night when I heard her say something under her breath when she was mad about something I asked her to do.  I wasn't sure if I'd heard her right, so I asked her to repeat what she'd said.  She hesitated, and then told me "Bandit!" 

Sometimes there are interesting words in cooking and baking, too.  When I got my most recent issue of Bon Appetit, a couple things caught my eye.  One was the assortment of frozen desserts--I have my eye on the Peach-Vanilla Cream Pops, but that will be another post.  The other, which was the first thing I made from the issue, was the Strawberry Conserve.  Conserve--that's a term you don't hear all that often.  I looked up a definition for it, which was "a sweet food made by preserving fruit with sugar; jam."  The article says that since the recipe doesn't use commercial pectin, you end up with "a conserve of soft berries in a barely set syrup."  The conserve is pretty easy to make and gave me a great excuse to buy some pretty half-pint canning jars.  I doubled the recipe, which gave me 4 small jars of strawberry syrupy stuff.  Basically, you macerate strawberries with sugar and lemon zest.  Then you cook the strawberries briefly to soften them, and then remove the strawberries and simmer the liquid until it thickens into a syrup.  

The verdict?  Well, I've made two double batches so far, and if I can get my hands on some more good strawberries, I'll probably make some more.  It'll last for about a month in the fridge, so hopefully I can enjoy some strawberry goodness for a lot of the summer.  I was surprised by how wonderful the conserve was, especially since it had such a simple ingredient list.  We've had it over pound cake and on top of ice cream.  I even made my own fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt by topping it with some plain Brown Cow.  If you find yourself with a surplus of strawberries, I recommend giving this recipe a try.  You can find the recipe here at Bon Appetit.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Army of Darkness

One of the things I didn't mention in my "summer vacation" post was why Dorie was in Austin to begin with.  She was here for the annual IACP conference.  I'm sure all the members of Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays with Dorie were very excited to see that Around My French Table won for both best general cookbook and cookbook of the year.  This isn't the first time that Dorie has won an IACP award, either.  The IACP featured her as part of their celebration of 25 years of cookbook awards.

I love Dorie's cookbooks--I have 5 of them--not just because she writes great recipes, but because of the way she writes them.  I buy cookbooks because I like to read them, not just to bake or cook from them.  Dorie puts great stories in hers, about the recipes and where they came from, but she also includes lots of great information about ingredients and techniques.  I love how descriptive she is in her instructions.  One of my favorites is when she is talking about making tart dough in the food processor.  "The dough...forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change--heads up."  Dorie's books are filled with lots of little tidbits like that. 

Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes picked Chocolate Biscotti for us to make this week.  We've made biscotti once before (which I happened to post on G's 2nd birthday--my, how she's grown!).  I was excited to see how this chocolate version would turn out.  I remember from last time that there was some confusion and discussion because in that recipe, Dorie instructs you to "stand them [the biscotti] up like a marching band" for their second bake.  To me, it was clear that she meant to have the biscotti in the same orientation as they were in the log, just cut apart, as opposed to laying them down on the cut sides.  (That way both sides dry out at once and you don't have to flip the cookies over partway through the baking time.) But it confused a few people.  In this week's recipe, the instruction is a bit different--you're supposed to "stand the slices up on the baking sheet--you'll have an army of biscotti."  Marching bands and armies, how many cookbooks have those? =)

I decided to pass on the nuts for my batch of cookies, and turned to the Playing Around section for other ideas.  I'm not a big fan of dried cherries, but decided to go with another dried fruit that I've subbed for cherries in the past--cranberries.  I went with 100 grams of sweetened dried cranberries and about 120 grams of mini chocolate chips.  I used some of my stash of Scharffen Berger cocoa and reduced the espresso powder to just one tablespoon.  And I topped my biscotti with some Swedish pearl sugar (which you can find at IKEA).

The verdict?  These were really tasty!  I love the look of the pearl sugar on top of the dark biscotti.  As many times as I've tried the combination now, I'm still amazed at how well the tart cranberries pair with dark chocolate. If you haven't tried them together, you should.  I shared my army of biscotti with some daycare teachers and some coworkers, and everyone liked them.

If you'd like to try these for yourself, Jacque has the recipe in her post.  And to see what everyone else thought of this week's recipe, check out the Links!

Monday, June 13, 2011

If the shoe fits

The calendar may not agree, but summer has definitely started around here.  No, I'm not talking about the temperature for a change. =)  I'm talking about the fact that school is out for the summer, which really makes my life easier.  Instead of having to deal with drop-offs and pick-ups at both the elementary school and the daycare, I only have to go one place for a couple months.  Of course, summer occasionally presents its own challenges...

When I went in to pick up Brianna one day last week, I immediately noticed that she was wearing a pair of black flats that I'd never seen before.  I asked her where her sneakers were, and suggested that she get them back on her feet so that we could go home.  This resulted in lots of crying and B saying that she wished that Daddy was picking her up that day, since he wouldn't ask so many questions. (which I doubt...)  It took a few minutes, but I eventually determined that a bunch of the girls had been trying on each other's shoes, and one of the others left while still wearing B's.  Naturally, this was in no way B's fault.  It never is. =)  She said it was the other girl's idea to trade shoes, not hers.  She didn't seem amused by my question about whether the other girl has taken the shoes off her feet.  Anyone else dealing with the drama of an 8-year-old girl (or something similar)?  I hope I'm not the only one having all this fun. =)

One other handy thing about summer is that I don't have to pack lunch for B.  So I get to keep most of these lovely rolls all to myself.  I'm finally trying to get back on track with a few of my baking groups.  One of the June recipes for the Mellow Bakers is Pain Rustique.  It looked like a good place to jump back in--it's a fairly straightforward dough that uses a poolish perferment.  All I had to do was remember to mix up the poolish the night before.  I even talked Phyl and Margaret into doing it with me (via Twitter). This is a great dough for those who are a bit scared of yeast doughs, since there's no shaping--the dough is simply cut into pieces with a bench knife.  I decided to make rolls instead of loaves, so I just cut more pieces.  I ended up with 11--I was going for a dozen, but had to stick a couple of small pieces together to make a bigger one. 

The verdict?  This recipe is definitely going on the make-again list.  I should probably try making a larger loaf as well.  I really love the texture of these rolls, and I love using them for sandwiches.  Okay, I just generally prefer rolls over sliced bread when it comes to sandwiches--I like all the crust.  

If you'd like to give these a try yourself, the recipe can be found on page 111 of Hamelman's Bread.  I also found the recipe online here. (One note, the online recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast in the poolish, while the book only calls for 1/8 teaspoon.  I followed the book.)  To see how some of the other Mellow Bakers have fared with this recipe, check out their results here.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation

Okay, my summer vacation only consists of a week (and is technically before summer actually starts), but it's been a fun week.  Not that you could tell by Gillian's face. =)   Not the best picture ever, but it has the virtue of being taken somewhere other than here.  The where was Columbus, Ohio, at my aunt's house.  The who was my mom's brothers and sisters, along with their spouses and most of their kids and the three grandkids (my girls and my cousin's new baby).  We even had some honorary family join us all the way from The Netherlands!  We did what we usually do--we talked, and shopped, and ate and drank.  Generally there was just lots of relaxing going on, and passing the baby around...

B with her second cousin Penny

We got to Ohio on Saturday, and since Brianna was done with school last Friday, we didn't have to rush home.  Most of the family headed home Monday or early Tuesday, but we didn't fly out until Wednesday.  That meant that we had Tuesday available to see someone other than family.  A couple of friends from college live in Columbus, so we went to their house for dinner Tuesday night.  I think that G really enjoyed that, since their daughter is just a bit older than G, and their little boy isn't that much younger.  After dinner, we went for a walk and got to sample some of the yummy flavors at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Earlier on Tuesday, we drove a ways north of Columbus (up toward Cleveland, though not all the way there) to meet up with another friend.  I love that Jamie doesn't think it at all odd that I would do that to visit with someone that I've never actually met in person.  But hey, I had already gone all the way to Ohio, so what was a little more traveling?  We were able to have lunch with my blogging friend Phyl and his wife, Juanita.  And did we talk about food?  No, we mostly talked about our kids, since mine were along for the ride.  

Phyl, Juanita, Jamie and me

The picture above was taken by Brianna, who will probably spend the rest of the summer asking to use my camera.  She apparently also managed to take some amusing video while trying to take pictures with Phyl's phone.

Once we were home, I still had a few days of time away from work to enjoy.  The girls and I stayed home on Thursday, because I didn't feel like driving back and forth to the daycare.  We went to the library (and I got my haircut) and that was about it.  Friday was my running around day.  I dropped the girls off and then headed to Starbucks to wait for 10am, when Costco and the other places I need to visit would be open.  I was reading stuff online, and ran across this great article (which includes the recipe for Dorie's delicious sabl├ęs), which reminded me that Dorie was in town, giving away cookies!  So I set off to find her, and them.  I found the cookies.  I saw Dorie, but she was running around doing stuff.  I did get to have a nice conversation with her lovely husband, though. =)  And I'm looking forward to trying out her new iPad app when it comes out this summer.

And I have to leave you with a picture of me with my sisters.  Whenever we get together, we have to take a "smushed face" self-portrait. (selves-portrait?)