Friday, May 28, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream

What do you do when you have a cup of cream and two cups of half & half that all expire today? Make ice cream of course! I decided to not go to the store and chance it that I had all the ingredients at home to make a simple chocolate ice cream based off this recipe from William Sonoma.

So I got home and happened to have a few minutes before dinner to whip up the custard. I scrounged the kitchen and found Baker's Semisweet Chocolate, a hazelnut IKEA chocolate bar, 5 eggs and the cream and half & half.

This ice cream is super creamy and very delicious and honestly I think you could do any variation on this and still make it great. I have to admit, I wasn't sure what would happen when I cut up the hazelnut bar and realized it had nuts in it and then used the bakers chocolate...but it all worked out! (you strain the custard so the nuts drop right out before you cool it.)

Chocolate Ice cream

1 C heavy whipping cream
2 C half & half
1 C sugar
1 t vanilla
pinch of salt
3 oz Semi Sweet Bakers Chocolate
3.5 oz IKEA hazelnut bar
5 egg yolks

1. Heat cream and half & half in the top of a double boiler until bubbly on the sides or steaming. Meanwhile, chop chocolates into small pieces.
2. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar and salt in a separate bowl.
3. When the cream is hot, remove from heat and stir in chocolate until it melts, make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom.
4. Pour part of the hot chocolate cream liquid into the eggs and whisk. Then pour the whole thing back into the top of the double boiler and whisk, stir in vanilla.
5. Heat over simmering water 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally until you can scrape a finger across the spoon and liquid is thicker.
6. Meanwhile, make an ice bath. Strain the hot custard through a sieve into the bowl over the ice bath. Cool and stir for 30 minutes. Then, cover the custard and place in the fridge for 4 hours or until completely cool.
7. Later, freeze in an ice cream maker 20 minutes (or whatever it says for that machine). Transfer ice cream to a covered container and freeze until ready to serve.*

*This ice cream was ROCK HARD when I took it out 8 hours later, it could be that our freezer is ice cold--but just microwave it on the defrost setting for 30-60 seconds until scoopable.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Vanilla Pudding and Lemon Cream Parfaits

I am still trying to create the perfect parfait. This week the only berries I had to work with were strawberries. I decided to try vanilla pudding (the most hands off dessert you can make), lemon cream of some kind, graham cracker and strawberries.

I purchased the vanilla pudding in the box and made it with skim milk. I read that if you place the plastic wrap right on the surface of the pudding as you let it set in the fridge it is creamier, so I went with that method.

I modified this recipe for Lemon Cream from the food network. With their directions, the cream was far too tart and more breakfasty than desserty. I really wanted desserty. On a side note, people in the reviews of this recipe go on and on about how it's healthy. Don't be fooled, despite using low fat ingredients, its still cream cheese.

Once you have all the creams made and set, layer them alternating with strawberries and graham cracker crumbs until you fill up the containers. I think they look best in the glass jars but everyone was thrilled by the bigger size of the custard cups and devoured every last bite.

Modified Lemon Cream
4 oz Neufchatel cream cheese
3/4 cup Plain Greek yogurt
1 t vanilla extract
2-3 t honey
zest of one lemon

1. Beat together all ingredients except the zest with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Taste, and add more honey until sufficiently sweet enough, beat after each addition. Stir in zest. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (I did 24 hours). Whisk briskly before using, the mixture will be like the consistency of thin yogurt.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pastry Cream Parfaits

I have a certain affinity for cream puffs. I decided that the filling of cream puffs would make a great dessert parfait. As you know, it is the beginning of Strawberry season! In the perfect season for perfect fruit I created these parfaits.

Don't get excited yet, they were good, but they had a texture that just wasn't right. It was like a super thick pudding--much like tapioca except vanilla flavored. I will be revising my recipe and remembering that pastry cream belongs with pastries, not alone. Too thick in a parfait.

I have never successfully made thick custards before (you may recall the chocolate cream pie), this was an exception!! I had no trouble pulling this custard together despite my nerves. I used a recipe from Epicurious for the pastry cream. Note that the cream has to cool for at least 3 hours, so start early.

1 recipe pastry cream
assorted berries
4 smallish glass dishes or parfait glasses (these are candle holders that hold a single tea-light)
4 graham crackers, crushed

1. Make pastry cream, let cool for at least 3 hours in the fridge.
2. Later, prepare glass dishes.
3. layer first graham crackers, then pastry cream, then berries, then pastry cream, berries, and finally top with a few graham cracker crumbs and berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies

A family friend gave me this book Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey for my wedding shower and I have been wanting to make some recipe from it but haven't had the chance until this weekend.

I chose to make one-bowl chocolate chunk pecan cookies the key being that they use only ONE BOWL and no mixer PLUS they use melted butter, so you don't have to worry about leaving it out for hours.

Get this book! If this recipe was this delicious I bet the rest of it is outstanding!

A few notes about these cookies:
1. Refrigerate the dough for an hour like it calls for, do not be tempted to bake them before refrigerating.
2. Try to let the pecans cool before adding them to the dough--but add them before refrigeration, if you add them when they are hot the dough gets extra runny
3. Make small cookies, about the size of one scoop from a regular spoon. Small cookies mean big huge chunks of deliciousness
4. One of my friends gave me some extra concentrated vanilla from Penzey's, they say to use half of what the recipe calls for but I always forget so these cookies could be awesomer because I used twice the vanilla the recipe called for. You may want to do that.

My mom has baked the same chocolate chip walnut cookie for years and she volunteered that this cookie is superior and her new go-to favorite.

2 C pecan halves
1 C unsalted butter
3/4 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 Large eggs
1 t salt
2 t vanilla extract (technically I used 4t see above)
2 1/4 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 baking powder
2 C semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350. Toast pecan halves 6-8 minutes until fragrant.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir with a wooden spoon until fully melted.
3. Stir in sugars until smooth. Add salt, vanilla and eggs, stir until smooth.
4. Add flour, baking soda and baking powder and stir until a soft dough forms.
5. Fold in toasted pecans and chocolate chunks. Cover and refrigerate the bowl for at least an hour (especially if you didn't find time to cool pecans). Preheat the oven again to 350 if you turned it off.
6. Scoop small regular spoon sized scoops onto cookie trays. Bake 10-12 minutes until they look slightly golden brown.
7. Cool slightly before moving to a rack. Enjoy warm, or cold, or anytime at all, but be sure to make and try these cookies!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Beer Braised Chicken

Whenever I hear the word "braised" I think "cooking for a long time." This dish, however was a snap to prepare and yielded a delicious broth and a very satisfying and quick one-pot meal.

I altered the recipe a bit in the final 15 minutes of cooking by adding an additional 12oz of beer to help submerge the potatoes and chicken fully. If I were to do it again, I would double all the sauce ingredients so that the flavors are still all there but there is extra sauce.

From the Food Network Magazine

* 1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (honestly I don't think this was necessary
* 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds)
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* All-purpose flour, for dredging
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (preferably brown ale) - I used No. 21 Brand Amber Ale
* 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed
* 1/2 pound small red-skinned new potatoes, halved - I used 2 pounds because I love potatoes and didn't want to serve anything else
* 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard or dijon
* 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme
* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)


Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Add the olive oil to the drippings in the pot. Add the chicken in batches and cook over medium-high heat until golden on the bottom, 6 to 7 minutes, then flip and sear the other side, about 1 minute.

Add the beer, onions, potatoes, mustard, sugar, thyme and 1 cup water to the pot and stir, making sure the chicken is fully submerged. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Discard the thyme and stir in the bacon and parsley.