Monday, May 31, 2010

Ice Cream Outfits

You're only as cute as your last outfit.  Or something.  Sounds like some inane line from a tween show, but in the world of blogging, you become self-conscious of the vessels you serve your food in because it helps set the stage for describing how much you love the recipe you are describing.  With all the ice cream involved in Foodiebia world lately, I had been on the lookout for some cute ice cream dishes.  Fortunately for Mr. Crate and Barrel, he will be able to put his kids through college by anticipating my every whim.  They had three different kinds of ice cream dishes I could not leave the store without.

(Don't worry, I will wash them before we eat out of them).  This sundae cup will be perfect for a couple of large scoops and a thick dose of chocolate sauce.

John was especially fond of this low boy, perhaps because he thought he could get away with three scoops a night.  As if.

I am absolutely in love with these teeny tiny ice cream cups that are clearly made for children.

Yes, I do have a sick sense of humor.  I think most children would be brought to tears if they saw Brussels sprouts in their ice cream cup, but I did want to give you all an accurate representation of the tininess of these cups.  And who knows, maybe Brussels sprouts ice cream will be on the blog sometimes...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ice Cream Pedia

As I've been raving about for weeks now, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz is the be-all and end-all of ice cream cookbooks.  If you don't want to get hooked on making ice cream, do not pick up this book.  It explains the ice cream process in a simple way that makes you feel like you can conquer everything from homemade cones to velvety chocolate ice cream.  You can get the book for cheap on Amazon (like most books, let's be honest).  The ice cream maker itself is the only real investment, and you can get those for cheap if you're not crazy like me.  All you need to do is crack open this book and your views on ice cream will be changed forever.  You'll be the next convert of Lebovitz into the world of homemade ice cream.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Collection

I'm a Le Creuset junkie, as many people seem to be nowadays.  This cabinet currently houses all of my dutch ovens.  What, three is too many?  Blasphemy!  The red one was my first, the original.  It's done me well, but I knew I needed another.  Lots of my favorite recipes require dutch ovens, and having only one has been holding me back.  I could never make a double batch of short ribs or make no-knead bread and coq au vin on the same night.  Plus my 5.5 quart one really only holds enough food for 4.  Yes, I only have two people in my family, but I love having people over for dinner, and most dutch-oven produced foods are great for dinner parties (slow-cooked food means you don't have to be slaving over the stove in front of your guests).    So now I have a 5.5 quart round, a 6.75 quart oval, and a 5 quart oval French-oven.  Please ignore the fact that they are the colors of Germany/poisonous snakes/Gwen Stafani.  I guess now I have an excuse to buy another - to get rid of my bizarro color scheme.  

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Isn't "cherries jubilee" the greatest name for a dessert?  I have absolutely no idea what cherries jubilee is, but it has the most fun name of any dessert I can think of.  Baked Alaska doesn't exactly make you want to dig in, does it?  Even though I don't know how to make cherries jubilee, I think fresh cherries from the farmers market are as good as any dessert you have to actually make.    

I don't think I had real cherries until maybe two years ago.  Of course I had eaten maraschino cherries in Shirley Temples and on top of ice cream sundaes, but probably the only thing good about those are them are the color. And I had eaten canned cherry pie filling, which is disgusting on many levels. Once you taste a fresh cherry you'll be shocked at how naturally sweet these little gems are.  Sweeter than raspberries, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, et al.

What's just as surprising as the extra sweet taste is the fact that cherries really do come in pairs like they do when they're portrayed on everything from aprons to undies.  Sometimes art imitates life, right?

John brought me a pint of cherries (and a pint of strawberries) from the farmers market when I had to work this weekend (and miss the market - double whammie!).  While the cherries couldn't make me jubilant while working all weekend, they did brighten my day.  And yes, cherries do have pits, but that's a minor obstacle to this amazing fruit that you should definitely make the most of while it's in season.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Plain" Vanilla Ice Cream

The phrase "plain vanilla" will always seem sacrilegious to me now.  Once you make vanilla ice cream with a generous helping of vanilla extract and the seeds of a vanilla bean, your vanilla ice cream will be anything but plain.  I had always been somewhat daunted by the prospect of buying and using a vanilla bean, but I'm not sure why.  I'd seen the Barefoot Contessa cut one open and scrape out the seeds plenty of times.  Wanilla beans are most likely found at gourmet markets (Whole Foods probably has 'em).  Mine came in a packet of three for about $3, which seemed pretty reasonable to me, considering all the flavor they pack.  And now that I've conquered my fear of vanilla beans, the world is my oyster.  Ugh, but I'd have to conquer my hatred of oysters first, I suppose.

Another simple ice cream recipe - all you need for this Philadelphia-style ice cream is 3 cups heavy cream, 3/4 cup sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 vanilla bean, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Whole Foods sells a straight-from-the-farm type of cream that works great for these types of recipes where your simple ingredients really matter.

Pour 1 cup of the cream into a medium saucepan and add 3/4 cups sugar and a pinch of salt.

Split the vanilla bean from head to toe and then scrape out the seeds into the sauce pan.  Those little buggers are tiny!  Then place the vanilla bean in the saucepan to add extra flavor.

Once you mix it around the bean will become a little less unruly.

Warm the pot over medium and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  This took a surprisingly short amount of time for me - perhaps 5 minutes or less.

What an appetizing mixture!

Now add in the remaining 2 cups of cream and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Feel some relief now that your ice cream isn't so gross looking.

Pour everything (including that bean) into a large bowl, cover, and place in the fridge to cool before freezing.

When you're ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean because your ice cream will look a little funny with a stick in it.  Churn according to your machine's instructions.  I let mine go for 40 minutes or so.

And John and I were greeted with the most perfect, simple dessert of all.  Freshly churned vanilla ice cream.  I topped mine with chocolate sauce the first couple of days, and then for the last two I decided I wanted the unadulterated vanilla flavor and went "plain vanilla."  I hope everyone isn't tiring of my ice cream posts, because this summer, I'm hoping to make ice cream every weekend.  Or sorbet.  Or sherbet.  Or frozen yogurt.  Yum.

Vanilla Ice Cream, Philadelphia Style

Makes about 1 quart/liter 

3 cups heavy cream (or 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup whole milk)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour 1 cup heavy cream into a medium saucepan and add 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt.  Split a vanilla bean from top to bottom and scrape out the seeds with a knife.  Add the seeds to the pan and then add the empty vanilla bean.  Warm the mixture over medium heat, mixing thoroughly until the sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes).  Remove the pan from heat and add in 2 additional cups of cream (or 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk) and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Chill in the fridge for a few hours and then churn in an ice cream maker according the machine's instructions.  Enjoy "plain" or with chocolate sauce.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Even if you don't have an ice cream maker (and an overboard obsession with said ice cream maker), you can still make your own homemade hot fudge.  This is "lean" chocolate sauce because it doesn't contain any cream or butter.    In all honesty, I wouldn't have made this recipe if I had any cream leftover, and I wouldn't have made any chocolate sauce at all if John hadn't essentially demanded it.  Now I knew he preferred chocolate ice cream, but he was the one who requested naturally I thought that would be enough.  Little did I know that this request was accompanied by a hot fudge demand as well.  Luckily, David Lebovitz, saved the day with a quick easy chocolate fudge sauce that even my picky husband deemed acceptable.

Just pretend the glass of water I was drinking out of at the time was the 1 cup of water I need for the recipe.  So if you can play along, then everything else you need is 1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, 2 oz (57 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, and 1/2 cup light corn syrup.

In a medium saucepan (ideally one larger than the one I used), whisk together the water, cocoa powder, and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often.

Remove pan from heat and add in 2 oz chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  (Excuse the cocoa powder stain on stage left.)

Whisk until all the chocolate melts and you have a delicious chocolate sauce.  It will be thin, but will thicken in the fridge (always serve warm, though).

Serve over whatever ice cream you have on hand, be it homemade vanilla or Edy's Slow-Churned Cookie Dough (my old standby).  Everyone loves chocolate sauce, and consider yourself a saint for making one without butter or cream.  Hey, it's all relative, right?

Chocolate Fudge Sauce
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 cup water
1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 oz (57 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Whisk 1 cup water, 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup light corn syrup together in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Remove pan from heat and add 2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chopped chocolate.  Stir the mixture until the chocolate melts.  Serve warm over your favorite ice cream.

Chocolate sauce can keep for up to two weeks covered in a refrigerator.  Rewarm sauce in microwave (be careful not to overheat) or in a saucepan over low heat.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

I know that cupcakes are seen as a fad, but I think they're in for the long-haul.  They're a lot easier to make than cakes, are more fun to eat, and have an innate cuteness that cakes just don't possess.  Plus, people aren't likely to line the streets of Manhattan for a slice of cake.  Cupcakes are what people want, and that's why I'm here to show you how to make show-stopping rich chocolate cupcakes without the fuss of many chocolate cake recipes.  This is as simple as a brownie mix, just with more ingredients to add.  No stand mixer necessary!

Start by sifting together 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

When your done the mixture will resemble brownie mix.

Now add 2 eggs and 3/4 cup buttermilk.

Then add in 3/4 cup warm water (I just let me tap water run until it became hot).

Top it off with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Mix it all together for 3 minutes to create a delicious chocolate soup.  It will be very thin.  Make sure there are no lumps.

Line muffin tins with 24 liners.  Fill the cups about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until the tops spring back when touched.

I was worried these would come out dense like brownies, but they are a perfect light cupcake texture.

An extra-dark chocolate cupcake begs for a perfect vanilla buttercream.  Black and white cupcakes bring the best of both worlds together.  When you're an indecisive Libra like me, it's good to have a dessert up your sleeve when you can't decide between chocolate and vanilla.  But if you're also torn between a fruit dessert too, I can't help you there.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
By Martha Stewart

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with 24 liners.  Start by sifting together 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Add in 2 eggs, 3/4 cup warm water, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Mix for 3 minutes (by hand) until no lumps remain.  Fill cups 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched by a finger.  Cool completely before icing, preferably with vanilla buttercream.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Esq. Chronicles

Remember this horrible scene from January/February?  Well, I found out I passed the CA bar exam, so luckily I can toss those revolting BarBri books and never look back.  Now that I've passed three bar exams, I think it's time to stop moving.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No-Cook Pizza Sauce

I swear every time I post about tomato sauce I make claims about it getting easier.  But this time, the simplicity comes from a new angle - it is uncooked!  P. Rein (Peter Reinhart) says there is no need to precook pizza sauce because most canned tomatoes (all?) are precooked and the sauce will cook in the oven anyway.  I was a little doubtful about this sauce (why would I doubt P. Rein?), because when you taste it with your finger (err, a spoon?), the flavors aren't really blended...probably because it isn't cooked yet.  But put this sucker on some pizza dough and into a 500 degree oven, and you have the perfect mix of flavorful sauce and minimal effort.  I especially appreciate the no-cook aspect because once I cooked my tomato sauce immediately before putting it on the pizza, which led to an even messier/more difficult transfer into the oven.

 I have been cooking pizza so much at home that I finally caved and bought a pizza peel recently (the paddle you transfer pizzas to and from the oven with) and it helps a lot.  If you get into homemade pizza like me, I highly recommend buying a stone and a peel.  Both of mine are from Williams Sonoma and they are the biggest peels and stones that I've seen out there, which is helpful if you want to make big, thin pizzas like this gal.

All you need is pictured above: kosher salt, 28 oz. crushed tomatoes, one lemon, garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, and fresh pepper.

Since this is no cook sauce, you just pour all the ingredients into a bowl, mix, and voila!  I think I eye-balled the measurements based on the recipe to make my life even easier.

This sauce obviously makes way more than you need for one pizza.  I think it makes enough for about 4 pizzas, which is perfect since the pizza dough recipe makes enough for 4 pizzas as well.  Isn't life grand?

Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce
From Peter Reinhart's American Pie

1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
5 cloves crushed garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or red wine vinegar or a combo of the two)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix together well and use on your favorite pizza dough.  Freeze the leftovers in 3/4 cup increments to save for easy pizza-making in the future.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Crust

When John gets sick he starts to crave comfort food, but his idea of comfort food is a little different than my view of comfort food.  One of the things he starts asking for first is Indian.  Yes, chicken tikka masala is what my husband craves when he has the flu.  That's probably the last thing on my list when I'm not feeling well, especially since I usually eat so much it makes me feel sick.  So this past weekend when he wasn't feeling well, I couldn't jump on board with his Indian request, but I happily obliged with his next "comfort food" idea - homemade pizza.  I've been making homemade pizza for a couple of months now, and this current recipe is definitely the best.  I'm constantly looking for ways to improve upon my pizzas, so I checked out a book by (The Great) Peter Reinhart called American Pie (which is obviously all about pizza).  I read all kinds of tips and tricks, but only got to try one crust and one sauce recipe before I had to return the book.  Luckily, I chose wisely and they both turned out to be winners (more on the sauce later here).  The crust was a must-try for me because it was advertised as being of Grimaldi's consistency, which is my favorite pizza from New York.  My crust didn't bubble up like it does at Grimaldi's, but it achieved a great crunch (and complete lack of sogginess) and had better flavor than any other crust I've used before.  The great thing is that the recipe makes 4 small crusts, which means I can tuck the extra three away in the freezer for a non-disgusting Digiorno experience whenever I please.

You start with 5 cups of high-gluten (Sorry, Anika, this recipe isn't for you) or bread flour.  I, of course, used my scale to make life simpler.

You can either add 1 teaspoon of instant yeast directly to the flour or add 1 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast to 1/4 cup of the water you'll be using (room temperature) and stir it to dissolve.

Add the yeast (or water/yeast) to the flour along with 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt), 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 3/4 cups room-temperature water (remember to subtract out whatever amount you use to mix with the yeast, so if you use 1/4 cup with the yeast only use 1 1/2 cups otherwise).

Using your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (ignore the dough hook above, we'll get to that), mix until the ingredients are combined.  Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Now, fitted with a dough hook, mix on low speed for 4 minutes, until the dough gathers into a ball.  Let the dough rest for 2 minutes and then mix on medium-low speed for another 2 minutes.  At this point (shown above), I had no dough on the sides, but it was sticking to the bottom a bit.  You may need to add a tablespoon of flour or water to compensate.  The dough will be very sticky.  Apparently if you use a scale your flour measurement will be more precise and you will not need to make adjustments.  (I am starting to sound like I sell these scales or something.)

Divide your dough into four even balls (10 oz each).  Round the balls and brush with olive oil.  Either store in the fridge for the next day, or put them in freezer bags to store.

This is my ready-to-use ball, which I stuck in the fridge.  You want to let it sit in the fridge overnight so it can slowly ferment and rise.  Take the dough out two hours before you want to use it.

Flatten the dough slightly when you take it out on a floured cutting board or surface.  I actually recommend using parchment paper since you'll be likely using that to transfer the pizza anyway.  Let the dough sit like this for two hours.  One hour before you want to make the pizza (if you are using a pizza stone), start heating your oven to its highest temperature.  Mine is 500 degrees.  To get the stone as hot as possible, alternate between broil and bake at 500 degrees.  Once the stone has been heated, you can assemble your pizza (on the parchment paper - Do not try to transfer an assembled pizza to parchment paper.  This resulted in us having Chipotle the first time I tried to do this.) and then bake for 8-12 minutes, until the crust and cheese are browned.  To make Neo-Neapolitan pizza use crushed tomato sauce (recipe coming soon to a blog near you here for your viewing pleasure) and top it with freshly grated pecorino Romano (just a sprinkling) and fresh mozzarella torn into pieces.

And when you have a pizza like this coming out of your oven you will realize that following all the bizarre steps (turning on your oven an hour before, letting the dough rest so much it seems like it has mono) is worth it.  Peter Reinhart is a bread-baking God around these parts, and he takes his pizza seriously enough to write a whole book about it.  The beauty about Peter's books (we're on a first-name basis) is that he realizes the limitations of a home oven and finds ways to compensate with highly specific recipes and instructions, because he wants to provide a way for your home-baked items to taste as good as you can get in a professional bakery.

Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Crust
By Peter Reinhart, American Pie

Makes four 10 to 12 inch pizzas

5 cups (22 1/2 oz.) high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast - be sure to mix with some of your water)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 cups room temperature water

Using your paddle attachment, mix all ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Once it is just combined, turn the mixer off and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Using the dough hook, mix the dough for 4 minutes on low speed until the dough comes together in a ball.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then mix it on medium-low speed for 2 minutes.  The dough should stick to the bottom a little but not stick to the sides.  The dough should be very sticky - add an extra tablespoon of flour or water to make sure it is sticky but still holds it shape.  Divide the dough in four pieces and round into balls.  Brush each ball with olive oil and either put in a plastic bag for freezing or a covered bowl for placing in the fridge.  Let the dough rest in the fridge overnight.  Remove two hours before using dough and place on a floured surface (probably parchment paper) slightly flattened.  Preheat oven (if using a pizza stone) one hour before cooking the pizza.  Heat your oven to the highest setting.  Prepare pizza on parchment paper for easier transferring.  Use a small amount of tomato sauce and a mixture of fresh mozzarella and pecorino Romano for an authentic Neo-Neapolitan flavor.  Cook the pizza for 8-12 minutes until browned and bubbling.
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