Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whoopie Pies

Oh, whoopie pies. I love them. Whoopie pies are a New Englander treat, rarely heard of in these parts. Two chocolate cake cookies filled with a marshmallow cream frosting in between. It doesn't get any better. I've already eaten 2. Alright, I ate 2, then I ate the cookie part of Abbie's after she licked out all the frosting. I'm pregnant- give me a break.
The recipe I found has you make 8 of these guys, but that would just be too big. Typically, they are about the size of your head- but I think these smaller ones are better. Don't be shy when filling them with frosting. It's supposed to ooze out.

For cakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Droste. It's the best.)
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
For filling
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups marshmallow cream such as Marshmallow Fluff (use what you can find- we can't get Fluff out here.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Make cakes:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a handheld, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and alternately mix in flour mixture and buttermilk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.
Using a tablespoon size ice cream scoop, scoop the batter onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack to cool completely.
Make filling:
Beat together butter, confectioners sugar, marshmallow, and vanilla in a bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
Assemble pies:
Spread the filling on flat side of half of cakes and top with remaining cakes.
Makes 24 whoopie pies

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blueberry Ice Cream

Years from now we will remember this summer as the summer of ice cream. I started collecting ice cream recipes last summer, determined to try to make my own. Ice cream is very serious business to a New Englander. Growing up in Connecticut I remember ice cream socials and consuming gallons of ice cream over the course of the summer. Everyone has their favorite ice crceam shop. Mine was Dr. Mike's. Their strawberry ice cream was so fantastic. It was full of fat, but airy and just really fabulous. I just can't find that same flavor in California ice cream. So this summer I started by making strawberry ice cream. It was the best so far. I started with a basic recipe from Lindsey Shere (Chez Panisse) that I got at a cooking class a couple of years ago. By the way- the cooking class was really fun, but was cancelled for lack of interest. It was a collection of mothers who would go to the class every other month, prepare a meal, then eat what we prepared. Unfortunately, many of the other mothers didn't have much interest in cooking. One night while we were eating the women around me at the table discussed the lack of variety in take-out food, lamenting that they had to have pizza two nights in a row. I thought this was odd considering this was a COOKING CLASS. Anyway, one of the things we prepared was this ice cream, and it was very good. So I started with the basic recipe, but I didn't have vanilla beans at home. I priced them at Berkeley Bowl- 1 bean was $8.25. The recipe called for 4 inches of vanilla bean, about half of one. So I thought I would just use regular good vanilla instead. After all, this was going to be strawberry ice cream. For the strawberry flavor, I made some of Rose Levy Beranbaum's (Cake Bible) Strawberry Sauce. It was really good. I wanted to take pictures, but we ate it all before I could.
Next I made plain Vanilla ice cream. I found vanilla beans at Williams Sonoma for less- 2 in a jar for $8.50. I followed the recipe, and it was a little too vanilla-y.
The blueberry is good, and I love the color, although it doesn't really knock you over with blueberry flavor. I went back to using good vanilla for this batch.
Why did the strawberry come out best? I still really don't know. I think it's because the eggs in the custard were at room temperature when I started making the base. That, and the strawberry sauce that I used was really great. So here's the basic recipe that I used for the ice cream, and the directions for the strawberry sauce and the blueberry sauce. There will be many more batches of ice cream this summer. I'll keep you posted. Note in the recipe the liquid used. Most recipes call for a combination of cream and whole milk. This uses half and half and whipping cream, substantially raising the fat content.

Vanilla Ice Cream

4 inch piece of a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. good vanilla)
1 cup half and half
2 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
6 egg yolks (at room temperature)

If using a vanilla bean-Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the fine black seeds into a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean pod, half and half, cream, and sugar, and warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

If using good vanilla- Combine good vanilla, half and half, cream, and sugar in a saucepan. Warm the mixture stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.

Whisk the egg yolks just enough to mix them and whisk in some of the hot misture. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of the spoon. (Drag your finger down the back of your wooden spoon. It should leave a clear trail.)

If using a vanilla bean-Strain through a medium-fine strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed, scraping as much of the vanilla through the strainer as you can. Return the bean pod to the mixture, put in a container, seal and store in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

If using good vanilla-Strain through a medium-fine strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed. Add fruit sauce. Put in a container, seal and store in the refrigerator until completely chilled.

Freeze according to instructions on your ice cream maker, (removing vanilla bean first). Store the ice cream in a plastic container.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh blueberries
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. lemon juice

Combine berries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook down berries about 5-10 minutes. Strain berries, pushing juice out with the back of a wooden spoon. You should have about 1/2 cup of sauce. Cool before adding to base mixture.
(I added the whole 1/2 cup to the base mixture.)

Strawberry Sauce

20 ounces fresh strawberries
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Freeze the berries. Thaw them in a collander or strainer suspended over a bowl. (This could take several hours.) Pres them to force out their juice. There shoould be close to 1 1/4 cups of juice.
In a small saucepan, boil the juice until reduced to 1/4 cup. Pour it into a glass measuring cup.
In a food precessor, puree the strawberries. You should have 1 full liquid cup of puree. Stir in the strawberry syrup and lemon juice. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
(I added 1/4 cup of this to the base mixture.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cherry Raspberry Crostata

Andronico's had these wonderful bags of cherries for a very good price. Abbie loves cherries, and I thought that it would be nice to bake some in a something other than a pie. I'm not a huge fan of cherry filling, in fact I really don't like that overly red pie filling you can get in a can. I've been reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee. In it, Lindsey Shere, the original pastry chef, describes how she makes a stone fruit galette. I looked up some other ideas and came up with this crostata. It was delicious, although not as pretty as I would have liked. To make a crostata, you roll out a pate brisee, or other pie crust, then in a bowl mix the fruit together with sugar and maybe a little cinnamon, some lemon juice, then you dump the filling into the center of the crust, and fold the edges up around the filling. Lindsey Shere has you mix the flour and the sugar, then sprinkle it in the bottom of the crust, then put the fruit on top. I thought this was a strange idea, until I made mine the old way. I ended up with cherries covered in a flour-sugar mixture, with the top half of the cherries exposed. This means that the flour and sugar on top of them never got mixed with the juice. I hope this makes sense, but this is such a great discovery for me. So I ended up pulling the crostata out of the oven and trying to roll the cherries to cover them in juice. The other great idea I got from her recipe is to always use my pizza stone. The bottom of the crostata was not soggy at all. I also used it for the Tomato Tart, and I have never had a more crisp crust. I also want to mention that I added raspberries to my crostata, which tasted really good, but the raspberries just fell apart. Here is what I should have done to make my Cherry Crostata.

Pate Brisee
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold!
1/4 cups ice water
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces, place in a bowl, then in the freezer. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds. Put the bowl of the food preocessor with the flour mixture into the freezer. Fill a measuring cup with ice water. Take the butter and flour out of the freezer, and add the butter pieces to the flour mixture. Process for no longer than 10 seconds- pulsing 1 second at a time. The butter should be big pea size. Dump the mixture into a bowl, drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture and using a spatula, press the dough together with the water. (This feels like it takes forever, and it does, but you will be rewarded with big chunks of butter in your crust. Remember- big chunks butter=flaky crust.) Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board, and form into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate atleast 1 hour. You can make this ahead and refrigerate 1 day, or freeze up to 1 month.

4 cups pitted fresh cherries
2-4 tbs. each granulated sugar and unbleached all-purpose flour (depending on sweetness and ripeness of fruit)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash
2 teaspoons coarse sugar

Put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF for 45 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator about a few minutes before rolling to soften it slightly.

Place the dough round between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch round, flouring the round lightly as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Remove the top sheet of parchment. Slide a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet under the bottom sheet of parchment.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Spread the sugar and flour mixture over the bottom of the crostata, leaving a border of about 2 inches. Place the fruit in the crostata next. Fold the border up and over the cherries to make a rim. Brush the rim with egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Use the pizza peel or baking sheet to transfer the crostata, still with parchment underneath, to the oven, sliding it, with the paper, directly onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cherries are bubbling, about 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven with the peel or baking sheet and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On Again

I feel I owe some sort of explanation for why I haven't posted in so many months. I know that many of you keep checking back to see if there's anything new. I have been in my kitchen, and have made other things since Chewy Cherry Cookies. In my defense, I must say that being pregnant and raising a 2 1/2 year old sucks all the energy out of your body. So I've been cooking and baking, but not as much as I would like, and I haven't had time to post. I hope you will forgive, and keep checking back. I'm posting today some recent recipes- Hot Cross Buns from Easter- They are really wonderful. I'm not a fan of the funny dried/candied fruits that you can get in the grocery store. These have lemon and orange zest and are really fantastic. I used a bit of buttercream frosting for the crosses that I had in my freezer. Buttercream is great that way. If you ever manage to have extra, freeze it. Then you can pull out different flavors for frosting cupcakes. I also have a great hodge-podge salad that I've made with Israeli coucous. The last new post is for some chocolate chip cookies I saw Martha make on her chocolate chip cookie show. They are pretty amazing. I found that they're best right after you make them though. They got a little tough as the week went by. Still, I wouldn't turn down a chocolate chip cookie, regardless. I still love those Chips Ahoy. Anyway- I'm making my Tomato Tart for dinner tonight. The first of the really good heirloom tomatoes have come into Berkeley Bowl. I've got my garlic roasting now. The cherries are especially good right now as well. I got a bag on sale at Andronico's and I'm making up some kind of Cherry Crostata for the moms of playgroup for Friday. I'm also baking up some of Louise's Ginger Crinkles for the kids. So please keep checking back, and I'll try to post on those ever so rare high energy days.