Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Lovin' with Grilled Peaches

So, I didn't quite get around to making this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Crunchy & Custardy Peach Tart. It sounded lovely, and I even had the world's most beautiful farmer's market peaches on hand, luscious and just yielding to the touch and impossibly juicy.

But I had other plans in mind for these peaches. I wanted to take their sweet perfumed juice and introduce them to the tender buttery crumb of golden poundcake:

And then, in a perfect marriage of summer flavors and summer cooking, cook them both on the grill, until the peaches bore caramelized grill marks and gave no resistance to the fork, and the poundcake had a crunchy buttery crust that hid the still-soft interior.

Of course, they were not grilled naked. The poundcake was brushed with melted butter, and the peaches were dunked in a honey-butter sauce, with just a hint of cinnamon, before being put on the grill. While they were cooking, the sauce was returned to the heat to thicken for a few minutes, until it was the texture of a warm caramel sauce.

The peaches and poundcake were paired with a honey-vanilla ice cream and drizzled with the creamy honey-butter sauce. A glorious end to a casual dinner of grilled chicken and corn on the cob, and a perfect way to welcome in a balmy summer night.

Grilled Poundcake and Peaches
Serves 6

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided use
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 freestone peaches, halved and pitted
6 slices pound cake, sliced 3/4-inch thick
Ice cream of your choice

Melt the 1/2 stick of butter in the microwave and set aside for now.

In small saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 stick of butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Heat until butter is melted, then dip peach halves in the mixture.

Grill the peaches for 5 minutes, then flip them, cover, and grill for 5 more minutes. Carefully remove them from the grill, slice each peach half in quarters and cover to keep warm.

While the peaches are on the grill, continue to heat the honey butter mixture until thick and caramelized, about ten minutes. It will get thicker once it cools down, so err on the side of caution. If you find it's too thick, add some cream or milk and heat it to loosen it back up.

Once the peaches are off the grill, brush both sides of each pound cake slice with the melted butter. Grill them for about 2 minutes per side, until the slices are crisp and golden.

Top the grilled poundcake with grilled peaches, cold ice cream, warm honey-butter sauce, and swoon.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Whew! Whadda day. Everything about this Tuesdays with Dorie post snuck up on me, from the actual baking of the oatmeal breakfast bread to the posting of this here very blog post. Apologies, but I was busy doing very important things like making the world's largest Tootsie Roll:

Whadda Roll.

Aaaaaanyhow, back to the oatmeal breakfast bread. Here's the truth: I like my breakfasts healthy and my desserts deadly, and rarely should the twain meet. This way, I can gorge on all the warm chocolate-chip cookies I want in the evening, but console myself with the memory of the virtuous oatmeal or egg-white scramble I had for breakfast. So a recipe that commingles these two very distinct categories?


This oatmeal breakfast bread was fairly healthy, as far as baking projects go. Some of the oil was replaced by applesauce, and oatmeal stood in for some white flour. I added pecans, dried apricots, dried cherries, and--okay, you caught me--just a handful of mini chocolate chips. I'm not made of stone, people.

I thought the oatmeal gave it a lovely chewy, moist texture once it had cooled down, and all the different dried fruits and nuts were great additions. But I have to say, it was just a bit too healthy-tasting for me. My favorite part was the cinnamon-sugar-pecan crust on top, which I think cancels out most of the healthy attributes.

So although I think there's lots to love about this bread, it's just not my bag, baby. We'll keep eating Ginormous Tootsie Rolls around here, and leave the healthy breads to the other folks.


Monday, August 09, 2010

TWD: German Chocolate Ice Cream, Ya!

Attention all chocoholics, sweet lovers, and gluttons of good food, have I got a dessert for you!

The fabulous Katrina, of Baking and Boys! (gotta have that exclamation mark) chose Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. If you're not familiar with Katrina, quit reading now--but please do come back--and check out her blog, because she is awesome. Funny, enthusiastic, with super cute sons and delicious recipes like raspberry chocolate chip cookies. Love her!

Another thing I love is this recipe for chocolate ice cream. I'd made it before, and despite the fact that it always causes my cheapie ice cream maker to go into convulsions (it hardens quickly and usually ends up having seizures before it's fully churned. Small price to pay for good ice cream) it's one of my favorites. Since I've already tried it plain, I decided to spice things up a little by making German Chocolate Ice Cream, with brownie chunks and swirls of rich coconut-pecan sauce.

However, the road to greatness is never smooth, and I learned several hard lessons during the course of making this dessert.

* Lesson 1: there is a difference between ½ cup of flour and 1-1/2 cups of flour. A big difference. Thrice the amount of recommended flour-style difference. When making the brownies, I accidentally triple the amount of flour the recipe called for. It was late, and I was tired from lugging boxes down to our storage space, and also, reading is hard. I didn't realize my mistake until I noticed that the batter was extremely sticky and actively fighting back at my attempts to stir it.

As the flour was the last ingredient, I decided to bake them off anyway and see if they would be usable in the ice cream. You might ask yourself what a brownie batch with three times the amount of flour looks like. Wonder no more:

Sexy, right? And by "sexy," I mean "nasty." BUT! It turns out I AM a culinary genius, because these brownies were perfect! I wanted something that had a cakey texture (hence the German Chocolate "Cake" part) but could keep its shape when mixed and scooped into ice cream.

These little nuggets were definitely on the cakey side, and they were sturdy without being too dense or hard. I wouldn't have served them plain, but for use in ice cream, they were totally fine.

* Lesson 2: it is impossible to make coconut-pecan sauce look appetizing. Even if you know what it is, and can imagine how delicious it tastes, it still looks like the vomit of Satan. Enjoy!

*Lesson 3: Ditto the above for German Chocolate Ice Cream. After the chocolate was churned, I stirred in the brownie bits, and then carefully swirled and layered the coconut-pecan sauce. It. Was. Amazing. But when it came time to photograph, the sauce blended into the ice cream and the whole thing looked like regular chocolate ice cream. You'll just have to imagine the hidden pockets of rich, brown-sugary sauce with chunks of toasted pecans and chewy coconut.

*Lesson 4: Despite all good intentions, it is impossible to resist eating several helpings of German Chocolate Ice Cream when you're photographing it. It starts innocently enough: a stray brownie bite here, a lick of the coconut-pecan spoon there, but soon you find yourself standing over the sink, tipping the bowl upside-down to lick out the last melty spoonfuls of ice cream. Or is that just me? Tell me it's not just me.

The ice cream recipe can be found over on Katrina's blog, and my recipe for coconut-pecan sauce (basically a looser version of the coconut-pecan frosting commonly found on German chocolate cakes) is below the cut. I'd give you the brownie recipe, but I don't quite trust myself to get the quantities right…just use your favorite cakey brownies, and don't forget to double-check the flour!

Coconut-Pecan Sauce for German Chocolate Ice Cream

1 stick (4 oz) butter, cubed
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large egg yolks
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
heavy pinch salt
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Combine the butter, evaporated milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat the mixture almost to boiling, stirring often so it doesn't scorch. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks in a medium bowl.

Once it's simmering, temper the hot liquid into the yolks, then pour the whole thing back in the saucepan. Add the vanilla and the salt. Continue to cook, whisking often, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Recipes always say to not let it boil, but I've been neglectful and boiled it before and nothing terrible happens.

Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the pecans and coconut. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Makes a wicked awesome ice cream topping, oh yeah. [For cake frosting, take the evaporated milk down to one cup.]


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Passionate Baking, Three Ways

Even before I'd ever tasted passion fruit, I fell in love with the name. Growing up surrounded by boring, utilitarian fruit names (are you listening, orange?), learning that there was a fruit that broke this mold was a revelation. It belongs on a soap opera! Of course I was intensely curious about its flavor. Did it taste like joy? Lust? REVENGE?

By the time I finally tasted passion fruit, my expectations were high, but fortunately they were met with equal passion. This fruit, with its distinctive floral tropical taste and sweet-sour bite, is one of my favorite flavors. I'm sure it's much more common in other cultures, but in my experience it's still relatively rare, making passion fruit desserts that much more interesting to me.

My local grocery store carries lots of Mexican brands, and for years I've seen Goya passion fruit puree in the frozen food aisle. I've tried making smoothies with it, but--spoiler alert--it doesn't play well with protein powder. Recently I decided to give it the respect it deserves and create a dessert that showcases passion fruit's best qualities, so I came up with these passion fruit truffles for the candy site.

Passion fruit, at least in my experience, is pretty tart. If you're eating the whole fruit, you need to let it sit and really ripen for awhile, until it wrinkles and all those starches turn to sugar and its natural sweetness comes out. Frozen fruit puree doesn't have the benefit of sitting for a week on the kitchen counter, so it needs some outside assistance to mellow the harsh edges of the passion fruit.

I used the puree to make a white chocolate ganache. The remarkable thing about this ganache is that almost all of the liquid is fruit juice--only a little bit is cream. Of course there's plenty of fat from the white chocolate, but the high juice ratio still makes it float a little bit lighter on the tongue, and glide down the throat a little easier than some heavier ganaches.

When you're making these truffles, you'll want to use good chocolate, the kind you buy in bars and chop up, the kind that you want to snack on while you're chopping. White chocolate chips have other additives that make them resistant to melting, and they don't taste like much of anything, so avoid them if you can.

The resulting passion fruit ganache is rich and creamy, with a light fruity taste that whispers of warm afternoons and island vacations, but with a white chocolate finish that brings your feet back down to the ground. The ganache sets somewhat loose, so you'll want to mold these truffles, instead of hand rolling them. Dusted with a sprinkling of gold luster dust, they look--and taste--like a million bucks. The full passion fruit truffle recipe is here.

But this passion fruit party is only starting. Because the other thing I didn't tell you about the ganache is that it makes a lot. A LOT. A-maybe-we-should-invite-the-neighbors-over-to-help-eat-all-these-truffles-lot. So if you're like me, and the thought of molding five dozen truffles doesn't appeal to you, you'll try to find other ways to use your extra ganache.

Solution #1: Chocolate Passion Fruit Tarts

The ganache was poured into miniature chocolate tart shells and topped with bittersweet chocolate shavings. That is the full extent of this recipe. Ganache. Tart shell. Bliss.
The shell is barely sweetened, and the crunch of the savory cocoa shell contrasting with the sweet-tart creamy ganache is heavenly. This is one of those showstopping desserts you want to keep up your sleeve to impress company, so after you receive all of their compliments, you can say--with the blush of honesty but with a twinkle in your eye--"It really was nothing."

My second attempt at reworking the passion fruit ganache was a little more elaborate but equally delicious:

Passion Fruit-White Chocolate Ice Cream

I incorporated some of the ganache into a custard ice cream base and churned it to produce an ice cream that had the signature passion fruit taste, tempered by the addition of more milk, more cream, and more sugar. This is a perfect introduction to the fruit for skeptics, and it paired beautifully with small cookies made from tart dough scraps.

Looks like my passion for passion fruit yielded the world's longest blog post. If you're still with me, and looking for recipes, they're right below the cut...

Passion Fruit Ganache

2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp light corn syrup
2/3 cup passion fruit juice or puree
9 oz good-quality white chocolate (not chips)

If you are using passion fruit puree, pass it through a mesh strainer to remove the solids from the juice, and discard the solids. Place the 2/3 cup of juice in a small saucepan with the light corn syrup and the heavy cream over medium-high heat. Bring this mixture to a boil.

Finely chop the white chocolate and put it in a heat-safe bowl. Once at a boil, pour the hot liquid over the white chocolate and immediately begin gently whisking to melt the white chocolate and emulsify the mixture. If you have a handheld immersion blender, use it to blend the passion fruit ganache together. Otherwise, just continue whisking until you have a silky smooth mixture with no bits of white chocolate remaining.

Press some cling wrap over the top of the ganache and refrigerate the bowl until the ganache has cooled, about 2 hours. Alternately, you can refrigerate it over night, and then take the bowl out of the refrigerator the following day and let it sit at room temperature until it loosens up.

Dark Chocolate Tart Dough
Adapted from Dorie's chocolate tart dough
1 1/4 Cups Plain flour
1/4 Cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 Cup powdered sugar
1/4 Tsp Sea salt
135g Very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Large Egg yolk

Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry mixture and pulse until you have butter pieces the size of oatmeal.
Stir the yolk with a fork and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.
Process in long pulses (10 seconds each) until the dough comes together in clumps and curds.
Turn the dough to a lightly floured surface a knead briefly in order to incorporate the dry ingredients that might have escaped the mixing.
Press into tart shells and freeze before baking at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Passion Fruit Ice Cream

About 1.5 cups passion fruit ganache, loose and at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar

Bring the milk and the cream to a boil in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle.

Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. I always use a thermometer and shoot for 175 degrees F.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and slowly and gently stir the custard into the ganache. Cover the ice cream base with cling wrap and refrigerate until completely cool. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Carrot Cake Cookies

Huzzah! After a week of frantic unpacking leisurely opening a box or two at a time, the new kitchen is finally in workable condition. The best part is, it has a big window and enough room for a wee table on which to take photographs, so there'll be no more carrying food from the kitchen to the dining room to get pictures.

I'd like to say the first thing I baked was this week's TWD recipe, but the truth is I made these (fabulous) Snickerdoodle Blondies over the weekend, and then we scarfed them too quickly to get a picture. Moving on!

The second thing I baked were these Gingered Carrot Cookies, chosen by Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina.
I added carrots, coconut, pecans, and dried cranberries to the mix, and I have to say, the dough was delicious. I found myself doing a little of the ole one-for-you, one-for-me trick when scooping it onto the baking sheets. After they were baked, they had a beautiful soft, cakey texture, with just enough carrots to make them seem healthy.

However, the next day, I thought they were leaning toward tasting a little stale, and a little plain. So I did what I always do when confronted with less than stellar baked goods: add frosting.

I made a simple cream cheese frosting and topped some cookies with a dollop of frosting and crushed pecans. I also tried a few whoopie-pie style, which worked out surprisingly well despite their bumpy texture.
My favorite variation was the cookies topped with the layer of frosting, because it had the maximum frosting-to-cookie balance.

These will probably never replace the classic chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie, but they were tasty and different, and I could see making them when I wanted a fun variation on carrot cake.

Q: What's your favorite cakey cookie? I've made some "banana bread cookies" that were...well, just what they sound like. Pretty fab! What about you?