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Stepping Out of My Element

I’m pretty selective when it comes to recipe sources. I have my top tier sources (primarily Smitten Kitchen and America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated / Cook’s Country), and my line of solid back-ups (headlined by Elly Says Opa!, The Brewer and the Baker, Annie’s Eats and Farm Fresh Feasts), but, aside from a few other blogs and magazines, I generally don’t stray too far.

After all, a pretty Pinterest picture doesn’t mean the recipe will actually be successful. (Yes, I’m the only woman in the western hemisphere who hasn’t fallen down the Pinterest recipe rabbit hole, and I’m OK with that.) And even though I love spending time in the kitchen, I don’t want to waste my time there. If I’m cooking something, I want it to be worth the time and ingredients.

That’s why this recipe surprised me. Someone (my Grandma, maybe?) shared a link to it on Facebook, and since I was knee-deep in rhubarb at the time, I thought it was worth investigating.

These make a very soft, cakey cookie. They’re best in the first day or so, as the moisture causes the cookies to stick together in the container. The flavor is great, and they mixed up in no time – chopping the rhubarb took the most time! I found a science experiment growing in the sour cream tub when I opened it, so I subbed Greek yogurt for the sour cream with no ill effects.

I realized afterwards, though, that my cookie scoop is about twice the size of the scoop called for in the recipe. Which explains why I got about two dozen cookies when the recipe yield said 40. I liked the size of the cookies from my 2-tablespoon scoop, so I’ll probably keep making them that way. No one ever complained about a bigger cookie, right?

I’m not sure if the recipe would work with frozen rhubarb, unless it was really, really well-drained. So, I might just save these for spring baking. It never hurts to have another seasonal dessert. And maybe I’ll try recipes from new places more often!

RhubarbCookies

Rhubarb Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely diced rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 350°  and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the first four dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set them aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until well-combined.

Add about one-half of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Stir in the rhubarb and mix until the rhubarb is evenly distributed throughout the batter and no pockets of flour remain.

Use a cookie scoop to drop tablespoon-ish sized scoops of the batter on the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies 2″ apart.

Bake until the cookies start to brown along the edges and just a little on the top, about 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on pan for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

From the Today Show

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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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S’mores Without The Campfire

Last month, we were supposed to kick off the summer with a camping trip with some friends. The weather, however, had other plans, and a weekend of cool, rainy weather put the kibosh on things. So much for lounging in the hammock and making pizzas and s’mores over the fire.

The canceled trip meant that all of our s’more supplies went back into the pantry, destined to wait for a sunny weekend. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about s’mores. Toasty, caramelized marshmallow. Sweet, melty chocolate. Crunchy graham crackers. I needed s’mores in my life! (Yes, I suppose we could have had a bonfire in the backyard. But that seemed too easy. Plus, it was raining, remember?) 

And that’s when it hit me: S’more ice cream sandwiches. Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier? Graham crackers would be the perfect vehicle to get toasted marshmallow ice cream to my mouth. But what about the chocolate? In a s’more, the chocolate melts through the marshmallow, and ideally, every bite contains some of each ingredient. That ruled out chocolate chips (no way to guarantee that you’ll get some in each bite) and Hershey bars (too crunchy). Milk chocolate ganache would be the perfect option. I could swirl it through the ice cream after churning it, so each bite would have the perfect amount of chocolate and marshmallow. Brilliant!

I turned to the internet for a marshmallow ice cream recipe, and after reading through a few, decided to use this one from Completely Delicious. I liked the fact that it was a custard-based ice cream, so it would hold up well between the graham crackers and not melt instantly. I used a 9″ x 13″ pan for the ice cream, which gave me 15 fairly thick sandwiches, so I think you could use a jelly roll pan if you wanted thinner sandwiches or a greater yield.

I ended up with a lot of extra ganache, so I’m halving the amount in the directions below. You could double it if you want lots of chocolate sauce (or if you want to eat extra ganache on extra graham crackers).

The ice cream is really rich. So rich, in fact, that I was a little concerned that the sandwiches would be over the top. And then I was afraid that I’d added too much ganache and overpowered the marshmallow flavor.

Thankfully, everything mellowed in the freezer, and the final result was just right. The sandwiches taste just like a s’more, and you don’t have to worry about campfire smoke getting in your eyes while you eat them. I guess I should be glad that we canceled that camping trip after all. 😉

SmoresIceCreamSandwich

S’mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

For the ice cream:
5 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups whole milk (I used half and half, since that’s what’s in my fridge.) 
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 ounces of marshmallows (I used a combination of large and mini marshmallows. The original recipe says 9 jumbo “campfire” marshmallows.) 

For the ganache:
3 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 ounces heavy whipping cream

For assembly: 
Graham crackers, broken into squares (I used 15 large crackers.) 

To make the ice cream, combine the sugar, salt and whole milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the milk mixture begins to steam and is heated through, but do not boil it.

While the milk is heating, beat the egg yolks together in a glass measuring cup. Gradually pour the heated milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. When you’ve added about half to two-thirds of the warm milk to the egg yolks, pour the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly.

Cook the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon, stirring often. Pour the cooked custard through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Stir in the cream and vanilla.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Place the marshmallows on the prepared sheet. Put the sheet under the broiler and broil for a few minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn. When the marshmallows are brown on top, remove the pan from the oven and stir the marshmallows around so the untoasted insides are exposed. Put the pan back under the broiler until the tops of the marshmallows are browned. Remove from the oven, stir one more time and place them under the broiler again.

When the top of the marshmallows are toasted, scrape them into the bowl with the ice cream mixture. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is smooth, and then chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is completely cold.

Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

While the ice cream is churning, prepare the ganache. Place the chocolate chips in a small, heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. (Ganache will thicken as it cools.) 

When the ice cream has finished churning, line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper.  Spread the about half of the churned ice cream in the pan, and then drizzle the ganache on the ice cream. Spread the rest of the ice cream over the ganache and use a butter knife to swirl the ganache through the ice cream. Place the pan in the freezer and freeze until solid, at least two hours.

When the ice cream has frozen completely, remove the pan from the freezer. Using your graham crackers as a template, cut the ice cream into squares that are slightly smaller than the crackers. Use a metal spatula to scoop the ice cream squares out of the pan and sandwich each square between two graham crackers. Place the sandwiches in the freezer and freeze until firm.

Ice cream from Completely Delicious; Ganache proportions from I am Baker

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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Ice Cream

 

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Easy Dessert

Some desserts have a reputation for being difficult to make. No one bats an eye if you show up with a plate of chocolate chip cookies, but if you bring cheesecake to the office, people are wowed.

“I could never make cheesecake,” they say. “It’s so hard!”

I’m here to bust that myth. Cheesecake is waaaay easier than you may think. Cream the cream cheese with some sugar, beat in a few eggs and pour it over a graham cracker crust. Bake for an hour or so, and let it cool. So much less involved than scooping individual individual cookies onto tray after tray.

And that’s why I whipped up a pan of these Oreo cheesecake bars for dessert with friends a few weeks ago. They’re easy to put together, and cheesecake is always a hit with everyone in our social circle. Plus, I almost always have cream cheese in the fridge.

The recipe calls for Oreos, but I can confirm that they work just as well with the off-brand / Aldi version of everyone’s favorite sandwich cookie. And since the off-brand package apparently has fewer cookies, I can also confirm that the filling is just as good with 10 Oreos instead of 12.

The four of us managed to not eat the entire pan that night, so I told Andy to leave the leftovers alone until I could photograph them. And he did, mostly. I mean, there are still three squares on that plate. 🙂

OreoCheesecakeSquares

Oreo Cheesecake Squares 

For the crust: 
23 Oreo cookies, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling: 
12 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 325° and line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on each end of the pan to use as a sling.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Spread the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar to the cream cheese and beat until well-combined. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the egg and egg yolk until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly jiggly in the center, about 40 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least three hours. (I left mine in the fridge overnight.) 

To cut the bars, use the foil as a sling and remove them from the pan. Place the bars on a cutting board and remove the foil. Use a large chef’s knife to slice the bars into equal-sized squares. Refrigerate cut bars until serving.

From Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from The Recipe Girl, originally from You Made That Dessert? by Beth Lipton

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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Cheesecake, Dessert

 

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Flamingo Fun

Last week, we celebrated a very special birthday. My awesome friend Karen turned 30, and we took it upon ourselves to surprise her with a “flamingle” get-together. We kept things fairly low-key (although we did get party hats and a giant flamingo balloon), but as we started planning the party, I knew one thing had to happen: an awesome cake.

FlamingoCake2

As you can see, we also had an inflatable flamingo because why not? 🙂

Making the cake without talking to Karen about it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my kitchen. She’s number one on my speed dial whenever I’m baking a cake, and we talk about cake designs whenever one of us is baking. But I knew that she’d get suspicious if I told her about a giant cake covered in flamingos. (Plus, Karen kept the birthday cake AND party a secret when I turned 30, so she deserved it.) 😉

I think three-layer cakes look more festive, so I made a batch and a half of the chocolate cake that I tested last April. Karen told me that she’s been really into all things cookie dough lately, so when this recipe for cookie dough frosting came through my Facebook feed, I knew that would be the perfect filling for the flamingo cake. I covered the rest of the cake with my regular go-to buttercream and decked it out with hot pink sprinkles and plastic flamingos.

Happy birthday, Karen! I’m so glad you’re part of my life!

FlamingoCake

Cookie Dough Frosting

1-1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1 cup) milk
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, flour and salt, and mix until well-combined.

Slowly add the milk to the mixture until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. (I am Baker suggests adding it a tablespoon at a time.) 

Add the chocolate chips to the frosting and stir until well combined. Spread between cake layers or on top of cupcakes.

From I am Baker, who adapted it from AllRecipes.com

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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Cakes & Frostings, Dessert

 

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Beer Cookies and Cream

Remember when I first made beer cookies? I was convinced that they’d be perfect for ice cream sandwiches. It may have taken me more than six months to test that theory, but good things come to those who wait, right?

That theory definitely held true in this case. The frozen cookies aren’t quite as soft and chewy straight as the fresh-from-the-oven cookies (no surprise there, right?), but the flavor goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream.

I used the same ice cream base from the rhubarb ice cream sandwiches, and it worked perfectly. I lined a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper and spread the freshly-churned ice cream in the bottom of the pan before putting it in the freezer for a few hours. Once it was frozen solid, I used a round cookie cutter to cut out perfectly round circles of ice cream. (I have several round “biscuit cutters,” so I chose one that was closest in size to the cookies.)

I had stashed half a batch of cookie dough in the freezer, so all I had to do was mix up the ice cream base and bake a few cookies while the ice cream hung out in the freezer. Easy, and perfect for a football Saturday.

The only downside to my plan was the fact that we had been snacking on the frozen cookie  dough for a while, so when I went to bake the cookies, I discovered that there were only 16 balls of dough left in the bag. And, naturally, Andy and I each had to “sample” a plain cookie after they came out of the oven (for quality control purposes, of course), which left me with 14 cookies. Which means I only got 7 sandwiches. I’ll have to plan better next time.

beercookieicecreamsandwiches

Brown Sugar & Ale Ice Cream Sandwiches

Note: I am not sure how many sandwiches this will yield. It will depend on how many cookies you have and what size the cookies are. If you start with a full batch of cookie dough, it’s possible that you will need more than one batch of ice cream. 

For the cookies: 
1 batch (more or less… we had significantly less) of Brown Sugar & Ale Cookies

For the ice cream:
5 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the ice cream, combine the milk, one cup of the cream, sugar, salt and the vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl until smooth. Gradually add the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warm and well-combined. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Place the remaining cup of cream in a large glass bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl. Pour the cooked custard through the strainer and into the cream. Mix the custard and the cream together and add the vanilla extract.

Cover the bowl and cool the ice cream base in the refrigerator until it’s thoroughly chilled. 

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper, leaving an overhang on the edges. Spread the churned ice cream in an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the freezer until the ice cream is frozen solid.

While the ice cream is firming up, pair up the cookies by size and select a round cookie cutter to cut the ice cream.

To assemble, use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds of ice cream. Sandwich the ice cream rounds between two cookies. Continue until you run out of cookies or ice cream, whichever comes first. Place the sandwiches in an airtight, freezer-safe container and return them to the freezer so they can firm up before serving.

Cookies from Erin’s Food Files, originally adapted from the Beeroness. Ice cream base adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David  Lebovitz.

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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in Dessert

 

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Our Raspberry Rendezvous

Last month, Andy and I met some friends in Michigan for the 4th of July. We made it our goal to find the best ice cream place near our campground, which led us to Bud’s. Not only do they have an award-winning chocolate milkshake (made with chocolate and love, I’m told), they also have delicious ice cream. Three of us had the raspberry rendezvous, which is a raspberry ice cream with raspberry-filled chocolate cups. It was pretty great.

There were so many flavors that we had to go back to Bud’s the a second day, and we were surprised to find that we’d made an impression. (Apparently we had a lot of questions. In our defense, how do you know what’s in “happy camper” ice cream unless you ask? Marshmallow and crushed graham cracker, in case you wondered.) I ordered the award-winning shake the second day, and, while it was good, I should have stuck with the raspberry rendezvous from the day before. Turns out the shake only won second place. 😉

I meant to share this with you last month. Not only is July national ice cream month, but Andy and I also found a place to pick raspberries and some of them found their way into my own version of this ice cream. Perfect timing, right? Well, just like every summer, things got busy, and before I knew it, July was over! Good thing I’m not limited by manufactured holidays. Any month is ice cream month around here. And since this recipe should work with both fresh and frozen berries, you won’t have to drive to Michigan to try it.

RaspberryRondevousIceCream

Raspberry Rendezvous Ice Cream

18 ounces (approximately 4 cups) raspberries
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup mini dark chocolate raspberry cups (I found these at my local bulk food store.)

Combine the berries and 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries soften and begin to release their juices, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring often so it doesn’t stick or burn.

Remove the pan from the heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce. Use an immersion blender to puree the remaining sauce until smooth. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any stray seeds. (Save yourself a dish and use the same saucepan to cook the custard in the next step!) Let the sauce cool.

In a medium bowl (or glass measuring cup for easy pouring), whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together. Pour 1 cup of cream into a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually pour the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the egg-sugar-cream mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large glass bowl (or my often-used Pyrex measuring cup) and pour the custard through the strainer. Add the berry puree (not the reserved 1/2 cup), lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup of cream to the custard. Stir to combine, then cover and chill until cold.

Freeze the custard in a ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is done, add the chocolate raspberry cups, letting the machine distribute them through the ice cream. Ladle about one-third of your reserved raspberry sauce into the bottom of the airtight, freezer-safe container that you plan to store the ice cream in. Transfer about one-third of the ice cream to the container and use a butter knife to swirl the raspberry sauce through the ice cream. Layer some more of the raspberry sauce in the container and then top with more ice cream. Swirl the sauce through the ice cream again, then top with the remaining ice cream and any remaining sauce. Give the sauce one more swirl to distribute it through the ice cream. Cover the ice cream. Freeze until firm.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, inspired by the Raspberry Rendezvous at Bud’s in Interlochen, Mich.

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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Neighborly Love

As soon as Andy and I bought our house, we knew we’d won the neighbor lottery. We closed on the house on a June afternoon, and, like any newly-minted homeowners, went right over to see our new place. Duane and Joyce came over to introduce themselves and gave us a quart of fresh-picked strawberries from their garden. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.

Since then, they’ve shared lots of fresh produce with us – everything from tomatoes and zucchini to butternut squash and the world’s largest cabbage. They spend lots of time cultivating their garden, and it shows. The veggies are in neat rows, without a weed in sight. The tomato plants are twice the size of ours. The lettuce plants don’t even have dirt on their leaves! (They put a ground cover over the dirt next to the lettuce, so the rain doesn’t splash mud on the plants. So smart.) It’s as close to perfect as a garden can get. Maybe someday ours will look half as good.

One day early on, Joyce asked us if we liked rhubarb. I told her that I thought we did, and she gave us a plate of rhubarb squares to try. If we liked them, she said we could have some rhubarb from their flourishing rhubarb plant. We ate the squares in record time, so I made sure to get the recipe along with some rhubarb from Joyce.

We now have our own rhubarb plants (which have started to take over the entire garden), and this is the first rhubarb dish I make each spring. You use the same mixture for both the crumb topping and the bottom crust, which saves time AND dishes. It’s a flexible recipe too, letting you swap rhubarb for strawberries or apples (or a combination if you choose), but, nine times out of 10, I’ll make the rhubarb version. And every time we eat it, I’m so glad we live where we do. 🙂

rhubarb squares

Rhubarb Squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar. Pour the melted butter over the top of the flour mixture and mix until combined. (It will be crumblier and looser than a batter – more like a pie dough.)  Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping.

Press the remaining mixture in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Whisk the sugar, water and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and becomes clear. Stir in vanilla and then add chopped rhubarb. Pour filling over the crust in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over the top of the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

From my neighbor, Joyce

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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Dessert

 

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