Sunday, August 30, 2009

White Peach Sangria

Being of Irish heritage, I like a good cocktail now and then, and one of my favorite summertime concoctions is this white sangria. I first tasted a version of it at Bobby Flay's now-shuttered Spanish-style restaurant, Bolo, many years ago. I liked it so much, in fact, that I asked Bobby's assistant, my dear friend Stephanie Banyas, for the recipe, which she happily gave me. The original recipe called for white peach puree, which is available from restaurant supply sources, and difficult for home cooks to get their hands on. So I adapted it somewhat, and use Ceres peach juice, which is available at many supermarkets. If you can't find peach juice, though, you can really use any light fruit juice, such as pineapple or mango. Just make sure you use white peach slices in the fruit mix. This drink is refreshing and light, and goes down easy, so beware. Two or three can be downright dangerous.

White Peach Sangria

Serves 4 (You can double or triple this recipe easily)

1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine, preferably a Spanish table wine (I use Marques de La Villa Toro)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup peach juice, such as Ceres brand (available in most supermarkets)
1/3 cup brandy
1/4 cup Cointreau, Triple Sec or Pama (pomegranite liqueur)
3 cups sliced peaches, oranges, lemons, limes and/or green apples
A few fresh raspberries
1/2 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil and cooled)

1. Combine wine, fruit juices, brandy, Cointreau, and half of the sliced fruit and stir. Add simple syrup. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
2. When you’re ready to serve, strain out fruit from pitcher and discard. Stir in remaining fruit and serve over ice.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chocolate Marble Chunk Ice Cream Sandwiches

I'm a sucker for a good ice cream sandwich (and, occasionally, even a mediocre store-bought one). I love the concept of commercial Chipwiches, chocolate chip cookies sandwiched with vanilla ice cream and coated with mini chips. But, let's face it, the individual components of a Chipwich aren't so hot. Bad chocolate chip cookies plus bad vanilla ice cream equals a bad product (though my husband Dicky thinks they are the pinnacle of frozen treats--I just smile and nod). So I decided to give the Chipwich my own spin. I started with one of my favorite cookies from my cookie book (The Good Cookie), Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies. These are half chocolate, half regular chocolate chip cookie dough, baked together. They are loaded with chocolate chunks and pecans. Since there's so much action happening in the cookie, I decided to go with a very simple vanilla bean ice cream. For the ice cream, I use an excellent vanilla bean paste made by Nielsen-Massey, which eliminates the need to mess around with fresh vanilla beans. Once the sandwiches are assembled, wrap them individually in plastic, and store them in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to serve. You may never eat a Chipwich again (just kidding, Dicky!!).

Chocolate Marble Chunk Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes about 12 sandwiches

Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies (makes about 40 cookies):
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened alkalized (Dutch-processed) cocoa powder, sifted
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet bar chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 cups pecan pieces

Vanilla Ice Cream (makes about 1 1/2 quarts):
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Make the cookies:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Have 2 ungreased baking sheets at hand.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium-high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour mixture at low speed, mixing just until blended.
4. Transfer 1 3/4 cups of the dough to another bowl and set aside. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining dough in the mixer and mix on low speed until blended. Add half of the chocolate pieces and about half of the pecan pieces and mix until blended. Stir the remaining half of the chocolate and pecan pieces into the remaining light-colored dough. Fill half of a 1 tablespoon measure with the light dough, making it well rounded, not level. Fill the remaining half with the chocolate dough. Roll the doughs into a ball and place it on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten it into a 1 1/2-inch disc with your palm (wet it first, to prevent sticking). Repeat to form more cookies, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the lighter dough just begins to color. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the ice cream:
5. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, 3/4 cup cream and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring just to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk the yolks together with the salt. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture. Return this mixture to the remaining milk/cream in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and reaches 180°F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and stir in the remaining 3/4 cup cream and the vanilla. Chill over an ice bath and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
6. Process in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 3 hours before assembling the sandwiches.

Assemble the sandwiches:
7. Arrange a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the underside of a cookie and top with another cookie. Gently press down on the top cookie to squeeze the ice cream to the edge of the cookies. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until serving.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Simply Strawberry

When strawberries are at their peak, they don’t need much embellishment. A little sugar, perhaps, and a little cream, and that’s it. And so it is with strawberry ice cream. I make a simple creme anglaise with half milk, half cream, then add some chopped strawberries that have been macerated with sugar. Mix it all with an immersion blender, and then process. Disarmingly simple, but oh-so-delicious.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Yield: about 2 quarts

1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped

1. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, cream and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring just to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk in about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture. Return this mixture to the remaining milk/cream in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and reaches 180°F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and stir in the vanilla. Chill over an ice bath and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
2. Place the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Stir to coat, then cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
3. Drain strawberries and add the chilled custard. Blend with an immersion blender (or in batches in the blender) until strawberries are pureed. Process in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. This ice cream is best served the day it's made--it gets a little icy the next day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What a Peach!

I was at the farmers' market in Brooklyn Heights today (while everyone else on the planet was at the beach/country house/South of France), examining the heirloom tomato selection, which was quite impressive, when the peaches caught my eye, yet again. There were donut peaches, white peaches and yellow peaches, and they were pretty, plump and calling my name. I dropped the heirlooms (I did return later to pick up a few) and turned my attention to the peaches, considering the possibilites. Peach ice cream? I wasn't prepared for this--my ice cream bowl needed freezing. Pie? It was way too hot to be messing around with pastry for an extended period of time. I wanted something clean and quick, something to showcase the ripe, earthy flavors of my newly acquired peaches. I settled on peach galettes, which, as long as you have some puff pastry on hand, can be put together in mintues, and only require 30 minutes of baking time. They can also be assembled and frozen, ready for baking anytime you are.

Perfect Peach Galettes

Makes 4 servings

3 ripe yellow or white peaches
1 sheet puff pastry (homemade or frozen)
Turbinado sugar
Softened butter
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the pastry out to 1/8-inch thick and, using a small plate as a guide, cut out four 5-inch circles from the dough. Place them on a plate and refrigerate while you cut the peaches.
2. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Cut 1/2-inch wedges from each of the peach halves. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Remove one pastry circle from the refrigerator and arrange 4 peach wedges around the perimeter of the circle. Arrange 3 wedges inside the circle. Brush the peaches with softened butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place the galette on the baking sheet and continue assembling the remaining galettes. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned.
3. Sprinkle the galettes with confectioner's sugar and serve warm with vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lust for Lemons

Though lemons are at their peak in the winter months, the heat of summer seems like the best time to enjoy a refreshing lemon dessert paired with berries. Nothing fits the bill like a tart, refreshing lemon mousse accompanied by a deep purple, glossy blackberry sauce. The mousse is made of a lemon curd and whipped cream, and can be made in stages. The curd can be made up to five days ahead--just fold the whipped cream in on the day you plan to serve it. The Blackberry Sauce comes together in minutes in the food processor, leaving your plenty of time to enjoy the lazy delights of summer: good food, friends and balmy weather.

Lemon Mousse with Blackberry Sauce

Serves 6

Lemon Mousse:
8 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup heavy cream

Blackberry Sauce:
Two 1/2-pint containers fresh blackberries
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the mousse:
1. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium, heavy, non-reactive saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until blended. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, salt, and butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 7 to 10 minutes (do not let the mixture boil, or it will curdle). The mixture should leave a path on the back of a wooden spoon when you draw your finger across it. Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve, pressing it through with a rubber spatula.
2. Set the bowl containing the lemon mixture in a large mixing bowl filled one-third of the way with ice water (be careful that the water doesn’t splash into the lemon mixture). Stir the lemon mixture frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes. Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).
3. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold one-third of cream into the lemon curd, then gently fold in the remainder. Divide the mousse among 6 glasses and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the sauce:
4. Puree the blackberries with the sugar in a food processor. Pulse in the lemon juice. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve.

5. Serve the mousse with the Blackberry Sauce.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Life's a Bowl of Fresh Sour Cherries

It's ironic that summer is the time to make fresh fruit pies. The fruit is in season and at its peak, but the idea of turning the oven on in August can be off-putting. Other than borrowing a neighbor's oven, there's not much you can do about this. I suggest you crank up the a.c. (my not-so-green solution), bite the bullet, and start baking. A little perspiration never killed anyone (o.k., maybe one or two, but that's not so bad, all things considered). Here's a recipe for a classic cherry pie, with a fat-laden flaky crust, just like Mom used to make (someone's Mom, anyhow). I suggest you have a cherry-pitter on hand before making this pie. I misplaced mine (it's somewhere, but I'll be damned if I could find it), and was forced to pit the cherries using a paring knife. My hands should be stain-free sometime in December, I predict.

Lattice-Topped Classic Cherry Pie

Flaky pie crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks and frozen
3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, frozen
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Cherry filling:
5 cups (about 1 1/2 lbs) fresh sour cherries, pitted
1 cup demerara or organic cane sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Sugar for sprinkling on top

Make the pie dough:
1. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse on and off until combined. Scatter the butter pieces and the shortening, in large chunks, over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine on and off until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 6 tablespoons of the ice water and process until the mixture just starts to come together. (If the dough seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons water as necessary. Do not allow the dough to form a ball on the blade, or the resulting crust will be tough.)
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide it in half, and shape each half into a thick disk. Wrap the disks separately in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Roll out the bottom crust:
3. Lightly flour a large work surface. Allow the dough to soften at room temperature just until it is pliable (about 20 minutes). Place 1 disks on the floured surface and sprinkle some flour over it. Roll the dough from the center out in every direction, flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. You want a round about 1/8 inch or slightly less thick and about 3 inches greater in diameter than the pie pan you are using.
4. Transfer the crust to the pie pan by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and unrolling it carefully over the pan. Press the dough first into the bottom of the pan and then against the sides. Patch any holes or cracks with dough scraps. Trim the edges of the dough with scissors, leaving a slight overhang. Pinch the edges of the dough to create a slighty thicker border. Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling.

Make the cherry filling:
5. In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, stirring them well. Set aside.

Roll out the lattice top:
6. Invert a jelly-roll pan on a work surface. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom precisely and place it on the pan. Roll the remaining dough disk into a 12-inch square. Using a fluted pastry cutter or a knife, cut the dough into twenty-four 1/2-inch wide strips. Place 12 of the strips, 1/4 inch apart on the parchment-lined pan. Turn the pastry strips so they are positioned vertically to you. Fold every other strip of dough in half, toward you. Place one of the reserved strips of dough horizontally across the unfolded strips. Now unfold the strips back to their original position and fold back the alternating strips. Place another strip of dough across and continue this process until you have place 6 horizontal strips. Turn the pan 180 degrees and repeat the process. Refrigerate the lattice top for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
7. Pile the cherry mixture into the pie crust. Dot the filling with the butter. Moisten the rim of the bottom crust with water. Gently force the chilled lattice top onto the pie, pulling the parchment paper and pan toward you while pushing the lattice top onto the pie with your other hand. Crimp the edges and brush the edges and lattice with eggwash, if you want. Sprinkle the top of the pie with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake for 45-50 minutes; you may need to cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent overbrowning. The pie is done when the filling is bubbling and looks thick (not like juice). Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the best flavor.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Just Peachy

White and yellow peaches are everywhere now, and it's time to eat as many as you can, while they're in season and in such abundance. I make a great white peach sangria (I'll share that recipe with you at some point), which is an excellent drink for summer cocktail parties. I even served it at my own wedding (I have a clear memory of mixing up a big batch before I put on my dress). But today I wanted to make one of my favorite upside-down cakes, a simple buttermilk butter cake with a caramelized peach topping. It's excellent warm or at room temperature, with or without vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even a dollop of sweetened creme fraiche.

Caramelized Buttermilk Peach Cake
Serves eight
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 medium-sized perfectly ripe white or yellow peaches
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Make the topping:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (don’t use a springform pan, as the caramel might leak out during baking). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease the paper.
2. Fill a cup with water and place a pastry brush in it (this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization). In a clean, heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan to wash away sugar crystals, until the mixture starts to color around the edges. Gently swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar caramelizes evenly. Continue to cook until the sugar turns deep amber. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 4 tablespoons of butter pieces one at a time, until they are completely melted. Carefully pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the cake pan.
3. Cut each peach in half and remove its pit. Cut each peach in half lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange the peach slices in a circle around the edge of the pan, overlapping them slightly, on top of the caramel (you may not need to use all the peach slices).

Make the batter:
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the 9 tablespoons of butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the brown sugar and beat at high speed until the mixture is lightened in texture and color, 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. At low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with the buttermilk in 2 additions and mixing just until blended.
6. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the peaches, then smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
7. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan. Place a cake plate upside-down on top of the cake pan and, using pot holders, very carefully invert the cake pan and plate. Carefully remove the cake pan and, if necessary, peel off the parchment paper. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Valrhona Obsession Continued

Ok, maybe I'm getting a little carried away with my fascination with Valrhona's new chocolate, Coeur de Guanaja, but I can't help myself. Here's another version of simple chocolate ice cream made with it. It's a little more intense than the previous version, and a little richer.

Intensely Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

6 ounces Coeur de Guanaja, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir the mixture until completely smooth.
2. In the same saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and salt and heat until warm. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the yolks. Gradually whisk the warm milk into the yolks, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the chocolate mixture. Stir until smooth and stir in the vanilla. Place bowl in an ice bath and stir until cool. Cover bowl and chill for at least 6 hours.
3. Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ice Cream, Valrhona-Style

The buzz has begun: Valrhona has just introduced Coeur de Guanaja, a high cocoa content, lower cocoa butter chocolate concentrate. This product was tailor-made by Valrhona's Ecole and R&D department as a solution for recipes such as ice creams, mousses, and biscuits where the high fat content restricts the amount of chocolate one can use. A unique blend of 46% cocoa extract and 34% cocoa butter, Cœur de Guanaja can be used in these recipes without compromising chocolate flavor or texture. The really nice folks at Valrhona gave me a sample of this new product so I could give it a try. The first thing I made is a very chocolaty chocolate ice cream, delicately kissed with a honey end-note. I think it's wonderful, and it doesn't get really hard when frozen, as high-chocolate content ice cream usually does. If you can get your hands on some of this precious chocolate, give it a try!

Honey-Kissed Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
9 large egg yolks
4 ounces Valrhona Coeur de Guanaja 80% chocolate

1. Combine the milk and honey in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and yolks until well blended.
2. Temper some of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and add return them to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it is completely melted. Strain the base through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and place the bowl in an ice bath. Stir until cool. Cover the bowl and chill for at least 6 hours.
3. Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Root Beer Hall of Foam

I'm a big fan of kitsch (as long as it's not in my home). I'm also a big fan of root beer (always welcome in the house). Combine the two, and I'm in hog heaven. Located in Snead's Ferry, N.C., Dr. Rootbeer's Hall of Foam is an ideal celebration of both root beer and kitsch. Open since 2004, Dr. Rootbeer's was created by Jerome Gundrum, a root beer enthusiast and memorabilia collector. Jerome also brews his own root beer, Dr. Rootbeer's Premium Vintage Blend, and serves it at the Hall, along with

fountain concoctions such as a Black Cow (root beer and chocolate ice cream); Ultra Vanilla (cream soda with vanilla ice cream); Orange Cream (orange soda and vanilla ice cream); Lime Rickie (old-fashioned lime soda with vanilla ice cream; or, the mother-of-all root beer drinks, the Root Beer Float (shown above). On display at the Hall of Foam are many signs and items of root beer memorabilia that Jerome has collected over the years. He has also just opened another location in Myrtle Beach, S.C. So, if you happen to be anywhere Snead's Ferry, N.C. or Myrtle Beach, stop in and see the Dr. You'll be glad you did.