Getting Ready for Dog Days

August is almost upon us and the forecast for next week is hot, humid, hot and more humid. Last year we bought an ice cream maker, not the old-fashioned crank type but a spiffy electric Cuisinart machine. We made some ice cream when we first got it but then we put it away and you know, out of sight, out of mind. A friend of ours also has one and served us ice cream one evening. Well, that reminded me of our machine. Now the danger of having rich wonderful ice cream around is fat and calories and how good they taste and how I don’t want to stop eating. That’s when I started searching out frozen yogurt recipes. Here’s one I’ve adapted from a site called, Once Upon a Chef. This original recipe called for strawberries which I tried first. And Curt has used guava, which was just okay. But the other day I tried raspberries. I also had two really ripe plums which I added to the mix.

This recipe is super easy. The only tricky part is you have to remember to put the freezer bowl and the paddle in the freezer about 24 hours before you plan on making the ice cream. Or just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time, then you can be a little more spontaneous.

Fruit of your Choice Frozen Yogurt (4 servings)

1 pound strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or peaches or anything or mix and match
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek Yogurt
(For the strawberry I used whole milk regular yogurt and it came out fine. For the raspberry one I used part regular/part Greek.)

Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about an hour until it is nice and syrupy.berryTake the raspberry mixture and puree until smooth. Since I am not fond of raspberry seeds I then strained this puree through a sieve. For fruit without seeds you can skip this step.

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Combine the fruit puree and the yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Put this mixture in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator until very cold.yogurtOnce everything is cold, put the bowl on the maker, add the paddle and the cover and turn it on. Immediately pour the yogurt/fruit mixture into the bowl. Then just let it work. It takes less than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when it is getting thicker. I stick a spoon in and try it along the way. For this one I also threw some blueberries in at this point.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Once it has reached the desired consistency, take it out and put it in a container and pop it in the freezer for a couple more hours. When you are ready to beat the heat, take out and eat. Yum! Boy, those raspberries have a rich color.bowlSo if you have been thinking about an ice cream maker, I say, go for it!!

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What to do when it is 14 degrees below zero

BAKE. Yes, fans and friends, we are back to what we do best, prepare some yummy food. Since it is me and not my Sweetie, we’ll be having dessert today. He’s the savory, spicy one of our duo.

Some foodie friends recently introduced me to a new cookbook, PIES: Sweet and Savory by Caroline Bretherton. I immediately got it from the library because I like to look at a book like this first, try some recipes and get the feel for it, before I plunk down dollars to make it my own. So far this book has a lot of potential. It’s filled with meat pies, quiches, filo pies, tortes and tarts. Some of the pot pies look great and I will revisit them soon but the recipe that first caught my eye was the Apple Tourte with Nuts and Raisins. They describe it as a French”pielike” classic, I think it is more cakelike. The picture was great, and I’m a sucker for pictures, so off I went to gather my ingredients.

7 Tbsp unsalted butterapple torte
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 sweet apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

The rest is really easy.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line w/parchement paper the bottom of an 8″ round springform pan.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Whisk the sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled melted butter until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Sift in the flour and cinnamon and fold it together well. Finally, fold in the apples, raisins and walnuts.

Top row: batter and batter with apples. Bottom row: baked tourte and next day.

Top row: batter and batter with apples. Bottom row: baked tourte and next day.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. As you walk your pan over to the oven watch out for cats who insist on getting underfoot, thinking you are going to drop chicken or grated cheese on the floor.

Tourte batter in pan and Butchie waiting for manna from heaven.

Tourte batter in pan and Butchie waiting for manna from heaven.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until it is well risen and golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set it aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving warm with whipped cream, or cold as a cake (see, they now are saying cake!) Serves 8. Can be stored, well wrapped up to 2 days.

Did it turn out like the picture? Well no, but it sure tasted good.book pic

And baking on a cold day is a good thing, the temperature outside is up to -12. Who-hoo!!

We need a dessert… Houston, we have a persimmon.

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A while ago we started watching series shows with some friends. I think it started with Justified. We had watched the first season on Netflix streaming but we don’t have DISH or Direct TV so when the 2nd season started we were out of luck for probably six months before we could view it. But then we got talking with some close friends who were also hooked on Justified and they had DISH, woo hoo! They were recording season 2 and already had about four on their DVR. They invited us over for dinner and TV. We brought dessert and we all had a great time. A couple of weeks later we went back for two more episodes but this time we brought dinner and they did dessert.

A regular get-together was born.

Rules: One, no overly crazy cleaning, except maybe the bathroom. Two, no gourmet cooking, keep it simple. We alternate dinner and desserts.  We’ve gotten through three seasons of Justified and the fourth starts this January. In between seasons we watched Longmire and started The Borgias. Since neither of us has Showtime we got The Borgias on disk from Netflix. Last night was the first episode of Season 3 and Pat and Dick were coming to our house with dinner in tow. We were on for dessert. With a persimmon sitting on the shelf just ready to burst Curt knew it was destined to become our sweet treat for the evening.

You may remember that we posted a short piece about persimmons several years ago.  If not, you can refer to it here.  Mostly, I like to eat persimmons as a fresh fruit – the Fuyu variety that is.  The Hachiya variety is a whole different matter.  If you try to eat them before they’re fully ripe you’ll be met with an astringent mouthful you won’t be able to swallow.  Hachiya need to sit and slowly ripen to the point that they’re like a squishy orange/red water balloon.  The skin turns almost translucent and the flesh is more like a soft jelly that a fruit.  That’s what we had.  I’m led to believe that some people let their Hachiya get to this stage and then cut or bite a small hole in the skin and suck the flesh out like a Slurpee, but not frozen.

persim3

A ripe Hachiya persimmon, cut in half

In casting about for some recipe to use with this beautifully ripe but somewhat intractable fruit, I came upon a reference in a bread book by James Beard that had a Persimmon Bread recipe.  It looked good and so, off I went.

Beard on Bread by James Beard, 1973

Beard on Bread by James Beard, 1973

Persimmon Bread (adapted from Beard on Bread by James Beard)

1-3/4 C. all-Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. mace, ground
a few gratings of nutmeg
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C. bourbon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 very large, very ripe Hachiya persimmon, cored but not peeled, pureed, about 1 C.
1 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 C. currants, plumped with 1/2 Tbs. bourbon

1 Tbs. coarse sugar (raw sugar, rock candy, or the like), broken into edible-sized pieces if necessary.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Make a depression in the center and add the melted butter, eggs, bourbon, pureed persimmon, nuts and currants.  Mix the batter well, until there are no dry bits left.  Butter and flour a 1 pound and a mini loaf pan.  Fill them about 3/4 full with the batter.  It’s pretty stiff, so use a spatula to make sure it gets into the corners.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 1 hour at 350˚ or until a skewer comes out clean.  Let the loaves cool in the pans and then turn out onto a rack.  Serve with fresh butter.  Keeps wrapped for 1 to 2 weeks.

Persimmon bread adapted from James Beard

Persimmon bread adapted from James Beard

And for your viewing pleasure, we all recommend Justified, Longmire and The Borgias.

Goosed Again

Well my pleas on Facebook and my calls to friends and relatives resulted in no takers for the many gooseberries we have harvested this year. Thus Curt searched for another dessert recipe. We were headed to the home of our friend Carol for dinner, and to watch the next episode of MasterChef (our guilty pleasure). We’ve been doing this since the new season began alternating between each others homes. For this dinner we quickly volunteered for dessert duty, which we coincidentally had last week, so Carol would be treated (forced, exposed) to another gooseberry delight. Yes she, and us, would be goosed again!

This week’s experiment, from Spatula Magazine.

Gooseberry Crumble with Vanilla Custard

Spatula says that this crumble recipe will work with any firm fruit and that apples are the classic choice but peaches, nectarines, plums, other berries work well too. We had gooseberries and black raspberries in our garden so we mixed those two and went forward. This recipe follows their original fairly closely but with a few tweaks (mostly translating ingredients from British into US terms) since we don’t always have the exact ingredients called for. We left the measurements in metric because they’re more accurate and in baking, accuracy is important.  But this was supposedly a foolproof recipe and we found that to be true.

Vanilla Custard

2 egg yolks
75g granulated sugar
1 heaped Tbls corn starch
150ml heavy cream
120ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sherry

Put the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch in a pan and whisk together.  Gradually whisk in the cream and milk until smooth. Place the pan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Do not walk away because the custard will thicken pretty quickly once it come to the proper temperature.  Once thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and sherry.

Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with cling wrap, pressing the wrap down against the custard to prevent skin from forming and leave to cool.

The remaining custard after three days. Still tasty and looking good.

The remaining custard after three days. Still tasty and looking good.

Gooseberry/Black Raspberry Crumble

60g granulated sugar
400g gooseberries/raspberries (200 grams of each or whatever proportion suits you), if using gooseberries, rinse and drain
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
90g butter
90g brown sugar
90g plain flour
2 – 3 handfuls of rolled oats (The original recipe calls for 2 but I like my crumble more flaky so I used 3 – of course, how much you end up with will depend on the size of your hands)

crumbleparts

Put the sugar, nutmeg and berries into a bowl and shake around until the berries are well-coated in sugar.  Put the berry/sugar mixture into a small baking dish.

Sugared berries waiting for their crumble topping

Sugared berries waiting for their crumble topping

Rub the butter and the brown sugar together in a separate bowl until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Mix in the flour and the oats until well combined.  Sprinkle the topping mixture over the berries.

Bake the crumble for 25-30 minutes until the topping is golden-brown and the filling bubbling.

To serve, add a good dollop of your cooled custard.  If you’d like your custard with a more sauce-like consistency, warm it slightly before serving.

The very last serving.

The very last serving.

Then settle in to watch the second hour of MasterChef. I think they had the head of a pig in their mystery box and the vegetarian girl did really well up against the carnivores. They should put gooseberries in next week’s box.

MasterChef on FOX

MasterChef on FOX

A Bumper Crop of Gooseberries

No, that’s not the punchline to a joke, we really have a lot of gooseberries. We planted a single bush in my herb garden a few years ago but it didn’t produce much except fine thorny stems which scratched me when I tried weeding around the bush. When it did have berries we didn’t remember to look for them until they were all on the ground going bad. But this year Curt happened to check the bush when the berries were still on the stems and they were just starting to ripen. Eureka!  Hiding under those leaves were clusters of fat, juicy, rosy, lovely berries.

ripe gooseberries

Ripe gooseberries in the garden

Okay. Now what? We realized we had no idea why we planted this bush because frankly we have no ideas on what to do with gooseberries.  We’ve all heard of Gooseberry Fool, but frankly that didn’t seem appealing.  The berries are sort of tart/sweet but have a thicker skin like a grape so sprinkling sugar on them doesn’t easily sweeten them up. So Curt did what he usually does when he has an ingredient that stumps him – he goes to the internet. In a little while he knew more about goosebeerries than he ever wanted to know plus he had a few possible recipes. The winner, from a blog in the UK by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel called The British Larder: Inspirational Recipe Diary, was Gooseberry Polenta Slice.

We happen to have a scale that reads in ounces or grams so we followed Ms. Bonvini-Hamel’s recipe as she wrote it, so kids, get out your conversion scales, all the measurements are in grams.

Gooseberry Polenta Slice

Polenta Pastry

50g caster sugar (caster sugar is also known as Bakers Sugar in the U.S. – it is finer than granulated but not as fine as powdered sugar.  You can approximate it by running granulated sugar in a dry blender for 1-2 minutes)
5g custard powder (this is not something I’d ever encountered but a search of the internet reveals that you can successfully substitute Vanilla Instant Pudding mix)
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
125g plain flour
50g polenta (I only had coarse polenta – see comments below)
2 medium egg yolks

Cream the butter and the sugar until creamy and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, cream well.
Add the custard powder and flour and mix until the pastry comes together.  The pastry will be sticky and soft – don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, it’s supposed to be that way.  Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Line a large baking pan (I used a 12″ x 18″ commercial half-sheet) with parchment paper.  Separately, roll the pastry out between two sheets of parchment paper until its 1/4″ thick and roughly a 7″ x 17″ rectangle. Remove the top sheet of parchment and transfer the pastry, still on the bottom sheet to the baking pan.  Yes, you’ll have two pieces of parchment under the pastry – all the better to catch any errant gooseberry juices when baking.   Place the lined pastry pan in the fridge until needed.

Gooseberry Filling

400g gooseberries
12 sugar cubes
40g polenta + 5g for dusting
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Wash the gooseberries and remove the stems and tails, drain well.  Whip the egg white until fluffy and slightly aerated.  Break the sugar cubes into pieces, but not too small – you want them to be chunky.  Fold the gooseberries into the whipped egg white and fold in the polenta  and half of the broken sugar cubes.  Retrieve the pastry pan from the fridge ands spoon the gooseberries onto the polenta pastry on the lined tray leaving about 1-1/2″ margin on all sides. Fold the margin of  the pastry from each side over the filling and press together to make a smooth edge encasing the gooseberries.  Scatter the rest of the sugar lumps over the gooseberry mix and sprinkle 5g polenta over the tart.

ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Bake the gooseberry slice for 40 minutes, turn the oven up to 355 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes.  Let the slice cool on a rack before cutting.  Serves 6.

Out of the oven it is a beautiful rustic looking pastry.

postgoose

Gooseberry Polenta Cake fresh from the oven

The verdict? Well it tasted good. The gooseberries keep their tart sweetness, sort of like rhubarb. Curt thought the cake was dry but I liked it. The juiciness of the berries was a nice contrast to the firmer cake. The downside for me was the crunchy bits of polenta. Cooked polenta is soft and creamy but baked polenta, or at least our baked polenta, still had crunchy bits, sort of like little raspberry seeds, throughout the cake.  Did we eat it, yes, all of it. We even served it to a guest who seemed to enjoy it. Using a finer polenta or even a Mexican Masa Harina in whole or part as a substitute for the coarse polenta might work.  Likely it would give the cake a more refined and less rustic mouth feel.  We found that leftover cake kept for 4 – 5 days in the fridge, reheated in a covered microwave dish with a little water sprinkled on it, helped to softened the polenta bits. Add a drizzle of syrup on the warm cake and it was quite tasty.

Would we make it again? Probably not but we still have a lot of gooseberries.

A slice of Gooseberry Polenta Slice

A slice of Gooseberry Polenta Slice

Ma’s Canned Pears

Canned Pears

Canned Pears

Last week was Easter and we regaled you with our salmon and pork chop duel. However I neglected to finish off the post with the dessert we had that day. Desserts are rare around here. The only time we really get serious about dessert is when we have guests. For the most part our desserts are never interesting enough to share. I’ll get some Ben & Jerry’s sorbet and add a cookie or two. Or maybe it will be a bowl of fruit with agave syrup drizzled on top but this was Easter and we wanted to do something special. Curt remembered we had some canned pears dated 2010, still within a safe time frame.

We do not have pear trees but Curt’s folks had a pear tree which was very prolific. Curt’s Dad, Harold, always had a huge garden and Curt’s Mom, Jane, was a canner. In the fall when everything was getting ripe there was always a flurry of jars and lids and rings and hot water baths and pressure cooking going on in her kitchen. This had lessened over the years because the four kids had grown up and moved out a long time ago so there weren’t as many mouths to feed. Also in her last years Jane developed some dementia so it wasn’t  a wise idea to have her coordinating the incredible process of peeling and coring and blanching and fire and water that resulted in a pantry stocked with fruit and vegetables. However, they still couldn’t see all that good produce go to waste and probably together still did a few quarts of chowder and dill pickles. Harold died in August 2010. Curt’s sister, Mary, moved in with Mom until a suitable living arrangement could be found. In the meantime the garden kept ripening and the trees kept producing their fruit. The pear tree was loaded. Jane insisted on canning the pears and Curt’s sister had no choice but to join in, supervise and basically do it all since Jane was becoming increasingly forgetful.

The following April (2011) Jane, the canner joined Harold, the gardener and the children cleaned up the estate and divided up the more recent canned food, which included the pears.

When we opened the sealed jars last week, the pears were firm, had good color and taste. Curt wondered if, like a pineapple upside-down cake, there might be a pear equivalent and sure enough the internet came through again. Thus I give you:

Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake (modified from a modified recipe)

Ingredients:
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/4 C unsalted butter
2-3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced (or a pint and a half of Jane’s canned pears)
1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 C granulated sugar
3 medium-sized eggs
1/2 C plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C vegetable oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ cake pan, then put a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom.

In a small pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over a medium heat. While the butter and sugar are melting, arrange the pears in the pan. Once the butter and sugar are melted, carefully pour over the pears.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, yogurt, vanilla and oil. When the wet ingredients are well combined, gently mix them into the dry. Do not over mix.

Pour the batter over the pears and caramel topping. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Allow to cool in the pan completely.
cake

Now the tricky part. When cool, place a plate on top of the pan and turn it over to release it from the pan. Peal off the parchment paper. If for some reason a pear sticks to the paper, gently remove and place it back where its supposed to be. No one will know the difference. Ours didn’t stick!

Wa-La!

Wa-La!

Serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream. Thanks Jane and Mary, the cake was delicious.

Sweet Savory Sables

We don’t post too many desserts because the main chef in this house is a savory kind of guy. But every once in awhile a sweet treat intrigues him enough that he has to try it and so it was with sablé cookies. Sablé cookies are very famous in Brittany on the West Coast of France. They are very similar to shortbread, except they are made with egg yolks. They also have a characteristic sandy outside edge and are very rich in butter. He saw recipes for these in a most unlikely place, our local newspaper. What hooked him wasn’t the name Sablé but the fact that they were Chocolate Pepper Sablés, sweet and savory.

Once he made these – and they were a grand success, (see note written on the recipe) –

yum

he began to search for more sablés and of course Martha Stewart had one listed on her recipe website. The following recipes were followed to the letter, no substitutions, we thought they were good as is. They may look a bit plain but the taste is far from ordinary.

Chocolate Pepper Sablé

1 1/4 C. all purpose flour
1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp freshly grd black pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 Tbls unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 C. finely chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips

Cocoa, butter, pepper vanilla, flour

Cocoa, butter, pepper, vanilla, flour, brown sugar

Chopped chocolate

Chopped chocolate

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets w/ parchment paper

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, pepper and baking soda.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the dry mixture to the butter sugar blend, then mix just until the dough forms. Mix in the chocolate chips.

choco sab3
Roll the mixture into 36 walnut-sized balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. Use a flat-bottomed glass to gently press and flatten the cookies. Dust glass with flour so it doesn’t stick.
Bake 12 – 15 minutes or until no longer wet looking. Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store up to a week in an airtight container or freeze for later.

choco-pepper

Chocolate Pepper Sables just out of the oven.

Orange Sablé

1 1/4 C. whole almonds
1 C. confectioners’ sugar
12 Tbls unsalted butter
3 Tbls finely grated orange zest (3 oranges)
1 large egg
1 Tbls freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

Flour, almonds, oranges, egg, butter, confectioners' sugar

Flour, almonds, oranges, egg, butter, confectioners’ sugar

Place almonds and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal; set aside.
Place butter and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. On low, add almond mixture, beat until combined, 10-15 seconds. Add egg and orange juice; combine. Add flour, combine.
Place two 12 by 16 inch pieces of parchment paper on a clean work surface. Divide dough in half. Form a rough log with each half, place on parchment paper.
Fold parchment over dough; use a ruler to roll and press dough into a 1 1/2 inch diameter logs. Wrap. Chill for at least three hours.

Cookie log cut into rounds.

Cookie log cut into rounds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Unwrap logs. Cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on sheets, one inch apart.
Bake until edges turn golden, about 15 minutes, rotating half way through.
Transfer to wire rack to cool. Bake or freeze remaining dough. Baked cookies store up to two weeks.

Orange Sable Cookies

Orange Sable Cookies

Tasty and good for barter. We traded some of our sables with a friend who brought over  chocolate chipotle cookies last night. Now those were sweet and hot.