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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

We had such a wonderful 4th of July holiday, even with it being in the middle of the week.  In the morning we surfed by our house for a bit, then headed up to Oceanside to spend the afternoon with our good friend Greg, his friend Tom and Greg’s nephew and his nephew’s girlfriend.  It was a treat to be with old friends and to make new ones!  Every time I go to Greg’s I’m inspired to cook because of his amazing kitchen.  I brought a ton of food and cooked the afternoon away.  We had roasted tomato chipotle salsa, grilled some steaks and tandoori-marinated chicken, feasted on an orzo, tomato, corn and basil salad, nibbled slices of fresh melon, and finished the all-American gorge-fest with these beauties:

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When we left the house in the morning, I said “Oh, I forgot – we have to stop on the way to Greg’s for 5 Heath bars”.  Never one to argue with an excess of sugar, Chris simply said “Okay, sounds great”!  Unfortunately, I had an audience while making these, so everyone got to see just what went into them.  I think that the process may be shocking to some, what with the full pound of chocolate and all.  Truly, these are most appropriate on a holiday, or when feeling extremely blue. 

Adapted from Epicurious:

Giant Chocolate-Toffee Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped

Yeah.  These are going to be pretty crazy – you can tell already.  The original recipe called for toasted chopped walnuts as well, but I thought that might be a bit excessive, and might detract from the toothachy chocolate extravaganza I was going for.

Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water and cool mixture to lukewarm.

Beat the sugar and eggs in a bowl until thick.  Beat in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in the flour, powder and salt, then the toffee. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

As the name implies, these can be made into huge cookes (1/4 cupfuls), or you can size them like normal cookies.  I went for normal, so there’d be more to go around.  Bake at 350°F on lined or greased baking sheets.  They’ll spread a bit, so space them about 2 inches apart.  Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. 

Decadent, rich, heavenly, evil – pick your descriptor, but would you pass me another?  Let’s go in for the closeup:

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Yowza. 

We finished off the day by paddling our boards out by the Ocean Beach pier, where fireworks blasted off right overhead as we bobbed in the water with scores of our neighbors.  That’s got to be enough to work off all these cookies, right?  …um, right?

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You may have noticed the creamy, luscious yellow-flecked accompaniment on my last post – evidence that my ice cream obsession has not yet passed.  We still haven’t made it through the last batch, but the farm share lemons from a couple of weeks ago were yelling at me from the fruit bowl.  Soft, beginning to wrinkle and heavy with juice, they were jealous of the attention that all these apricots were getting, and begged to be used.

I’m a giver, really.

Fresh Lemon Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

2 lemons, unsprayed (organic)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

2 cups half-and-half

Pinch of salt

Zest the lemons directly into a food processor or blender.  Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is very fine.  Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Blend in the half-and-half and salt until smooth.

Chill for one hour, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Yum – this is definitely my favorite ice cream yet.  It’s smooth and light, and the most refreshing touch of tartness – the perfect summer cone.

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Mishmish

The fruit bowl is overflowing – something needed to be done to use up all these apricots.  Even all my neighbors coming to the door Halloween-style, hands cupped for more of these soft, ripe, sweet goodies isn’t making a dent.  In doing a frantic search for apricot recipes online, I ran across way more information than I’d bargained for.  Ever wonder how to say the word apricot in Arabic?  Just ask for mishmish!  I don’t think I’ll ever call them apricots again.

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As always, my favorite cookbook comes through.  Even though I’m not a vegetarian, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the cookbook that I reach for most often.  It’s huge, with 742 pages of delicious recipes.  I’ve cooked from this book for about two years, and have yet to find a dud.  Looks like the streak is still alive today, because her Apricot Galette is terrific.  The beautiful thing about a galette versus a pie is that, with galettes, the more rustic-looking (read: messy) a galette, the better.

First, for the dough – if you’re scared of butter, this might be a good time to look away. 

Galette Dough

This dough can be used for both savory and sweet galettes – in the winter, I fill this dough with butternut squash and sage, and it’s better than a winter dish at any gourmet restaurant.

2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp sugar

12 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (See?  It’s a little scary.)

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water, as needed

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl.  Cut in the butter by hand (I used a pastry blender), leaving some pea-sized chunks.  Sprinkle the ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball.  Press it into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes if the butter feels soft.  I actually left this covered in the fridge for a couple of days before getting around to the filling, and it fared just fine.

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Apricot Galette

Galette Dough

1/3 cup crushed amaretti, biscotti, or dry bread crumbs

12 large ripe apricots, sliced in half

3 Tbsp butter, melted (you can probably get away with 2 Tbsp here)

3 Tbsp sugar or more to taste (again – 2 Tbsp did it for me)

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Roll the dough into a 14-inch circle.  Leaving a border of 2 inches or so, cover the center of the dough with the crumbs.  Arrange the apricots over the crumbs, cut side down, making a single layer or overlapping them if they’re very large or if you have extra fruit (Ahem…  Extra fruit, you say?  I’ll be overlapping).  Fold the edges or the dough over the fruit, overlapping it to make wide pleats.  Brush the dough with butter and drizzle any remaining butter over the fruit.  Sprinkle both the crust and apricots generously with sugar. 

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Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375° and continue baking until the fruit is tender and the crust is browned, 20-25 minutes more.  Remove and let cool to lukewarm before serving.  If you have the self discipline of a monk.  Otherwise, promptly top a slice of this bad boy with some fresh lemon ice cream and prepare to burn your mouth.

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To give some perspective of what we’re dealing with here – the small bowl pictured below?  That’s the amount that I used in this dish.  I’d better keep searching for more recipes.

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We all Scream

Thanks, lovely apricot tree!  Well, I tell you what – I’d better get good at photographing ice cream pretty soon, because the streak has just begun.  Somebody invest in cones.

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From David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop:

Fresh Apricot Ice Cream

1 lb squishy-ripe fresh apricots (10-16, depending on size)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

3 drops almond extract

A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice open the apricots and remove the pits, then cut each apricot into sixths.  Cook the apricot pieces with the water in a covered medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes, and stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.  Let cool to room temperature.

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Try to stop yourself from grabbing a spoon at this point.  It gets even better, I swear.

Once cool, puree the apricots and any liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Taste a big spoonful; if there are any small fibers, press the mixture through a mesh strainer to remove them (I may have skipped this step.  Strainers are a beast to clean, and I don’t mind a little extra stringiness).  Stir in the cream, almond extract, and lemon juice.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

All I have to say about this is – wow.  It’s like our tree in cone form.  Something about this mixture made it set up really quickly in my normally slow-moving ice cream maker.  I left it alone, and when I came back it had almost overflowed with this fluffy, tart, beautiful ice cream.  Orange things make me pretty happy (thanks for the birthday dishes, Jen!), so this dessert is likely to become a staple. 

Oh, and be sure you have a good little helper to help you clean up:

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We enjoyed a huge salad with apricots and goat cheese last night, and next up – apricot galette!  Any other sure-fire apricot winners out there that I should try?

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Ah, summer.  You bring long days and balmy nights, but take away all the beach street parking.  A small price to pay for a season wherein ice cream is always appropriate.  A cone before noon?  Well, as long as it’s hot.

After holding off for long enough, this Sunday we got out of the water after a nice surf session and headed straight to Borders.  I have heard far too much about The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz to resist.  It delivers on being the only ice cream book I can imagine needing.  Lebovitz has thought of everything from goat cheese ice cream (don’t think I won’t be trying this one) to home-made fudge ripple.

Immediately after bringing this book home, Chris and I sat on our porch step, leafing through the possibilities.  We soon realized that the introduction of this book in my life has made this the summer of ice cream.  Luckily, my neighbor is out of town for the month, and her freezer is practically empty – instant ice cream storage!

Our first choice was obvious – Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.  The downside of being the cook is that you tend to get scared by seeing the nutritional content of the ingredients.  I’m afraid that sweetened condensed milk falls into this scary category.  Try to not look too closely – squint your eyes while pouring if need be.  It’s worth it.

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Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups (600 g) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups brewed espresso, or strongly brewed coffee, cooled

pinch finely ground dark roast coffee

Whisk these ingredients together, cool then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.  Couldn’t be easier. 

This is the most decadent, amazing coffee ice cream I’ve ever tasted.  Of course, if you happen to have some homemade Texas Sheet Cake, it won’t hurt things.

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Cue the gentle jingle of the ice cream van (ours has been playing Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer)…

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I don’t remember where I got this recipe, so my apologies for the lack of reference, and our main camera was out of batteries, so my apologies for the fuzzy picture.  Sorry all around!

I still had some limes left over from our farm share box 3 weeks ago, and because they’re so picked-from-the-tree fresh, they were in fine form and aching to be used.  I could have always just juiced them and frozen the juice to be used at a later date, but I’ve been feeling very summery lately, and nothing is more summery than a fruit tart.  Yum city.

The recipe I had was originally to be made into tartlettes, then were to be stacked into a beautiful tower of tart.  I am a) not in the posession of tartlette pans, and b) lazy, so one big tart it would be.  Because of this, it was really thin, but garnished with fresh blueberries and strawberries, it turned out just perfect.  Chris was inspired to tell me about all the tarts he’s had (not like that!), then determined after much deliberation that this was, in fact, THE BEST. 

Lime Tart

For the crust:

1/2 cup softened butter

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350°.  Mix the sugar and butter together, then mix in the flour.  It will be crumbly.  Press the dough into a tart pan and press down until the bottom is level.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the base is lightly browned and appears to have puffed up a little.  I underbaked mine, and am glad I did.  It turned out to have a shortbread-like consistency, a buttery crust that played up the tartness of the, well, tart.

For the filling:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

the juice and zest of 1 large lime, plus extra zest if you like it!

Mix the filling ingredients together in the order listed (the baking powder and lime juice will bubble a bit when mixed together.  You can see from the picture that mine is a bit pock-marked because I let the bubbles sit for a bit too long.  If you’re particular about that, leave the lime juice for just before you are ready to use the mixture). 

Remove the crust from the oven and fill with the lime mixture.  Bake tart for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is puffy and golden brown.  Allow to cool, then slice, garnish with berries, and serve.  Accept compliments graciously.

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As promised…

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I snapped this picture at the moment just before the entire cake disappeared for good.  With our amazing beet harvest, and that of our CSA, I’ve had to fine new interesting ways to use them up – this was a winner in a big way.  It’s everything a chocolate cake should be – moist, crumby and comforting, with the added benefit of beet goodness mixed right in!  It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the cake comes out with a lovely ruby color – much like a red velvet cake, but without using any food coloring at all.  Enjoy…

Beet Cake

1 1/4 cup beet puree (cook your beets any way you choose, then peel and pop them in the food processor until smooth)

3 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil or applesauce

1 1/2 cups sugar (next time I’ll try to cut this down a tad)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups flour (if you use wheat flour here, or a combination, make sure to increase the baking soda a bit)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare a 8- or 9-inch square pan.  In a large bowl, beat eggs then add beet puree, oil, sugar and vanilla to combine.  Add the dry ingredients until incorporated, transfer to your prepared pan and pop in the oven about 45-50 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean.  This is heavenly with some fresh in-season strawberries.

I had some cream cheese sitting around, so I topped my cake with a little cream cheese frosting (just mix in a dash of vanilla and powdered sugar to taste – voila!), but it would be amazing even on its own.

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