Chocolate peanut butter ice cream

A bowl of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
I’m celebrating a birthday this week. I remember this time last year, sequestering myself in a remote cabin in Sedona to figure out my life…all of it…over a brief seven days. I didn’t get very far, but I did decide that getting laid off would be a good thing (it was!) and that I needed to rekindle my dreams of inn ownership (I have!) and that “this” (whatever “this” was at the time) wasn’t enough for me (it’s not).

Another year wiser.

My co-worker, Dennis, also has a birthday this week. To celebrate, I made this bittersweet chocolate peanut butter ice-cream. We served scoops of it in crispy waffle cones, although I’ve decided it would even be better sandwiched between giant peanut butter cookies. Gilding the lily once again – some things never get old.


Dennis’s “You’ve got peanut butter in my chocolate” Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chopped (at least 60% cocoa), divided (5 oz. & 3 oz.)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Pinch off small bits of the peanut butter mixture and arrange on a dinner plate. Freeze plate of peanut butter bits until ready to use.
  2. Warm one cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, whisking the entire time, then remove from heat. Add the 5 oz. chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Set a strainer over the sauce pan and set aside.
  3. Warm the milk, sugar and salt in another medium sauce pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the yolks whisking constantly (to avoid scrambling eggs). Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.
  4. Stir the custard mixture over a medium heat with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners as you stir, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla, and then cool completely by placing pan in an ice bath.
  5. Cover and chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. A few minutes before it’s finished, add the 3 oz. reserved chopped chocolate and frozen peanut butter bits.

Advertisements

Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Rich Walnut Cake with tart Morello cherries pair well in the layer cake for a special occasion.

Walnut Cake
With a natural design esthetic that falls along the line of Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch, it’s challenging to content myself with royal icing roses and buttercream doll cakes. I realize, however, as an utter decorating novice, I’m obliged to acquire the basic skills first. I’ll discover my particular decorating style once I’ve mastered gum paste pigs and delicate string work. Today, I’m struggling to learn a technique called “brush embroidery,” although the final product reminds me of porcelain rather than embroidery. I’ve learned much on my initial flawed attempt.

With my first cakes, I’ve been practicing rolled fondant. While I appreciate the smooth finish fondant delivers, I’m not an admirer of the lackluster, tooth-achingly sweet flavor. When served a slice of fondant-covered cake, I typically peel off the fondant before eating the naked cake. As a counterbalance to fondant’s sweetness, I came up with this minimally sweet walnut cake and tart Morello cherry filling; no fondant peeling needed.


Walnut Cake with Cherry Filling

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream recipe with this cake

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs beaten, room temp
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Vanilla Buttercream
  • 1 jar Morello cherries in light syrup (available at Trader Joe’s), drained and dried on paper towel.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9” round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, water, vanilla and beaten eggs until no lumps remain (don’t overmix). Stir in walnuts.
  2. Pour batter evenly into pans.  Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cakes onto racks and cool completely.
  3. Fill cake with buttercream and a layer of Morello cherries. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Cover in fondant, if desired.


Cake Decorating

Practicing “Brush Embroidery”

Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts
Christmas in London! Such a brilliant notion. Those powder-dusted cobbled lane pics in my Instagram feed seduced me. Granted, we have just a week to plan, yet our passports are current, we know where we want to go, what we want to do – and we’re both quite experienced travelers. All we really need is a London hotel and a cheap, last minute flight. But, alas, there’s the rub – nothing less than $1800 per person, even with a layover. Sigh, Christmas in London – again, not this year.

I console myself, as I decorate the tree, with these British-inspired confections – bite-sized Cranberry Bakewell Tarts. At least my taste buds can travel there.


Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

  • Servings: 16 Mini Tarts
  • Print

Ingredients

    Shortbread Crust
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Frangipane (Almond Crème)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons smooth cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly
  • Glaze
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 16 sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 16 mini muffin cups. Make crust by beating together 6 Tablespoons butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour and salt and combine until fully blended. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, pressing dough along bottom and up sides of each muffin cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown. If crust rises too much after baking, gently press back down into cups.
  2. While crusts are baking, make frangipane by whisking together 4 Tablespoons butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Spoon frangipane into a piping bag with a ¼ to ½” tip.
  3. Dollop about ½ teaspoon of cranberry sauce in the bottom of each cup. Pipe frangipane over cranberry sauce, covering sauce completely. Bake tarts for an additional 20-25 minutes until tops are puffed and slightly golden brown. Cool completely
  4. To make glaze, mix 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar with water. Drizzle over cooled tarts. Garnish each with a sliced almond.

Cranberry Bakewell Tartlets

Apricot Pocket Cookies

Apricot Cookies
SCENE ONE: 2:16 a.m. after their eighth date, a couple are entwined on the couch, an empty bottle of wine and two wine glasses are located on a table in front of them. A small bowl of homemade truffles sits between the glasses.

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “It’s late. I should probably go home soon.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Me: “Do you want to go home…or do you want to sleep here?”

[continued kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “It’s not a trick question.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “Okay…I’ll answer for you. You want to go home.”

Him: {silence}

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “I guess I owe you some sort of apology or explanation.”

Oh god, please don’t apologize. That will make me feel like more of a lusty sexual deviant than I already do. And, as far as an explanation, what could you possibly tell me that would make me feel better about getting shot down for sex? I either don’t want to know or – if you have a valid excuse – this situation just became way too complicated for me.

I don’t let him give me an excuse, but I manage to think up a few of my own.

10 reasons he won’t sleep with me:
1) He finds me unattractive
2) He’s transgendered or gay and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell me
3) He has a secret girlfriend and he doesn’t want to “cheat” on her
4) He thinks sex will make me too “attached” [It won’t]
5) He’s bad in bed
6) He thinks I’ll be bad in bed
7) He has an STD
8) He thinks I’ll make him stop sleeping with other people [which is true]
9) I stink [armpit, cooch and breath check!]
10) He has ED or some other medical issue that precludes the horizontal mambo

SCENE TWO: It’s 6:00 p.m. the next evening. The same woman, alone, is curled up on the couch wearing her pj’s. Two cats sleep soundly beside her. On her lap is a platter of these cookies that she is devouring – one by one and without regret. Sometimes – most times, actually – the easiest company is our own.


Apricot Pocket Cookies

  • Servings: 27 cookies
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a 1” thick scare. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 9” x 12”. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips 9” x 4”. Spread each strip with apricot jam and sprinkle with walnuts. Starting from the long side, roll each strip into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1” pieces and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes.
  5. To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every 30 minutes until smooth, about a minute. Drizzle cookies with chocolate and dust with powdered sugar.

 

Apple Cherry Tart

Apple Cherry Chinese 5-spice Tart
Me:  “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”

Him:  “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”

Me:  “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”

Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”

Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”

We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.

I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?


Apple Cherry Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
  • Print
Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
  3. While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
  4. Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
  6. While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.