Category Archives: desserts

carrot cake jam, wha?

my goodness, whoever heard of such a thing as carrot cake jam? not me. i think it’s it’s just ridiculous. and delicious. i really thought i was not going to like it but i do. i’m imagining a whole mess of this on top of another whole mess of cream cheese on top of…well, you get the idea. i needed to preserve something with carrots as per the can jam assignment for this month. i really thought about canning my mexican hot carrots and eventually i will. but i managed to intimidate myself out of it as the last time i made pickles and water bath canned them, they went as limp and colorless as an old rag doll.

i know what you’re asking yourself : does it really taste like carrot cake? the answer is yes. and no. i might’ve made a few changes if i was on top of it before i even put it all together. i would have left out the cloves. unnecessary and i don’t believe carrot cake generally includes cloves. the addition doesn’t seem out of place but it was confusing on the palate in this application. i also would have added some some coconut. yes, that would’ve made it perfect. as it stands, it almost reminds me more of morning glory muffins than carrot cake.

not that i’m complaining.

carrot cake jam (makes about 5-6 half pint jars)

adapted from ball complete book of home preserving

1 1/2 c  carrots, grated or matchstick-cut

1 1/2 c  pears, peeled, cored , cut into tiny dice

1 3/4 cup finely chopped pineapple with any collected juice

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

4 c granulated sugar*

put all ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan, bring to a boil and allow to simmer rapidly until mixture resembles molten sugared lava and mixture reaches about 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. took me about 20-30 minutes. place a small amount on a plate that has been in the freezer for a bit, put back in freezer for 1 minute. it should be firm and wrinkle some when you touch it.

ladle mixture into sterilized jars and process in water bath for 10 minutes. allow to cool completely on counter, checking to be sure all jars have sealed properly.

* original recipe called for 6 1/2 cups of sugar (4 seemed sweet enough to my taste) and pectin, which i opted not to use.


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happy birthday to you, bloggy mcblogsalot.

ok, so one year ago today i said to myself “hey, i love food blogs, i love to cook, i love pictures of food”. so i decided to start a food blog. then my friend frank said in response, “so, do you have anything to say?”. of course i immediately said “well, of course i do, don’t be ridiculous”, then i went and cried myself to sleep because i was dumb enough to think that  starting a blog was a good idea. then i woke up and started my blog.

and that is how it all started. ever since then, my husband can’t eat until all the pictures are taken, i cook and take pictures during most of my time off, and i take pictures in my jammies when it’s 30 degrees outside because the light is ‘perfect’.

but, i have also given myself the luxury of cooking something as many times as it takes until it is perfect (to me, anyway).

i have reawakened a love for photography not felt since my early twenties (helped immensely by the canon given to me by husband-yes, he’s an enabler).

and i have met and befriended a community of food bloggers and writers in my hometown that mean the world to me.

there are countless people to thank for even a small endeavor such as a food blog. but mostly i need to thank my friends and family for their willingness to taste anything and everything, and my dear friend and photographer extraordinaire, casey, who has helped me grow leaps and bounds over the past year.

rocket and mazzie, my accidental food tasters and floor lickers (i mean floor cleaners).

and this beautiful man, who married me without knowing what was to come, what was to be had for dinner, and when i would allow him to start eating.

**incidentally, and unrelated to this whole first birthday celebration, i found out today that i have been named in the austin chronicle’s top 10 food blogs. happy birthday, little bloggy:  http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A933445**

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Filed under cake, desserts

sparkling cranberries

i just love the holiday season. i know, i know, i am a freak of nature according to many, but i just can’t help it. i love the food, the lights, the specialness of it all. as christmas approaches, i start to get a little freaked out that the holidays are winding down. honestly, i have to talk myself down off the ledge, take a deep breath, and enjoy all that is around me.

cranberries are a special holiday treat, mostly because of their seemingly short life-span (in terms of acceptability in using them after christmas anyway). and these cranberries are special. you can serve them as part of a cheese course, on top of a holiday dessert, or just pop ’em in your mouth. we tossed them in our glasses of bubbly, too! they take a little getting used to because they are essential raw and very tart but the sugar seems to tame this somewhat. they are at first sweet, then with a burst of tartness, then sweet again. live a little…try ’em out!

well, i am off to the in-laws for several days to enjoy family and friends for the holiday. i hope you enjoy yours!

sparkling cranberries (makes 2 cups)

adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

plus additional granulated sugar and medium coarse grain sugar for coating

make a simple syrup by heating water and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan. bring to a simmer, until sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool for a bit. pick over cranberries, discard any shriveled or soft berries, rinse in a colander and set aside in a glass bowl. when syrup is still warm, but no longer hot, add to berries. place a small plate on top of berries to be sure they are all submerged. cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 hours or overnight.

drain, reserving syrup for another use, if desired. roll berries a few tablespoons at a time in medium grain sugar. (i used an unbleached medium grain organic sugar sold at costco for this step). dry for a few hours on a cookie sheet. then roll them in the regular granulated sugar for a final dusting. allow to dry for an additional hour or so before handling. the combination of sugars does seem to do a fine job of coating them completely.

these keep chilled for up to a week.

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pumpkin ice cream

so, as if you didn’t already have enough ways to overindulge this holiday season, let me add another to the pot. i first made this ice cream last year about this time. i liked it so well that i made it 3 more times. in a row. like as soon as i ran out, i had to have more. it’s a nice treat during the holidays because it can (and must) be made ahead of time. it’s kinda nice to know that if all else fails in the meal, at least there’s this beautiful, silky, pumpkiny concoction waiting dutifully in the freezer.

i need to keep it short this time so i can get back to planning my thanksgiving meal, but i will say that if you’re feeling frisky, you can substitute some of the cream with pumpkin ale. it’s real good.

pumpkin ice cream (makes 1 quart)

adapted from williams-sonoma

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree* or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream (substitute 1/2 cup pumpkin ale -i used dogfish ale punkin ale- for 1/2 cup of heavy cream if desired)

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

a pinch or a few gratings of fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp bourbon (substitute with more pumpkin ale, if using above)

a handful of good quality gingersnaps

in a small bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree and vanilla. set aside in fridge for a few hours so that flavors have a chance to influence each other.

in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, gently heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 1/2 cup brown sugar. cook into bubbles form around edges of mixture, about 5 minutes. watch closely-do not let boil!

meanwhile, in a bowl combine together egg yolks, cinnamon, ginger, , nutmeg, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream (or pumpkin ale!) and 1/4 cup brown sugar. whisk until well combined.

remove cream mixture from heat. gently mix about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. (and guess what, fancy pants? you are tempering your eggs! who knew?) pour egg mixture into pan of cream and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it coats the back of the spoon, about 4-6 minutes. carefully (it’s hot!) draw a line through mixture on back of spoon-it should leave a clear trail. again, do not boil! pour through a fine mesh strainer or sieve to remove any lumps.

place the bowl into a larger bowl of ice water to cool mixture quickly, stirring occasionally to cool more quickly and prevent a ‘skin’ from forming. once cooled, add pumpkin mixture and stir until well-combined. cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto surface of mixture. refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but honestly, you will have the best results if you can chill it 12-24 hours.

transfer your custard to your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. add bourbon or pumpkin ale, if using, during last few minutes of churning. place in freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 3-4 hours and up to a week. serve with crumbled gingersnaps on top!

* to make fresh pumpkin puree, cut 1 large or 2 small sugar pumpkins (do not use regular field or carving pumpkins) into large chunks or quarters; remove stems. roast in shallow pan, cut sides down, with a little water on the bottom in 400 degree oven until tender, about 1 hour. when cooled, remove skins, seeds and stringy material. push through a sieve or food mill. freeze any leftover puree in a plastic bag with air removed. recipe states can freeze up to 2 months, but honestly, if you freeze correctly, it will keep for up to a year!

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apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts

apple gallette 1a

it may surprise you, considering how many sweet treats i make and write about on this blog, that i consider myself more of a savory than sweet-type person. you heard me right, i really do not have a sweet tooth. gasp, i know. it’s crazy, too because i love to bake cakes, tarts, cookies, et al, but i tend to eat desserts only on special occasions or in lieu of a meal. (insert late afternoon slice of pie and cup o’ joe here). for this month’s let’s lunch challenge, the group has decided  on a ‘fall desserts’ theme, which seems to fit in with the whole dessert-as-meal-replacement plan.

apple gallette 2

this time of year does bring out a bit of the ol’ sugary cravings, i suppose. i tend to go for more earthy, fruit-based concoctions over super-sweet chocolate or frosted ones. but i’m weird that way.  should i even mention that i would take a lemony anything over a chocolate something else?

apple gallette 3

this would be  a good dessert after a nice fall meal or even, dare i say, as an appetizer with a glass of bubbly or red wine. you could even leave out the blue cheese and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

apple gallette 4

apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts (makes 1 large tart)

adapted from barefoot contessa

pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp sugar

12 tbsp (1 1/2) sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup ice water

apples:

4 granny smith apples

1/2 cup sugar

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup apple jelly (or a light colored jam, heated and strained)

2 tbsp calvados (this is a fabulous french apple aperitif-get some!)

1/4 cup walnuts chopped

1-2 ounces of quality blue cheese (i used point reyes)

for the pastry, place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. pulse 2-3 times until well-combined. add the butter and pulse 10-12 times until butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to over mix and create a paste. with the motor running, pour the ice water through the shoot until the dough just comes together (you may not use all the water depending on the humidity level and other factors). dump dough onto a floured board and quickly knead into a ball. at this point, i like to press the dough into  a disc the shape of how it will be rolled out, i.e. a round, square, or in this case, a rectangle. wrap in in plastic and chill for at least 1-2 hours.

preheat oven to 400 degrees. line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

roll dough into a rectangle about 10 x 14 inches. trim the edges straight with a pizza cutter or knife. for a more rustic look, you can omit this step – i do not judge. place dough on prepared sheet pan and chill while you are readying the apples.

peel apples and cut through the stem, removing stems and cores with a sharp paring knife or melon baller. slice the apples crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, leaving slices together in order. place slices in diagonal rows on pastry, starting in middle of the tart, then adding adding rows of apples to fill in until pastry is covered. sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter. although it appears like a LOT, do not be tempted to cut down the amount of sugar~the tart will be, well, very tart if you do.

bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the apples have brown edges. rotate the pan once during cooking. you may deflate any air bubbles that form by poking them with a small knife. don’t worry if the juices run off and start to burn, this is expected. remove tart from oven. heat jelly and calvados in a small pan and brush mixture on pastry and apples. dot with the blue cheese – use as much as you prefer, but be warned, a little goes a long way. it will gently and beautifully melt into the gallette. loosen tart from paper before cooling so it doesn’t stick. allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

if you love a good fall dessert, check out these fine folk’s take on them , too:

cowgirlchef

a tiger in the kitchen

geofooding

bonvivant

slow food chef

free range cookies

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sweet.

banana bread 3

this banana bread is one of the best i’ve ever made. i have been looking for years for a great banana bread recipe: not too dry, but not artificially moist. for some odd reason or another, it has eluded me. this recipe is from bakesale betty, a great little bakery and sandwich shop we were taken to on our last trip cali. it is made with honey, cane sugar, AND brown sugar. but that’s not what made it sweet. this is. i would like for you to make a loaf of this bread and while it cools get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee, whatever you like, and take a few quiet moments to read this story by a fellow blogger. i found it to be a moving account of life’s to-and-fro’s.

banana bread closeup2

banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping (makes 1 loaf)

adapted from sweet amandine/bakesale betty/bon appetit

to toast walnuts, place in a single layer on baking sheet in a 350 degree oven. check and stir every 1-2 minutes. if you don’t set a timer, they will most likely burn. no matter how you try to tell yourself you will remember, you will not.

for the bread:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar (i use organic evaporated cane juice sugar)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional, but not optional for me)

for the topping:

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 tbsp golden brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

 

preheat oven to 350F. butter and flour a 9x5x3  inch loaf pan. mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

in a medium bowl, mix togther flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda and salt. in a large bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water until smooth. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2-3  increments and stir until just combined. do not overmix. add nuts, if using. pour into prepared loaf pan. spoon cinnamon topping over batter.

bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean (a good rule of thumb is to start checking every 5 minutes after the first 45-50 minutes). cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack, being careful not to dislodge too much of the topping.

p.s. and just so you know, she is alive and well and recovering at home, and even twittering about it. i know there was a collective sigh of relief with that first tweet.

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nectarine and mascarpone tart

nectarine tart 1

this summer i’m participating in summer fest 2009, wherein culinary ideas and inspiration about summer produce are traded by a group of food lovers and bloggers. a group, you say? but she never joins ‘groups’.  i think she hates groups, in fact! yes, i have a rep. i come from a long line of non group-joiners. what that is, i don’t know. it’s like a bad habit. i’m trying to be more aware of some of my not-so-good habits, diversify, break out of the same old rut, say yes when i would reflexively say no. always a good thing, ya know, to stretch those rigid muscles?

anyway, if you’re so inclined, you should check out some of the blogs from these summer fest party hosts: mattbites, steamy kitchen, white on rice couple, and a way to garden.

nectarine tart 2

i found distributing the crust evenly in the pan to be very zen-like. it sort of reminded me of sandcastle-building.

nectarine tart 3

i did my best to keep the filling-eating within normal limits. i was not successful. somehow i still had enough to fill the tart pan so no one would know.

nectarine tart 4

nectarine tart 5

nectarine and mascarpone tart (serves 8-10)

adapted from bon appetit

mascarpone cheese is  like an italian cream cheese, but it is extremely luxurious. it is a little pricey,but since the whole dessert is not very expensive to make,  resist the urge to use all cream cheese. there is some chilling time needed, so plan accordingly. we ate the leftovers the next day, and it still appeared and tasted very fresh.

crust:

25 gingersnaps, coarsely broken up

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted pure butter, melted

filling:

1-8 ounce container mascarpone cheese

6 ounce cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp grated lemon peel (about 2 lemons)

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger (i skipped this-i wanted a silky smooth texture to the filling)

topping:

3-4 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices (a squeeze of fresh lemon juice will discourage browning)

1/4 cup peach jam, warmed 

2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger

 

preheat oven to 350. process gingersnaps in a food processor into a fine grind. add melted butter and pulse until combined.  press mixture into botton and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. bake crust until darkens, about 8 minutes. set aside and cool completely.

beat all ingredients for filling, except crystallized ginger , in a medium bowl or stand mixer until smooth. add ginger, if using, and mix with a spoon. spread gently into prepared crust. cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

after chilling, arrange nectarine slices in an overlapping pattern on top of filling. brush with jam. sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours. 

next time i think i’ll leave off the jam glaze. it doesn’t need it. it was perfect with just the clean and fresh taste of the fruit alone (see below). this would be perfect with plums, figs, or even fresh berries.

 

nectarine tart 6

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Filed under cake, cheese, desserts, fruit