Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inedible Wedding Cakes: Inspired Wedding Shower Gift Wrapping

When I bought the shower gifts for my sister-in-law to be’s shower, I couldn’t help but notice that the boxes looked like tiers of a wedding cake. And so using some lovely wrapping paper and wide ribbon ( double stick tape!), the cake came to life. For the topper, I bought a large styrofoam ball and cut it in half, along with fake flowers and pearl beads. I literally poked the stems of the flowers in and glued the pearls to the center. Using tape, I affixed it to the top of the cake and it was done. I also loved that the topper could be a nice foundation for the rehearsal bouquet.

You may remember this post from my former baking blog. It is a towel cake made of two bath towels, two hand towels and two washcloths. Again, the topper was an excellent part of the rehearsal bouquet!

And as you can probably tell, I had a baking extravanganza for this wedding shower. Here's a sneak peak at what's coming in the next two posts: wedding favor cookies and cupcakes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Heart Tarts!

There's something about a tart- the perfect combination of flaky pastry, jam, chocolate, and a fresh fruit. I made this tart at a jam and tart tasting earlier this week!

And I particularly love tiny two bite tarts! Like these! I made these tarts with a pate brisee crust- made with flour, butter and water. I use the food processor for making pie dough and it works like a charm.

First I baked the crusts in little metal tart pans- available at cooking stores. And after they cooled, I strained the seeds from raspberry jam and put a small dollop on the crust. I melted 6 Tbsp of butter, about 8 oz of chocolate chips and 2 Tbsp of corn syrup and put a layer of that over the jam. Once it started to cool and setup, each tart was topped with a fresh raspberry.

And they were absolutely lovely!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

If you HAVE NOT tasted Salted Caramel ice cream, then this post is for you! If you HAVE tasted salted caramel ice cream and love the marriage of sweet and salty in a frozen form, then this post is also for you!

Here are three ways to sample this delightful ice cream flavor combination:

1) if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, take a trip to Bi-Rite Creamery and try theirs.
2) If you live in Columbus, Ohio, take a trip to Jeni’s and try hers:
3) If you don’t have a local creamery that makes it, try Haagen Dazs Reserve Fleur de Sel with tiny inclusions of caramel filled chocolate.
4) Or you can make your own!

We decided to use David Leibowitz’s recipe here to make this version. David has a praline that he adds but we decided to be purists and just make the ice cream sans praline.
For this recipe, you actually make the caramel by heating sugar and butter and cream in a saucepan. Be careful not to let it get too dark, but dark enough to have a good flavor.

Then, using this base, eggs and milk are added to make a custard that is chilled before churning.

The custard looked like this before it went into the ice cream machine.

For salt, we added Maldon sea salt, known for its large flaky crystals. Because the crystals are so big in physical size, we considered that a teaspoon of Maldon salt might be give us less salt per volume than a finer grain salt- so we added a smidge more. Turns out for my taste, I think we could have added even more! The recipe cautions NOT to use regular salt like Morton’s- it will overpower the recipe. Try a coarse grade of sea salt or kosher salt.

A quick note on sea salts. Sea salts can have various mineral and sodium content depending on the region and the level of standardization when it is made (impurities can be adjusted or removed). All sea salts aren’t the same, however when dissolving it in large volume, the subtle notes may not be as pronounced as compared to a sprinkle on a bite of food. In this case, we were most concerned at making sure there was the right level of salty flavor- not looking for distinct notes.

We prepared the ice cream and put it in the Cuisinart ice cream maker to churn. 25 minutes later we had a lovely soft, salted caramel ice cream. We let it freeze longer in the fridge and it firmed up nicely. With an extra sprinkle of Maldon on top, it was delicious. It definitely was high on the caramel flavor and as I mentioned, I would consider adding bit more salt as it wasn’t salty enough for my taste. But the extra sprinkle easily did the trick! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time for Tea: Lavender Scones

It was time for a ladies tea party and what better thing to serve that some lavender scones with blackberry lemon verbena conserve from June Taylor Jams and homemade ginger pear jam from Nonna C.

This recipe was here from Michael Recchuti. I also used lavender ginger sugar on top of these lovely scones.

This is a fairly straight forward scone recipe using culinary lavender mixed in with the dry ingredients. Be sure to use culinary lavender- other lavenders may have been sprayed and not suitable for consumption.

I cut the butter into the dry ingredients, added buttermilk and egg and formed a round.

The round was cut into eight scones, topped with the lavender ginger sugar and baked!

They were wonderful- especially with the ginger pear jam!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Art of the Frozen Cocktail Part 2: Pometini Granita

So what to do with the frozen pometini ice cubes that we made when we ran out of popsicle molds? See the previous post for how we made these. How about a granita?

This couldn't be any easier! Pop out a few of the cubes and simply throw them in your blender on low speed. A few seconds later, you will have a refreshing granita that is lovely when served in a martini glass.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Art of the Frozen Cocktail: Pometini Popsicle

Our neighbors have recently started a summer Friday night happy hour and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out a Pometini popsicle.

Last winter I found this single subject book called Pops! by Kristina Castella. Even though it is little, it is jam-packed with inspiring photos and recipes for various kinds of popsicles beyond freezing juice. It's available on Amazon here. There’s a chapter on frozen alcoholic popsicles- which can be tricky because alcohol doesn’t freeze! So, you really need to get the proportions right or you will end up with a slushie instead- which actually isn’t too bad either.

So for this popsicle (yes, it was my second try after a prior failed attempt) I followed more closely to the book recommendations for juice to alcohol ratio. I used mostly pomegranate juice, some fresh squeezed lime juice and a bit of fresh squeezed orange juice – 3 and 1/2 cups in total. To that I added 1/4 cup of vodka and 10 Tbsp of Triple Sec.

I stirred and poured into these Tovolo Popsicle molds. You can find these on Amazon here. They have a few different shapes. We also have these groovy, more traditional ones but find that the size is a little too big.

I had more "tini" than molds so I also used a silicon, cube tray that makes perfect cubes, for the remainder, available here. The post following this one will tell you how we made use of these!

After sitting in the freezer over night, voila! The popsicles successfully emerged. A trick about getting them out properly: you can quickly run very hot water over the mold to release. Pull and wiggle very slowly. Also, because of the alcohol, these popsicles are somewhat softer than regular ones which makes them more delicate but also easier to eat. A delicious treats for adults only!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Retro Food Paper!

This is some calorie-free Foodspiration! I recently went one of the few remaining scrapbooking stores in the Bay Area, Scrapbook Territory in Berkeley. It was there I found some darling retro paper of food slogans and vintage food.

Made by Cosmo Cricket, this collection is appropriately called Early Girl and can be purchased online here. Mmm, I'm thinking food tags, stationary, even recipe cards!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What to Do With the Blues: Blueberry Crumb Cake

On our last day of vacation, we had the blues...blueberries that is. And so I decided to make a blueberry crumb cake from this recipe.

What's different about this cake is that the batter is extremely thick and had a streusel crumb topping made with brown sugar, flour, salt and butter. I didn't use all of the topping because I was in a slightly smaller pan and it seemed like there was a lot of flour.

It baked into a bubbly and delicious crust that had both a sweet and salty flavor.

The crusty top and moist crumb are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Food Challenge: Guess this Frozen Yogurt Topping

When I saw this topping at Blush Frozen Yogurt, I had no idea what it was and I ordered it immediately.

Any guesses? Hint: It's not meat or seafood although it looked like raw chicken

Monday, July 6, 2009

An All-American Meal Reconstructed

This Fourth of July weekend, we decided to make an All-American Meal but with a modern twist. The inspiration for this meal was a pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, corn, and pie but we had a few changes.

Our menu for the meal:

• pulled pork sandwich on a baguette
• jicama- grapefruit slaw
• corn fritters
• peach, nectarine and blackberry galette

We bought a pork shoulder and put a dry rub on it. Justin seared the shoulder and let it slow cook for several hours until it was tender.

Once cooked, he shredded it and added some barbeque sauce.

On a crusty baguette, this was a delicious sandwich.

While the pork was cooking, we made the jicama salad. We used this recipe as an inspiration but added some carrot and grapefruit to it. We peeled and grated the jicama instead of slicing it into julienne strips. We tossed it with sliced red onion and lime juice as well as salt and pepper. Topped with fresh wedges of pink grapefruit and chopped cilantro, this salad was incredibly refreshing. In fact it also tasted great on top of the pulled pork.

Instead of corn on the cob, we made these fried corn fritters. We sliced the corn off the cob and made a batter. We had a bit more corn than batter which can be tricky. If there are corn kernels that fall out of the fritters and they hang out too long on the fryer, they will EXPLODE! And that really isn't good. I suggest using a splatter screen while frying these and clearing out the wandering kernels.

Because we didn't have a pie pan, we made a galette instead with V and K's famous oil crust. V made the oil crust and added nectarines, blackberries, and Frog Hollow peaches.

It baked up wonderfully and we paired it with some homemade salted caramel ice cream.

And the meal was delicious!

Hope your Fourth was as delicious as ours.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Simple Summer Soup -- Creamy Corn

When we rolled into Mendocino we were coming off 100+F temps in the East Bay and Summer felt like it was in full effect. However, upon hitting the coast the the cool fog enveloped us and soon we were firing up the pellet stove and pulling on sweatshirts. We were inspired by the juxtaposition of Summer and Winter and decided to transform some fresh corn into a belly warming bowl of soup using this recipe as a starting point. I husked eight ears and then made the last minute decision to 'grill' two of them over the flame on the gas range.

Slicing off the kernels with a large kitchen knife.

Close-up of corn staged in the Vitamix.

Captured on video -- Liquefying the corn.

The total yield of corn was 5 to 6 cups which was added to the vitamix blender with a splash of water. After mixing on high for about 1 minute the blended corn was placed in a sauce pan with about 2 tablespoons of butter, a few pinches of salt, and some fresh cracked pepper. The soup was brought to boiling over medium heat and cooked for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

The beauty in this dish is in the garnish. Some corn tortilla chips give it a great contrast of soft/creamy and crunchy textures. The scallions gave it a green earthiness and the fresh lime a bright acidity. The only thing that was missing was a little sour cream or crumbled queso fresco.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food Tastes Better With Friends: Homemade Fettucine with Prosciutto and Asparagus and Short Ribs

We love homemade pasta! There's nothing like it! This fettucine with asparagus and prosciutto is divine. With a very light cream sauce, fresh parmesan cheese, and just the right amount of fresh lemon--it is incredible! The recipe for this pasta dish was inspired by this Everyday Food recipe which was a fettucine with prosciutto and peas. We decided to make the pasta from scratch and swap out the peas for asparagus instead. We followed the recipe otherwise.

Our food vacation was greatly augmented by a special guest appearance from V and K! V and K are good friends and have been known to make memorable meals. We were so glad they came up to stay for a few days and so we got started with the meal of homemade fettucine with prosciutto and asparagus and added a green salad and short ribs.

Justin braised the short ribs and had them cooking away for a few hours. Near the end of the cooking time, we started making the fresh pasta--beginning with a volcano of flour and fresh eggs.

We worked that together in a lovely dough and used an Italian pasta machine to sheet the pasta and cut the fettucine. The pasta machine belonged to my Nonnie but she always hand rolled her pasta so it was like new when I inherited it.

The fresh noodles had a beautiful bright yellow color. We tossed them in a bit of flour to keep them from sticking until we boiled them.

The sauce preparation was so easy! It began with sauteeing a minced shallot in butter and adding in heavy cream and prosciuttuo and asparagus. Once the asparagus was cooked enough, we stirred in a bit of lemon juice and lemon zest and salt and pepper.

We poured the sauce on the freshly cooked pasta and added plenty of freshly grated parmesan along with a bit of salt and pepper. And the result was magnificent! It was probably one of the lightest, most flavorful pasta dishes we have had. You can see the cream sauce is very light and just enough to flavor the pasta without making it heavy. We highly recommend you try this recipe--even if you don't make the pasta from scratch!

Oh yes, and we can't forget about the short ribs. They turned out wonderfully as well! What a wonderful meal to share with friends!