Monthworth of Baking – A Photographic Medley

Okay, maybe it’s not an entire month, but it certainly feels that way. All I know for sure is that it’s been a damn long time since I posted anything about the baking I’ve been doing, so much so that I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch up if devote a post to each one. So I’m going to have to cheat a little and post ’em all in one shot.

At least you’ll get pictures and the links to the recipes that inspired them. Hopefully I will be able to go back to my regular bake-then-post model soon, but it just seems like life has had a habit of getting away from me. For example, can you believe it’s already the middle of August?? That just seems so crazy to me!

Anyway, enough stalling – here we go.

The Quest for that perfect French Vanilla Ice Cream, inspired by David Lebovitz’s recipe. Of course. Although, sadly, I’m still in search of that deceptively simple yet elusive flavour. This was a great ice cream, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt a bit too close to frozen custard.

The Quest continues. Anyone have any tried-and-true recipes they care to point me in the direction of, feel free!

Pink Popcorn Candy Balls, made as party favours for a three year old’s birthday party.

Recipe inspired in part by Making Great Candy and also from popcorn machine manual that included a couple of suggested recipes.

Here’s a tip: don’t overlook these  manuals. What you may think is just some instructions for use and warranty limitations could be a goldmine of classic recipe inspiration.

 

Rhubarb Custard Pie with Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream

I’ve begun a whole new love affair with rhubarb. I don’t put any extra sugar on it which allows for that natural tartness to come through.

My mouth is kind of starting to water just thinking about it. The recipe for the pie came from a Women’s Institute cookbook (home of all great pie recipes) while the ice cream – which might just be the very best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted – came from here. I feel it’s important to note that the blogger was inspired by Lebovitz’s book,The Perfect Scoop.

Pate de Choux. My first attempt at making choux pastry. 

I have never in my life turned an oven up so high, plus I have the horrible habit of not being able to keep the door closed because I want to see what’s going on (and the inside light doesn’t work right now on my antique Eaton Viking), so not being able to do that for the first ten minutes was agony. But, I suppose, we have to suffer for our art. Sigh… 

This recipe comes from a book that has become my kitchen sidekick, The Baking Answer Book.

I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to…well, a lot of things, but I was constantly Googling random things like why the butter and water has to be so cold when using it for pastry (so that it will create pockets of steam that lead to a flakier crust), so this book has saved me from hours of wasted time that would have been better used baking as well as excess data usage on my iPhone!

 

Blueberry Quinoa Muffins came out of two things: a general curiosity and the lack of oatmeal for Sunday morning breakfast. I have been wanting to experiment with sweeter dishes using quinoa, so I swapped out the water you would normally boil the quinoa in for soy milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. The result was somewhere between an oatmeal and a rice pudding consistency – it was quite tasty, but thick enough to grout your tile if you let it stand too long.

I noticed that there was quite a bit left over, so not wanting to waste any of it I set about finding something to use the remaining quinoa. Although I look all over the Web for alternatives,  I should really know by now that there are generally two sites I can count on for most things: David Lebovitz and Martha Stewart. But I don’t mind – most of the thrill is in the chase, isn’t it?

I used Martha’s  recipe for the muffins, swapping out the vegetable oil for butter and the raisins for frozen blueberries. I did have to Google whether it was better to use frozen or fresh blueberries in baking – as it turns out frozen is the better choice as they hold their shape during the baking process and lend a nice extra bit of moisture to the overall texture of the finished product. This is probably common knowledge for most of you, but keep in mind – I’m new to this. Forgive me?

Macarons, since I’ve discovered how to do them, are my new obsession. It seemed only natural to pair it with another one of my latest obsessions: lemon.

The result? A macaron that tastes  almost exactly like lemon meringue pie. The ones pictured here deviate somewhat from the typical rounds, but take note: they do indeed have pied and therefore qualifies them as actual macarons. Siames twins and heart-shaped, but macarons nonetheless.

Recipe for both macaron shells and lemon curd filling from another kitchen sidekick of mine, I Love Macarons

 

Phew… I think that should just about do it. I may have almost got caught up here. I’m sure there’s something missing here, but these are the highlights that have come out of my sweet little kitchen over the past few weeks. I used more of my cookbooks than usual, which is good since that means they aren’t sitting around collecting dust.

Enjoy!

Adventures in Ice Cream-Making, Without the Machine

I’ll admit, I’m a little behind on my blog posting of late. But it’s for good reason, at least, and not just procrastination. It’s because I’ve been quite busy actually baking and making stuff. There were a number of days where it was simply too hot to bake, so my thoughts turned once again to ice cream. And I wasn’t about to have a little thing like not having a machine stop me. I’m not certain my arm has quite forgiven me for that decision. Actually no, that’s not entirely true: I’m pretty sure all was forgiven once I’d had a chance to sample the Malted Chocolate, which was the second flavour I’d made in the past few days. But now I’m just getting ahead of myself. First we need to talk about the Vanilla Bean with Dark Chocolate Chips and Candied Pecans.

The thing about baking with egg whites is that you’re often left with a number of egg yolks. Since I don’t generally like to waste ingredients (and am also cheap) I was always at a loss as to what to do with them. Until I discovered that they are a main ingredient for traditional ice cream. Well, it’s really more of a frozen custard. Either way, who cares? Just show me what to do so I can get it in my mouth already!

My first attempt with the Banana Ice made with coconut milk came out more as a freeze than a cream – I attributed it to the coconut milk. But it was when it happened again with the vanilla chocolate chip, although not to the same extreme, that I realized a bit more research was needed. I’d followed the directions properly, or so I thought. This particular recipe came from a package of Junket, also known as rennet which is a common enzyme used for making cheese or custard as it encourages milk to curdle. It is an ingredient most often found in British recipes. I feel like this may have helped with achieving the creamier texture, but the ice crystals were still a bit too large and gave the ice cream a grittiness that wasn’t unpleasant. it just didn’t feel like proper ice cream. Upon that further research I’d discovered two things I’d done wrong: I didn’t let it cool for long enough before putting it covered in the freezer, and I didn’t remove it from the container to stir it. Okay, that’s actually three things. But these are three vitally important things to remember if you’re daft enough to try making ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Armed with this new knowledge, I set about making one of my favourites: chocolate ice cream. This was a proper frozen custard ice cream recipe that I’d gotten from this book I’d picked up somewhere awhile back. It was at the last minute, much like the pecans I’d candied quickly in a frying pan with butter and brown sugar for the vanilla, when I decided I was going to throw in some malt powder to spice things up a little bit. I followed my new method – allow to cool for an hour to room temperature, freeze uncovered for an hour then turn out into bowl to stir before returning to the freezer still uncovered. And the result, in my humble opinion, was spectacular. I mean sure, it doesn’t have the emulsifiers or polymers that storebought ice cream has to keep it at the ideal scoopable temperature at all times, so you have to move it from freezer to fridge about twenty minutes before you plan on eating it. But the flavour…dear sweet lord, the flavour is unprecedented. My husband, who is not a huge fan of ice cream, said it was hands-down the best chocolate ice cream he’s ever tasted. The taste of malt was subtle, but definitely there; I’m thinking next time to add a fourth tablespoon as well as remember to stir it in during the custard-cooking process.

Actually, I’m thinking that next time may involve something with candied bacon. As well as waiting till I have a machine. I can feel my right arm relaxing already.

Affogato al Cafe

Italian for ‘drowned in coffee’, this is probably the simplest dessert you can put together – perfect for a lazy long weekend when it’s too hot to do anything else.

All you need is a shot glass (one ounce) of espresso or really strong coffee to pour over two scoops of French vanilla ice cream in a dish or glass, et voila! What’s more, while the basic formula is spectacular on its own, the affogato lends itself beautifully to all sorts of experimentation. Traditionally the dessert calls for grappa, an Italian fortified wine, so you’re free to add your own spin with a favourite liqueur for an elegant after dinner treat. Or even switch up the vanilla for chocolate or other flavour of ice cream. Use gelato for a more decadent and authentic experience. The possibilities are endless.

So, let’s all raise a glass of ice cream-covered coffee to honour the beginning of a long weekend. Happy Canada Day!

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