End of Summer Ice Creams

Now that summer is over, let’s talk ice cream, shall we? It actually feels more like summer this week than it did for most of the actual summer, so this still seems appropriate. I have two absolutely stellar recipes. I totally lucked out, because this was the only ice cream I made this summer, so for them both to be awesome is unlikely. Although it is ice cream, which in my book is kind of like pizza – there’s no really bad ice cream. Just some that are (way, way) better than others.

First up: the guy who wrote the book on the topic (really), Mr. David Lebovitz. I love his blog and wish I could swap places with his oh-so-tasty ex-pat life in Paris. For now, I will have to settle for trying out his recipes. This one for ricotta ice cream is amazing. I really don’t even know why I decided to make it in the first place, but I am so glad I did.

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The use of ricotta in place of milk doesn’t knock you over the head or anything, but it’s a nice, subtle, almost savory difference. Honey as a sweetener is beautiful, and adding Luxardo cherries to any recipe is just a little bonus. This is a lovely, slightly sophisticated, way to send off summer.

The other recipe I tried, from The Splendid Table, is for Nougat Ice Cream. I really have a soft spot for nougat. Not the crazy sticky kind in Snickers bars, although there’s no denying that is as close to candy bar perfection as it gets. I’m talking about the fancier stuff sold in nice patisseries. I love it and could eat it all day long.

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How does that translate to ice cream? Apparently the secret ingredient is orange flower water. After unsuccessfully trying to find it in three grocery stores, I finally caved and ordered it from Amazon. I think it might be available in Middle Eastern shops. That very subtle citrus hint, combined with the roasted pistachios and almonds, is absolute heaven. The beautiful thing about these recipes is that they go quite nicely together, with or without topping, giving you a great excuse to dust off the ice cream maker before summer disappears.

Ricotta Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 c heavy cream
½ c sugar
pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
¼ c honey
2 c whole milk ricotta
squeeze of lemon juice
½ c diced candied fruit (cherries are great)
½ c lightly toasted pistachios

  • Warm the cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
  • Make an ice bath by placing a metal bowl over another bowl filled with ice water. Place a mesh strainer over the top bowl.
  • When the cream is just about to start simmering, pour it very slowly into the eggs, whisking the whole time. Then pour it back into the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t let it boil.
  • Strain the custard into the bowl in the ice bath and whisk occasionally until cool.
  • Pour the custard into a blender or food processor and add the ricotta and honey. Process until smooth, then transfer to a covered container and chill overnight.
  • The next day, add the lemon juice and process in your ice cream maker about 20 minutes or so. Add the fruit and nuts at the end.

Nougat Ice Cream
adapted from The Splendid Table

2 whole milk
1 c heavy cream
6 egg yolks
½ c honey
1 T sugar
1 ½ t orange flower water
½ c pistachios, lightly toasted
⅓ c sliced almonds, lightly toasted

  • In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and ½ c of the cream almost to a boil.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks.
  • Prepare an ice bath as directed in the first recipe.
  • Very slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Strain the custard into the bowl in the ice bath. Whisk in the honey and sugar until dissolved, then add the remaining cream and orange flower water.
  • Leave in the ice bath and stir occasionally until cool. Transfer to a covered container and chill in the fridge overnight.
  • When you’re ready, process in your ice cream maker for about 20-25 minutes. Add the nuts at the end just to mix them in.

Durango Cookies (aka Best Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies)

I bought a new cookbook. The very last thing I need in my life, to be sure, right up there with another pair of purple tennis shoes. But I couldn’t resist. It was something like 60% off and I had seen a couple of the recipes online that sounded awesome. As far as I’m concerned, the book has already paid for itself by supplying me with the most perfect cookie for ice cream sandwiches ever invented.

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There are lots of way fancier recipes in this book, but realistically, I’m not going to invest the time in a multi step layer cake on a random Tuesday afternoon. These cookies were much more approachable, and also gave me an excuse to try a new ingredient. The Durango salt which lends its name to the recipe, is super smokey, which I generally hate, but mellows a ton during baking. Really, any old flaky sea salt would be just as great. The real trick to this recipe is the cocoa nibs. Good heaven, they are an amazing addition. I don’t know if it’s because the ones I was using were from Mast Brothers, but they lend a wonderful crunch and texture.

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So I made the cookies, they were delicious, I ate too many and put the rest in the freezer. When I was pulling one out for a snack the other night, I thought, vanilla ice cream? Don’t mind if I do. And that was when lightning struck. I have made more than my fair share of ice cream sandwiches over the years. These cookies are perfectly suited for that incarnation. Interesting in their own right, elevated by the addition of ice cream. They are big and kind of chewy but have enough firmness to hold onto that ice cream. Amazing. Make them to eat on their own if need be, but don’t shy away from slapping some ice cream in there if you have it.

Durango Cookies
adapted from Sweet

2 c plus 3 T (11 oz) all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
1 t baking soda
2 sticks plus 2 T unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ c brown sugar
¾ c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
3 c (1 lb) semisweet chocolate chips (I used my favorite Ghirardelli 60% chips)
1 c sliced almonds, lightly toasted
½ c cocoa nibs
Sea salt for sprinkling

  • In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, kosher salt and baking soda.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Beat to combine.
  • Add the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined.
  • Stir in the almonds, chocolate chips and cocoa nibs.
  • Press plastic wrap on top of the dough and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.
  • Heat the oven to 350 and line a few baking sheets with parchment.
  • Using a big scoop, either an ice cream scoop or ⅓ cup measure, scoop out the dough. Leave plenty of space between each ball as these will spread quite a bit. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Bake 11-13 minutes, until the cookies look just barely set in the middle.
  • These are great in a sealed container for a couple of days and I have found them to be quite enjoyable from the freezer too!

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Due to the fact that my mother is one of those people who does not know the meaning of moderation when planning to feed people, her refrigerator was recently home to about 8 giant Costco-sized containers of strawberries which were purchased ‘just in case’. There are definitely worse things to have a surplus of, so I took one of them home and set to using it up with this lovely cake.

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Do not – I repeat – do not make this unless you have a plan to disperse it to other dessert lovers. The recipe employs a neat little trick to make whipped cream actually last longer than a few hours. Add a little sour cream or creme fraiche and this sucker is good for days. This was unfortunate for me, as I was not nearly as successful as I thought I would be at foisting this off onto neighbors. Since it kept so well, that meant I spent the better part of the week snacking on it here and there.

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Such a deliciously wonderful cake though, it was worth the indulgence. My strawberry situation was unavoidable, but this would be totally excellent with any beautiful combo of fruit currently calling your name at the market – peaches and berries would be heaven. This is a great cake to make for a party you are having – it’s pretty tall so would be tough to travel with and would need refrigeration til it was served. But if you can overcome those obstacles, you’ll be presented with a super happy crowd enjoying a little square of summer on a plate.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cake
adapted from The Kitchn

Cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
3 eggs
2 ¼ c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
3 ½ t baking powder
1 ¼ c milk
2 t vanilla

Topping:
2 c heavy cream
½ c sour cream or creme fraiche
¼ c powdered sugar
pinch salt
about 4 c chopped or sliced stone fruit and/or berries

  • Heat oven to 350 and grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, a few minutes.
  • Add the eggs one at a time.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add this to the butter in three additions, alternating with the milk and vanilla.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a tester comes out just barely clean. Cool cake completely.
  • Beat the cream, sour cream, powdered sugar and pinch of salt together using a whisk attachment until soft peaks form – this usually takes a couple of minutes. Spread this all over the cake – it’s a ton of cream.
  • At this point, if you’re not serving it for awhile, I would wait to add the fruit as the cream gets just a little bit deflated from the weight of it. When you’re ready, sprinkle the fruit all over the top. This cake keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Cashew Flour Brownies

I’ve been casting around a little for a super simple but totally hit-the-spot perfect brownie recipe lately. I hadn’t been having much luck, although for the most part, if you use decent chocolate, you’re going to get at least a good brownie for your effort.

I think I’ve finally hit my mark here though. These are beyond simple and are gluten free too. Not that I’ve really hopped on the gluten free bandwagon, but I definitely have enough gluten-full stuff in my diet that a little break from that can’t hurt.

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I grabbed a bag of cashew flour at Trader Joe’s just out of curiosity. I’m pretty sure you can use it interchangeably with almond flour, it’s just a little sweeter and maybe a bit coarser. I love the texture it gives these brownies. They are dense and chocolatey but still have a nice crumb. Whatever that means. For now, I’ll be happy to whip up a batch whenever my brownie craving peaks.

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Cashew Flour Brownies

adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
⅔ c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 T cornstarch
½ c cashew meal or flour (or almond)
½ t baking powder
½ t salt

  • Heat oven to 350 and grease a 8-inch square baking pan.
  • Whisk the cocoa into the melted butter.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add to the chocolate and whisk to combine.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cashew flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the cocoa mixture and stir just to combine.
  • Pour into baking pan, spreading out evenly, and bake 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out barely clean. These keep well in the fridge for a few days.

Frozen Triple Chocolate Truffle Cookies

A friend recently spent a weekend in Columbus and my strongest recommendation was to eat at Northstar Cafe as much as possible. She’s a chocolate fiend, so I knew I didn’t even have to point out that she should definitely try the chocolate truffle cookie aka cookie brownie aka brookie. She returned with rave reviews, of both the restaurant and the cookie.

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I got together with her for dinner recently and thought I would try to dig up the recipe to make some for her. These definitely aren’t exact, but they’re pretty close. I made them a lot smaller for easier popping. I almost ignored the tip about sticking them in the freezer, as I fall on the hot side of the hot/cold baked goods debate. (Yes, this is a thing, at least in the circles in which I travel.) So glad I followed the directions! These are good out of the oven or at room temp, but they are excellent straight from the freezer, which makes them oh-so-perfect to stash for chocolate emergencies on hot summer days.

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Frozen Triple Chocolate Truffle Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit

10 oz dark chocolate, chopped
½ c plus 2 t all-purpose flour
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dutched)
¼ t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 c sugar (I would probably cut this back to ¾ c next time I make these)
5 T butter, room temp
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 c chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 350 and line two large baking sheets with parchment.
  • Using a double boiler or the microwave, melt the chopped chocolate. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • In another medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each.
  • Slowly add the melted chocolate and beat to combine. Add the vanilla.
  • Add the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop the cookies by the tablespoon onto the baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes, until the tops are just starting to crack. Cool completely, then store in a sealed container in the freezer. These will be edible way longer than they will be around.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Snackers

Having friends who love to cook and bake is great. In a perfect world, they would live close enough to sample their creations. In reality, I’m a plane flight from most of my best friends. Very sad, but at least I have fun places to visit. And they send me recipes saying, try this! It’s so good!

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That was the case here. I saw this recipe, dismissed it, and the only person I know who bakes more than me – my friend Mara – forwarded it and said, try it – it’s easy and a huge hit. Concise and so true. This is an excellent thing to have in your fridge to help stave off any afternoon hunger pangs. It’s salty, sweet and satisfying without being a total sugar crash disaster. I’ve definitely made versions of this bar involving sugar and cream, and these really are just as good.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Snackers
adapted from The Kitchn

1 ⅓ c peanut butter
1 ½ c pitted dried dates
½ c oatmeal
1 ¼ c roughly chopped dark chocolate, divided

  • Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the peanut butter and dates together, stopping to break up any date chunks, until fairly smooth.
  • Throw in ½ c chocolate and the oatmeal and pulse a few times to mix them in.
  • Dump the dough into the baking dish and press it down to spread it out.
  • Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave using short bursts, or in a double boiler. Pour on top of the dough and use an offset spatula to spread it out. Place in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour before serving. Use a very sharp knife to cut into small squares. These will keep in a covered container in the fridge for a week.

Pluot Ricotta Tart

This tastes like a giant scone. A giant, rich, wonderful, dotted-with-jammy-fruit scone. If you hate scones, feel free to stop reading. I will not be offended. If however, like me, they are one of your favorite ways to start your day, don’t hesitate. Gather up some ricotta and stone fruit and make this delicious treat.

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I had some leftover pluots and ricotta cheese sitting in the fridge, so this recipe came through my Facebook feed at the exact perfect time. It was easy to throw together and baked up like a beautiful biscuity pillow. The best parts are unquestionably the areas surrounding the fruit, but I threw restraint to the wind, slathered some creme fraiche on the rest and gobbled it down quite happily. A lovely mid summer’s treat.

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Pluot and Ricotta Tart
adapted from Food 52
2 ½ c (300 g) all-purpose flour
⅓ c sugar
2 T baking powder (yes, tablespoon)
¼ t salt
7 oz ricotta
6 T milk or cream
4-6 T olive oil
1 egg
4 pluots (or plums)
coarse sugar for sprinkling

  • Heat oven to 390 and grease a 10-inch round cake pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the ricotta.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then stir in the milk and oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Start with 4 tablespoons of oil and add more if you need it to help your dough come together. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl to form a ball, then set it aside to rest for a few minutes.
  • Quarter the fruit. Plop the dough into the prepared pan and use your hands to spread it out to fill the pan. Press the fruit, skin side up, into the dough. Sprinkle liberally with sugar.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cake is just turning golden. This is best the first day or two.

Verdens Beste Cake

One of the main reasons I travel is to eat. I don’t know if that makes me shallow, but it’s true. I still remember the most delicious piece of cake I had in Buenos Aires back in 2008 that I vowed to bake myself upon returning home. Still hasn’t happened, although a trip back to sample the same cake is significantly cheaper now.

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Since my traveling has been curtailed as of late (hello, parenthood), my culinary explorations have been focused closer to home. Thankfully, my brother has been picking up the slack. He and his girlfriend went to Norway this spring and he passed along this recipe for what is supposedly the national cake of Norway. On the surface, it looked complicated and out of my league for a quick dessert to throw together for a casual Sunday dinner. However, upon closer inspection, I was pleased to discover it’s not at all fussy yet yields impressive results.

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In a nutshell: yellow cake topped with meringue with a big fat layer of whipped cream in the middle. I was sold, as were all in attendance at said dinner. Don’t be intimidated – give it a go. Only one modification to make it even better: I might have eaten the leftovers topped with some chocolate ganache the following day.

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Verdens Beste Cake
adapted from Sweet Paul

10 ½ T unsalted butter, softened
1 ⅔ c sugar, separated
1 ⅓ c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
5 eggs, separated
⅓ c whole milk
⅓ c sliced almonds
1 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla

  • Heat oven to 350. Line an 8×12 or 9×13 inch metal baking pan with parchment.
  • Beat the butter and ⅔ c sugar until light and fluffy, a few minutes.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, then the milk.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the pan and spread it out into a roughly 8×12 rectangle.
  • In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form, then very slowly add the remaining 1 cup sugar. If you add it too fast, you’ll kill the meringue (I speak from experience), so take your time. Once all the sugar is added and the meringue is just starting to firm up, plop it on top of the cake batter and spread it evenly across the top.
  • Sprinkle the almonds on top of the meringue.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until the meringue is puffed and golden. This stressed me out because you can’t test the cake for doneness. You just have to trust your instincts here. The meringue will be a lovely golden brown color and the cake will be perfectly baked.
  • Cool completely and slide the cake onto a cutting board.
  • When the cake is cool, put the cream and vanilla into a large bowl, and again using the whisk attachment, beat to soft peaks.
  • Cut the cake in half so you have two square-ish pieces. Put one half, meringue side up, on your serving platter. Spread the whipped cream on top of the meringue. Place the other cake half, meringue side up, on top of that. This cake was best the day it was made and pretty good the next day as well. It should be stored in the refrigerator.

Coconut Brown Butter Cookies

This cookie made me a believer in brown butter. I have tried baking with it before and was always skeptical if it was worth the time it took to make it. I think I was probably doing it wrong. In this recipe, with very clear instructions, I finally achieved brown butter perfection and the ensuing nirvana provided by eating way too many of these cookies.

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Don’t take my word for it. I had seven other independent parties verify their outstanding deliciousness. I made them on a bit of a whim – the tab had been open for awhile in my browser, and I wanted an easy little something sweet to serve to friends after dinner that night. Little did I know I was discovering what will surely be an oft-repeated staple of my cookie repertoire. Again, Deb can do no wrong. I should just give up all other sources of recipes and start making everything she posts.

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Coconut Brown Butter Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 T water
½ c sugar
¾ c packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ t vanilla
1 ¼ c plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
¼ t table salt
4 c (240 g) unsweetened coconut flakes (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 c chocolate chips (optional – opinion was divided here. I preferred them with, Brad without)

  • Brown the butter. I am not even going to try to replicate the instructions. Click through and follow the original. Like I said, this is the first time I’ve ever gotten it right. Keep in mind that you’ll need to chill the melted butter for at least an hour, so build that into your anticipated cookie-making schedule.
  • Heat oven to 350. In a mixer, beat together the chilled brown butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then the vanilla, scraping down the sides as needed.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter in two additions, then add the coconut in two additions, stirring just to combine.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips if using.
  • Line a few large baking sheets with parchment. Scoop out tablespoons of dough and leave space between as these will spread a decent amount. Bake 9-10 minutes, until the cookies are nicely browned all over. These are really best the first day or two.

Seeded Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe might have been made for me – it hits that perfect mix of sweet treat with a healthy twist. It’s a fine line trying to make something you really want to be a dessert just a little bit healthier. Go too far and you have an inedible block of quinoa, almond butter and cocoa nibs. I speak from experience.

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These cookies tread that line perfectly. A little whole wheat flour, restrained use of sugar, throw in some oh-so-healthy seeds for good measure. Just pay no attention to that stick of butter. You could easily make these without the added seeds and they would be a very respectable chocolate chip cookie. I love the added texture and flavor the seeds add and intend to think about adding a handful of seeds here and there when trying new recipes in the future.

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Seeded Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the New York Times

¼ c plus 2 t sunflower seeds
2 heaping T pumpkin seeds
1 T chia seeds
½ c oats
½ c whole wheat flour
½ c all-purpose flour
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ c sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 c chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 350 and line two large baking sheets with parchment.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds and oats. Set aside.
  • In another medium bowl, combine the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to thoroughly combine.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat just to combine, then stir in the seed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • As with most chocolate chip cookie recipes, this will taste a little better if you cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. However, I rarely have that kind of foresight, so I just plowed straight ahead and baked them immediately. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough, spacing a couple of inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake 11-13 minutes until the edges are just starting to turn golden and the centers are set. Makes about 3 dozen.
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