Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

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Perfect Fruit + Ice Cream= Perfect Blueberry Ice Cream

July 30, 2009

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I know bananas have a lock on that saying: “Quite possibly the world’s perfect fruit.” But what about the blueberry? Why does it get shoved aside in favor of “perfect” bananas? Was there a competition for “world’s perfect fruit”? Did the blueberry even enter?

I maintain that the blueberry can slide right in there via the “possibly.” Bananas could possibly by the world’s perfect fruit… if it weren’t for the even more exceptional blueberry. Round, plump, juicy and splendidly colored as no food in nature should be. Blueberries are my perfect fruit. I can eat them by the pintful, and often do.

But how can a “perfect” fruit be improved on? Leave it to my husband to crack that nut…  er, smash that blueberry. He manages it via his fiendish ice cream machine, which churned forth this delicious, delectable, delightful blueberry ice cream. To raw blueberries’ simplistic, seductive (sometimes tartly) sweetness, my husband’s ice cream adds layers of creamy smooth complexity. It is rich, it is sweet, it is indulgent (well, not as low calorie as the blueberries themselves), it has that delightful purple-blue hue — and, bonus, it may even have antioxidents in it.

We’ve already established that blueberries are the world’s perfect fruit, now we can venture that they may also make the world’s perfect dessert. How? Ice cream, darling. Churn, baby, churn.

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And now, the husband’s take…

So my wife really sounds like a fanatic for blueberries, and I hate to admit she is—a little disturbing, right? But don’t mess with the woman and her blueberries. This is why I took my life into my own hands when I came up with this recipe. But with that said, I got the job done. And really, it’s away to extend the peak season if you work it right. So she should stop the threatening looks when I talk about more blueberry recipes. If nothing else, just look at my boy Jack in the photos. That is one happy little guy eating blueberry ice cream. I think that it’s a strong testimonial in my favor.

Before leaving, a couple small technical issues. First, I strained the blueberries after blending. This is all about mouth texture.  Blueberries are almost all skins and seeds. This is hardly noticeable when you eat them raw or whole, but to me ice cream has to have that smoothness in the mouth to be good. I suspect someone will tell me I’ve dulled the flavor by taking all those elements out, but I just didn’t feel right leaving them in. I mean I know it works for red wine to leave the skins etc. to develop greater flavor, but we strive for something more than just flavor.

The big negative is that it means your yield may not be all that great. So I find this recipe is likely most cost effective using frozen or berries that are just about to be past their prime.

Second, the recipe is composed of two steps. Step 1 of the recipe is simply making a blueberry purée. You could use this resulting liquid to flavor about a million different items.  Steps 2 to 6 are simply the technique of making crème anglaise without the vanilla. This is a classic French technique of making smooth and thick custard that has multiple applications, but I almost always use for my base for ice cream.

If you want to experiment with your own ice cream flavors, I suggest taking this recipe and subtracting step 1, and then add flavors as you see fit. There are lots of great recipes out there, especially on David Lebowitz’s blog and his book Perfect Scoop, but I’m always looking for my own path and this is where I typically start.

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Blueberry Ice Cream
Ingredients:
2 cup heavy cream
2 cup milk
8 eggs yolks
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
300 g sugar (approx. 1 ½ cup)
1 tsp. salt
juice of 1/2 medium lime

Directions:

1. In a blender, blend until smooth the blueberries, the lime juice and 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the sugar until very smooth. Strain the mixture using a fine sieve to remove seeds and skins. You should have about 2 cups of liquid remain. Set aside.

2. Set up a water bath by filling a large bowl with equal part of ice and water about half full. Place a smaller bowl inside.

3. In a heavy pot over medium heat, add 100 grams (1/2) cup of the sugar, the milk, the cream and the salt. Heat slowly. When the milk begins to rapidly boil at the edges, turn down the heat.

4. Whisk together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks. Temper the eggs by slowly adding several ladlefuls (totaling about third) of the hot milk to the sugar and egg mixture while whisking vigorously.

5. Add the new combined mix back to the pot and continue to stir.  Return the heat to medium and continue to stir until it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour immediately into the empty bowl in the ice bath.

6. Add the strained blueberry purée from step 1 and continue to stir until the mixture reaches slightly cooler then body temperature. (This means it should feel slightly cool if you touch the mix).

7. Move to a covered container and refrigerate overnight or freeze for approximately two hours. Once the mix is sufficiently cold, churn according to ice cream maker instructions.

Recommendation: I prefer to cool the ice cream base and the finished product and wide and shallow containers. I find it makes it quicker to cool and to harden while in those containers. Also find it makes it easier to scoop.

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A Birthday Treat for Lily: Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

March 20, 2009

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We’ve been busy of late. Three weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed another addition to our family — our daughter, Lily. She was born a healthy 8 lbs and 1 oz, and since then has packed on the ounces to weigh nearly 10 lbs. Both mother and daughter have recovered nicely and look fabulous. I’m still shocked by how wonderfully they both are doing, and it isn’t just a lack of sleep leading me to say this.

To celebrate, as we did with the birth of her older brother Jack, I made Lily a cupcake. While Jack’s cupcake is all Meyer lemons, I embraced chocolate for our daughter. But I couldn’t deviate too much. Lily and Jack are siblings… so their cupcakes should have something in common — cream cheese frosting.
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OK, I’m rationalizing. The truth is that I love cream cheese frosting, and I pretty much think it kicks most frostings’ butt. In addition, it’s infinitely easier to make than buttercream frosting. Cream together a stick of butter, an 8 oz. box of cream cheese, and a 1lb. box of powdered sugar, and you are 90% done. Cream cheese frosting might not have the fluffiness factor and the mouth smoothness of buttercream, but it has got a richness and flavor that just makes me happy.

To raise it up a level, I also added a personal favorite — coconut. I know we’ve all seen mounds of fresh coconut cupcakes, and I admit I was worried that people would think I was oh-so derivative and helping the cupcake craze jump the shark even faster. But, at the end of the day, I like it. So fashion be damned. This is for my little girl!

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Chocolate Cupcakes
Yield: 1 dozen
Ingredients:
1 cup (200g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (180g) sugar
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter(115g)
2 oz. (60g) semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
½ cup (175mL) buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Allow the buttermilk, butter and eggs to warm up to room temperature.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

4. Add sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream for 5 to 6 minutes on high, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom at least twice. When done, the butter should be smooth, light in color and fluffy.

5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then add the whole egg while the mixer is on medium speed. Once the egg is fully integrated add the yolk and then scrape again.

6. Add the melted semi-sweet chocolate and mix on medium until integrated.

7. With the mixer on low add the dry sifted ingredients and buttermilk in alternating installments as follows: dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry. Scrape down the sides at least once.

8. Scoop out into muffin tins lined with paper cups, and place in oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick almost comes out clean. Let cool completely then frost.

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Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: Approx. 1 quart
Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar (room temperature)
1 stick butter (room temperature)
8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
2 tsp. coconut extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cup fancy shredded coconut (topping)

Directions:
1. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl. Whip at high speed until fluffy and well integrated, approximately 4 minutes.

2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar and salt. To start, mix on low until most of the powdered sugar is integrated and then mix on high for about 1 minute.

3. Add the coconut and vanilla extracts then whip one last time. Taste to make sure flavor is correct. Add up to one more teaspoon of coconut to get clear coconut flavor correct.

4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps well covered for over a week. If the frosting is stiff, simply let warm up to room temperature or for quicker recovery simply beat for about 30 seconds on high with your mixer.

5. Frost cupcakes and then top with a generous amount of coconut. Coconut adds both flavor and hides any flaws in frosting.

6. Tip: When frosting using just a spatula or palate knife, add all the frosting you are going to need in one dollop. Then place the spatula at an angle and turn the cupcake without lifting your knife. Scrape the excess off your spatula. The key is to add more frosting than you think at the start and not to lift your knife. If you do, you’ll start pulling up cake and it won’t be smooth.

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‘nilla wafer puddin’: so good, it’s scary

October 30, 2008

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It isn’t right to torment your husband.

I know this, and yet, when it comes to Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding (‘nilla wafer puddin’ for short), I can’t help myself. It’s just so good.

Yes, my husband has had months of professional French-style culinary training. Yes, he can braise, glaze and flam-baze with the best of them. But when it comes to old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs, lick the spoon, go for third-helpings kind of deliciousness, this clip-from-the-back-of-the-box recipe still takes the cake (er, pudding).

It is a crowd pleaser. Everybody loves it. Everybody comments on it. Everybody wants the recipe. Everybody goes back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths, until finally you come upon a guest surreptitiously running his finger along the rim of the empty bowl and making satisfied sucking sounds until said bowl is forcibly removed from his hands.

It’s that good, people.

Now my husband grumps, and moans, and bellyaches about that “darn ‘nilla wafer puddin.” But he makes it, and then begrudgingly laps up the accompanying praise and glory.

But let’s be honest. I do the work here, people. I am the one who flatters, badgers and goads until the husband ponies up the delicious homemade vanilla pudding. And then I am the one who lovingly assembles the whole concoction into a thing of beauty. Yes, I — the wife — make the whip cream, cut up the bananas and lovingly stack the Nilla wafers into a towering trifle of dessert deliciousness.

That’s right: Don’t believe the husband, he’s not the ‘nilla wafer puddin’ martyr he’d have you believe.

But you can believe one thing: This Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding is really that good. It’s totally worth tormenting your husband for. Enjoy it! And Happy Halloween!

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And now, the husband’s take…

I hate this recipe. No, actually, I don’t really HATE this recipe. It’s just that I don’t get it. I think it’s a good recipe. I really like what it makes. But… well… despite culinary school, despite all the cool techniques, despite my growing knowledge of food, this very simple recipe is the one I’m asked for the most.

I get emails from family members saying, “I’ve looked everywhere on the blog, but can’t find it.” I get calls asking for it. My wife even has a slightly obnoxious chant she does when she wants me to make it, and I’m quite certain my 19 month old is going to start joining her any day now. I’m pretty much obligated to make this for every family gathering or to bring it to any social gathering where you are expected to provide a dish. Because of this demand, I’m putting it up to share.

Finally, I appreciate this recipe is most associated with summer and childhood. But, honestly, its perfect for tomorrow if you are having a party. This recipe can easily serve 12 very hungry folks and I suspect even more of the smaller guys. It keeps well if you refrigerate it. It’s actually better if you make it the day before as the flavors of the banana spread around and the cookies absorb the liquid and get a more cake-like consistency. So, Happy Halloween and enjoy! Just don’t ask me for the recipe later.

Click here for the recipe for ‘Nilla Wafer Pudding.

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Banana & Vanilla Wafer Pudding
Ingredients:
1/2 box Nilla wafers
5 bananas
Vanilla pudding (recipe below)
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Make and cool the pudding according to the directions below.

2. Just before starting construction, use a mixer (preferably hand or stand) and whip together the heavy cream, vanilla, salt and sugar until you see stiff peaks. Set aside. (How do you know when you’ve achieved stiff peaks? When you can turn the whisk upside down and the peak of mount whipped cream stays pointy.)

3. Slice the bananas about a quarter inch thick.

4. Layer the dish as follows: Pudding, wafers, whip cream, bananas.

5. This is best done the day before serving, but is still good if made several hours before serving. The goal is to have the pudding — with all its fat — pick up the flavors from the banana, and for the wafers to soften when sandwiched between the liquids.

6. Refrigerate when done. Serve cold.

Vanilla Pudding
Ingredients:
6 cups milk
3/4 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Take 1 cup of milk and add to the starch. Whisk until dissolved. It should have the consistency of heavy cream. Set aside.

2. Combine the remaining milk, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

Note: You can use a whole vanilla bean. If you wish to use one, slice in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean now while warming. Also, remember this is milk boiling, do not walk away from it. It will overflow and cause a mess if left unwatched.

3. Turn heat to medium. While whisking consistently, add the slurry of milk and corn starch.

4. Temper the egg yolks. Do this by ladling in some of the hot liquid into a bowl containing the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will slowly warm the yolks and prevent them from curdling when you add them to the hot liquid. Add the tempered egg yolks to the milk mixture.

5. Continue to whisk regularly while the mixture begins to heat up. It should start to thicken as it approaches a boil.

6. Once thick, pour into a second container and cool. You can place this in the fridge and let cool for a couple hours. Or you can set up an ice bath by placing a bowl inside another bowl of equal parts ice and water, then whisk the pudding until cool. Add the vanilla extract once it’s no longer hot.

Note: If using a vanilla bean, remove the bean’s shell at this point.

7. Refrigerate until ready to use. If the pudding is stiff when you remove it from the refrigerator, simply whip it for about 30 seconds with a hand or stand mixer. It should smooth out quickly, and be easy to pour.

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It hurts so good: Toothachingly sweet Uneven Pavement ice cream

June 11, 2007

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Ice cream just got a little more dangerous.

We already know that it’s hazardous for your waist line, and that it can result in some wicked brain freeze headaches. Now, it’s after your teeth.

No, I don’t mean that ice cream causes cavities. (I’m sure that it does that, too.) I mean that the ice cream that my husband has just concocted is so sweet that it will literally make your teeth ache.

“What is this treacherous ice cream,” you ask, “and, um, where can I get some?” Right here, friends. Its name is “Uneven Pavement,” and it is a sweeter and, dare I say, more sophisticated cousin to Rocky Road.

First, it calls upon that underutilized nut of nuts — the cashew — in its sweet and creamy base. Second, it harnesses chunks of carmelized toffee goodness to assault your taste buds. Finally, in its coup de grace, it seduces you with homemade marshamallow fluff laced throughout.

Resistance is futile. Your teeth may not thank you. Your waist line may not thank you. Your frozen sinuses may not thank you. But you’ll be grateful nonetheless.

And the ice cream replies, “Your welcome. Sucker.”

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Backgrounder…
Sometimes you just want to be a kid again. I think that is really the lesson of Vermont’s hippie-capitalists and ice cream moguls Ben & Jerry. And when it comes to ice cream flavors, pretty much the sky is the limit — fans of the original Iron Chef will remember Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto’s squid ink ice cream as proof of this rule.

I’ve become even more daring in my ice cream-making, trying to find new ways to bring complexity. I’ve done chips. I’ve done nuts. I’ve done fruit. But after hearing my wife wax poetic about her craving for a childhood favorite, Rocky Road, I decided I would try marshmallows.

No, I wasn’t willing to settle for store-bought little marshmallows. I wanted veins of precious white marshmallow fluff running through the heart of my ice cream. I wanted the taster to discover strands of marshmallow sticking to the roof of her mouth. And I wouldn’t settle for the jarred fluff. No, sir. I looked up the recipe for making my own.

The result was a riff on my wife’s memories. By replacing the traditional walnuts with delicious cashews and chocolate with toffee, we developed a tooth-achingly sweet flavor called, “Uneven Pavement.” It’s rich, nutty, sweet and delicious. Place it on a cone and you’ll get the urge to be bike riding through the neighborhood again.

Before I go, there are a few tricks when it comes to the marshmallow fluff. I used a pasteurized egg white. Since it doesn’t get heated, I would recommend doing that. You can find them in the dairy section or just buy pasteurized eggs and separate.

Next, even if you don’t make your own fluff, the key is to add the marshmallow after you’ve churned the ice cream and have given it a chance to set up. I tried adding it early in my initial batches, and the marshmallow just integrated into the ice cream. It was tasty, but not the effect I was going for. So, wait as long as possible before you add the marshmallow.

Finally, I didn’t know how to make fluff before I started this recipe. I like to make sure I credit other recipes when I use them. I simply paired down a recipe I saw elsewhere. You can find the original version here.

Click here to download the recipe for Uneven Pavement.

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Uneven Pavement Ice Cream
Cashew Ice Cream
Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup salted, roasted cashews (crushed/chopped)
1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews (whole or halves)
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Toffee chips
Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. corn syrup
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Marshmallow fluff
Ingredients:
1 egg white (or equivalent egg substitute)
2/3 cup corn syrup
2/3 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
Making the base of the ice cream
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the egg yolks. Set this aside. Preferably over a double boiler, combine cream, milk, chopped cashews and salt. Whisk regularly until the temperature reaches 140F.

2. Once the liquid reaches temperature, it is time to temper the egg/sugar mixture. Slowly add about half of your hot cream mixture to the eggs and sugar, while whisking vigorously. Next, add the tempered egg mixture back to the original milk and cream and continue to whisk. Heat until the liquid coats the back of a spoon evenly or reaches 165F. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and immediately transfer to a container to cool down. Either cover and refrigerate overnight (preferred) or place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours until very cool.

Making the toffee:
3. Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper or a silpat. Next, in a small pot or saucier, melt the butter over medium high heat. Once the butter has stopped frothing, add sugar, corn syrup and water. Gently stir using a wooden spoon or heat resistant silicon spatula until the mixture reaches 300F. This is the “hard crack” stage and is typified by very small bubbles and a lava-like consistency. At this point, it is very dangerous if it spills on you, so be careful. Once it has reached this temperature, which should not take long given the small amount of liquids, quickly add the vanilla, stir in, and then pour out onto your lined sheet pan. Gently smooth the surface and then set aside to cool for 15 min. Once cool, break into pieces you feel is suitable for ice cream.

Churning the ice cream:
4. Following your ice cream maker’s instructions, churn the ice cream while adding the whole cashews and toffee pieces as soon as possible. Once completed, place in a covered container to set up in the freezer.

Making marshmallow veins:
5. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, whisk together all the ingredients. The mix should come together quickly and resemble something similar to marshmallow fluff. After the ice cream has set in the freezer for approximately an hour — it should be firmer but not stiff — gently fold in as much of the marshmallow mix is you desire. Return to freezer and let harden for at least another 3 hours. Once the ice cream is finally set, enjoy!

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All good berries go to heaven — others go into blackberry ice cream

May 28, 2007

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As a lover of berries, I wholeheartedly endorse eating them as God and nature intended: straight off the bush… or out of your grocer’s green quart container. And I’m a true believer: I regularly gorge myself on whole cartons of berries — and cherries, now in season! — minutes after they enter my house.

Blueberry-purple tongue? No problem. Strawberry seeds in my teeth? Who cares? Cherry juice stains on my blouse? My drycleaner loves ’em.

But, sadly, sometimes a berry-buying frenzy can result in berry casualties. That’s right: You see all those gorgeous gems stacked into sparkling pyramids in the produce department, and you can’t help yourself… you overbuy. Some berries get shoved to the back of the fridge, forgotten. Perhaps some go uneaten when you leave town for a few days. Or perhaps some were just slightly too ripe when purchased. In any case, sometimes berries go past their prime — and, shockingly, sadly, are no longer fit to consume unadulterated.

That’s where my husband’s ice cream machine comes in.

Ice cream is the perfect resting place for berries otherwise destined for the boneyard. Softened by time and ready to relinquish their luscious juices, overripe berries partner perfectly with a little cream, sugar and cold freezer air. Sure, they’re no longer as sweet or sunkissed as they once were. Yes, they have undesireable blemishes and their skin gives a little too easily. But none of these things matter when they come into contact with blissfully sweet cream.

Yes, friends, you can ressurect those past-their-prime berries. Don’t toss them into the garbage… toss them into ice cream, man.

Click here to download the recipe for Blackberry Ice Cream.

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Backgrounder…
With Memorial Day now here, we can officially (in a non-official capacity since June 21 still has that whole cosmological argument) say that summer is here. From a kitchen standpoint, this is awesome. Let’s be honest — as cooks, there are two great benefits:

First, the kitchen can be closed. Things are fresh. You can create a lot of delicious dishes with just a knife and a bowl. Furthermore, you can cook outdoors — bringing in those incalculable benefits of charring and burning things over flames.

Second, everything is in season. Most fruits tend to be fresh and local for a brief period. The number and colors of ingredients explode. Pretty much everything tastes better for the next 20 or so weeks until the last of the apples start to make their way off the trees.

This recipe is an homage to one of those ingredients that is starting its brief but vibrant trip into freshness — the blackberry. While I’d recommend you eat as many of these while you can, this is a great use for those that you start to see go wrong before you can get them out fresh. Also, feel free to substitute the frozen variety.

Finally, I feel the best part of this recipe is that it is a combination of flavors I really enjoy. It is sweet, tart, tangy and smooth. It has a refreshing character that makes it great for an evening summer meal — and there are a number of those ahead.

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Blackberry Ice Cream
Ingredients:
1 quart blackberries
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Juice of 1 lime

3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Add the yolks and sugar to a medium-size bowl. Whisk together and then set aside.

2. Using a double boiler — or, less ideally, a medium-size pot — over medium-low heat, add the milk, cream, blackberries and salt. Regularly whisk the mixture, heating until the temperature reaches approximately 145F. The mixture should begin to turn purple.

3. Once the cream mixture has reached the desired temperature, slowly add about half of the mixture to the eggs and sugar while whisking vigorously. This will prevent the eggs from curdling. Once the eggs and cream have been thoroughly integrated, pour back the egg mix into the remaining cream.

4. Whisk constantly and slowly as the mix rises in temperature. Once the temperature has reached 165-170F — or when the mix evenly coats the back of a spoon — remove from heat and add the lime juice and vanilla. Whisk them in completely and move to a new container to cool. The mix can be placed in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours or, preferably, into the refrigerator overnight.

5. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. After churning, place in freezer to firm up. I recommend placing a seal of plastic wrap tight against the ice cream after making it to prevent a skin from forming on the ice cream’s surface. Serve once firm enough. Enjoy!

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What’s a birthday without cupcakes? Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

March 18, 2007

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I’m happy to write this solo as my wife is currently recovering from the birth of our son. This morning, my wife gave birth to our son, Jack. As he was breached and came to us two weeks early via cesarean, Jack weighs in at a peanut sized 6 lbs 6 oz. The wife is recovering and we will be back to our thing very soon, including the wife commenting on desserts. So to prevent this being self-absorbed, and bragging about how awesome my son is (I mean my son is awesome, just look at the little pink blob), I want to provide you with a recipe.

Before Jack was born all I could think about is the types of things I’ll need to do as dad. When cooking one day, I thought cupcakes. There is perhaps no more ‘hip food’ then cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery, Ina Gartnen (a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa), and many others have made their names on making cupcakes. Heck there are great cupcake blogs out there like Cupcake Bakeshop and 52 cupcakes. So, while I have no skill in this area like these folks, I know parenthood means birthdays, and childhood birthdays mean cupcakes.

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So I give you my first foray into this childhood delight in honor of this happy birthday for us—Jack’s Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. While I know he’s on a strictly liquid diet for the next several months, and therefore cannot comment, this was inspired by my wife’s insatiable appetite for blueberries. At one point, my wife was eating enough blueberries I felt like I may end up mimicking Violet Beauregard’s father from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, “I can’t have a blueberry for a daughter!!”

Luckily, fate spared me a little blueberry tinted son. But before he was even born, I was experimenting with combining my wife’s favorites with the fresh, delicious taste of meyer lemons. The topper, and apparently best feature when I was testing these on my wife’s coworkers, was the meyer lemon cream cheese icing. It is tangy, sweet, rich and smooth, perfect for the muffin-like yellow cake.

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Finally, we were terribly excited for his arrival. Jack is going to change everything. Knowing this, the recipe was prepared in advance so we have no comments from him. Hopefully, he’ll feel free to tell his old man soon enough what he thinks (or maybe I don’t want to know). We’ll be back later this week as we start our adjustments from a duo to a trio.

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Click here to download the recipe for Jack’s Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Cupcakes.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Hay Donna, do I get a merit badge? Coconut cheesecake (featuring Girl Scout cookie crust)

March 5, 2007

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Alright… So this is, hopefully, the last of my super-sweet torture devices for my beloved pregnant wife. In fact, my wife, who cannot eat sweets until our son is born, gave me the OK and was even my prime consultant on this recipe. The brilliant crust was all her concept…. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This recipe was built on the confluence of inspiration and necessity. Last week, my wife came home with boxes of Girl Scout cookies. She’d ordered them before the doctor issued his ban on sweets. Normally, an excess of Girl Scout cookies wouldn’t be such a bad thing — heck, it really wasn’t a bad thing, except that they were now my Girl Scout cookies. Sure, I like Girl Scout cookies as much as the next guy — but I can’t go through more than a few boxes without starting to feel guilt and pressure (from my belt).

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So my wife suggested that I make something with them. A pie crust perhaps? Some other sort of dessert? At first, I scoffed at the idea. (I imagine there is already a special merit badge out there for the Girl Scout who comes up with the most creative way to use the cookies. Picture some 12-year-old earning her stripes by building a thin mint fallout shelter somewhere in the mountains. How could I compete? And, more important, would I get a badge?) But my mindset shifted when it became clear that I need to get rid of these cookies.

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Then I discovered that this month’s Hay Hay It’s Donna Day, being hosted by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, was cheesecake. This, combined with a dinner party we had this weekend, created a compelling purpose for these cookies: I would feed the masses with a beautiful and tropical cheesecake.

So, once again, this isn’t really a torture device for my long-suffering wife. I mean, it was her idea after all. Wasn’t it?

Finally, I want to ask a technical question of you fellow cheescake lovers. I am using a water bath for my cheesecake. I’ve always preferred this method, because I think the texture is better and believe that having an uncracked top is always a goal. But I’m curious what you do.

… So, to water bath or not to water bath?

Click here to download the recipe for Coconut Cheesecake.

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