Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fresh Apricot Ice Cream and Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Now that it's summer and there is easy access to fresh fruit, I am taking advantage of being able to put my copy of The Perfect Scoop to good use, especially to make ice creams that are slightly less standard and are harder to find in the freezer section of the supermarket. I had already experimented successfully with roasted banana and strawberry-sour cream ice creams, and now that one of my favorite fruits, apricot, is available for a reasonable price at the local Whole Foods, it was time to try out the fresh apricot ice cream recipe that I'd had my eye on since I first got the book and ice cream maker for my birthday in February. I was going to also make vanilla frozen yogurt, since it's almost embarrassingly easy to make and tastes really good, but decided at the last moment to make it a little bit more complicated and make strawberry frozen yogurt instead.

My verdict was that the fresh apricot ice cream was an unquestionable success, but that I preferred the strawberry-sour cream ice cream to the strawberry frozen yogurt, which was too sweet for my taste (next time I'll consider reducing the sugar amount to half a cup). Mihai, however, liked both just fine.

(Fresh apricot ice cream in the making - at this point, Mihai asked if we could just eat that. It was tempting, but I am glad we waited to eat the actual ice cream.)

Fresh Apricot Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 lb ripe fresh apricots (10-16, depending on size - definitely no more than 10 if they are on the large side)
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
a few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Slice open the apricots and remove the pits, then cut each apricot into sixths.

2. Cook the apricot pieces with the water in a covered saucepan over medium heat until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Once cool, purée the apricots and their liquid in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in the cream and lemon juice.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
⅔ cup sugar
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

2. Purée the strawberries and their liquid with the yogurt and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until smooth.

3. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blueberry Boy Bait

One of my good friends from school and her new husband were hosting a barbeque this weekend and I asked if I could bring a dessert - it was self-serving, really, since it's always more fun to bake for a party. Since summer has finally come to Boston (and it turned out to be 80+ degrees the day of the event), I wanted to make something seasonal, ideally with berries of some sort. Luckily, Smitten Kitchen posted about an amazing-sounding blueberry dessert just two weeks ago, so I didn't even have to search through the hundreds of recipes tagged "dessert" in my Reader.

Since I was asked at the barbeque about the unusual dessert name, I decided to be better prepared for this blog post and actually looked it up. According to the first hit on Google:

"In 1954, a 15-year-old girl won second prize in the junior division of a Pillsbury baking contest with a moist and tender blueberry cake that was named after the effect it had on teenage boys--one bite and they were hooked. Topped with cinnamon-sugar and loaded with blueberries, it straddled the divide between coffee cake and dessert cake."

As Deb mentions on Smitten Kitchen, Cook's Illustrated updated the recipe for the modern times, which is a very good thing, since the original recipe called for shortening, and I have yet to bring myself to use it in anything. In any case, I'd say the blueberry boy bait was quite a success at the barbeque, and when we tried it to make sure it tasted OK before packing it to go, we couldn't help but leave a couple of extra pieces at home for consumption later.

[Note: all the credit for the photos in this blog post goes to Mihai, since I was too busy carefully transferring the boy bait (more on that below) into a sturdy container for transportation to our friends' house.]

Blueberry Boy Bait
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the batter:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first)

For the topping:

½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13x9-inch baking pan. (I spaced out and forgot to flour the pan, which would probably have been a problem had I decided to turn out the cake in the final step, but since I don't have a cooling rack and a large plate would still have been way too small for the upside-down-cake, I just cut it inside the pan and carefully transferred the pieces into the container I was using to transport the cake to the barbeque. So it wasn't a complete disaster like I had feared after all.)

2. Mix two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

3. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl.

4. Reduce speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of the milk. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.

5. Using a spatula, gently fold in ½ cup of the blueberries. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

6. Scatter the other ½ cup of the blueberries over the top of the batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over the batter.

7. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter, topping side up. (Or as mentioned above, you can cut it directly in the pan.) Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mixed Lettuces with Edamame, Strawberries, and Pinenuts

Even though I've been reading food blogs for quite a while now, it's always nice when I discover another good new-to-me blog. I don't remember how I stumbled across A Crafty Lass a little while ago, but I have to say that she is definitely a winner. Mihai also deserves credit for suggesting we try the salad above while browsing through my Reader starred items - I'd forgotten having starred it and it would have been a shame to miss it. It's definitely another full-meal delicious salad. (It feels a bit silly posting a two-step recipe, but we did adapt it a bit from the original, since we don't love pistachios as much as we love pinenuts and since we didn't have some other more exotic ingredients on hand.)

Mixed Lettuces with Edamame, Strawberries, and Pinenuts
Adapted from A Crafty Lass

For the salad:

⅓ of a head of red leaf lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
⅓ of a head of butter lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup of shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame (once shelled, start with ½ of a bag frozen)
6-7 strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
a handful of pinenuts

For the vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
a few grinds of black pepper

1. Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until mixed well.

2. Toss all of the salad ingredients together with the dressing and serve immediately.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Breakfast at Wimbledon Scones

The one unfortunate aspect of Wimbledon is that the matches are played during the day London-time, which means that watching most of the tournament is difficult/impossible when you are working. The whole process of following the tournament ends up being very different from what I experienced when I was 13, when my Mom and I spent two weeks with our then puppy Winnie on the shore of a small lake in the Adirondacks. The cottage we rented was in the middle of nowhere at the northern edge of the region - it took at least 20 minutes to drive to the nearest town where the grocery store was. The TV in the house received only the 3 network channels, but that turned out to be enough because NBC was showing all of the glorious 1995 Wimbledon. (Now that I think of it, either I am remembering incorrectly about only having 3 channels there, or NBC lost its interest in tennis in the intervening years, since most of the tournament is shown on ESPN2 nowadays.)

Basically, what I most remember about that summer is doing lots of swimming, being frightened half to death when Winnie decided to jump out of the boat I was rowing in the middle of the lake (she had never swam anywhere at that point so I wasn't sure she would know how), forcing myself to get through David Copperfield (summer reading), enjoying the unbelievably creamy cheesecake sold at the gas station/deli half-way to town, and rooting for Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf as they worked their way toward their Wimbledon crowns (3rd of 7 for Pete and 6th of 7 for Steffi). It's very possible that experience of watching my first Wimbledon is responsible for the fact that I have yet to admire any other male or female player as much as I do Pete and Steffi.

This year, since I was fortunate enough to get a summer internship despite the less-than-stellar economy, my Wimbledon watching was restricted to men's semifinals (thanks to Friday, July 3 being a holiday) and finals, and ladies' finals. I was visiting my parents for the long July 4th weekend, and since one of my best friends from high school was also temporarily home, we decided to watch the Williams sisters battle it out together during Saturday's Breakfast at Wimbledon. Since Claire and her parents were generously having Mihai and me over at 9 in the morning on a Saturday, I thought it would be nice to bring something to enjoy while we watched the sisters go at it for the 4th time. Deb's North Fork scones seemed to fit the occasion well, and I thought making them with strawberries would be particularly appropriate for the season and the British tennis tournament.

Breakfast at Wimbledon Scones
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar*
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 oz butter
1 cup strawberries or other fresh fruit, chopped (or 1 cup golden raisins)
¾ sour cream
½ cup milk**

* I will probably use more next time, since my Mom thought these could be sweeter.
** The original recipe called for buttermilk, but I didn't get a chance to buy any and didn't feel like making some, since my Mom said sour cream was an acceptable, if not a superior, substitute. The sour cream did mean that there was a bit less liquid in the recipe compared to the original, which is why I added approximately half a cup of milk until the dough came together.

1. Preheat oven to 375° and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix together the dry ingredients until they are well combined.

3. Use the "rough holes" side of a box grater to grate the cold butter straight into the flour mixture, stopping a few times to incorporate the butter shreds into the flour.

(Deb's recipe called for mixing the butter and the flour mixture together with a food processor, but since I was making these early in the morning and didn't want to make too much noise, I went with my usual method getting the cold butter pieces mixed into the dry ingredients - normally, using a regular-sized food processor is not even an option since we don't have one in our kitchen.)

4. Add the sour cream and enough milk to make the dough come together, then mix in the strawberries (or other fruit). Make sure not to over-mix.

5. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a couple times. Roll dough out to approximately one-inch thickness (you can skip the rolling pin and just pat it out with floured hands like Deb and I did) and cut into squares. Cut those squares again on the diagonal, creating triangles.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.