Chocolate Non-Dairy Gelato

Gelato

This is for all my non-dairy eating, vegan, ice cream addict friends. Thanks to this easy recipe, you can all enjoy the same creamy deliciousness you crave. You’re welcome.

Ingredients
2 Cups almond milk
2 Cups French vanilla creamer
1/2 Cup sweetener (honey, sugar)
1 Vanilla Bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2-3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 Ounces dark chocolate bar, (such as Ghirardelli 86% cacao) chopped

Directions
1. Put almond milk and French vanilla creamer into a medium-size saucepan and whisk in the sweetener.
2. Slice the vanilla bean in half to extract the seeds from inside. Place the seeds and the pod into the saucepan.
3. Place the mixture on a medium heat and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat, and extract around 1/4 cup from the pan. Mix this with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Then mix that back into the pan, and whisk it to infuse. Cover, and allow the mixture to sit for twenty minutes.
5. Cool the mixture until cold. Remove vanilla bean.
6. Churn mixture in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes.
7. Add 3-4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and dark chocolate, chopped. Churn for an additional 5 minutes.
8. Freeze for several hours before serving.

You can delete the chocolate additions and add anything your heart desires. Fresh berries would be good! Enjoy!

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Thankful for Pie

With great honor, I am the elected family pie baker. And with Thanksgiving just days away, I’m on the hunt for my 2014 creations. Pumpkin is off the list this year, due to the simple fact that the ‘pumpkin spice everything’ craze has left me cold and nauseous.

Following are a few favorites being considered to grace the Thanksgiving table this year (I need to choose two):

French Apple Tart…

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Chocolate Pecan…

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Mississippi Mud…

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Lemon…

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Chocolate Cream…

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What’s your favorite pie?

Where have you been all my life?

Homemade pies

I’m pretty sure this is the best dessert I’ve ever made! I’m really excited to share it with you! I actually made two new-to-me desserts over Thanksgiving. The second one was a sweet potato pie. Both pies were good, but this Pear-Almond Tart turned out especially fabulous!

French Pear and Almond Tart

It’s a bit time consuming to make, but once you’ve tickled your taste buds with its deliciousness, you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.

Slice of pie

Start with a base pastry that is sturdy enough to cradle the almond filling and poached pears, yet light and flaky so it melts in your mouth. The recipe I used is from Martha Stewart, but there are steps you’ll need to take to make sure the baked crust is perfect, so read through all the recipes that follow carefully.

Start with the freshest, best ingredients. A food processor comes in very handy for the crust, but it can be done by hand too if you’re feeling energetic, or you don’t own one.

Basic Pie Crust (You will be pre-baking this – don’t worry I’ll tell you exactly how to do this)
(this makes a base for one 9 inch tart)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1/4-1/3 cup ice water

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for just a few seconds. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds, or until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Add ice water a little bit at a time, and run the processor until the dough holds together, but not for more than 30 seconds. If the dough is still crumbly, add a little more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press the dough into a flat circle. Wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Remove the chilled dough and let it rest for a few minutes. Roll it out so that it’s large enough, with a few inches of overhang, to fit a 9″ tart pan (that’s the one with straight fluted sides). Cut off extra dough so that it is just to the top edge. Freeze the crust for at least a half hour, until chilled. This is an important step in pre-baking. Otherwise the crust will slip down the sides.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. When the pie crust is sufficiently chilled, line the pie crust with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Fill at least two-thirds full with pie weights – dry beans, rice, or stainless-steel pie weights. Bake with weights for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool a few minutes and carefully remove pie weights. Poke small holes in the bottom of the pie crust with a fork and return to oven (without the weights) and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust is golden. Cool completely before filling. You may need to tent the edges of the pie with aluminum foil when you bake your pie, to keep the edges from getting too dried out and burnt.

Now that you have a perfectly baked tart shell, you can proceed to the filling part.

Step 1 of the filling:

Poached Pears

1 quart water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 Bosc pears; peeled, cored, and quartered
Additions: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices
1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add any of the additions that you wish.
2. Slide in the pears and cover with a round of parchment paper, with a small hole cut in the center.
3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the pears.
4. Remove from heat and let the pears cool in their liquid.
Optional: After poaching the pears, while the liquid is still warm, add approximately 1/4 cup dried sour cherries, cranberries, raisins, or dried currants and let them plump.
Store the pears in their liquid in the refrigerator, in a covered container, until ready to use. Remove the pears from the refrigerator a few hours prior to serving, and re-warm them gently in the liquid, if you wish. The pears will keep for up to 5 days.

Now, lets put it all together…

Pear-Almond Tart
Recipe from David Lebovitz
8 servings

NOTE: If your almond paste isn’t very fragrant with the smell of almonds, add a drop or two of pure almond extract to the filling. You don’t want to dump a spoonful in, which would overwhelm the pears, but a tiny bit highlights the almond flavors. You can use canned pear halves packed in light syrup, and drain them well, in place of the poached pears, if you wish.

6 ounces almond paste (this is sold in most grocery stores, just make sure you pick up the one without sugar added)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons flour
3 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, cubed, at room temperature
1 large egg, plus one egg white, at room temperature
a few drops almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons rum, Calvados, or kirsch

3 poached pears, cored, drained and blotted dry, then cut into 1/2-inch slices
One pre-baked 9-inch tart shell, at room temperature (see above)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Set the pre-baked tart shell on a baking sheet.
2. In a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the almond paste with the sugar and flour, until smooth. Some almond pastes may be drier than others. If yours is dry, just mix until the almond paste is finely-broken up.
3. Gradually beat in the butter, until smooth, then beat in the egg and the egg white, the almond extract, and the liquor.
4. Spread the almond filling evenly over the tart shell
5. Fan the pears out evenly over the almond filling, then press them in slightly.
6. Bake the tart for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the almond filling between the pears has browned.
7. Cool slightly before serving, or serve at room temperature.

Oh yeah, the little pitcher nearby in my image is a bit of the sauce from poaching the pears. Just before serving the tart, reduce the juices by boiling for a few minutes in a pan and serve alongside. Pour a little, or a lot of it onto the tart… ooh and ahh over your masterpiece! Celebrate the happiness of your tastebuds!

I scream, you scream…

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…for bizarre flavored ice cream!

I’m not sure exactly when so many wacky ice cream flavors emerged as a trendy business model, but I first became aware of these when a friend gave me a copy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Some of Jeni’s flavors sound intriguing… Salty Caramel, Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry, Butter with Honey Hickory Pralines.

Others just sound wrong… Celery with Candied Ginger and Rum-Plumped Golden Raisins! Beet with Mascarpone Orange Zest and Poppy Seeds!

When the ice cream shop, Salt and Straw, turned up on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland, I joined many others in a long line for the taste experience. What sets them apart from your typical ice cream shop are their quirky, outside the box flavors that are made with local and organic ingredients. Flavors such as: Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero, Raspberry Lemon Basil Sorbet, Pear with Bleu Cheese, and one they claimed is Oprah’s favorite, Arbequina Olive Oil. Once inside the small, retro-chic shop, customers wind through displays of vintage ice cream makers and supplies before arriving near the counter, where you are encouraged to sample before plunging into a full order. There really is no problem finding something incredible to suit your taste. Most of the flavors meld together much better than you’d expect.

Which brings me to this creamy, dreamy Strawberry/Basil delight I made a few weeks ago, but then I really couldn’t go wrong with these fabulous ingredients from my own garden… Oregon Hood strawberries, basil, and fresh eggs. You can regulate the basil flavor by soaking the leaves in the heated mixture more or less time. Personally, I loved the combination, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

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Custom flavor creations are endless! Stick with a basic recipe, and add ingredients you like to create your own new favorites.

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream
This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s formula for creating your own ice cream flavors.
Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Table salt
1 cup tightly packed, coarsely torn basil leaves
5 large egg yolks
1 lb. fresh or frozen strawberries, trimmed
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 Tablespoons vodka (this was a suggestion from my friend Cathy at Wives with Knives) it keeps the fruit from becoming ice crystals in your otherwise creamy dessert.
Directions:
• In the bowl of a food processor, add washed, trimmed strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1-2 Tablespoons vodka and puree and set aside.

• In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.

• Stir in the basil leaves. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Taste and let sit longer if you want a stronger basil flavor.

• Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1-1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl (this helps the custard cool quicker when you pour it in later). Set a fine strainer on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.

• Rewarm the cream mixture over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

• Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the spatula and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4 to 8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 175° to 180°F at this point. Don’t let the sauce overheat or boil, or it will curdle.  Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath. Press firmly on the basil leaves in the strainer with the spatula to extract as much flavor as possible.

• Cool the custard to below 70°F by stirring it over the ice bath. Stir the strawberry puree into the cooled custard.

NOTE: Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the just-churned ice cream to an air-tight container, and freeze for at least 4 hours or up to 2 weeks.

A few other flavors from my collection…

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Tell me… what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Mini Cherry Pies

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Projects from last weekend included creating some new portable food photography surfaces. Finding the tongue and groove boards I had my heart set on proved way more challenging than expected, but once I’d gathered all the materials, putting these together was relatively easy. I won’t bore you with the details in this post, because I have way more interesting things to share. Smaller, but much more significant things to share…

…such as these cutie patootie little pies!

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I’ve seen these around the internet, on Pinterest and on a few blogs, but could not find a complete recipe for them, so I did some research and adapted my own version. I did not expect to have so much fun making these little things. Putting these together took me back to childhood days and an Easy Bake oven, (without the part where I wonder why they won’t bake from the warmth of a light bulb).

The first thing you’ll need to do is remove the pits from about 4 cups of fresh cherries. Don’t let this seemingly daunting task discourage you. I’m sure there are many kitchen gadgets on the market that make this really easy, but since I had already done my share of running around town in search of supplies related to the creation of photography surfaces (the ones I’m not going to bore you with right now), I wanted to use what I had. Here’s the method I used:

How To Pit Cherries

1. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on the bottom of the cherry.

2. Make sure your cuts go all the way down to the pit.

3. Flip the cherry over and hold it firmly in your hand. Grab a chopstick and insert it into the top of the cherry (where the stem was), and push the pit out through the cut end.

4. The pit should pop right out. So satisfying! And fun!

I’m filing this under ‘Things my Grandmother never told me’.

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For the dough, I used a slight adaptation of the basic pie dough recipe in Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts, circa 1985. I’ve used this for many tart bases over the years, and it always creates a flaky, delicious crust that never disappoints. It’s slightly sweet, buttery and firm enough to hold up well in desserts that stand up unaided in their shells, such as tarts and small pies.

I found that this plastic container top (around 6 inches), which was a good size for the bottom crusts. The dough should have a bit of an overhang after it’s pushed down into the wells of a cupcake pan. A slightly smaller biscuit cutter worked well for the top dough.

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After the cherries were pitted, I cut them in half and placed them into a large bowl. In a small bowl, I measured out about 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and mixed them well. Then I squeezed some fresh lemon juice onto the cherries, and combined the sugar mixture and cherries together and let the ingredients mingle for a few minutes before scooping the cherry filling into 10 pie shell bottoms.

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The real fun starts when you get to cut and decorate the tops. My favorites were the lattice tops. I also used mini dough cutters in various shapes to cut out hearts and stars. My daughter is not a fan of cherries, so she made her own peach mini-pie. You could use blueberries, blackberries, apples, or any other favorite filling. I’m thinking nearly any recipe for a 9″ pie would could work divided between the 10 little pie shells.

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THE RECIPES:

Mini Cherry Pies
Makes 10

Ingredients

One Pate Brisee recipe (see below), Chilled
4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg for egg wash (beaten with a pinch of salt)
Additional sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Remove a disc of chilled dough from the fridge, roll out, and use a 5-inch circular cutter to cut out 10 circles. Press the dough circles into the wells of cupcake pans and allow the access dough to hang slightly over the top.

Place the pitted, halved cherries into a bowl and squeeze 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice over the top and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon, then blend with the cherries until the pieces are evenly coated. Allow this mixture to sit and create juices for a few minutes before distributing it between 10 pie shells.

Remove the second disc from the fridge and cut tops and shapes out and place them over the mini pies. Crimp edges. If your designs don’t include cutouts, make sure to cut a few slits on top so the filling can vent. Chill the pies at this point for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to start cleaning up the giant mess your kitchen has become.

Preheat oven to 425°F. When you are ready to bake, brush tops of the pies with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325°F and bake another 10 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is a golden brown.

Cool the pans on a rack before removing pies. I carefully removed the pies while they were still warm since the filling bubbled up over the top a bit. I didn’t want the pies to stick. Go around the edges with a butter knife first and the pies should pop right out with a little gentle twist.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you need to reheat them, about 20-30 seconds on high in the microwave works well. Warm pie. Cold ice cream. It doesn’t get much better!

Pate Brisee (Basic Pie Crust)
adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe
Makes 10 double crust mini cupcake sized pies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions

Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds just to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for longer than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into two. Place each half onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using.

Chocolate Pie

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This is one of the first cream pies I’ve ever made. Unless I count the grasshopper pie from high school home economics. Gasp!

Depending on what’s in season, my favorites are blueberry, strawberry, peach, and pecan. But today, because chocolate is always in season, and there’s a very long week of have-to’s — hours of driving my daughter to school and dance classes, work, meetings, cooking dinners, washing dishes, doing laundry and dog walking — a chocolate cream pie is chilling in the fridge to keep us happy.

Remember, dark chocolate is a superfood! Have you thought of having cocoa-enriched chocolate pie as part of a healthy skin routine? According to Medical News Today, German researchers found high-flavonoid cocoa increases hydration, decreases skin roughness and scaling, and helps to support women’s skin against UV damage. (Sorry guys…I’m sure the benefits for men are similar, but the research was on chocolate loving women.) The research found that women who consumed high-flavonoid cocoa every day had smoother, moister skin after just three months. That’s a study I’d have gladly volunteered for!

This pie requires a pre-baked crust, which has always challenged me. The crust always ends up slumping down in the plate or folding into itself. I tried something new this time, and it worked splendidly. It involved a package of dried black beans. Here’s how you can pre-bake the crust without having it change shape:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. When the pie crust is chilled, line it with aluminum foil (or you could use parchment paper). Fill about 2/3 full with pie weights (I used dried beans, but rice or actual stainless steel pie weights also work). Bake the crust with the weights for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, remove the weights by pulling the foil liner out. Using a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust and return it to the oven, this time without the weights, and bake for another 10 minutes or until it’s golden brown. Cool completely before adding the filling.

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Chocolate Cream Pie

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chocolate shavings
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine above ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over medium heat, whisking until thickened, 7-8 minutes. Whisk in chopped bittersweet chocolate and unsalted butter. Pour into a pre-baked 9-inch piecrust. Chill until firm, 4-5 hours. Top the pie with whipped cream and the chocolate shavings.