2014-07-22

Yogurt Pudding with Poached Peaches

Yogurt Pudding with Poached Peaches
 

You would be surprised how often I end up with a surplus of a single ingredient. This may happen due to shopping list duplication between Flick and I, or a Costco-triggered impulse buy. Our neighbours went on vacation and gifted us with the perishable contents of their fridge. Since last week, I have tried to get through 2.5kg of plain yogurt, making four loaves of banana cake, a dozen large muffins, and a batch of muesli. In addition, I baked two loaves of no-knead whole wheat bread, and a blueberry pie. To cap off this flurry of activity, I made this yogurt pudding.

2014-07-21

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches
 

I've wanted to make my own classic, summer treat for a while now, that is, an ice cream sandwich. A specimen I tried from an Ontario dairy while cottaging recently wasn't impressive: the chocolate chip cookies were too hard to bite into without the interior oozing out every time. As for a flavour, we've been enjoying iced coffees in the mornings made using a cold brew method. This weekend, I set out to make Vietnamese coffee ice cream sandwiches.

2014-07-17

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (Cook's Illustrated)

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
 
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, Jan 1997

Notes: We found ourselves with about 2.5kg of yogurt recently, so I set out to use some of it up in a muffin. I followed this recipe closely, but made one change: to ensure tenderness, I swapped about a cup of the AP flour with cake flour. The batter completely filled the cups of a large tin, and produced muffins with big caps. Flavour-wise, these weren't particularly memorable. I'll stick with my tried and true favourite.

2014-07-02

Shortcakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Shortcakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
 
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, May 1997

Notes: A shortcake is really just a cream biscuit. More historical information can be found in this Wikipedia article, which also notes that June 14th is Strawberry Shortcake Day!

Anyone can make this recipe, it's easy enough to do on a weeknight after dinner. I started by cutting and macerating the berries, then moved onto the shortcake dough. The bits of grated butter were small enough that the pastry cutter didn't really do much. I used a mix of heavy cream and milk as a substitute for half-and-half. There seems to be an extra ingredient, the 1 tbsp of half-and-half. Perhaps it's meant to be mixed into the egg white to make a wash for the biscuits?

Once baked, assembly is a snap: split the shortcakes in half, spoon a generous amount of juicy berries and whipped cream over top, then top with the other biscuit. Let it rest for a few minutes so the juices soften the bottom cake. A perfect summer dessert1

2014-07-01

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream
 
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, July 1993

Notes: Strawberry season is in full swing in Ontario, and we took advantage by purchasing a whole flat at the Leslieville Farmers' Market this past weekend. After gorging on several quarts, plain and with whipped cream, it was time to use them in a few dessert applications.

For Canada Day, we had my family over for dinner, and I was excited to make this ice cream. Of course, it wasn't as easy as stirring in some strawberries into a vanilla ice cream. You need to macerate the berries, cook the custard, strain the strawberry juice and mix it into the custard, then churn the ice cream and add the berries at the end. It sounds like a lot of work, but believe me: it's worth it.

This is a very delicious ice cream: the texture is smooth, creamy and rich, the colour is a pleasing shade of pink, and the flavour is extremely fragrant, with delicious bits of strawberries in every spoonful.

2014-06-29

Pan Graham

Pan Graham
 
Recipe from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

Notes: The key ingredient in this bread is Graham flour which has an interesting history. Given the ubiquity of graham crackers (which I love in cheesecake crusts), I was dismayed to find out that the raw flour isn't so easy to find. Over the past few weeks, I've had no luck finding it at Whole Foods, Healthy Planet, The Big Carrot or any number of other health food stores. In the end, I ordered a package from Amazon.ca as an Add-On item. Shortly after, I discovered the same Bob's Red Mill package at my local, dinky Foodland. Who knew?

Sadly, this bread didn't work out. It began with a starter which I made from all graham flour on a Sunday morning. However, in retrospect, the total amount of active dry yeast in this bread wasn't quite enough to give this 100% whole grain bread enough lift. The finished bread didn't rise very much during the final proof, and had zero oven spring. Its texture was crumbly, resembling a "healthy" bread. We threw out both loaves.

2014-06-18

Arnold Palmer Cake, Step by Step

The first issue of Lucky Peach I bought was from Good Egg in Kensington Market. It was Issue 2: The Sweet Spot and featured such awesomeness such as an article on the best apricots in the world, a recipe for burnt miso, and whimsical phony fruit stickers. It's out of print now, and eBay copies go for upwards of $50USD!

Anyway, I bought the issue because of the Arnold Palmer Cake within. The recipe (scan) sounded unusual (tea leaves in the cake batter) and amazing (lemon mascarpone). I've never found an occasion to make it, but now, more than two years later, decided to make it for Father's Day. Here is a chronicle of this project:

Almond Tea Crunch (Sat)

Almond Tea CrunchThis was a no-brainer to put together. I omitted the instant tea powder, since I didn't have any (more on that below) and I wanted the almond component to taste like almond, not tea. The finished crunch clumped together, and wasn't that crumbly. Next time, I'd use more feuilletine or almonds, or reduce the almond butter.

Lemon Tea Cake (Sat)

Lemon Tea Cake BatterLemon Tea Cake, Baked As with the pistachio cake, making a double recipe of the cake was simpler than trying to use a makeshift quarter-sheet pan. And I would have two cakes, too! This was the first time I've cut up 18 tea bags and dumped their contents into a bowl of flour! The flavourings in this batter aren't subtle: ¼ cup lemon juice, plus 1 tsp of lemon extract (I used lemon oil), plus buttermilk. Our oven is a bit wonky right now: it took almost one hour of baking for the half-sheet pan of batter to be fully baked. I wrapped the cooled cake layer in plastic film, and let it sit in the basement, at room temperature.

Lemon Mascarpone (Sat)

Lemon MascarponeHaving made plenty of lemon curds before, I was not surprised to see whole eggs in the recipe. I knew I would have to be careful with the heat to avoid getting scrambled eggs, and also knew that I would have to strain the curd to get the lumps out. Sure enough, despite constant stirring over my lowest gas burner, the mixture started to cook at the bottom edges of the pot. Because of the gelatin, the curd sets in the refrigerator to a stiff paste. Because of this, it was easy to incorporate the mascarpone smoothly.

Tea Jelly (Sun, Mon, Tue)

Tea JellyAh, the tea jelly. For the impatient reader, I ended up making this FOUR times before getting it right, going through 1kg of sugar and over 30 tea bags.

First, the matter of the unsweetened iced tea powder. It's available in the US (e.g. from Walmart) but despite walking into a half dozen stores in my neighbourhood, wasn't able to find it. The dollar store had an artificial fruit-flavoured iced tea powder but that was the closest I came. Every other store either sold ready-to-drink, sweetened, lemon iced tea, or something called "liquid water enhancer" which you add into water. I decided that I didn't really need the extra iced tea flavour kick, and skipped it.

I also decided to skip reserving a portion of the “bitter tea soak” to brush onto the cake layers. I just steeped the tea bags in about 450g of boiling water. I didn't have pectin NH so substituted an equivalent quantity of Certo reduced-sugar pectin. After several hours in the refrigerator, the mixture was only slightly viscous. Uh-oh: my plan for having this cake ready for Sunday dessert was suddenly in jeopardy. My salvage attempt was to re-heat the steeped tea mixture, and add another teaspoon of pectin. Still not set.

I should have known that that was way too little pectin to gel two cups of liquid. A packet of pectin usually sets about 4 to 6 cups of fruit puree for jam. On Monday, I re-made the tea jelly, and decided to try using three leaves of Gelita Gold gelatin. Unfortunately, I let the sweetened tea concentrate cool too much, and the mixture after adding the bloomed gelatin turned cloudy and didn't set. I then spent a lot of time researching what pectin NH is, this magical substance that can gel two cups of liquid with only a half-teaspoon. I learned about high-methoxyl and low-methoxyl pectin, the need for calcium activation, blah blah blah. There also didn't seem to be a Canadian source of pectin NH in small quantities. The recipe actually says that pectin NH is "easily obtained online" but not so much in Canada. Even Modernist Pantry doesn't seem to have it, the closest being this, but it requires calcium to activate. Pectin NH seems to be something that has the pectin and calcium premixed. I tried once again, this time, being much more careful. I placed the tea bags in a container, poured the boiling water over, added the sugar and bloomed gelatin, and stirred until everything dissolved. Guess what? FAIL.

On Tuesday morning, I decided to go back to pectin, and to follow the Certo directions as if I was making jelly. For about 450g of tea concentrate, that meant about a half package of reduced-sugar pectin (about 25 g). The tea jelly recipe had a lot of sugar and a bit of acid, the same things that setting a fruit jelly requires, so I was hoping this would do it. I poured everything into a glass measuring cup and let it refrigerate during the day. In the evening, I was finally rewarded with a softly set tea jelly!

Assembly (Tue)

Detail of Arnold Palmer CakeArnold Palmer Cake Once all the components were made, putting the cake together is just stacking. One layer of cake, a dollop of lemon cream, a sprinkle of almond crunch, and a slathering of tea jelly. Repeat. I found the cake layers to be very, very crumbly. It didn't have enough structure to be transferred intactly from the baking sheet into the cake ring.

The Verdict

We're going to share this with neighbours tonight, and I'll make another one for a housewarming this weekend. I'll update with tasting notes once we sample it!

Arnold Palmer Cake