Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Scream for Ice Cream!

Kevin had to choose a cake for his birthday and I told him I would make ice cream to go with it. I've been making ice cream since I was a kid. My family used to make it in the winter because we had the type of ice cream machine that you needed snow/ice and salt to be packed down around the spinning bowl. I only remember making vanilla.

When we registered for our wedding, I made sure to add an ice cream maker to the list. I knew it would be a “gadget” we’d actually get some use out of. Our most recent flavors,
Oreo Mint and Malted Milk Ice Cream were big hits. If you follow me on Twitter (sarahberridge), you know I had a heck of a time trying to find malted milk powder, but I was determined to make that ice cream. It has malt powder and whoppers, how could I let that one go? Anyway, since receiving our ice cream maker, we've only made "flavored" ice cream, never vanilla. Well, now we have.
Kevin chose Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake, so we decided to keep the ice cream simple. I used a recipe adapted from Dave Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. I subbed 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract for the vanilla beans. This was the first time that we cooked the eggs, so I was a little worried about scrambled eggs during the warming process, not to mention a weird egg flavored ice cream (which I remember from a time we made custard when I was little). Luckily, everything turned out great! This ice cream is really rich and flavorful. It turned out to be the star of the cake and ice cream combo even though it was supposed to be the laid back side kick. Since I had to share it, there was only about half a batch left after the BBQ. This ice cream ran out faster than usual because we used it to moisten the leftover birthday cake. I made another batch this week, and added the remainder of an open bag of Heath pieces from our pantry. I added the candy in the last 5 minutes of churning in the ice cream maker. I like to add mix-ins at the last minute so everything gets evenly distributed and doesn't fall to the bottom of the bowl during the churning process.

For a go-to vanilla ice cream recipe or base to add ingredients to (like Heath pieces), this is a winner. I’ll probably test some other recipes, but I won’t go too crazy because this is from Dave Lebovitz and Dave and good ice cream go hand in hand.

Well, this post wraps up the BBQ series. I hope you'll come back for the many recipes to come!

Vanilla Ice Cream Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by way of Dave Lebovitz’s blog
Makes about 1 quart

For a richer custard, you can add up to 3 more egg yolks. For a less-rich custard, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream, realizing that the final texture won't be as rich or as smooth as if using cream.

1 cup whole milk [I used half and half]
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise [I used 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract]
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks [I used 6 because that’s what I had]
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup "mix-in" ingredients (Heath pieces, mini chocolate chips, etc)

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Note: Used vanilla beans can be rinsed and dried, then stored in a bin of sugar. That sugar can be used for baking and, of course, for future ice cream making.

Egg Cream Mix
Just added the custard to the heavy cream.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

The Birthday Cake. I don’t make cake unless there’s a special occasion. I was itching to start thinking about Kevin’s cake about a month before his birthday. He was allowed to choose any cake he wanted under one condition: I haven’t made it before. He’s not a big cake eater, and my one little rule became some what of a problem because the two cakes he wanted, carrot cake and angel food cake, I had already made for him. I started suggesting a ton of different options, and kept mentioning a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake that I had recently seen in on Emily’s blog and that’s what Kevin ended up choosing.

Emily’s original recipe was for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Marble Cake, but I opted to do separate layers so each slice had the same amount of chocolate and peanut butter. The flavors were good, they were mild the first day we cut into it, but came out a little more the next day. The chocolate smell was not very intense while it was cooling, but the peanut butter cake smelled like warm peanut butter cookies. Yum! My only complaints are that the cake was dry and that the flavors could have been a bit more intense. The cake was dry enough that it definitely needed ice cream to help moisten it. The frosting was sort of like a rich chocolate pudding. This was my first experience making “cooked” frosting, and I’d say it was a success. After the cake was frosted, I enjoyed the occasional spoonful of leftover frosting. I made the cake and the pudding part of the frosting on Thursday night. I assembled and finished the frosting on the day of the BBQ (Saturday). I stored it in the fridge, but after you cut your slices, let them sit for a few minutes to take the chill off.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake (From Sugar Plum)
Serves 16
2 1/4 cups cake flour (or use all-purpose flour, simply subtract two level tablespoons of AP flour for each cup of cake flour called for)
2 1/4 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two (9-inch) round cake pans.

In medium mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture, alternating with milk, until combined, about 2 minutes; remove half of the batter and place in medium mixing bowl. Beat peanut butter into one of the bowls filled with batter until combined. Beat melted chocolate into the other bowl filled with batter until combined.

Divide peanut butter batter into each cake pan, placing only on one side. Divide chocolate batter into each cake pan, on the opposite side; swirl batters together using a butter knife. Bake for 35 minutes or until well risen and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool for 12 minutes, on a wire rack, before running a knife around outside edges and inverting onto wire racks to cool completely.
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

To make the frosting: In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, salt and milk; bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil 1 minute or until thickened; remove pan from heat and strain mixture into a small bowl. Cool completely in the refrigerator or freezer.

Beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute, in a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed. Beat in "chocolate pudding" mixture until well combined, about 1 minute. Beat in melted chocolate until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread frosting onto cake layers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Israeli Couscous with Grilled Veggies

I just sort of threw this together one night, and it became an instant hit so I wanted to make it again for the BBQ. I had never prepared Israeli couscous before so I just treated it like pasta because it is actually is a pasta product rather than a grain. This dish is very versatile, it can be served warm or cold, and you can substitute a wide variety of veggies, cheeses and seasonings. The zucchini, summer squash and red peppers are great, but mushrooms or eggplant would also be a nice addition. How about some Italian dressing for marinating the veggies or even just for dressing the couscous? If you try something different, let me know how it goes, I'm always up for a new variation.

Israeli Couscous with Grilled Veggies
Original Recipe

2 Zucchini, sliced (I like to slice it long-ways into planks b/c it makes it easier to flip on the grill without them falling through the grates)
1 Summer Squash, sliced (same as zucchini)
2 Red Peppers, seeded and cut so that you can lay it out flat
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 cup Israeli couscous
Goat Cheese (I used Garlic Herb goat cheese)
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the grill. Toss zucchini and red pepper with olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them on the grill. Cook the Israeli couscous in boiling salted water for about 6 minutes or until done, then drain off water. Add goat cheese and parmesan to taste, and stir so they melt into all the warm couscous. If it's too dry, add a little olive oil.

Once the veggies are done, take them off the grill and cut them into bite size pieces. Add the veggies to the couscous and mix. Give it a taste, does it need more salt, pepper or cheese, if so, add some until you get the right flavor. The leftovers are good warm or cold.

If you have too many veggies for the amount of couscous, you can always save them for later to use on pizza, in pasta or on top of some crusty bread.