Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Ice Cream

This is most likely my last strawberry creation (at least this week). Strawberry season will last a little longer and I may be further inspired to try something else....a tart perhaps. After three batches of strawberry freezer jam, cookies and several fresh eaten strawberries, I decided to preserve the final few quarts of strawberries with cream, milk, sugar and pure vanilla in the form of some homemade strawberry ice cream.

I soaked the strawberries in sugar and fresh lemon juice all morning and mashed the strawberries to get some good juice to color the ice cream. I mixed the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla with the fresh strawberry juice and crushed strawberries and put it in my Cuisinart ice cream maker.

When it first comes out of the ice cream machine after about 25 minutes, it has a nice soft gelato like texture.

We sampled some and it was AMAZING and the rest went in a freezer safe container to freeze more to enjoy later.

Creme Brulee

I gave my husband a choice of desserts for a Father's day treat and he chose creme brulee. I've wanted to make it for a while anyway and it's also one of my favorites. It's such a simple yet elegant dessert, but I have to admit that I haven't made it from scratch for some time. I guess I've just found it easy to get the creme brulee mix from the store when I was in a pinch for a dinner party dessert, but never again. I think there was a time several years ago when I didn't have as much patience and did not temper the eggs slowly enough where I ended up with a curdled creme. So, I took a deep breath, gathered the finest ingredients, researched recipes and tried again.
Don't worry - this cream is not burnt or's vanilla. Instead of using a recipe that called for vanilla extract, I used a recipe with vanilla bean. I chose to use Madagascar vanilla beans that I got from a local gourmet food store. I scraped the vanilla bean seeds and added the vanilla bean itself and the seeds to the cream to bring to a boil.

While the cream became infused with fresh vanilla, I prepared the egg yolks and sugar.

The vanilla cream was SLOWLY added to the egg yolks to temper them so as to not cook them and end up with scrambled eggs.

This final mixture was added into my ramekins of various shapes and sizes and I baked them in a water bath with the water filled part way up the ramekins. They were placed in the oven VERY carefully so as to not get any water in the custard!

They cooked very nicely and I love the tiny specks of vanilla in the custard.

I added more sugar to the top and placed them under the broiler on high to burn the sugar and make that lovely crunchy sugar crust. I garnished it with a sliced strawberry and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. I had several extras which I wrapped with saran and foil to freeze. When I'm in a pinch for a dessert now, I can just thaw those, top them with the sugar and broil for dessert instead of using a mix!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Strawberry Jam

The primary intention of buying a flat of strawberries this past week was to make strawberry jam. It's my favorite jam and making it homemade just has a much more fresh flavor and isn't too sugary like the jello-like jelly or jam you buy at the store. I have boil-water canned jams before, but I chose to make freezer jam as I've typically done before. It's so easy and I also like not having to fret over whether my jars will seal properly. I can just let the jam set and store them in the freezer for up to a year. So, several quarts of strawberries later, I now have around 30 jars of bright red jam ready to enjoy this next year.

The longest part of the process is preparing the fruit. But, while watching my favorite Food Network shows, I stemmed, hulled and washed all my strawberries.

I like the jam to have nice chunks of fruit in it, so I just crushed the berries with a potato masher vs. pureeing them in my food processor.

I mixed the Sure-Jell pectin to help it set in with the sugar and brought it to a boil.

The pectin-sugar mixture was blended with the fruit and then I spooned it into all my jars.

My favorite use of strawberry jam is for scones. I had some in the freezer, so I thawed them and delivered some fresh jam to my mum and we had afternoon tea together with fresh baked scones and strawberry jam.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Strawberry-Shortcake in a Cookie

I wanted to come up with something to bake for my dad for Father's day and received the "Cookie of the Day" e-mail from Martha Stewart for Strawberry-Shortcake Cookies. I don't always try the recipes or even save them to try later, but it's always fun to see different cookie ideas. Many of them are not traditional cookies, but it's always good to go beyond the everyday chocolate chip cookie and try something different. And, that's what I did.

My dad LOVES strawberry shortcake and could have it for dessert almost every evening (and most likely does most days). So, I thought it would be fun to try this recipe to give him his strawberry-shortcake in a cute little cookie.

I go to the farmer's market at least once a week and sometimes several times a week. With strawberries now in season, this was a good recipe to try. I also ended up buying over a flat of strawberries this past week, so there are a few more strawberry creations on their way. Fresh Michigan strawberries are SO much better than the grocery store variety shipped in from California or who knows where else. Even just having the flat of strawberries sitting out on the counter in my kitchen for a few hours, the sweet fresh smell was permeating through the house and brought me back to the days when my sister and I would pick strawberries as a summer job growing up.

This was definitely more of a biscuit-cookie and included the dry ingredient in which butter was cut in and then the fresh diced strawberries.

I made them without the use of the Kitchen aid as I didn't want to crush the strawberries. I cut in the butter with my pastry blender and then the cream was added. This was making the making of the shortcake and the whipped cream is just folded into it to give it a nice rich creamy flavor.

I used my cookie scoop to measure out the batter and place on the pan. I was careful not to have the fresh strawberries end up on the bottom of the cookie so they wouldn't burn while the cookie was baking. Before they went in the oven, I sprinkled some caster sugar (really fine sugar) on top which adds a nice glistening sugar and crunchy texture to the cookie.

Here are the cookies just out of the oven. They turned out nicely and tasted great, but were best warm. They also don't last too long with the fresh strawberry, but I suppose you could try freezing some, which I suggested to my dad if he wasn't able to finish them off very soon.

I have a few of the pretty strawberry quart baskets and chose to package them in there like the lovely quart of fresh berries used to make them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sugar Cupcakery

My little brother, big sister and I happened to be together this past weekend and my sister has been wanting to take me to this cupcake shop, so we had a little sibling outing to sample cupcakes at Sugar Cupcakery near Cincinnati, OH.

They've been open less than a year, but I was especially intrigued as my sister let me know that they were actually going to be on the first episode of Food Network's new show, Cupcake Wars (which I have to admit I am now addicted to).

The shop has a beautiful location amongst several antique shops and other eateries. Their cafe is full of space for people to sit and enjoy their cupcake and has a nice modern decor. They even have this room available for people to rent for events. I can imagine a gorgeous cupcake bridal shower or baby shower!

They have several different cupcake options and boast using the best organic ingredients. They also offer vegan cupcakes. However, this is ALL they have - just cupcakes and no other options whatsoever. Hopefully people in Milford and Cincinnati area are hungry for cupcakes! The cupcake options were nice, but nothing out of this world. I think they look quite pretty, but I thought their piping looked a little broken and sloppy (which they commented on Cupcake Wars).

When you chose your cupcake flavors, they set them on a tray before plating or boxing them.

We decided to relax and sample our cupcakes there. We tried the strawberry, coconut lime (my favorite), chocolate truffle and vanilla bean along with a nice hot cup of coffee. I loved their big coffee mugs and their logo with the frosting swirl and outline of the cupcake paper is adorable.

Of course, we had to get some to go for the kids and the guys watching the kids. They did a nice job of boxing the cupcakes so they looked like a pretty present.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

I meant to make this cookie in May and time got the best of me with the other projects I decided to take on. I love this oatmeal cookie recipe and got hungry for them after I lit an oatmeal cookie candle I have. I lit it when I had company coming over as it makes the house smell like you've been baking. I felt like I was cheating with the candle, so I wanted to make a batch of these cookies and recreate the real smell! It's simple in that it is purely just oatmeal, but sometimes simple is just better. I grew up with oatmeal cookies loaded with coconut, chocolate chips, raisins and sometimes nuts and while I love those, this is definitely my go-to oatmeal cookie recipe now. They are perfectly crispy on the edges with a soft center. And, since they are dredged in powdered sugar before baking, they come out of the oven with a warm sugary coating and they just melt in your mouth.

The batter is very easy to make and I always use my mini cookie scoop to keep the size of the cookies consistent.

I rolled each cookie scoop into a ball and gave them a nice thick coating of powdered sugar.

They went on Silpat lined baking sheets and I flattened each of them slightly with the back of a spoon.

Here they are fresh out of the oven. Beautiful cracks in the powdered sugar coating as they spread out when they baked and a slightly gooey warm sugar coating.
I made a lot of them so I had plenty to send some home with family that visited and a nice big container for my husband to take to the office.
I think these cookies would be great with maybe a homemade caramel or cinnamon homemade ice cream sandwiched between them. I have some other ideas for fun ice cream sandwiches and plan to make some in the warm summer months to enjoy with the kids.