Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cherry-Peach-Blueberry Cobbler

We eat a lot of fruit salad around here. We're quite indulgent that way. I chop the fruit, squirt some lime or lemon juice, sprinkle some sugar and call it a meal. I could eat the stuff pretty much all the time, and I cringed at the thought of baking all that delicious fruit into something syrupy and mushy, suffocating under dry biscuits. I needed a company dessert, however, and the peaches were pretty soft, so I gave cobbler a shot.

I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for a cobbler with cornmeal biscuits, which sounded promising, and I chose my fruit carefully, because as a rule I do not like cooked fruit. I hate mixed berry pie with raspberries and blackberries, and for gosh sakes keep the hawaiian pizza away from me.

I realize I am not starting off with a tempting description of this amazing cobbler, but I wanted you to understand what it was up against first. In my mind, the only thing going for it was that it could be eaten with ice cream.

HOWEVER, I am please to announce that this fruit cobbler is delicious. It is warm and homey, with the added interest of cornmeal and with juices that complement ice cream just perfectly. In fact, I think I am won over to the cobbler camp. I think I'm even going to try again soon, maybe with an oatmeal topping next time!

Cobbler recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

I doubled the cornmeal biscuit topping recipe below, and if you want to know what I'd do next time, I think I'd only 1 1/2 it instead.

Use whatever berries or stone fruits strike your fancy. I used:

3 cups blueberries
2 peaches, cut in dice
1 cup cherries, cut in half

Mix the fruit with:
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 T flour
2 T lemon or lime juice
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt

Place fruit mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Make the cornmeal biscuit topping:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 T cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup buttermilk

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Rub the butter into the flour mixture, then stir in the buttermilk. The dough will be sticky.

Plop the dough onto the fruit. I know my entire cobbler is covered with topping, but I think it's more aesthetically pleasing if the fruit can bubble up in gaps between the biscuit, so leave some spaces.

Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the biscuit is browned on top. This will take 20-30 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes before scooping into bowls and serving with ice cream. You can tell people it is your grandmother's secret recipe when they inquire about the origin of this heavenly cobbler.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blueberry Mango Whole Wheat Muffins

Bad news: I am down to the very last of my frozen blueberry supply. As it is blueberry season, this would not normally be a problem, however, I am in Georgia and the blueberries are in Virginia. At least, the blueberries I'm committed to for life are in Virginia. I'm hoping to make a trip in a couple of weeks to see friends and come back loaded down with enough berries to sustain me for another year. I'm almost out of jam, too! Oh, the horrors.

And so, let it be a testament to the power of these muffins that I would bestow the last of my precious blueberries on them.

There are chunks of sweet mango, dark blotches of blueberry, spices like ginger and cinnamon and half whole wheat flour to add substance, complexity and health.

I feel that, in light of the millions of muffin recipes floating out there on the internet, its going to be hard to convince you that


And that you should


but let me know when you do and we'll talk about how good they are.

Blueberry Mango Whole Wheat Muffins, adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Fresh Mango Bread, found in Baking: From My Home to Yours.

3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups diced mangos (these muffins are about 50 times better if you use fresh mangoes. You could also use peaches, and I've also made these muffins with only blueberries)
3/4 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh. if frozen, dust with flour so the batter doesn't turn blue)
Finely grated zest from one lime

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 12-hole cupcake or muffin tray.

Whisk the eggs, vanilla and oil together.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients - both flours, powder, soda, salt and spices. Rub the brown sugar between your hands over the dry ingredients to make sure there aren't any lumps. Stir the brown sugar in.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and stir until completely mixed. The batter will be very thick, but persevere until there's no dry stuff at the bottom of the bowl.

Stir in the mangos, blueberries and lime zest. Divide evenly into the muffin tray. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the muffins-to-be with some sugar.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until a knife stuck in the center of a couple muffins comes out clean. Remove from oven and wait a few minutes before taking the muffins out of the tray and cooling on a rack.

Enjoy alone or with butter or with friends.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I've been on SUCH a peanut butter dessert kick lately.

Ahahah, can you picture me swerving through traffic trying to get a picture of the peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwich in my hand? It wasn't easy, especially since I kept taking bites between shots...

Really, that ice cream sandwich was stupid good. I used Lebovitz's Peanut Butter Ice Cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop, which is incredibly easy. (No custard necessary because the PB keeps things soft and non-icy. And it uses half and half instead of heavy cream so its good for you...right?) And I used the double chocolate peanut butter Levain cookie recipe by Lisa at Parsley, Sage and Butter. I used all regular chocolate chips instead of PB ones. Find the cookie recipe here.

And here is the Peanut Butter Ice Cream Recipe:

Makes about 1 quart

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
2 2/3 cup half and half
Pinch of salt
1/4 t vanilla

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Chill in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

...yes, that's it! Go make it!

Oh, and here are a few other peanut butter desserts from The Fox Fix if you, like me, are obsessed with them as of late:

Lets just say I feel like this when I eat Peanut Butter desserts.

Golden Summer Cake

When we were at Lake Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes, Eric and I stumbled upon a library book sale. We dove in head first and came away with tons of books (books that made lugging our bulging carry-ons around the airport miserable.)

While browsing through the cookbooks, I found such gems as The Microwave Bible, 1,000 Microwave Recipes and Dinner from the Microwave. I like my microwave as much as the next person, but I had no idea that we required such extensive instruction for using it. I guess in the 1960s when it was marketed to the public, things like microwave dinners and steam-able vegetable packets didn't exist, so people really were cooking from scratch with their microwave. Unthinkable!

(confession: I know microwaves have dubious effects on health, but I can't help but stare inside and watch my food cook! Eric is often horrified to walk into the kitchen and find me with my nose almost touching the microwave door.)

Back to the book sale...
One of the books I picked up is called Rosie's Bakery: All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book. Excellent, I know.

In this book is the absolute best vanilla cake recipe I've encountered yet. It's texture, flavor and look are unparalleled. It also had an idea for a "Summertime Cake," which I've adapted to create my Golden Summer Cake. Lemon Curd fills the delicious yellow cake, and it's topped with fluffy vanilla frositng. It's divine.

Golden Summer Cake (doesn't that sound nice?) adapted from Rosie's Bakery Book.

Vanilla-Sour Cream Cake (makes two 9 or 10 in layers to be cut in half. You could also make three layers from this recipe)

3 3/4 cup cake flour (make sure to pour into the cup measure and scrape the top- don't just scoop)
1 1/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
3 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
2 t vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat to 350 degrees.

Grease and line 2 or 3 pans with parchment rounds.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the yolks and eggs one at a time, blending each well and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream in 2 or 3 additions. Mix only until incorporated before adding the next addition. When everything is added, turn the mixer to low and blend until the batter is very smooth. It tastes so good at this point :)

Divide the batter between your pans and smooth the top. Drop the pans a few times from a few inches up to get the bubbles out. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the cake springs back when you touch it and a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Cool the layers completely before cutting in half. Take a long serrated knife and work around the sides of the layer to make sure it's cut evenly.

While the cake is baking, make the Lemon Curd Filling

2 t finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter

Mix the zest, juice, eggs and sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring very often, over medium heat until it boils and is thickened. Pour through a strainer into a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and stir into the lemon curd until melted. Set the bowl into an ice bath and stir occasionally until cool. When cool, put into the fridge for at least an hour.

Finally, make the vanilla buttercream. Rosie's book introduced me to adding significant amounts of cream to the butter when making buttercream. When mixed long enough, the cream actually turns into butter itself. Pretty cool.

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups heavy cream
2 t vanilla extract
1 pound or 6 cups powdered sugar

Mix all the ingredients with the paddle attachment in a stand mixer. You can do this with a hand held mixer, but the frosting takes at least 10 minute to come together, and thats a long time to stand there, hand vibrating.

Mix on medium-high until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least ten minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. At first some of the cream might want to splash out, so I recommend wrapping some plastic wrap around the open part of the bowl.

This frosting is great because you can flavor it with just about anything. So far I've used espresso to make mocha frosting, I've added white chocolate, and I've added raspberry jam.

To assemble the cake, take your split layers and stack, spread about a 1/2 cup lemon curd between each. Spread a thin crumb coat of vanilla buttercream all over the cake and stick in the fridge for 10 or so minutes before completing the cake. For an easy garnish, I like to cut thin slices of lemons and slit them on one side to make little lemon curls as seen in the above picture.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Easy Chocolate Icecream

Here I am, talking about David Lebovitz again. Get used to it- I'm on an ice cream kick.

This is not ice cream as we know it- it is incredibly easy to make, requires no ice cream maker, and I am going to claim that it's healthy. It has very little dairy and a lot of banana. And chocolate. And a wee bit o alcohol.

The alcohol keeps the ice cream from freezing solid and the banana (which as we discussed in the last post, is an emulsifier) keeps everything suspended and homogenous. And the chocolate makes it delicious.

I made this ice cream a lot while we were going through the moving process. It was just too easy to whirl the ingredients around in the blender, pop it in the freezer and come home later to something refreshing after a long day of painting and packing.

This ice cream does not have the creamy ice cream texture we expect from ice cream, but offers mucho refreshment for very little effort.

1 banana, peeled and chunked
2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 T milk
7 T liquor (you can use pretty much any type- though some will taste better than others. I've found combinations of rum, baileys and kahlua to work well. Also, I've used a bit less liquor before and it turned out fine- but the less you use the more icy the ice cream will be.)

That's it! Now put the milk in a cup and put the chocolate in the milk. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir to melt the chocolate. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend til smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl or tupperware, cover and freeze for about 4 hours.

Be sure to let me know how many times you make it this week!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Banana-Lime Jam

Recently, some friends confessed that they are loathe to eat a banana in any less than perfect condition. They are so averse to banana bruises, strings and speckles that it even deters them from buying bananas at all. "What's the point?" they sigh in resignation.

I do not fear brown bananas. In fact, I usually buy massive bunches of bananas in the hopes that a few will dodge consumption and become soft, mottled and sweet.

I have no shortage of uses for these imperfect perfect fruits*, the easiest of which involves breaking into pieces and freezing in ziplock bags for use in smoothies or banana soft serve. My favorites are Hummingbird Cake and Blueberry Banana bread.

When I ran across this Banana-Lime Jam recipe in Cooking Light, I just happened to have some lovely ripe bananas on my counter. It was one of those times when I moved without thinking- I grabbed some limes and started squeezing.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
in a saucepan. Bring to a boil.
Three peeled and sliced over-ripe bananas.
Reduce heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes, occasionally stirring and smashing the bananas with the back of the spoon. When thickened, remove from heat and stir in two tablespoons of butter. The jam will thicken more as it cools.

This jam is utterly delicious and reminds me of caramelized bananas. It would be fantastic on english muffins, and I really like it on whole grain breads. All the sugar preserves it very well, and mine's still doing fine in a jar in the fridge after a couple weeks. Ah! I just thought about banana jam on pancakes! Mmmmmm.

*My thoughts on the banana:

What an odd and lovely fruit. It requires no washing. No juices dribble down your arm when you take a bite. No messy fingers- it's got a built-in wrapper. Just grab and go. A perfect package of fiber, potassium, vitamin c and more.
Bananas are emulsifiers- they keeps ingredients from separating, keep things suspended, which is why they are so good in breads and cakes and smoothies, and you can often cut down or exclude eggs or butter because of this. What's more, they are the only fruit I can think of that is really opaque. Could bananas save the world?