Archive for the ‘Other Treats and Desserts’ Category
So before I even get started, I’m going to apologize for 1.) presenting you with two lemony desserts in a row, and 2.) presenting you with nothing but treats and sweets throughout the past 6 weeks or so. That’s a lot of sugar and citrus.
But this one is kind of unavoidable, both in making and blogging about it. I mentioned in my post on lemon bars that lemon pudding cake is my mom’s favorite dessert. I grew up on it, and it’s the only dessert I really remember my mom caring enough about to put in the effort to make it on a weeknight. It’s also the only dessert I think my mom would repeatedly make even after I took on the role of answering well and beyond my family’s demand for sugar in the form of baked goods.
And although it took me awhile to come to my senses, I can see why. If you haven’t heard of lemon pudding cake before, it’s thing of wonder. The batter consists of the usual suspects of milk, sugar, some flour, and eggs, but the eggs are separated and beaten separately so the whites become airy and meringue-like. It’s a very loose batter, and when it bakes up in a dish, a springy sponge cake forms on top while a tangy pudding with the consistency of thick custard remains on the bottom. Each bite has differing textures of pudding and cake (hence the name), and it’s all tied together through the bright lemon flavor. It’s really, really good. It also isn’t too heavy, which is wonderful but also extremely dangerous in how it makes you want to eat about 3 servings in one sitting.
My mom always used the recipe found in my family’s Betty Crocker cookbook—you know, the one that’s spiral bound with all the cheesy 80s-era photographs inside. Because I have a natural tendency to falsely believe that prettier pictures and more technical-sounding instructions somehow correlate to a better recipe, I tried about a year ago to upstage my mom with what she calls a “fancier” and not as good recipe. Of course my mom was right—it was fussier, involved butter and more bowls, and it wasn’t as good. Of course. So I’ve learned my lesson: this year, when I had the urge to bake a dessert and my mom’s eyes lit up as she suggested I make lemon pudding cake, I stuck with her Betty Crocker recipe.
These pudding cakes are perfect straight from the oven, after they’ve cooled for a few minutes. They’re warm and gooey and tart and cakey and everything good in the world. I sprinkled some powdered sugar over some of them (let’s not kid ourselves—mostly in the attempts to make the things more photogenic), but they really don’t need anything. However, if I were to add something, it’d be a dollop of this marscapone whipped cream. By the way, those lemon budinos—which I believe are lemon pudding cakes with an Italian name—are photographed so beautifully, and should convince you to try lemon pudding cake if you have any doubts at this point.
Song Pick of the Week is Halo. Because Beyonce is the most likely the coolest and most beautiful and enviable woman in the world. I know that song is old, and I’m not sure what threw it under my radar lately, but it’s got a real humbling feel to it that make me keep listening to it on repeat.
One Year Ago: Smoothest, Creamiest Hummus
Lemon Pudding Cake
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Serves 6-9 (small-ish portions)
I baked these cakes in a combination of 3 6-ounce ramekins and 3 12-ounce ramekins. To simplify things, I wrote the recipe down to be for 6-ounce ramekins or small bowls, but of course it’s okay to use differently sized bowls. Just keep in mind the cooking time: the 6-ounce ones require about 30 minutes of cooking, while the larger 12-ounce ones needed about 40 minutes. If you bake the pudding cake in one large casserole dish, that might take upwards of an hour. I’d go more by sight and touch to tell when it’s done.
Also! 2 cups of sugar looks like a lot of sugar. It is, but these are not overly sweet (and they’re really pleasantly tart), so I wouldn’t recommend messing with the amounts.
4 eggs, separated
1 1/3 cup milk
2 heaped teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 9 6-ounce ramekins (or other sized ramekins, if you want) in a large roasting pan (I lined the pan with a kitchen tea towel before placing the ramekins on top, in order to prevent slips). Heat a kettle full of water on the stove for the water bath.
In a clean and dry stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff peaks begin to form. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat egg yolks with a whisk slightly. Add the milk and lemon zest to combine. While whisking the mixture, add the lemon juice in a slow stream (as to not curdle the mixture). Add in the sugar, flour, and salt, and whisk until smooth. Add about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites and whisk in to lighten the mixture. Continue by adding the rest of the rest of the egg whites and folding them in until the mixture is mostly uniform.
Pour or ladle the mixture into the ramekins. Carefully pour enough hot water in the roasting pan so that the water reaches about 1 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown and they spring back when lightly touched. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Eat warm, at room temperature, or cold—it’s always good.
So yesterday was my best friend’s birthday. We first met a little less than 3 years ago, when we were both transfer students into the university that we’ll be graduating from in a little less than two weeks. I was lucky in that aspect—most of the other people in our transfer group were what I’ll call less than kindred spirits. But Abbey, she’s a good one. I mean, she lets me make her perhaps the fattiest, most calorically-dense treat for her birthday AND she lets me capitalize on it by taking photos of it and putting it up here to show it off.
But in all seriousness, she is one of the best friends I could ask for. Although we’ve lived in the same house together for the past two years, very soon we’ll both be off—her, to travel the world and me … to figure out how to travel the world. So I suppose that this birthday celebration of hers, and mine next week, are all wrapped up in the same end-of-the-year whirlwind of trying to come to grips with all the bittersweet feelings that come with any really big ending (and beginning). It’s a strange grab-bag of emotions.
Anyway, so a big celebration calls for a big celebration treat. I’m pretty sure this is one of her favorite desserts, and it’s also one of mine. And, come to think of it, I think it’s pretty high up there on everyone’s favorite dessert list. And if it’s not, it at least should be. It’s a universal good. I’m willing to say it’s better than cake, and better than any kind of birthday cake you can think up (I think it beats last year’s, but I guess I’d have to leave that ultimate judgement up to my friend).
I decided to make Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for tall, creamy cheesecake, mostly because how can one not trust Dorie on these matters? But, I’m not going to lie, the pictures on this site’s creation of the recipe is what really sold me. One grocery trip and a combination of cream cheese, butter, sour cream, eggs, and heavy cream later, I too had my own creation of the recipe. I really liked it, and my friend loves it, so it was a complete success. But, with that being said, I don’t know if it’s my ideal cheesecake. It is creamy, airy, and smooth. It has a delicious flavor, and it feels dangerously light enough to want to eat a quarter of the thing in one sitting. Which is all really good, but I think I’d prefer the type of cheesecake that is insanely dense, and extremely thick. I’m thinking it might be more along the lines of this one, by Smitten Kitchen? Anyone ever try that one?
Also, a couple more notes regarding this recipe: I think if I were to do it again, I would either make the crust one layer on the bottom, without pressing it up along the sides, or I’d make it thinner so that it can go completely up to the top of the sides of the cheesecake. For some reason, I think either of those options would look more elegant. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, that weird little swooshy design along the sides of the crust are due to my running-the-knife-along-the-sides skills when trying to loosen the cheesecake from the springform pan. It was completely accidental, but I think it actually looks pretty cool. It’s what my friend Abbey would call a “happy mistake” (she went to a Waldorf school as a child, if that means anything to you). Also! I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to hold the springform pan in for a water bath or bain-marie, so I just placed a big pan full of water on the rack below the cheesecake while it was in the oven—I hope this somehow served as a substitute, but I have a feeling this cheesecake would have been even better if it were able to have a proper water bath.
With those extensive qualifications, I think it’s important to note that it is a really, really good cheesecake. It looks dreamy (or at least I think so), and it tastes like it too. It doesn’t feature any other flavors but vanilla, and I think the creamy, smooth filling with the tangy (and addicting) sour cream topping makes for a taste that’s really satisfying, and pure. I think it’s a classic cheesecake.
PS: Song pick of the week is Wolf Parade’s I’ll Believe in Anything. It is goooood. (I kind of really like this thing I’ve gotten into, where I share a song if I feel like it. I’ve been reading a lot of Hungry and Frozen lately and she always shares what music is inspiring her at the time she’s writing the post and I really like the vibes it gives. Am I transgressing my boundaries by telling you what to listen to, on top of what to eat? Maybe, but I enjoy it! So there!
One Year Ago: Strawberry Cream Cake
Graham Cracker Crust
1 3/4 cups (I believe something like 210 grams) graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 pounds (4 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two
Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan; wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. Set aside.
To make the crust, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Pour over the melted butter and, using your hands, mix it together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Turn the mixture out into the prepared springform pan and, using your fingers or the edge of something hard like a measuring cup, pat the mixture into an even layer along the bottom of the pan (and up the sides a little bit too, if you’d like). Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until the crust begins to get ever-so-slightly brown and fragrant. Once the crust is removed, lower the oven to 325 degrees F. Set the crust aside to cool while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
To prepare the filling, first prepare a big kettle-full of water for boiling. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the room-tempurature cream cheese at medium speed until it’s soft, smooth and lightened, about 3 or 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt, and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the mixture is even more lightened! Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one by one, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go and beating for a full minute between each egg addition. The batter should be “well-aerated.” On a low speed, add in the sour cream and heavy cream and stir until fully combined. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure the mixture is well combined.
Place the foil-wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan. Scrape the batter into the pan, over the crust. If you have a somewhat standard 9-inch springform pan, the batter should just reach the brim. Place the roasting pan, holding the unbaked cheesecake, in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the boiled water into the roasting pan so that it reaches just halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake the cheesecake in the 325 degree oven for an hour and 30 minutes, until the cheesecake has risen and puffed up above the rim of the pan and has gotten slightly browned at parts (it may even have some little cracks). Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open. Let the cheesecake rest in the cooling oven for another hour—this prevents any major cracks on the cheesecake, I think.
After an hour, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven, making sure not to slosh any water onto the precious cheesecake! Carefully lift the springform pan out of the water bath and let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack until it comes to room temperature.
Once the cake is cool, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill the cake (I know, the waiting! it never ends!) for at least 4 hours, or overnight. When ready to serve, run a butter knife along the edges and carefully open the springform latch and remove the pan sides.
For the sour cream topping, combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl until well mixed. Dollop the mixture on top of the chilled cheesecake and smooth it out into an even layer. Store the cheesecake in the fridge, and always serve cold.
Happy Birthday, Abbey! x
I understand that at this moment there are very few people searching for a classic, decadent crème brûlée recipe. It’s a little impractical of me to be posting about such a thing, seeing as that thing called New Years’ resolutions has taken hold of the world and the craze to eat healthier and drop some holiday pounds has most invariably come with it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; I guess it’s very good and helpful that the motivation for improving ourselves comes around with the New Year. And I have to admit, even though I usually don’t take to New Year resolutions, I kind of have this year. Sort of. It’s actually more the kind of thing where I was feeling sick a couple days ago and then had an irrational and nonsensical revelation that maybe just maybe I am feeling sick because I eat way too much sugar and it’s some sort of pre-diabetic thing my body is trying to warn me of. (Logic, begone!) Yeah, so now I am really trying to save any sort of added sugar to be a special occasion type of thing.
So why, may one ask, am I still deciding to post about crème brûlée (especially considering that the past seven, yes SEVEN-in-a-row things I have posted about on this blog are sweets)? Because 1.) this is truly a flawless recipe for crème brûlée that should be on all of your minds, someday, once this whole resolution thing wears off 2.) I have nothing else to post about that doesn’t use sugar and butter in some form anyway.
It may seem at first that crème brûlée is one of those things “best left to the professionals,” but I was seriously surprised at just how much better this crème brûlée tasted than any I’ve had in restaurants. There is no beating the pure flavors of the vanilla and cream, with the freshly-caramelized sugar crust on top when it is made at home. This surprise first happened almost 4 years ago, when I made this recipe for the first time with Waylon (back when we weren’t dating but were just friends! Weird) and Lindsey. It’s a shame it’s taken me so long to make it again, but it’s one of those reliable recipes I’m happy to know I have in case an opportunity calls.
Another thing I like about making crème brûlée from home is the liberty one has with making the burnt-sugar crust. Not only is it almost too much fun to use a blow torch to caramelize the sugar, but the brûlée part of this homemade dessert is incomparable And unlike seemingly everyone else in this universe, I usually don’t really love the sugar crust part at restaurants. But at home, the crust is thinner, the caramel taste is less burnt, it tastes fresher, it’s just better. The nice part about it too is that you can personalize this part—if you like yours more caramelized or thicker, you can do that.
Speaking of the caramelized crust—I’m fortunate enough to have a father who is a high school biology-environmental science teacher and routinely has access to blow torches for his labs. I got to borrow one, but I’m not sure I’d spend the money on at-home blow torches if I didn’t have that option. I’ve seen some recipes that call for the sugar to be caramelized under the broiler setting in the oven, which intrigues me, but I feel like I’m not sure how well that would work. Would it heat up too slowly to keep the custard still chilled and creamy? If you’ve tried it that way, do let me know.
Anyway, I understand that it is a new year and people have resolutions. But years are long, and before we know it, the beauty of sweets and desserts such as this will happily return to be acceptable (every so often, of course) in everyone’s lives. When that time arrives, and a hankering for a lush, perfect-in-all-ways dessert comes your way, consider making some homemade crème brûlée.
PS: I know it is common for bloggers to do a round-up sort of post that captures their favorite recipes throughout the year. I tried doing that, but all that resulted was me getting a serious craving for some Lebanese food and some sun. But, if I had to pick a single favorite post, it would be this one about pistachio baklava. Less for the baklava, but more for the story and pictures that went along with it. Obviously I’m not only restless for the sun right now, but to be in the sun somewhere else in the world. Here’s my wish for the new year: travel gods, please be good to me.
One Year Ago: Flourless Chocolate Torte (my timeliness, or lack thereof, of what I post around the New Year continues!)
From Cook’s Illustrated
If necessary (but I don’t advise it nor have I tested it myself), you can substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean. Also, you could use regular granulated sugar instead of demarara or turbinado sugar. Also, I didn’t do this, but the original recipe highly recommends testing the doneness of the cream by using a instant-read digital thermometer. Placed in the center of the custard, the thermometer should register 170 to 175 degrees when done.
4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
12 large egg yolks
8 heaping teaspoons turbinado sugar or demerara sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees and adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position.
Combine 2 cups cream with the sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half and sliding the knife along the inside, scrape all the seeds from the pod. Add both seeds and pod into the cream mixture, and turn on the heat to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, making sure all the sugar dissolves. Once beginning to boil, remove from heat and let the flavors steep for 15 minutes. While the mixture is steeping, place a kitchen towel flat in the bottom of a large baking or roasting dish. Arrange eight 4 or 5-ounce ramekins or shallow dishes on the towel. Bring a kettle-full (or medium saucepan-full) of water to boil over high heat.
After the cream mixture has steeped for 15 minutes, stir in the remaining 2 cups cream to cool the mixture down. In a large bowl, whisk yolks until broken up and combined. Add about a cup of the cream mixture into the yolks and whisk to loosen up the yolks gently. Repeat once more with another cup of the cream mixture. Add the rest of the cream mixture and whisk until homogeneous and evenly colored and combined. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a at least 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher to make for easy pouring later on. Discard any solids left in the strainer.
Carefully pour and divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins. Carefully place the baking dish on the oven rack. Even more carefully, pour boiling water into the baking dish, taking care not to splash water into the ramekins, until the water reaches at between halfway and two-thirds up the height of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are just barely set and no longer sloshy, about 30-35 minutes. Once removed from the oven, transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool, about 2 hours. Once cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold, about 4 hours (or up to 4 days).
When ready to serve, uncover ramekins, and soak up any condensation that collects on the top of the custards by gently placing a paper towel on the top surface. Sprinkle each ramekin with a heaping teaspoon of turbinado sugar and tilt and tap the ramekin until its evenly colored. Ignite torch and holding flame about two inches from the surface of the custards, caramelize sugar until a deep golden brown. I found the best technique for even, deep caramelizing is moving the flame in a circular motion without directly holding the flame over one spot for too long. If not serving immediately (which you probably should), place back in the fridge to cool.
This space is pretty apolitical, as I think are most food-centered spaces on the internet are. But it’s not hard to guess, sometimes, how one leans politically. For example, take a random person who has a food blog: if that person cares about food and how it’s made, what goes into it, what it does to us, and so on, then there’s a pretty good chance that person also happens to care about things like the environment, education, market sustainability, basic civil and human rights, the United States’ precarious balance with the rest of the world, and, you know, other very useless stuff like that. Not to simplify you down to some deterministic algorithm, but that’s just how these things tend to go.
Now, take me, who is twenty-one, a student (of politics, no less) at a liberal arts college, and who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Once again, it’s not hard to guess how I’m politically aligned. I hit all the marks—check, check and check, I’m a liberal! Or something along those lines. Once again, it’s just how these things go.
Anyway, we all know the election is now less than a week away (!). This will be the first general election I’ll have voted for (I was 6 months too young to vote last time, and yes, I know I’m young!), and I have become quite antsy about it. A couple months ago or so, back when I was brazenly overconfident that my candidate would be re-elected—something I am not quite so sure of at the moment—I was planning how I would celebrate on election night. I remembered how my favorite ice cream shop of all-time, Molly Moon’s in Seattle, sold rocky road ice cream at the time of the ’08 election with the name “Baracky” road ice cream. The fact that Molly Moon’s recently came out with a cookbook that contained the recipe sealed the deal for me. To go alongside Baracky road ice cream would be Mitt chocolate chip. Get it? Like mint chocolate chip, ha, ha! (I came up with this one myself, and if you can’t tell, I’m pretty proud of it.)
But, as how most things go with me, I had to kind of be realistic and set my sights a little lower. Time and resources, just like our economy, haha!, are limited and I realized I could probably only manage to make one of the ice creams. To be honest with you, I don’t even really like rocky road ice cream that much. But, I knew I would have felt guilty going with Mitt chocolate chip, as if it would have been a bad omen and set the election in a way unfavorable to my preferences (as if I had the power to decide how the election goes by choosing which ice cream flavor to make!). So, Baracky road ice cream it was.
The ice cream itself was easy, easy, easy to make. This one doesn’t have a custard base of egg yolks, so it ended up being a matter of bringing the liquids to a slight simmer, whisking them in with the chocolate, chilling that, and then churning it. An odd thing happened to this batch of ice cream, though, that I’m hoping you guys can help me out with. Instead of the ice cream being dense and heavy, it had a soft and airy whipped-like quality to it, almost as if I had folded in whipped cream before freezing it. My friends said they like it better this way, and I suppose I don’t have to worry about the ice cream getting any icy or hard edges to it while it sits in my freezer. But I’m a little irked by it, seeing as I love the way homemade ice cream has that extra-dense smoothness to it that can’t be found in even the best store-bought kinds. I also just don’t like feeling like I don’t have a grasp in controlling what I cook or bake, in general. I’m hesitant to credit this occurrence to the recipe, because I have family friends who have made it without this happening, but I’m just as hesitant to put the blame on my KitchenAid mixer ice cream maker attachment, seeing as I’ve made ice cream before without this happening. So… any ideas? Did I leave the mixture in the mixer too long, so it aerated it more than usual? Did I not let the mixture get cold enough to be able to immediately start freezing in the maker?
Anyway, I suppose I shouldn’t obsess too much about it, seeing as the impending election is quite larger than any single batch of ice cream could ever be. And, just as an annoying reminder, even if the election feels far too much bigger out of your own hands to matter (especially if you’re not from Ohio, Florida, Iowa or Wisconsin), please, please vote! Come Tuesday, I hope we’ll all be eating some version of Baracky road ice cream to celebrate.
One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Soup, sans cream or the oven
(Ba)Rocky Road Ice Cream
From Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Creams
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks (about 1 1/3 cups), divided
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and coarsely chopped
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Place 7 oz (about a cup) of the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking occasionally to make sure all the sugar dissolves. After a few minutes, the mixture will start to steam and little bubbles will form around the edges. At this point, watch out: just before the mixture comes to a boil, you’ll want to remove the mixture from the heat. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes at room temperature. After 5 minutes, whisk until the hot cream and chocolate are completely combined and the mixture is homogeneous. Pour the mixture into a shallow pan or bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 2 hours.
When the mixture is cold, whisk in the vanilla. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturers instructions. During the last minute of processing, add the chopped hazelnuts, the remaining 4 oz of chocolate chunks, and the marshmallows. Once combined, transfer the ice cream to an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least 4 hours.