Saturday, January 30, 2010

Key Lime Pie

One of my favourite pies to make and eat is key lime pie. The rich, citrusy pie is cool, refreshing, tart and summery, and they are very simple to prepare. The only ingredients in a traditional key lime pie are the lime juice, zest, eggs and condensed milk, plus a very simple graham crust.
This version of the classic pie is the from The Joy of Cooking. This recipe also makes one of the best graham cracker crust recipes I've tried, so it is worth the extra ten minutes it takes to bake it.
I made the filling using key limes, which I was excited to find at the grocery store, having never seen them before. Key limes are the teeniest, cutest little limes ever, I cannot resist tiny cute things so I had to bring them home with me. They may be cute but they are not easy to juice and zest, it took at least 12 of the little fruits to yield the juice for this pie, but oh the results were worth it.

Key Lime Pie


Makes one 9-inch pie

Time: 1 hour

Graham cracker crust:

  • 1-1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled.

Lime filling

  • One 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup key lime juice
  • 3-4 teaspoons grated lime zest

    1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a bowl, stirring to combine. Add melted butter and stir to until graham crumbs are moistened.
    2. Press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate, distributing crumbs evenly and building up crust.
    3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until golden. Let cool before proceeding with the filling.
    4. For the filling: Whisk together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lime juice, and lime zest until well-blended.
    5. Pour the filling into the piecrust, and bake 15-17 minutes until the centre looks set but quivers when the pan is jiggled. Let cool completely on a rack, then refrigerate for up to one day. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

From: Joy of Cooking 2007

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I have been on a mint chocolate kick after making some super-awesome chocolate mint brownies, and some peppermint bark over the holidays and thought I would make some mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Most recipes I've found use fresh mint so I made the custard base and steeped the milk with a cupful of chopped fresh mint.
It smelled green. Herbaceous. Like a salad, and not at all like the mint chip ice cream of my youth.
A little downhearted, I proceeded, nonetheless, and added the egg yolks, and then 2 cups of cream hoping it would dilute the earthiness. And diluted, the ice cream base was better, but still herby. Maybe freezing it will soften the flavour, I thought. Having made the entire recipe I wasn't going to throw it out without churning it in my ice cream maker just to see.
So into the ice cream maker it went, and came out light and fluffy, and the herby flavour dulled by cold, the chocolate chips went in and the mix was put in a container in the freezer to harden for a hour.
And you know what? it worked! The ice cream was delicious. The herbaceousness was subtle at best and the play of the crunchy chocolate with the mint was very tasty. I would go out of my way to make it again, in fact. Sure it's still not the way I remember my mint chip ice cream, but this is good in its own way. Someday, I will probably attempt another batch using peppermint extract instead of fresh mint to get back to that flavour that I remember, but in the meantime this is a tasty fascimile and a very happy accident.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Makes about 1 quart ice cream

Time: I hour

  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped mint
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips

    1. Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, and stir in the mint. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan, pressing firmly to extract all the liquid; discard the mint.
    2. Bring the milk back to a simmer. Beat the egg yolks together in a bowl, Slowly whisk about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Then stir the egg mixture into the milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard reaches 175 on a thermometer and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to come to a boil. Strain if desired.
    3. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold. Stir in heavy cream and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
    4. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions, when the ice cream is almost frozen stir in 3-4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped.

Adapted from: Joy of Cooking 2007

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegan Gingerbread Cupcakes

A lot of my friends are vegan, and although we love to talk about food, I hate not being able to share a lot of the things I bake with these friends. So on a winter trip to Toronto, I was quite excited to find the book Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World, which I have heard is apparently the vegan cupcake bible.

So I decided to try out some vegan cupcakes to surprise some friends who don’t get to eat baked goods very often.

These Gingerbread cupcakes, with a lemony buttercream are my first real foray into the world of vegan baking. They use ingredients like soymilk and soy yogurt that I otherwise wouldn’t use on a regular basis, but for the most part the recipe was simple and straightforward. I was very pleasantly surprised by the cupcakes they were light and fluffy, had a lovely texture and a spicy, rich gingerbread flavour. They tasted good both warm from the oven and room temperature.

The problem however was their appearance. The cupcakes sank in the middle. A combination of the very liquidy batter, and possibly my inconsistent oven, produced fluffy tasty cupcakes that unfortunately had pronounced craters in their centers. Now as an artist I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my baking, and when I eat a cupcake I want it to have lovely rounded tops. I can’t bring myself to serve ugly cupcakes no matter how good they taste, my vegan friends deserve better.

Behold the craters:

The trick is to think of the craters as frosting opportunities. So I proceeded to make up a vegan “butter” cream recipe to make what was once concave look convex. The recipe is loosely based on the lemony buttercream in Vegan Cupcakes take Over the World, but I messed with the quantities because I really didn’t want to buy margarine. So I just used shortening as my frosting base, and made sure it was liberally flavored with lemon zest, and vanilla. And it was better than I’d hoped.

I brought these gingerbread cupcakes with lemony frosting to a soup-making potluck. We ate them with green tea to cap off a productive night of cooking. My friend said they tasted like a lemon bar and a gingerbread cookie that had a cake lovechild. She also thought that the lemon frosting was a surprise with the ginger. She went back for seconds so I do believe my vegan baking experiment was successful.

Vegan Gingerbread Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons soy yogurt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper cupcakes liners.
    2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a bowl and mix.
    3. Whisk the oil, molasses, maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt, and lemon zest in a separate large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth. The batter will be quite runny.
    4. Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full. Bake for 19-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting. (I let the cupcakes cool in pans for about ten minutes before turning out.)

Notes: the cupcakes have a lot of liquid in them so they might sink in the middle, this is ok! As long as the cupcakes are baked through they will be good and fluffy and moist. Think of the craters as frosting opportunities.

Lemon “Butter” cream

  • ¼ cup shortening (I used Crisco)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest

    1. Beat all ingredients together until smooth, adding more lemon zest or sugar if needed to loosen or stiffen icing.

Adapted from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fig Bar Cookies

Back to school time again, The holidays are over, I'm back in the maritimes and have to readapt to a school schedule and all the work that comes with it. It looks like my classes are goingto be quite a bit more involved this year as well.
That being said, I really needed a sweet yet moderately wholesome (or so I have convinced myself) cookie. So, I made these not-too-sweet but satisfying and filling fig bars.
The dough doesn't have much refined sugar in it and the filling is sweet enough to balance the entire thing. These fig bars are soft, sweet and good for that middle of the day lethargy, or to take to school to get me through long hours at the studio. Sigh...The future appears busy

Homemade Fig Newton Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies
Time: I hour

• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup sugar
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup butter, cut into pieces and chilled
• 1 large egg
• 1 large egg yolk

• 1 cup diced dried figs
• ½ cup fresh orange juice
• ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
• 4 teaspoons lemon juice
• ½ ground cinnamon
• 1 egg mixed with 2 tablespoons water for egg wash

1. For dough, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter until dough is a rough, crumbly texture. Add whole egg and egg yolk and blend in until dough comes together. Shape into a disk, wrap and chill for an hour.
2. For filling, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Let cool, puree in a food processor and chill completely.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, just under ¼ inch thick. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut strips of dough that are at least 4-1/2 inches wide. Spoon filling along centre of strip. Brush left side of pastry with egg wash. Fold right side of pastry over filling, then fold left side over so egg adheres pastry. Trim ends. Lift filled cookie tube to a parchment lined baking sheet and press seam side down, to flatten. Repeat with remaining strips. Brush tops of strips with egg wash. Bake for 15-8 minutes, until a light golden brown. Allow to cool, then cut strips into 1 inch bites.

Adapted from: Another Cup of Sugar

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rapberry White Chocolate Scones

There's not much to say about these... The ingredients kind of speak for themselves...I mean raspberries and white chocolate in scone form...scones being my favorite-est member of the biscuit family...these couldn't possibly be bad.

Like most of my scone recipes, I first encountered the raspberry white chocolate combination at a coffee shop, which clearly means I spend waaaaay too much time in coffee shops, but the combination makes a lot of sense. White chocolate on its own is a bit too much sometimes (not for me though, I say bring on the chocolate!) but the subtle vanilla and cocoa butter flavour is beautifully accented and tempered by acidic ingredients like fruit.
So I made these pretty cream scones that are adapted from a betty crocker recipe. It is important to use frozen raspberries in this recipe as fresh would get crushed when you knead the dough, and then you might end up with pink scones which isnt a bad thing depending on your opinion on pink foods. You can use either white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate, the latter will give you more bite, while i find the chips tend to melt too much and overcarmelize around the edges of the scones. The real secret ingredient in this recipe is the almond extract which somehow melds the flavour of the raspberries and white chocolate together seamlessly and adds a much greater depth to the scones.

Another thing to note is that this recipe makes a very soft tender scone, I tried to shape mine into hearts because everyone needs a little love by teatime... but they didn't really hold their shape. Instead, I would suggest shaping the entire thing into a disc and cutting wedges as the original recipe states, unless you're into deformed hearts, that's ok too.

Raspberry White Chocolate Scones


Time: 20-30 minutes

Makes 8 scones

* 1-3/4 cups flour
* 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup cold butter
* 1 egg beaten
* ½ teaspoon almond extract
* ½ cup whipping cream
* ¾ cup frozen raspberries (do not thaw)
* 2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
* extra cream for brushing
* extra granulated or coarse sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, using pastry blender until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in egg, almond extract, raspberries, white chocolate chips and whipping cream to create a ragged dough.
2. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on baking sheet (or cut with a cookie cutter: one caveat though, the dough doesn’t hold it’s shape well) and lightly score into 8 wedges but do not separate wedges. Brush with additional cream, sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
3. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from baking sheet; carefully separate wedges, serve warm.

From: Betty Crocker Baking for Today