September 22, 2011

Almond Spiced Granola

You know how much I like granola right? I like chewy granola and crunchy granola, and I like trying new recipes. I recently adapted a recipe from Whole Foods and though I may have cooked it two minutes longer than I should (I blame allergies for lack of smell) I've enjoyed it. It's versatile because it is sweet and crunchy and no flavor is too overpowering.

If you are like me and feel ravenous before dinner, you can eat it by the handfull while rummaging through your kitchen for something to cook. You could also sprinkle it on muffins before baking, make a delicious yogurt parfait with seasonal fruits and agave nectar (or honey), use it as a topping for ice cream, make trail mix, or scoop it from a bowl filled to the brim with milk.

I like to eat yogurt wearing a toga, but you can wear whatever you like. Any way you eat it, I'm sure you will like it. Feel free to make it something you really love.

Almond Spiced Granola
adapted from Whole Foods

3 C old fashioned oats
3 T whole wheat flour
1 C slivered almonds
1 C pecan pieces
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or equal amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
1 tsp almond extract (or substitute vanilla)
1/2 C honey
1/3 C canola oil

Preheat the oven to 275˚F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silpat. Mix the dry ingredients and nuts in a large bowl. In a measuring cup add oil, honey and vanilla and stir. Add the honey mix into the oats and stir to coat evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally to break up the larger pieces. Remove from oven when it's light brown and fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour or until completely cool (it will crisp up if it seems too wet after baking). Store in an airtight container.

September 15, 2011

a fight with french macarons

I've needed a good reason for years to try making macarons, French macarons. They are finicky, crisp-shelled, chewy-centered sandwich cookies, and usually better from a professional. I am no Pierre Herme, and there are bakeries everywhere dedicated solely to making these delicious bites. They are one of the most artistic cookies you can imagine with endless flavor combinations and they scare me.

I've been drooling over some of Tartelette's recipes for a long time and finally decided to use macarons as the recipe of the month for the Easy Bake cOven blog. I hoped two months to try macarons would be enough time, but even I didn't succeed in my own deadline. Summer scheduling is always difficult, and I'm guessing some people detest the idea of turning on their oven on a blistering summer day (even a mere 280˚F). For me, the oven is always welcome on our cold, depressingly foggy summer nights. I intended to make these on the last day possible (August 31) and post at the last minute, but I didn't. I came home that night to a messy kitchen and decided I should probably clean instead of make mess upon mess. We are nearing the end of September... and I have nothing to show!

I attempted the macarons on a Sunday hoping to donate them to a bake sale. They looked like they should, feet around the edge and a crisp shell. The problem I had was that they stuck really bad to the parchment. I tried scraping them off gently but most of them mushed into a half moon. I have no clue why this happened - every new recipe is an experiment right? I'm guessing it could be two things: too heavy of a batter or I left them too long to dry before baking. Because I don't know the answers, I quickly enrolled myself in a class from Baking Arts here is SF. Putting birthday money to good use. I took a class from Richard before and learned to make some of the most delicious chocolate truffles. I trust that this class will cure my horrible first experience and I promise to share everything with you mid October after my class.

I did rescue them somewhat... and turned my crumbs into "pistachio cacao nib balls" dipped in dark chocolate. Not my best by any means but it was good to avoid wasting a tasty cookie.

Now I will keep telling myself, "Failure is the only opportunity to begin again more intelligently" -Henry Ford. 

image from bisous ciao macarons, pure art
Incredible inspiration! 
I must visit here during my nyc trip in just over a week!

September 3, 2011

Lebovitz's Mint Ice Cream

I finally let Michael eat the last scoop of ice cream this week. Mid August, I warned him I needed one scoop to photograph for the blog and he reluctantly put the tub back in the freezer and went for vanilla instead. He reminded me a few times that I needed to take photos so he could eat it, and I reminded him that I needed good light for a good ice cream photo. I also needed to be home before 7 with nothing else to do on a weeknight to make this happen. August was a busy month.

I tried a new recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I think he is currently traveling around San Francisco and I'm resisting the urge to stalk him. I might have to visit Smitten Ice Cream soon though because he gave it a pretty good review on his blog... ice cream via liquid nitrogen. hmm.

I chose real mint ice cream. Why would I do such a thing you ask? Well, I have a garden now... you could say I'm developing a green thumb, and I'm growing mint. Mint is an easy plant even if you have a black thumb. Just beware as it is likely to take over areas of your garden unless confined to a pot. My mint is weird. It has smaller leaves and when it gets tall the leaves start to turn purple (this may mean my window box is too small). I used it anyways, even some of the purple, and it turned into a very refreshing ice cream. I added chocolate chips of course because mint needs the best flavor companion possible and I was a bit nervous about the strong fresh mint taste. If all else failed, at least the would be chocolate.

I liked it, I think Michael liked it too. He ate most of it anyways with bits of leftover cake that I didn't make into cake pops. My preference is still peppermint extract flavored ice cream, but this one was nice for a change, and nice to be able to use something I've grown in a recipe.

Mint Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz

 1 C whole milk
1/4 C sugar
2 C heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
2 C fresh packed mint leaves
1 C roughly chopped chocolate (mini chocolate chips work well too) my addition

Heat milk, sugar, and 1 C cream in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add the mint leaves and steep for one hour. This means stir them up and cover with a lid. Go do some sit-ups since you'll be eating this later, and and strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Make sure you push leaves against the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Lebovits says your cream will be a lovely shade of emerald, but mine was barely green. Warm this mix back up on meduim heat.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Once the milk is warm, slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, to the eggs and then return all of this to the pot and continue to heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir constantly and try not to let anything burn to the bottom.

In another bowl (more dishes please!) add the remainder of the cream and set the mesh strainer on top (remove leaves). Pour the minty custard through the strainer again to eliminate scrambled eggs in your ice cream and stir into the cream. Place over an ice bath to help cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least four hours. You can add green food coloring now.

Prepare the ice cream according to your machine manufacturer's recommendations. Be sure you've frozen your bowl for as long as required or your ice cream will never get thick. Freeze again for a few hours until it's scoopable, about 4 hours.

Ice cream takes a while, so it's best to plan ahead if your're making it for an event!

Happy Churning!

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