Thursday, July 31, 2008

Honey Peach Tart with Fresh Peach Ice Cream

To anyone looking here for the Daring Bakers challenge, I skipped this month! But I had a sack (known as bag in these parts) of fresh local peaches that I needed to do something with. I decided I had to make fresh peach ice cream, and made a lovely rustic honey peach tart to serve underneath.

Ha, I say that like the ice cream was the main attraction. Actually, the peaches are. It is always a challenge to find recipes that utilize fresh fruit without masking its freshness and flavor completely. The nice thing about the tart is that the crust is rolled thin and only is folded up around the edge, allowing the peaches to be the focus of the flavor. Since they are in one layer, they don't need to be mixed with much, and are in fact layered on top of a sprinkling of flour and sugar and drizzled with honey. The recipe is here but the baking time is 10 minutes too long, so really keep an eye on your crust.

The peach ice cream recipe comes again from The Perfect Scoop, and was interesting because it contained sour cream. The flavor was superb and a great show case for these South Carolina peaches.

For a closing word on South Carolina peaches, I turn to Stephen Colbert.

Categories: Ice Cream, Peaches, Tart

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Olympics

The contendors
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Today is my 2nd blogiversary! To celebrate I originally intended to do something elaborate and involved, but then I came across Cream Puffs in Venice's entry on the chocolate chip cookie heard round the world, and hit inspiration.

You know, there are a lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, since it is such a classic. A lot of them claim to be the best. So I figured, why not put them to the test!

Some of the judges
Before we get to the challenge, please get to know our judges, some of the staff and faculty of the library at Furman University, where I am privileged to be the music librarian. I brought the three recipes of chocolate chip cookies to break today and encouraged feedback. I think most people had at least three cookies, so they were prepared to give a score!

Urban Legend Cookies
Let's start with what I've named the Urban Legend Cookies. I'm sure you've heard the story, or something similar, where someone ate at the Neiman Marcus cafe, liked a cookie, asked for the recipe, and was charged $250 for it. To get back, they have made this recipe freely available to you, and please forward it to all of your friends. I first made this recipe years ago, back when I actually read forwards in my e-mail, and laughed when my Mom sent it to me the other day like it was something new.

You can check out if you want to know if the story has any truth, but true or not, this story at least has longevity. I included it merely for its story, knowing I didn't care much for the cookie itself. Ground up oats is a terrific idea, but there are simply too many dry ingredients in this cookie for my taste.

Neiman Marcus offers a recipe on their web site to counter the urban legend, but this is not the one I made (although it actually sounds pretty good). Instead I made the one that has been forwarded to me, and now you can too, if you want. My mixer wouldn't even hold the entire thing, and I would recommend halving it.

Tollhouse Chocolate Recipe
The second recipe vying for gold was the original Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, what most people think of as chocolate chip cookies. That is the most frequent comment made from the "judges," that this recipe was what they remembered from childhood. The texture was also remarked on. I have to admit, I cheat on this recipe a bit - instead of using 1 cup butter, I used half butter and half margarine because they stay softer longer. Other than that, this is THE original recipe, and is what I would recommend if you just want something classic.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Jacques Torres recipe)
A few more than half of the judges picked the Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookie as being their favorite. This is the recipe Cream Puff posted about as well, and I don't understand the science any more than she did, but the strangest step is leaving the dough in the fridge for 24 hours. It did have much more depth of flavor than the other two, and seemed to hint or beg of orange, despite a lack of citrus. For some of the judges, it was far too salty, and did indeed have 3 times as much salt as the other two recipes.

For the cookie olympics of 2008, the Jacques Torres recipe gets the gold by a millisecond. The traditional Tollhouse recipe wins the silver, and the urban legend Neiman Marcus arrives at a distant third, but picks up the bronze medal.

For a funnier take on chocolate chip cookies, please visit my good friends at Cakespy. Okay, I've never met them, but they're the kind of people you want to claim to know.

Categories: Chocolate, Cookies

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ice Cream Intuition

Chocolate Hob Nob Icecream
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I'm not sure if ice cream belongs in a baking blog, but since I got a beautiful ice cream maker for my birthday, I thought I would share about the experience.

With baking, I have made certain things long enough where I really have bake by "feel" in addition to following a recipe. I know the texture things should be before I move on to the next step. My goal by the end of the summer is to develop the same skill with ice cream. Believe me when I tell you it has not happened yet.

The first day that I made ice cream, I had selected pear-caramel ice cream from The Perfect Scoop. I had well-chilled the bowl, and had all the ingredients. Unfortunately, the pears had not ripened. I combed through the book, and didn't have everything for chocolate or coffee, but kept seeing this recipe for basil ice cream!

I happened to have a counter full of basil I had trimmed from my huge plant, needing a destination. Despite the fact that everyone at my house that day seemed to think basil ice cream was a strange idea, I plowed full speed ahead and made it anyway. My new fridge is a Samsung with a quick-chill drawer in it, so after cooling the mixture in an ice bath, I stuck it in that drawer to get chilly quickly. It seemed to work; by the time I poured the mixture into the frozen ice cream maker bin, the mixture had started to thicken.

Basil Ice Cream
The end result was a lovely, smooth ice cream the texture of soft-serve, although it melted very quickly. I could have put it in the freezer and waited to serve it until it had hardened, but the process is a long one, and we were all ready. Basil ice cream is incredibly summery - not too sweet, very fresh, and if you can manage not to think of pesto cream sauce while you are eating it, it is pretty incredible. I would not hesitate to make it again!

After one success, I thought it would be easy to make something else. When the pears finally ripened, i started off to make pear-caramel ice cream. I'm not sure why, if the recipe just didn't have the same binding agents (no egg yolks in that one) or if I was just simply impatient with the mixture, but after 30 minutes churning around in the machine it never set up at all. If I had been less frustrated, I could have dumped the mixture back into the fridge overnight, but it went down the garbage disposal.

Chocolate ice cream was to be my next feat. However I did not just want plain chocolate ice cream, and I knew I could supposedly add ingredients the last 5 minutes of churning. For some reason, making chocolate Hob Nobs ice cream entered my head and just would not leave. When I realized our friend Brian, who recently moved to London, had a birthday coming up, I decided to make Chocolate Hob Nobs ice cream in his honor.

Chocolate HobNob Icecream

Hob Nobs were one of the things I lived on when I was traveling in the UK, because they are these amazing oaty nobbly cookies with chocolate coating that come in a can, and are easy to stick in a backpack. I came across them at Whole Foods Market and snagged the last two cans!

The first time I tried it, the mixture smelled amazing but didn't set up. I knew I had merely been impatient, because the mixture was thick and coated the spoon just like it was supposed to. I re-chilled it and tried again, and this time it churned up beautifully. I added smashed up Hob Nobs to the churning mixture the last five minutes. We ate a bit of it right out of the ice cream maker, but froze the rest to give it more of a normal ice cream look, which is what you see here. (Happy birthday, Brian!)

Two successful tries down, many more to go. I am also desperate to find a frozen custard recipe, since we miss Ritter's in Indiana. What is your favorite type of ice cream?

ETA: If you are a LiveJournal user, you can now subscribe to this blog using their syndicated feed.

Categories: Basil, Chocolate, Ice Cream

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blueberry and Blackberry Galette with Cornmeal Crust

After my recent blueberry picking ventures, I have been on the hunt for recipes that would allow me to use my berries without masking their flavor completely with sugar and pastry. Enter the blueberry and blackberry galette with cornmeal crust, in the most recent issue of Cooking Light! (Thanks Libby!)

I'm actually not sure there is anything light about this recipe. The crust has a stick and a half of butter, and the berries are mixed with regular sugar.... But who cares, really, it was incredibly tasty.

The cornmeal in the crust was a nice textural addition. I think if I made this again I might make individual tarts, since the large one almost didn't fit on a sheet pan and leaked all over my brand new oven.

Blueberry and Blackberry Galette with Cornmeal Crust

Blueberry and Blackberry Galette with Cornmeal Crust

Recipe from Cooking Light


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 7 3/4 ounces)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup fat-free buttermilk

4 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 large egg white
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1. To prepare pastry, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a food processor; pulse two times. Add butter to flour mixture; pulse 4 to 5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add buttermilk through food chute; process just until dough forms a ball. Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover. Chill 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350°.

3. Unwrap and place dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 15-inch circle. Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet.

4. To prepare filling, combine berries and next 3 ingredients (through juice) in a medium bowl; toss gently to coat. Arrange berry mixture in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (dough will only partially cover berry mixture).

5. Combine fat-free milk and egg white in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Brush dough with milk mixture; sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand 30 minutes; cut into wedges.

10 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Categories: Blackberries, Blueberries, Buttermilk, Pastry, Tart