Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream

Last week my friend Krystal mentioned that she was going to make ice cream on her day off. You should check out her blog The Dessert Shop if you have some time. I thought ice cream sounded like a great idea considering it is supposed to get in the hundreds this weekend, Yikes! And it’s a good reason to finally use my The Perfect Scoop cook book by David Lebovitz.

So after flipping through the book and a trip to the farmers market I decided on Blackberry swirl ice cream. I really like this recipe because the blackberries are crushed and rustically swirled into the vanilla ice cream creating a refreshingly bright tasting ice cream. It’s like topping vanilla ice cream with fresh crushed berries.

Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk

2/3 sugar

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Blackberry swirl

1 1/2 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp *Vodka

1 tsp Lemon juice

Directions

  1. To make the ice cream, warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.
  2. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla and over and ice bath stir until cool. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
  5. An hour or so before churning the ice cream, make the blackberry swirl by mashing the blackberries together with the sugar, vodka, and lemon juice with a fork (if using frozen blackberries, let them thaw a bit first) until they are juicy but with nice-sized chunks of blackberries remaining. Chill until ready to use.
  6. Freeze the ice cream custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the machine, layer it in the container with spoonfuls of the chilled blackberry swirl mixture.

Variation

Raspberry-Remove the lemon juice from the swirl ingredients.

Tips and Tricks

  1. The vodka is to prevent the swirl from freezing solid. Just like when you put vodka or other hard alcohols in the freezer, adding vodka to the swirl will improve the mouth feel and make it easier to scoop.
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Chocolate Cake with Caramel buttercream

I really love the combo of chocolate and caramel, especially these recipes.

I took the cake out of my apartment to take pictures of it and was immediately mobbed by every kid within eyesight. Of course they all begged me for a piece. And I gave in, I mean who can resist a bunch of kids who ❤ cake.

They loved it!!!

I think I made some new friends!

And they have signed me up to make all of their birthday cakes, whether I or their parents want me too. Now whenever I see them they tell me what kind of cake they want for their birthday, and guess what, it’s different every time.

I used Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe but I changed a couple of things: I used buttermilk instead of milk and I used coffee instead of boiling water.

If you are going to use milk instead of buttermilk I would recommend using whole milk not 2%. I like using coffee instead of boiling water because coffee enhances the chocolate flavor of the cake without making it taste like a mocha. It really makes a big difference.

Hershey’s Chocolate Cake recipe

Makes 1 8 in cake

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; With a mixer, beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Carefully, stir in boiling water. The batter will be very thin. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Swiss Caramel Buttercream

Makes enough to frost and decorate 1 8 in cake.
Make the caramel sauce at least 1 hr before adding  the buttercream.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites
pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) room temp unsalted butter, cut into tbsp
 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice (makes caramel brighter)
1/4 salt
*caramel sauce recipe

Directions

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (water should be able to touch the bottom of the bowl), and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth. (kind of like snot, gross I know but still)
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined. Mix in caramel sauce.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

If you are like me and never remember to set out your buttercream a head of time, you can soften a portion (less than a third) in the microwave and add it back in as you re-whip the buttercream. Re-whip using the whisk attachment not the paddle attachment.

I know there is a lot to this caramel recipe but I tried to make it as idiot proof as possible. In theory anyone should be able to make it and not crystallize or burn it. Oh and keep in mind the temp range I listed is just the level of darkness that I like. Caramel temps range from 320- 350 degrees.

Caramel Sauce

For my caramel buttercream I used 1 1/2 times this recipe. But add as much or as little caramel as you’d like.

You can dbl this recipe

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup (dark or light)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated until warm
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

*1/8 tsp lemon juice (optional)

*1 tsp vanilla (optional)

Directions

  1.  In a *clean heavy saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, lemon juice, and water until the sugar is completely moistened. It should look like wet sand. If you got any sugar on the sides of the pan while stirring either use your fingers or a very clean pastry brush dipped in hot water to “wash” down the sides. You don’t want any sugar on the sides. Warm your cream and have an oven mitt near by because you wont have time to do it once your caramel gets close to temp/the darkness you like.
  2. At this point you can do one of two things: You can put your candy thermometer into the pot and cook on medium heat, *stirring or swirling the pot occasionally until the sugar dissolves and is completely clear. Or you can put a *lid on your sugar mixture and cook on medium heat until the sugar mixture is dissolved and completely clear. Stir or swirl occasionally. Once clear put in your candy thermometer.
  3. Once sugar mixture is clear, allow it to boil undisturbed until it starts to darken, *swirl the pot every once in a while. The caramel will be done at about 340-342 degrees fahrenheit (I find it easier to watch the caramel temp in celsius; so it should be 172-174 degrees celsius). It may take a while at first but trust me, the last 10 degrees happens fast! Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully whisk in the warm cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously. This is where I use the oven mitt. I have gotten many a steam burn from making caramel.
  4. Lightly whisk the mixture until smooth. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter, salt and vanilla.
  5. Allow caramel to cool completely before adding to buttercream. It should also be *stirred or emersion blended before adding.

Tips and tricks

  1. When I say clean I mean really clean. You don’t want anything that could come loose and cause crystallization. In fact everything you are putting in the caramel should be very clean. Caramel doesn’t start to darken or turn into caramel until all of the liquid has evaporated out of the sugar mixture. So technically you can make caramel without water, you just have to know what you are doing. Corn syrup is an invert sugar meaning it will resist crystallization. Lemon juice (in small amounts) will also help prevent crystallization.
  2. Too much stirring can sometimes cause crystallization, so I prefer a gentle swirl. If you do stir occasionally keep your spoon in a cup or bowl of hot water so that you don’t introduce crystals. The reason for putting the lid on is because as the sugar mixture warms up, water will condensate on the lid and wash away any potential crystals that form.
  3. Swirl more often than you did before. If you don’t swirl the pot, one spot may get too dark. If one area of the caramel burns then all of it will be burnt. Ie. the darkest spot in your caramel is the color your caramel will end up being.
  4. I have noticed the caramel sauce has a tendency to separate as it cools but once it is re-mixed it wont happen again.

Test run/Setting up a Wedding Cake DIY Wedding Cake part 2

Once you know what flavors of cake, the size, and design they want it is a great idea to do a test run. Test all of your recipes, make sure you are comfortable with them and know how much they yield. The last thing you’d want when making the final cake is to not have enough cake or icing.

6 in-Red velvet w/cream cheese filling

8 in-Chocolate w/caramel buttercream filling

10 in-vanilla w/raspberry jam filling

Covered in vanilla buttercream icing

Right now I am doing all of my test runs. It has been a while since I have iced a whole wedding cake, let alone a square one so I decided to do a test run. I chose not to test the actual cake flavors that I am going to use for the final cake because of the cost, so I chose to use cake mix. This way I would be able to check the over-all stability of the cake and my icing skills. And how long it would take me to ice the cake; which when you are a perfectionist like me, can take a while.

Here is a picture of my test run. This is not what the final cake is going to look like! This is no the correct ribbon and I ended up not buying enough cake mix to make all of the layers tall enough. I also didn’t have the right sized pans, I just cut out the sizes from the pans I had, which meant  a lot of left over pieces.

That is an important decision whether or not you are going to cut out the cake or if you are going to buy cake pans. Are you going to use those cake pans again or are you ok wasting that much cake.

How to Set up a Wedding Cake

      1. Bake all of your cake layers, make all of your fillings, and make the icing. If you are cutting out your layers have your stencils ready (preferably out of cardboard). As well as other tools you will need such as: ruler, piping bag (ziplock bag ok too), round tip, metal spatula, bench scraper, 8 skewers or straws, and a serrated knife.
      2. Cut out the cake layers (if you are using pans, skip this step)
      3. Cut each cake layer in half horizontally and put the first layer on a cardboard square (or what ever size and shape of cake you are making, as they should be the same size). I recommend starting with the largest (bottom) layer.
      4. Fill a piping bag fitted with a round tip with the buttercream you are icing the cake with. And pipe a “dam” of buttercream around the edge of the first layer. It really only needs to be between a 1/4 in and 1/2 in wide and it is ok if it goes over the edge of the cake.
      5. Fill the “dam” with the cake filling. The filling should not be too thick, approx. 1/8 in thick. If the filling is too thick, the cake might slide around.
      6. Cover with the next layer of cake 
      7. Repeat steps 4-6 until you have reached the correct height. I each of my cake layers will be 4 in tall. As you can see in the picture this layer is not 4 in tall. If you are making a standard wedding cake it is very important that your cake layers are all the same height, so check.
      8.  If you are doing a cake where the layers are not supposed to be all the same height, then it doesn’t matter.
      9. Crumb coat the cake. This means to completely coat the cake in a thin layer of icing. This step will seal the cake and prevent crumbs from getting in your final layer of icing: do this using your metal spatula, as shown in the picture below. Coat the top of the cake as well.
      10. Refrigerate each layer before starting on the next. Buttercream hardens in the refrigerator so this will make your final icing easier. Complete steps 3-9 until all of your cake layers are done.
      11. Use your metal spatula, cover the cake in icing. The final layer should be about 1/4 in thick. But as long as the final product is consistent and no cake shows through, it doesn’t really matter.
      12. Use the bench scraper to smooth out the icing. Start just before one of the corners holding the bench scraper parallel to the cake, with a fluid motion pull the bench scraper towards you. Slightly cutting into the buttercream, just enough to make the buttercream even and smooth.
      13. Check to see if the side of the cake and the board form a 90 degree angle.
      14. If there are any gaps in the side, then fill in the pocket or hole with more buttercream and repeat this step. If you are having issues getting the buttercream completely smooth, try dipping the edge of the bench scraper in hot water before pulling the bench scraper towards you. The heat will slightly melt and smooth out the buttercream.
      15. Repeat this step for all 4 sides. If you notice that your corners are not nice and square/sharp, put on a little more icing and go over the corner as the pictures show below.

        Add more icing on to the corner before trying to fix it

        Take the edge of the of either your bench scraper or your metal spatula and scrape off the excess towards you

        Do the same on the other side of the corner

         

      16. Smooth out the top of the cake layer. Using the edge of your metal spatula start at one of the corners and lightly cut into the icing and push away from you, repeat all along the edge of the cake.
      17. Repeat steps 10-14 for each layer of cake. If you have to drive the cake any where. Stop here. Once at the location continue to the next step.
      18. Use 2 metal spatulas and slide them under the bottom layer of the cake carefully pick up the cake and place it on the cake stand.
      19. Cut 4 skewers or straws (non-bendy end) to the same height as the cake layer and stick them into the top of the cake, as evenly as possible. They should be level with the icing, not stick above. These skewers increase the cakes stability as more cake layers are added. Think of it as the bones of a building.
      20. Pick up the next cake and place on top the corners should line up. The cake that I am doing is going to be off set, so the corners don’t need to line up.
      21. Again cut the skewers and stick them in the cake.
      22. Pick up the next cake and place on top.
      23. Edit and fix any spots that may have gotten hurt in the moving process.
      24. Put the ribbon around the base of each layer. I cut my ribbon as I went. But it may help to have it precut, just make sure that there is a few inches extra. Just in case you miss calculate.

        Always start the ribbon on the “back” of the cake

         

      25. If you are putting flowers or a topper on you can do that now. Voila, you are done!

        Final shot of the test cake with ribbon and flowers

Take a break, you deserve it. 🙂

Come back next week for the recipe for the middle layer. Chocolate cake with caramel buttercream, so tasty!

DIY Wedding Cake part 1

I am super excited to announce that a friend of my family asked me to do their wedding cake. I was very touched that they thought of me, and I am very excited to make my first wedding cake from scratch. I have done bits and pieces of wedding cakes in the past, but this will my first from start to finish.

So I figured I would walk you guys through my process. The things I am thinking about, the issues I have, and the things I am thinking about. And for those of you who don’t want to make your own wedding cake, it will be good for you to know what actually goes into making a cake.

Step 1 Basic Information

  • Talk with the bride and get a feel for the theme or the ideas they have for the wedding – This is important so that you can get a feel for what they are looking for/expecting. Because they are probably not going to want a modern cake if they plan to have a country style or an out door wedding.
  • How many guests they are expecting – This will help figure out how large of a cake to make, such as how many tiers
  • When the date is-This is important for design and color ideas. Also because fondant tends to sag if left out in warm weather. So it isn’t a great option for out door receptions.
  • Where it is-It is important to know how far the cake is going to have to travel, is it 20 minutes away? 40? Even more? This will also help you figure out how you plan to transport it, whether in your car completed but layers separated and you will put it together at the site, or if it can be stacked and transported. Or if you are lucky and it being held in your back yard, you could make it there.
  • Other good questions to ask-What time is the ceremony starting? What time is the reception starting/what time do they want you to be there? And of course contact information

Step 2 Cake details

Some of this aren’t necessary, but are good things to think about, if the bride isn’t sure what she wants.

  • Cake flavors/fillings-It is of course a good idea to give them samples to try but this is a little harder if you aren’t in a bakery. Also ask if they have a preference which flavor is each layer.
  • Icing/Fondant-Do they want a simple buttercream, meringue buttercream, or fondant? I do not recommend icing in cream cheese. It is hard to get sharp edges and it droops when it gets soft. Offering a cream cheese filling is a great compromise, especially if they want red velvet.
  • Do they have pictures for inspiration?-Pictures are a great help, but don’t forget to think about what level your abilities are at? Don’t go promising gum paste flowers if you can’t deliver. It is their wedding day, i.e. one of the most important days of her life.
  • Cake shape-Do they want a square cake, round, heart shaped. Etc Do they want it centered, centered toward the back, so that one corner or one side is lined up or off set?
  • Colors-Do they want to incorporate their wedding colors, or something different.
  • Fresh Flowers-Yes or no. If yes, where do they want them, are they going to provide them or are you. What kind? etc…
  • Topper- Yes or no, how big is it?
  • How do they want the cake displayed?-on a cake stand, on a platform? This of course depends on what size of cake they are getting

What my Bride/Groom wants

Basic info

  • Feeling/theme-back yard ceremony/reception
  • Number of guests-Approx 50-60
  • Date of wedding-August
  • Location-My parents house-approx 40 min away
I was going to take the day off of work. To prep but apparently it is a popular weekend for weddings because we are over booked at work which means I will be a busy lady. So that will create an interesting challenge.
  • Cake flavors– Red velvet with cream cheese filling, and vanilla with raspberry filling
  • Icing-Vanilla swiss meringue buttercream
  • Size-8 in, 6 in, and 4 in cake tiers. Each tier will be 4 in tall
  • Shape-Square, off set
  • Design-Simple: white icing, with black ribbon around the base, and hot pink fresh flowers.
  • Colors-Black, white, and hot pink
  • Topper-No
  • Display-Undecided

One last tidbit of information. When actually buying a wedding cake, plan ahead. Cakes are generally requested to be paid in full at least 2 months before the wedding.  Making an appointment and reserving your wedding date is especially important for a summer wedding or holidays, because it is wedding season and dates fill up fast. You could find your dream cake shop or decorator but they could be booked for the date of your wedding.

Of course things are a little different if you are making your own cake, or if a friend is making it for you. But still be courteous and plan ahead.

Gooseberry Pie

I was planning on making concord grape pie, but while I was at the farmers market I found out that they aren’t in season. Silly me for thinking that just because the grapes at the grocery store are perfect, that concord grapes would be in season. But thankfully while I was perusing the stalls I found gooseberries. To be honest, I had never had a gooseberry but I figured I might as well try them. They are light green veiny balls of deliciousness. Similar in texture to a grape, but tart like rhubarb but without the astringency. Gooseberries are very good on their own, better frozen, and marvelous in a pie.

I discovered that while they start out green that they turn more red as they age, as well as get a little mushy in texture; similar to a mushy apple. So be sure to use them fresh. But if they do start to turn on you, freeze them and eat them as a snack on a hot summer day. They are a great refreshing treat, just like frozen grapes.

Ok, so back to the pie.

This pie is awesome! I made a small pie/tart for the 4th of July celebration my family was having and it was a hit! Just about no one had ever had a gooseberry before but everyone who tried a bite loved it. I am definitely adding this recipe to my signature recipe list. I love that it is tart but not overwhelming and sweet with just a hint of warmth from the cinnamon. I also added half of a vanilla bean to the sugar mixture. But I included that in the instructions.

This recipe makes a 9in pie but this is a picture of a 6in pie/tart that I made for the 4th.

Gooseberry Pie

makes 1 9in pie

Ingredients

2 pie crusts

1/4 cup rice cereal

3/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

pinch of salt

2 cups gooseberries, fresh, frozen or canned (feel like you can add more than that)

1 tbsp cold unsalted butter

* 1/2 vanilla bean scrapped (optional)

1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk (for egg wash) *you don’t really even need the milk*

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a 9 in pie pan with 1 rolled out pie crust, then *sprinkle the cereal in the crust in an even layer.
  3. Put the sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla bean seeds (optional) in a bowl and stir to combine. Drain the berries if using canned, then *stir the berries into the sugar. Spread the filling evenly in the crust, then scatter the butter over the top.
  4. Brush the rim of the crust with the egg wash, cover with the second rolled out crust, seal, and flute or crimp the edges.
  5. Brush with egg wash and cut a few *steam vents
  6. Sprinkle with sugar. I used vanilla sugar, but sanding sugar, or lemon sugar would also be great options.
  7. Bake 15 minutes then lower the oven temp to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 to 2 hrs before slicing. Serve at room temperature.

Tips and tricks

1. Have you ever noticed that when you cut a slice out of a fruit pie, fruit juice tends to pool and make the crust soggy? Adding a thin layer (about a 1/4 cup) of crisp rice cereal, or dried cake crumbles, or even dry cookie crumbles will soak up some or all of those juices. You can either add crisp rice cereal which wont affect the flavor or add something that will enhance it. Such as adding gingersnap cookie crumbles to a pumpkin pie.

2. The sugar mixture wont stick to fresh berries unless they have been washed recently.

3. It is best to brush the top of a pie with egg wash first and then cut steam vents. If you cut steam vents first then the vents are likely to be sealed up by the egg wash and then you get a sliver of egg in your pie.

4. It is always a good idea when baking a fruit pie to put a baking sheet under or on the rack below the pie, you never know when it is going to bubble over.

Rhubarb Pop Tarts

I really like this recipe,  it can be a little challenging but the end result is totally worth it. It is warm, sweet, buttery and flaky; the perfect way to treat your self in the morning, or for a simple summer dessert. Ok, well I mean you can eat it anytime of the year and it will be great, but I always think of it as summery for some reason.

I found the recipe a few years ago in a Bon Appetit magazine and I have been making it ever since. The only down side is that it does take a little bit of forethought. Which I have to admit isn’t always my strong suit when I am trying to satiate a craving.

I usually make it with homemade strawberry freezer jam, but since I had the rhubarb jam, I figured I would try that out instead. I liked it but not nearly as much as with strawberry jam. It takes a fairly flavorful jam to stand up to the flaky buttery crust. But I think any jam that is full on flavor would be a great substitute.

Rhubarb Pop Tarts

Makes 8

Ingredients

2 cups plus 2 tbsp AP flour

1 tsp coarse Kosher salt

1 tsp sugar

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in cubes

4 tbsp ice water

12 tbsp strawberry preserves (about 6 oz)

Directions

  1. Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour, coarse salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add butter. Using finger tips or the back of a fork, cut in butter (blend it in) until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  2. Add ice water by the tbsp, tossing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball.
  3. Divide in half; shape each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hr.
  4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  5. Working 1 disk at a time, *roll out dough on a floured surface to about 13 x 11 in. Trim to 12 x 10 in rectangle, then cut into eight 5 x 3 in rectangles.
  6. Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tbsp preserves in row down center of each rectangle.
  7. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with the tines of a fork to dbl seal. Using toothpick, *poke a few holes in the center of top of dough rectangle.
  8. Freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hrs and up to a week.
  9. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out).
  10. Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temp.

Tips and tricks

Rolling out this dough can be a little tricky. The dough gets rolled out really thin so it really helps to have a bench scraper just in case it sticks to the board. I put “trim” in bold because I always forget that it gets trimmed and I get so focused on getting the dough out to exactly 13 x 11 in, and it isn’t necessary as long as it is at least 12 x 10.

I always like to poke the first letter of the preserves that I am using, i.e. S for strawberry or R for rhubarb.

I am including the “prep school” pictures as a how to.

Chai Seed Granola

Today has been a wonderful day of baking and crafting! I made quinoa burgers for lunch, chicken and black bean burritos for dinner, chia seed granola for snacking, and DIY work out tank-tops. Over all quite a productive day off I think.

I have been thinking about making granola for a while now (I feel like I always say that, but it is true), but while I was trolling pinterest I happened upon a page dedicated to Chia recipes. And well, since I still have a big bag full of seeds from those chia bars that I made a while back; I said what the hell, that looks easy. I and it really was, it only took me 5 minutes to make and 15 to bake.

Factoid of the day: Did you know that the word Chia comes from the Mayan language and means strength?

So why not try out some chia seed granola, and maybe if you are feeling really bold, some no cook chia chocolate pudding. Recipe coming soon.

Normally I would include the website I got it from, but I thought the recipe was a little boring so I changed it up a bit. Feel free to put your own spin on it. You don’t even need to put chia seeds in it. Granola is very versatile.This is probably going to be my go-to granola/ maybe trail mix, from now on. It is so good and so easy to make. I gave a bowl to my roommate and he was like “this is amazing!” and then proceeded to ask for the recipe.

If you aren’t in a healthy food mood, stay tuned for my homemade “pop tart” recipe. Not healthy and oh so delicious. Way better than store bought Pop Tarts.

Chia Seed Granola

Makes four 1/4 c. servings or one really big serving (that’s what I would do)

Ingredients

1 c. old fashioned oats

2 tbsp. chia seeds

1/4 chopped pecans (you can just break them up with your hands)

1/4 unsweetened coconut chips/flakes

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp. canola oil



Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine oats, chia seeds, pecans, cinnamon, and nutmeg  a small bowl. Slowing stir honey, maple syrup and canola oil into oat mixture until everything is almost coated. Add coconut and stir gently, so as not to break the coconut pieces. Spread granola onto prepared sheet pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool until granola becomes crunchy. Enjoy!

This would also be great with other types of nuts, spices, and or dried fruit. If you do add dried fruit, lightly toss it in just after the granola comes out of the oven.

Rhubarb Jam

I don’t know if you knew this, but it is already rhubarb season! To me that screams strawberry rhubarb pie. I LOVE strawberry rhubarb pie, it is by far my favorite pie, even including lemon meringue. Like to the point where I could probably eat an entire pie in one sitting. You may think I am kidding but I am not. I really love pie.

Unfortunately that doesn’t exactly mesh with my weight-loss goals. Or in my male friend’s words “toning goals.”

So while I was sitting by and watching my friends make strawberry rhubarb pie and posting all of their delicious pictures on facebook. I decided to make jam. Thanks to the lovely idea by my co-worker.

This idea was a little intimidating, I mean there are all sorts of important rules and scary things that can happen (like botulism…yikes!) if a recipe isn’t made correctly.

I have made freezer jam before and that is super easy. But I didn’t really know if I could do that with rhubarb. So I decided to try  making canned  jam. Thankfully because of my culinary hoarding ways I only had to buy the jars and the rhubarb.

I got the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria. But I cut the amount in half because this is my first time canning and I didn’t want to be stuck with several cans of jam if I didn’t like it.

I do like this recipe. I think next time I will try using a orange instead of a lemon, just to see what it tastes like; and I will use less sugar. The recipe isn’t sweet, but it definitely isn’t tart like rhubarb. I like my rhubarb to be tart.

I love the soft pink color of the jam

Rhubarb Jam

makes 1 1/2 pints or 3 half pints

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed, rinsed, and cut into small chunks
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cups water
1/2 lemon,  juiced, seeds reserved in a cheesecloth pouch or tea ball

Directions

  1. Sterilize the jars for canning by boiling them and their lids. Place a small plate in the freezer. So you can test to see if the jam is done later.
  2. Put the fruit, sugar, water, and lemon juice, spent halves, and seeds (they provide the necessary pectin) in a large bowl and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Remember to put the seeds in a cheesecloth or a tea strainer ball.
  3. Pour the contents of the bowl into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring the jam constantly, for about 15 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface as the jam cooks.
  4. Drop the heat to medium. Hold the jam at a constant simmer, checking frequently to make sure the jam isn’t scorched at the bottom of the pot. After 15 minutes, check to see if your jam has set by placing a small spoonful of jam on the plate from the freezer. *The rhubarb jam is set when it holds its shape on the cool plate. If it seems loose, continue cooking over medium-low heat until set.
  5. Remove the seed bag and lemon halves and compost them. Place the rhubarb jam in sterilized jars, filling them to the bottom-most ring. Gently tap the bottom of each jar on the counter to release any air bubbles. *Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and secure the lids and rings. Just tight enough so that it is snug, but not too tight. *Process in a water bath for 5 minutes if using pint jars, 10 minutes if using quart jars. Remove the containers with tongs and let cool on the counter. Oh and if you hear a *POP* sound that is totally normal. Actually it’s a good thing. When the jam is cool, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with the date and contents. Store the rhubarb jam in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use for up to 1 year.

Tips and tricks

*1. A trick I read on David Lebovitz‘s blog is that pectin thickens at 220 degrees. So if it reaches that temp then you are set. Ha, pun intended
*2. If you have one of those snazzy funnels that has a wide opening you shouldn’t have to wipe the sides down. From what I have read it is because you don’t want food on the rim because it inhibits the lid from sealing correctly.
*3. You don’t know what “process” means? Neither did I. It means to put the jars into a big pot filled with enough boiling water to cover the jars with at least 1 in of water. If you aren’t sure what that is, don’t worry. Just bring the water you do have in there to a boil, put the jars in and fill it up until it is right and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling then you can start “processing.”

Soft Pretzels= yummy!

So I was at work last week when I over heard my boss talking about making pretzels to sell. I have to admit that I got kinda excited and then more excited when I saw them. She made brioche pretzels ( I don’t think she dipped them in baking soda water, so I don’t think they were real pretzels) but they looked pretty tasty, and it gave me the idea/ craving to make my own. So while telling my co-worker she told me about Alton Browns pretzel recipe and how good it is.

So on one of my days off, with the help of my friend Krystal, who is a great friend and trooper (because she doesn’t actually like pretzels) I made the recipe. Oh and check out her blog the Dessert Shop.

I really liked the recipe. The recipe is very easy and fairly flexible. I made the dough in under 20 min and let it proof while we went grocery shopping. This recipe would be the perfect way to celebrate National Pretzel Day tomorrow!

oh and mmm… how about a pretzel sandwich?!?!

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. *I would recommend to do a little more than lightly brush. I did that and they stuck to the parchment. And I didn’t know that things stuck to parchment. Well ok that isn’t true, but I was surprised. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Biscuits and Gravy

First off I really like flaky biscuits. But surprisingly I had never actually made them from scratch until I went to culinary school. Of course I had made them from the those containers of dough that POP open when you press the seam, but trust me it really isn’t the same. Once I made my schools recipe I couldn’t go back. And neither will you.

If I had any homemade freezer jam I probably would have just made biscuits and put jam on them but I don’t so I made biscuits and gravy. I mean who can pass up biscuits and gravy?

I found this recipe from Bon Appetit. The recipe says to do ahead. I didn’t do this because that would require a lot more planning than I’d like to do for a Sunday breakfast. It still tastes great if you don’t. They just say to do it because it allows the spices to bloom if you let them sit over night.

Ps this recipe makes A LOT. Which is great for a crowd but if you are just a party of one it equals a lot of leftovers. But it is very easy to half the recipe

Biscuits

makes about 10 biscuits depending on the size of your cutter

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp Sugar

2 tbsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

6 oz (1 stick + 3 tbsp) cold butter

12 oz milk

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Get baking sheet with parchment paper, and cutter ready. I used a 2 1/2 inch cutter.
  2. Sift dry ingredients together into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Cut or grate butter into dry ingredients. And pinch/ rub* butter into the dry ingredients. Bigger chunks = flaky; small chunks to coarse corn meal = tender. You can put it into the fridge if the butter gets too warm.
  4. Add half of milk to moisten butter flour mixture
  5. Add more if needed. You want the dough to come together and for there to be no wet or dry spots. But don’t over work the dough or the biscuits will become tough.
  6. Flour table, and knead around 4 times
  7. Roll to 3/4 inch think
  8. Cut straight down,* DON’T TWIST!
  9. Put the biscuit up-side-down on the baking sheet*
  10. Brush TOP ONLY with milk. If the milk runs down the sides of the biscuit it will seal the edges
  11. Bake for 10 minutes and rotate pan, bake for another 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Bake for a total of 15- 20 minutes

Tips and Tricks

1. when I say pinch I mean to rub/ squish the butter between your middle, index finger, and thumb. Just like in the pie dough recipe

2. If you twist the cutter as you push down you will seal all of the flaky layers you just created. And try to push down evenly.

The top portion of the biscuit compacts so putting it one the bottom helps keep the dough flaky

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

makes 6 cups+

Ingredients for sausage gravy

1 pound breakfast sausage ( like to have sausage in every bite, but you can 1/2 it)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Directions

Cook sausage in a medium skillet over medium heat, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes; set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; stir until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium; continue to whisk until thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in drained sausage and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This recipe makes a lot so remember to salt accordingly.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool completely, cover, and chill. Rewarm before serving.