Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homemade Werthers: The Ice Cream Edition

When you have an ice cream maker, ice cream is incredibly easy to make, you can pretty much toss anything in there, turn it on and in 30 minutes you have a frozen treat (seriously, the recipe booklet that came with mine suggests using it to make frozen daiquiris, and I have a sneaking suspicion that store bought chocolate milk would turn into a great chocolate ice cream).  Of course that is just basic ice cream and the fun part is tarting it up a bit and this super easy "Philadelphia  style" ice cream (meaning it doesn't have eggs, meaning that it is good for a lazy cook) is an excellent base for whatever mix ins or additions you want to use, such as shards of homemade caramel.  And let's just say that my vanilla ice cream with caramel bits in it went over a LOT better than my pumpkin pie ice cream.  I used this ice cream as the base and mixed in these caramels.  

Start by mixing together 2 cups of milk (I used 1/2 whipping cream and 1/2 milk) with a teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Stir it until the sugar is all dissolved.  And that is the basic vanilla ice cream recipe; as the Breyers commercials tell us, you don't need all that crap in your ice cream.

You can chill that mixture for awhile before pouring it into the ice cream machine, but that would require patience and we all know that isn't exactly my strong suit.  Anyways, now you just follow the directions for your ice cream maker, mine is electric so I can just watch it swirl around, which is strangely hypnotic and I don't want to admit how much time I can spend staring into it, but you may have to crank yours.

Meanwhile, smash up some caramels with a rolling pin, I would suggest breaking them up into fairly small bits, I wouldn't want them bigger than an M&M, mini chocolate chip size would be good, although my plastic bag started to tear and so I stopped a bit before that stage so as to avoid making a mess that I would need to clean up later.

When your ice cream seems like it is just about ready, add the caramel bits and let the machine mix them in.

You could eat it right away at this point, but I let it hang out in the freezer for about a half an hour before digging in.  I don't think that actually made much of a difference.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Homemade Werthers

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, I know I did.  One of my presents was a candy thermometer which I have wanted for ages, although it turns out that I am not the sort of person who does the whole cooking with careful precision thing very well and so on my inaugural candy thermometer where I tried to make homemade caramels, instead of lovely chewy packets of goodness I ended up having to smash a sheet of hard sugar into chunks with the end of an ice cream scoop.  They were still tasty though, like a Werthers that had been salted (you see I sprinkled sea salt on the top for that trendy fleur de sel thing).  Anyways, I think I cooked the sugar too long or something, but I am not entirely sure as I know next to nothing about candy making.  It was fun though, and since I used some of my Christmas money to buy myself a new camera, I have some lovely pictures.  And I have decided to smash the caramels even more and mix the shards into some homemade vanilla ice cream tonight, I will let you know how that goes.  O, and I used this recipe.

Start by lining a 8x8 square pan with parchment and lightly butter it.

Then mix the milk, butter and a bit of salt together and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.  

Then mix the sugar, corn syrup and water together, stirring until the sugar dissolves, which if you are a bit impatient will feel like it is never going to happen because there is only 1/4 of a cup of water and a whole bunch of sugar.  But have faith, it will dissolve eventually.

After awhile it will look like this, pretty sugar bubbles.  Then you stop stirring it and only swirl gently so that it can turn a nice golden color.

When it looks like this, add the milk mixture, which will be quite dramatic and bubbly, and recommence stirring.

Stir and stir and stir until it reaches the correct temperature, and remember the temperature is key, you wouldn't want to over cook it or anything like that....

When it is exactly 248 degrees, pour the caramel into the prepared pan and sprinkle with sea salt and let sit until it sets, which in my case took about 15 minutes and then it was rock hard slab.

Once it is ready, either slice or smash, depending on whether or not you followed the recipe correctly.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas!

Full of pretty cookies


Maybe a snowball fight or two

And all those special people you call family!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nigella's Gingerbread

I may have mentioned this before, but I like molasses.  I like the syrupy ribbons it makes when you pour it out of the jar, I like the name "Grandma's Robust Molasses,"  I like it in cookies and breads, and bbq sauce.  This gingerbread has its fair share of molasses as well as fresh ginger and a lovely lemon glaze that is a great contrast to the moist, sticky cake underneath.  Also, it is a Nigella recipe and you all know how I feel about her, anything she makes is worth a try and is most likely amazing.

Start by melting the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, cinnamon, and ginger together.  I was afraid of burning the sugar so I did this over pretty low heat.
Then remove the melty sugar mixture from the heat and mix in the eggs, milk and baking soda.

Put the flour in a bowl and pour the liquid ingredients in, mix well.  Like Nigella says, it will be a VERY liquid batter, thus making it a bit difficult to mix well, I had to use a whisk to get the lumps out.  

Pour into a foil lined pan.

Bake for about an hour, until it is firm in the middle.

Once the gingerbread is cool you can make the icing, I had to double the icing recipe and didn't use any water, it was the right consistency with just the lemon juice and powdered sugar.  Once the icing is set cut into squares, like the ones on the middle tier.  

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
1/2 c. plus 2 T butter
1/2 c. plus 2 T brown sugar
3/4 c. plus 1 T corn syrup
3/4 c. plus 1 T molasses
2 t fresh ginger, grated
1 t cinnamon
1c. plus 2 T milk
2 lg eggs, beaten
1 t baking soda, dissolved in 2 T warm watter
2 c. flour

Icing: 2 T lemon juice
1 c. plus 4 T powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 325
In a saucepan, melt the first 6 ingredients together over low heat.
Remove from the heat and mix in the milk, baking soda and eggs.
Pour over the flour and mix well, it will be very wet.
Pour into a foil lined 12x8 pan and bake for 45 min to an hour until risen and firm.
Let cool, then make the icing by whisking together the sugar and lemon juice, if needed thin with a bit of warm water.  
Spread the icing over the gingerbread, let it set, and cut into squares. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lemon Sugar Cookies

We have our traditional sugar cookies that we make every year for christmas, these aren't those cookies.  Those are cut out cookies, made using the same cookie cutters and frosted with buttercream and topped with sprinkles.  These are chewy, lemony and almost completely unadorned (I say almost because I couldn't help myself, I added some red sprinkles to the sugar I rolled them in to make them look a little festive).  O my are they tasty.  I am discovering that I am quite fond of lemon, I have absolutely no idea why it has taken this realization so long to dawn on me, but there you have it, lemony baked goods are my new loves.  I even remember the first time I admitted my love of lemon, my sister and I were trying to decide on which mini cupcakes to sample from this place and I selected the meyer lemony lemon and then I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about how I could possibly recreate it.  The sweet and tart and bright deliciousness of baked goods that feature lemon can't be denied, and if you don't believe me, try these cookies.  I found the recipe here and didn't tweak it at all, except for the red sprinkles.

Start by mashing the lemon zest and sugar together.  It didn't turn a lovely pale yellow like the recipe said, but I'm sure something happened and mushing things about is generally not a bad time.

Then mix the dry stuff together.

Next, cream the butter and sugar, mix in the egg, then the flour, pretty standard cookie making stuff.  Also, please ignore how terrible the picture of the dough is, I don't know how it ended up so blurry but I made it smaller in hopes that it would be less noticeable, but I don't think that helped much.

Then you just scoop out about a tablespoon of dough at a time, roll it into a ball and roll it in the sugar.  Bake until the edges turn a bit golden, they are super soft and chewy when you take them out but get a bit crisper as they cool.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lace Cookies

I am so happy to have a full time job (yay health insurance!) but it doesn't leave much time for baking projects, outside of the madness when I made 15 mini loaves of bread with 13 kindergartners in 2 hours.  Therefore I am going to make the most of my christmas break and bake (and blog) up a storm, starting with these lace cookies, 2 very thin buttery, carmely, toffee like crisp cookies stuck together with a thin layer of chocolate.  I have had a very similar cookie from Trader Joe's and was excited to try my hand at making my own.  I am a bit lazy, so instead of tracking down some dark chocolate (which would have been incredibly difficult as they don't carry it at the grocery store or anything....) I used the milk chocolate I already had at home, and the cookies are delicious but I can see where you would want to use the dark chocolate to cut a bit of the super sweetness in the cookies.  The recipe can be found here and I highly recommend that you add these to your holiday cookies repertoire.    

Mix your dry ingredients together...

then your wet.

Then combine the wet and the dry (it's like rocket science, I know).  It does not make much dough, so don't be alarmed when you look into your mixing bowl and wonder how this will turn into 40 cookies, it will, trust me.

Next you scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet, 3/4 teaspoon at a time, which seems like a ridiculously small amount but they will spread out.  A lot.

See?  After 8 minutes those tiny little blobs turned into these big things.      

When they are fully cool, smear the bottom of one with melted chocolate.  And by smear I mean very carefully and gently spread the chocolate so that you don't break the cookie, which is what I did to the first one I tried to sandwich.
Then top it with another cookie and gently press the two together.

Repeat until all the cookies have been paired up into sandwiches.  Check out the recipe here.

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Extravagance

For my last gift guide before I venture back into cooking posts I decided to make a 'money is no object' wish list of my own.  For those of you who can afford these gifts, feel free to send a couple my way!  A 5 day culinary boot camp at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in the Napa Valley would be a wonderful experience, I like looks of the Mediterranean one.  A bright red retro espresso machine would look right at home on my counter.  A professional butcher block and a set of knives would make for a delightfully extravagant gift.  A fancy camera to take pictures for my blog would be absolutely lovely.  And who could say no to a spiral wine cellar, which combines a cool trapdoor, a spiral staircase and my love of wine. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Whimsey

images via Anthropologie
Some people have everything they NEED for their kitchen, but you can never have everything you WANT for your kitchen, and then of course sometimes the line between need and want gets blurred but that is another conversation for another time.  Anyways, this whimsical gift guide is all about getting someone something fun that they don't need but want.  There are all sorts of fun measuring cups out there, like these ceramic flower ones, they probably won't completely replace your utilitarian stainless steel ones, but your stainless steel ones cant double as a small serving dish for nuts or tapenade in a pinch.  I love the whole idea of recipe bookmarks and this pack of 100 from Anthropologie, with fun patterns printed on card stock would make a great stocking stuffer (that is, if it were still available, but I am keeping them on here anyways, as inspiration.  There are similar products out there if you look, here is one I found).  And when you give these to someone, you are helping them keep track of the amazing recipes they want to make, possibly for you, so you benefit too.  An unusual apron is a fun way to add some glamour to a friends cooking, you can get ones that look like adorable dresses, much more flattering to wear when you are having company over than your old stained, sturdy cotton one.  I love this purple silverware, its got a classic shape but the color is anything but.  Imagine it with crisp white linens, and you have a gift for someone who wants their table settings to pop.  I like giving ornaments as gifts, at this time of year they are everywhere and if you take a minute or two to look at them wherever you are you can pick up the perfect one for everyone on your list by the time you get your other shopping done.  I love this set of russian tea ornaments, but there are millions of food related ornaments to pick from, get your friend who always has a cup of coffee in her hand a mini coffee mug one, the friend who foisted bag after bag of zucchini on you needs a blown glass zucchini for their tree.  Also, the right ornament paired with a gift card or a bottle of wine is a nice way to personalize the gift.  Lastly, everyone needs a bottle opener, but how many people have fun ones?  This old fashioned key would be great to give the beer lover in your life, pair it with a nice six pack for a fun hostess gift, or it would make a perfect stocking stuffer.                 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Cookbooks

I have a thing for cookbooks, I love them, and I think you should too.  My thought is that you can never have too many cookbooks, and to that end I feel they make fabulous presents.  I picked out a few of my favorites to share with you, and I may be completely biased because, after all, they are my favorites, but I think they would make good gifts for anyone.  
Nigella Lawson is my favorite cookbook author, and I would recommend any and all of her books.  Her recipes are fabulous and the way she writes makes you feel like she is your favorite, decidedly not dieting, aunt who popped in for a chat.  We have a running joke in my family about how in the event of a divorce my dad is going to marry Nigella, and I am a-ok with that.  I would also move to London to be her unpaid intern, I'm just saying.  So Nigella, if you ever need a hand (I can babysit or be an amateur therapist with my psych degree or walk your dog....), call me.   

Pioneer Woman, or P dub or PW or whatever you want to call her, the blogger turned cookbook author turned autobiographer turned subject of a future major motion picture has a great cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, with what can only be described as cowboy food.  We are basically besties because I sat in the front row when she spoke at the National Book Festival and she waved to me, and then she signed my cookbook.  I must admit though, I read her blog long before I met her and I imagined her voice differently and it really threw me hearing her for real.  But her food is good.   

Julia Child cookbooks are a bit of a classic, I have Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volumes 1 & 2) (and yes I was inspired by the book Julie and Julia) and they are really informative books.  They are detailed and frequently have many, many steps in a recipe, no shortcuts here, but every step is well explained and various other possible methods are outlined.  And sometimes a girl needs to have a recipe that calls for beating nearly an entire pound of butter with a rolling pin in her possession, just in case.      

The Art of Simple Food is one of those cookbooks with a little of everything in it, but what I really like about it is that at the end of the recipes there are suggestions for ways to tweak them.  For example there is a basic almond biscotti recipe but at the end there are several suggestions about substituting various nuts and dried fruits and spices and the quantities of each that would work in the recipe.  There are also good descriptions of basic techniques (which you may not think you need, but you might be surprised, I really had no idea what braising was until Alice told me) and the illustrations are gorgeous.

Of Tide and Thyme is a Junior League of Annapolis cookbook that my family has given to many people over the years.  The recipes are great and while you can get it online at Amazon or Borders, because it is a Junior League cookbook you might say that it isn't a super well known title.  And because I love to get people presents that they don't think of asking for but will love, this book is perfect.  If I had to classify it, I would say it has it's eye on casual entertaining.  Also, the breakfast strata type recipes are amazing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Meat

Images from Williams-Sonoma
Some people are unabashedly meat eaters, solidly in the carnivore camp, and while I wouldn't quite put myself in that category I do sympathize and thus have come up with some ideas for the steak and potatoes types out there.  I thought I would start with bacon, the gateway meat (everyone loves bacon, even vegetarians have professed a fondness for smelling the stuff cooking).  I normally bake my bacon because I am lazy and it is easy, but for the slightly more motivated bacon cooker, a bacon press will help the bacon cook more evenly and quickly, and as an added bonus, you can use it to make a panini.  I am a big fan of using scissors in the kitchen, after all we all learned to use scissors before knives (at least I hope so....) and hacking away at a hunk of meat with a big knife seems much more dangerous and difficult than using poultry shears.  And Martha Stewart uses them, so there's that.  Mini grilling thermometers are adorable and are perfect for someone who throws summer BBQ's and wants to make sure that every steak is cooked to the perfect temperature.  Pair the thermometers with a carving board, little pyramids keep the meat from sliding around and the well traps any juices that escape, and you have the perfect gift for grilling and serving.  For the serious meat lover a sausage stuffer is an original gift idea, this one attaches to a KitchenAid mixer, and opens up a whole world of gourmet ground meat products.                       

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Gadgets

Images from Target

According to my dictionary a gadget is a "small mechanical device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one," and these are gifts for the people that love them.  The beauty of gadgets is that you can find one that can make life easier for just about anyone, and at any price range.  There are tons of gadgets out there, so I am only featuring a few that take your basic kitchen stuff and bumps it up a notch, upgrades it to something a little more gift-worthy.  A scale is like an upgraded set of measuring cups, millions of people bake weight instead of volume (kind of like how everyone else is all about the metric system, and America would rather not, thanks but no thanks) anyways, they swear by it and it is a more accurate form of measurement.  You may want to include a cookbook with weight measurements in it though, such as Ratio by Michael Ruhlman.  I developed a fondness for electric kettles when I lived in Ireland, they heat water more quickly than a standard kettle on the stovetop and they shut themselves off automatically when the water boils so there is no putting water on for tea, getting distracted and forgetting it on the stove.  My grandmother has one and LOVES it.  An immersion blender is a cooler blender.  Have you ever made a blended soup?  Transferring it to the blender and back to the pot is a huge pain, and there is the explosion factor when you blend hot soup that makes it exciting, but I would rather not have to worry about nearly boiling soup ending up coating my entire kitchen, enter the immersion blender.  Thinking about using a traditional blender over an immersion one doesn't really seem like that big of a deal until you do it for the first time and then you will see, life is better on the immersion side.  A programmable crock pot is pretty self explanatory, crock pots aren't exactly considered sexy, but give  a foodie who works all day complete control of the meal that is cooking all day on their counter and it is like having a personal mini robot chef in a way.  My last suggestion, a Thermos food jar, is also not very sexy, but according the Thermos people, it can keep hot food hot for 5 hours and cold food cold for 7, hello upgraded tupperware and a fabulous bag lunch, sometimes all a girl needs to get through the morning is the thought of a luscious lunch awaiting her.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Emma's Eats Gift Guides: Baking

Images from Sur la table
It's December and you know what that means, time to start doing some serious shopping.  I thought I would put together a few ideas for those of you who have foodies in your lives.  Now some people may not be excited to get a good quality baking sheet for Christmas, these are not the kind of people I have in mind for these presents.  Speaking of which, my suggestions for the baker in your life includes jellyroll pans, they are heavy duty and can be used for baking cookies or roasting vegetables or anything in between.  Combine the pans with silicone mats to put on them for baking and a cooling rack for when they come out of the oven and you have a great gift for someone who is just starting to get into baking or moving out on their own and now needs to stock their kitchen from scratch.  For the more established baker who already has everything, cookies cutters and cupcake papers in nontraditional shapes and colors are a fun idea.  A tiered server or cake stand for dishing those treats up to family and friends can work as a gift for just about anyone who likes to bake, there are so many to pick from that you can find one to match any personality.  And of course there are always cookbooks, because who doesn't love a new cookbook?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Molasses Cookies

I love the holiday season.  I start listening to Christmas music on the drive home from Thanksgiving dinner and don't stop until December 25.  I bake dozens of cookies, I mull wine, and drink hot spiced cider.  I watch Love Actually at least once in the month of December every year.  I like looking for that perfect present for everyone on my list.  Count me in for Christmas parties, driving around looking at lights and Christmas pageants, I love it all.  And so, I am kicking off my holiday baking today with these molasses cookies.  I love molasses cookies, my aunt makes the best (she always used to have a jar of molasses cookies for me and a jar of snickerdoodles for my sister every time we came to visit), unfortunately I seem to have lost her recipe somewhere along the way when I moved back east from Portland, so this recipe I found on Beach Home Companion will have to do for now.  Don't get me wrong, these molasses cookies are absolutely delicious (my dad had already eaten 3 by the time the last batch was out of the oven), but they are a thinner, crisper version instead of the thick, chewy ones I grew up with.  These thin ones though, the sugar caramelizes a bit on the edges and your first bite is a carmely, slightly spicy crunch which is pretty fabulous.  The recipe can be found here.      
Start by mixing the dry ingredients together.

Then mix the wet together.

Now, this is tricky, combine the wet and the dry.  Then you have to chill the dough until it hardens, which happens fairly quickly, I waited about an hour.

Once the dough is properly chilled, scoop out about a tablespoon at a time, roll each blob of dough into a ball and roll it in sugar.  Make sure you space the cookies out because they will spread.  The warmer the dough gets the harder it will be to work with, it will start sticking to your hands, so work quickly and put it back into the fridge after you fill up a tray so it can firm back up before you do the next one.

The recipe says to flatten the balls slightly with the bottom of a glass, which I did 2 out of 3 times, and it made no difference, so smush them a bit if you want, it is kind of fun, but you don't need to.

Bake for about 10 minutes, they will make your house smell quite nice, and enjoy.