Some things are so simple that I hesitate to share. But today, I’ve got a little snack that is making me a very happy girl. It is inspired by a dinner I had at Frankie’s on my last visit to NYC, and I can honestly say that it was the most memorable thing I ate there. The “it” I keep mentioning was a bruschetta, with a giant mound of fresh ricotta on top, drizzled with honey and a healthy shower of black pepper. I was in heaven. Sure, I’ve been known to sing the praises of ricotta to anyone willing to listen, particularly the homemade kind (because let’s face it, most of the stuff you get in a tub at the grocery store tastes like canned air). The truth is, I try to work in fresh ricotta whenever possible: gnocchi, galettes, pasta, cakes, fritters, we’re even serving a ricotta and blood orange dessert at Delancey right now. I LOVE RICOTTA. But even I sometimes have a bowl of delicious fresh ricotta in my fridge and the feeling of “there’s nothing to eat in the house”. I will say this no more, because the “honeyed and peppered ricotta cracker” is my new go-to. Try it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I made them last night for the Academy Awards and I think I might have eaten 10 while no one was looking.
While the first time I tasted this combo was on bruschetta, I’m now a convert to serving it on crackers. And when I say crackers, I would hope it’s obvious at this point in our relationship that I’m talking about homemade ones. I know it sounds annoying to make your own crackers, especially after I just smacked down store-bought ricotta. But if I can find the time while working at Delancey and starting a new business, then I swear, you can do it too! Did I mention that it’s actually quite soothing? The dough is super easy, and I’ve found that I can make rather large batches in my KitchenAid mixer, freezing for later what I don’t need at the moment. Then whenever I need crackers, it’s as simple as rolling them out and baking them fresh!
I’ve been tweaking this recipe for over a year, getting the balance of flours and salt just so, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. But feel free to adjust to your own personal taste! The sea salt is great with the ricotta and honey topping, but I would never turn down a cracker with seeds and other yumminess. Get crazy, you’ll thank me! My one piece of advice: resist the urge to pull them out too early, this is your chance to get back at all those pasty bland crackers at the store. Color is flavor my friends!
Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers Recipe:
Yield: 50 crackers
1 lb AP flour
6.75 oz semolina flour
4.5 oz whole wheat flour
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups warm water
3/4 cup olive oil
extra olive oil and sea salt for topping crackers.
- Whisk together the flours and salt in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Mix the water and olive oil and add to the flours. Mix the dough at medium speed for about 5 – 7 minutes, until smooth. The dough should be just a bit tacky, but not difficult to work with. Add a bit more water or flour if needed.
- When you are done mixing, shape the dough into a large ball and rub with olive oil. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to relax the gluten.
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
- Cut the dough into equal-sized pieces roughly the size of a billiard ball and flatten.
- Using a pasta machine, roll into a flat strip of dough, starting with the widest setting and working your way up to number 5. Lay the sheet of dough on a floured surface and cut into whatever shape you like. Set on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush each cracker heavily with olive oil. Top with sea salt and bake until golden.
- Cool completely.
6 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups cultured buttermilk
1 TBSP salt
- Combine everything in a large pot and cook over medium heat. When the mixture forms curds and the whey separates and becomes clear, turn off heat. Let it for 30 minutes for the curds to strengthen.
- Set a strainer over a container and line with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour ricotta onto cheesecloth and let strain until a desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in salt.
So yesterday was Yom Kippur!
Transcript from chat with close friend Tessa:
Tessa: Are you and John coming to the Yom Kippur break fast dinner tonight?
Me: Fo sho.
Tessa: I didn’t work today.
Me: If I knew I would have asked you to join me and Becky on our bike ride to Sausalito!
Tessa: Well, I’m supposed to be somber today.
Me: What, are you Jewish?
Me: I’m an asshole. Let me make you some cheese.
So “What does cheese have to do with Yom Kippur” you say? Tessa needed full fat cottage cheese for her noodle kugel, which makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Apparently full fat is hard to come by these days, and since I haven’t had a cheese making project in a while, I donated my services. So much fun to make! First I heated the milk and then added some rennet and buttermilk. I let that sit for an hour to set up while I went to get my precious hands dipped in parafin wax and massaged (can you say occupational therapy? love it…) When I came back I sliced up the curds and they looked like this:
Then I heated them up some more, to help them tighten up. All that yellow liquid is the whey.
Then I drained out the whey and salted my curds. And then I had cottage cheese!
Sorry for the lack of kugel photos…we sort of demolished the kugel. It looked like this.
The moment of just beginning to make fresh pasta.
Homemade cheese. With some homemade pesto mixed in.
Complaining about how long it takes to make fresh pasta.
Perfectly sliced vegetables.
Assembling a lasagne.
Perfect little cherry almond cakes.
With ice cream on top.
My friends coming over to eat dinner with me. But I didn’t take a picture of that. Because that would be lame.
But you know who you are.
Cherry Frangipane Cake
12 oz almond paste, room temperature
2 tbsp sugar
6 oz butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
6 tbsp flour
4 tsp baking powder
As many cherries as you like, pitted
- Heat oven to 350.
- Butter 10” tart tin.
- Mix together flour and baking powder.
- Place almond paste into mixer and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes. It is really important that there not be any chunks, once you start adding other ingredients, it’s impossible to get the chunks out. On the flip side, don’t overmix or it will get oily.
- Add butter and continue mixing until well blended, about 1 minute.
- Add sugar and continue mixing for for 30 seconds.
- Slowly stream in eggs, continue mixing until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Turn mixer speed to low and mix in flour and baking powder.
- Spread into tart tin. You want to have batter about 3/4″ deep in pan, So you won’t use all of the batter. You can save the rest in the fridge for about 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 months.
- Top with cherries, pressing them down so that they’re halfway sunk into the batter.
- Bake until done, around 30 minutes.
- Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes before unmolding. It’s a delicate cake, so be gentle…
- Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve with some whipped cream or ice cream.
Strawberry Season is in full swing, so obviously some ice cream is in order.
What more can I say? It was creamy and yummy and tasted like strawberries. Store bought will never be the same.
1 quart fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and quartered
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
6 egg yolks
- Mix the strawberries with ½ cup sugar. Let macerate for 10 minutes.
- Place in pot and cook on medium heat for 6 -7 minutes, until soft and fragrant.
- Puree in a food processor or blender, then strain through a fine sieve.
- In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean. Bring just under a boil and let sit.
- Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl.
- Slowly ladle in hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.
- Once mixed pour back into pot and heat on medium, scraping with a spatula. Keep heating until custard begins to thicken, coating the spatula.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the strawberry puree. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and cool on an ice bath. Once cool place in fridge and let chill for several hours.
- Pour into an ice cream machine and spin away!
- Once spun, let rest in freezer for 4 hours before serving.
You know how some people bake a cake when they’re stressed? Or make a loaf of bread? I make cheese. When I feel overwhelmed, or bummed, or nervous, cheese makes me feel better. There’s something about all that milk, the cheesecloth, the thermometers, and the TIME (it ain’t no 30 minute meal)…it just relaxes me. So last night I was feeling the need to make some cheese, and didn’t have the energy to try something too wacky or new. So ricotta it was, the recipe that introduced me to cheesemaking.
Ricotta is super easy. I know I say that a lot, but this time I really mean it. Anyone could make ricotta. Well, anyone with a stainless steel pot, a thermometer & some cheesecloth.
I started with a ratio of 1:4 of buttermilk and whole milk. I heated them up to 180 on the stove, gently stirring occasionally. Then I let them sit for half an hour or so, until I could see nice strong curds separated from the whey. Then I scooped the curds onto a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I let that sit for a while and drain until it reached what I thought was the right amount of dryness (that is personal preference that totally depends on what your plans are for the ricotta). Then I salted it to my liking and was all done!
This time I went for a pretty dry ricotta. But not too dry.
But now I have about 3 lbs of ricotta…I guess I’ll just have to bake a cake out of it. An Italian Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake to be precise. It’s my first time making an Italian cheesecake. The first time I had one was while living in New York. My friend (and maker of magic in the kitchen) Kate baked one that was so fluffy and gorgeous that I still think of it when I see them. Hopefully mine will come close!
First things first, I needed a crust.
After I baked my crust I started on the filling. I put my ricotta in the food processor to fluff it up a bit, and break down any huge curds. Then I mixed some egg yolks, sugar & and a vanilla bean until they too were nice and fluffy. I mixed into this my fluffy ricotta and some lemon zest.
Then I whipped a meringue to just medium peaks.
I folded that into my ricotta base and poured it onto my baked crust.
It spent an hour baking in the oven and came out a beautiful souffle.
And then it slowly falls. I love fallen desserts. There’s something really honest about a dessert that souffles up as high as it can go and then sinks back down as it cools.
I served it with some strawberries that had been soaking in sugar and lemon juice.
It was so light and fluffy that people kept asking if it was really cheesecake. I think Kate would have been proud.
RECIPE (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine):
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 lb whole-milk ricotta, drained in a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl until dry, chilled
6 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Pulse flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Add yolk, vanilla, and lemon juice and pulse just until mixture begins to form a dough.
- Spread dough with a flat bottomed cup over buttered bottom of a 24-centimeter springform pan and prick all over with a fork.
- Chill 30 minutes.
- Bake crust in the middle of the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes, and cool on a rack.
Make filling and bake cake:
- Increase oven temperature to 375°F.
- Pulse ricotta in food processor until fluffy and smooth. Beat yolks, vanilla bean seeds and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale.
- Beat in ricotta, flour, and zests. Beat whites with salt in another bowl until they hold soft peaks, and fold into ricotta mixture.
- Butter side of springform pan and pour filling over crust. Bake in baking pan in middle of oven until cake is puffed and golden, about 1 hour.
- Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack.
- Chill, loosely covered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Borrowing this ice cream machine from my landlords has been very…dangerous. I just want to stay home spinning ice cream forever. When I’m not, all I can think about is ice cream flavors. I still have stacks of pecans to get through, so a butter pecan ice cream seemed appropriate. And then I found a recipe for a maple butter pecan in Gourmet magazine, and there was no turning back. I first fried the pecans in some butter, until it just started to brown.
Then I made a maple custard base for the ice cream.
After my custard chilled in the fridge for a bit, I spun it in the ice cream machine and put it in the freezer to finish out its freezing.
While that was going on, I needed a dessert. Something to serve that ice cream on. Since it’s almost time to say goodbye to local apples, but not quite time to say hello to strawberries (oh my god – you just WAIT, I am going to DESTROY some berries this summer), I decided to go with a classic, an apple cobbler.
Really, cobblers are like my two favorite things combined into one: delicious local fruit and biscuits. Need I say more. Obviously I do, or I wouldn’t have a blog. So here goes:
First things first – the biscuits. I’m still in the experimental phase with cobbler biscuit recipes. Being a bama girl, I like my biscuits crispy. As in, you could potentially do some damage if you threw them at someone. But that seems a bit much for a dessert, not quite delicate enough. But squishy, doughy biscuits are so…not what I want. So I’m looking for the happy medium. One thing I do know is not to overmix those puppies. You want to see that butter in the dough.
I let the dough hang out in the freezer for a while (you know, to get to know the ice cream a little better), and then cut it into chunks.
Then placed the chunks on my chopped and spiced apples.
Then it all went into the oven for a while, until my biscuits were nice and puffed and browned.
And after a little cooling, it was ready to be served with my maple pecan ice cream. And completely devoured it was. I even ate it for breakfast this morning.
MAPLE BUTTER PECAN ICE CREAM RECIPE (adapted from Gourmet magazine):
3/4 cup pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
-Coarsely chop pecans. In a skillet melt butter. Toast pecans in butter, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes, and sprinkle with salt to taste. Cool pecans and chill.
-In a heavy saucepan bring cream, milk, maple syrup, and salt just to a boil, stirring occasionally. In a bowl beat yolks until smooth. Add hot cream mixture to yolks in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170° F. Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with plastic wrap, at least 3 hours, or until cold, and up to 1 day.
-Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker. Fold in chilled pecans. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.
We finished off the rest of the Meyer Lemon gelato last night, and I was feeling the need to fill the void IMMEDIATELY. Also, I have my landlord’s ice cream maker on loan and am itching to put it to good use. Whilst poking around on the interweb for ice cream recipes, I found one for candied bacon ice cream on David Lebovitz’s site. I really can’t think of a flavor I’d like to make more. Well, except maybe some of the Humphry Slocombe flavors (government cheese flavored ice cream? BLOWING. MY. MIND.), but anyways. I don’t care how cliché the bacon dessert trend is, I am all over it like salt on caramel.
As all good things in life start, this one started with candying some bacon strips. It sounds kinda fancy, but it really just means baking bacon with brown sugar until it caramelizes. The hardest part is not stuffing it all in my mouth.
I chopped the bacon into little bits and hid them to keep from eating them.
Then I made a custard flavored with brown sugar and cinnamon. The recipe called for rum, but we don’t have any and I was much too lazy to go get some.
I chilled the custard and put it in the ice cream spinner. Once it was thick and creamy I tossed in the bacon bits. Then I spooned it into a container and stuck it in the freezer to firm up. This is always the hardest part, waiting and waiting until it seems “ready”.
As usual, we only made it an hour, long before it was completely firm. But to be honest, I like the pre-firm squishy moment of ice cream. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m digging in.
Update: I just went for a run in the rain to justify coming back to the house and eating bacon ice cream for lunch. I think I might be in trouble.
For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon
about 2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons (45g) salted butter
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar (170g), light or dark (you can use either)
2¾ (675ml) cup half-and-half
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
To candy the bacon:
- preheat the oven to 400.
- Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.
- Bake for 12-16 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet.
- Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool.
- Once cool, chop into little pieces.
To make the ice cream custard:
- melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan.
- Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half.
- Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Cook over medium low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
- Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool.
- Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon.
- Refrigerate the mixture.
- Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning.
No 90210 for a while, sadness. I will try to distract myself with celebrating other things with dinner! My old roommate Maggie is in town, so tonight we eat! Maggie rolls deep with a vegetarian crowd (ok they’re my friends too), so I’m gonna be making some vegetarian tamales (first time! why haven’t I made tamales before?). To keep myself from going bonkers today (since we all know I can be a bit of an over achiever when I throw dinner parties), yesterday I made my creamy bits for tonight’s dinner.
First some salty queso fresco, to toss on the tamales and the salad.
And then some creme fraiche, that I’ll blend with chiles to make a yummy sauce. The great thing about creme fraiche is that it’s so damn easy to make, and if you’re me, there’s a very good chance you already have the ingredients. Just mix 2 tablespoons of buttermilk for every 1 cup of heavy cream and let it sit (covered) in a warm place for 24 hours.
Can’t wait to make dinner out of these guys!
I really should be posting about the fabulous Valentine’s Day dessert that I slaved over last night. That would have shown all of you what a lovely girlfriend I am. Alas, I ended up working an 11 hour shift that started at 6am, so John showed me what a lovely boyfriend he is by letting me off the hook. Instead, I’m here to talk about ice cream.
I’ve been wanting to make some ice cream for months. I don’t even really like eating ice cream all that much. I’m just into the process of stirring air into cold custard until it’s something else entirely. I’ve picked up an ice cream machine with the intention of purchasing several times, but I always stop myself. It seems dangerous to have that kind of weapon at home. And spinning ice cream is easy, I could spin me and John straight into obesity without too much effort. So when my landlords offered to let me borrow their machine occasionally, it was the perfect plan. So begins my odyssey into ice creams, gelatos, sorbets & sherberts. In many ways, making ice cream is the perfect way to express the fruit seasons. It’s basically HEALTHY!
Since we’re dead in the middle of winter, I chose to kick things off with a Meyer Lemon Gelato (please do not ask me the difference between ice cream & gelato, because no matter how many times it’s explained to me, I just don’t get it).
I first whisked together some lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks & sugar.
Then I heated it up over simmering water to pasteurize the eggs, all the while whisking it into a frothy fluff.
Then I chilled it over some ice while heating up some milk, cream & (more – YAY!) sugar.
I poured the hot cream mixture into my lemon mixture (slowly, since I’m not trying to make scrambled eggs here). Then I chilled that for a bit before pouring it into the ice cream spinner. I let it spin for about 30 minutes, checking in on its progress every few minutes. Once it was “there” I spooned the gelato into some containers to finish chilling in the freezer. At that point is was just a matter of when we cracked. We TRIED, we really did, to make it 2 hours, the suggested time in the recipe.
We probably made it an hour. So it could have been a tad firmer. But still – not a bad late valentine.
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
- In a medium stainless steel bowl, beat the egg yolks, water and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in ½ cup of the sugar. Add lemon zest.
- Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk vigorously for 3-4 minutes, until you have a thick foam. Remove from heat and cool in an ice bath while continuing to whisk for another minute.
- Mix cream, milk, corn syrup and remaining ½ cup sugar in heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and slowly whisk into egg mixture. Return to ice bath and add the vanilla and salt. Taste and adjust flavor if desired. Let chill in ice bath, stirring occasionally.
- Spin in an ice cream maker according to that maker’s instructions. Transfer to freezer and freeze for at least 2 hours to firm.