Monday, April 30, 2012

Pom Pom Prosecco Float & Giveaway

May I propose a toast?  I have been a cheerleader for Heather Baird for a while now.  With the May 1st release (for some of us even sooner!) of her brand new book, SprinkleBakes Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist , I had to get my pom-poms out.

To celebrate such a tremendous occasion, I thought that I MUST make something sweet for Heather which included sprinkles.  This one is for the grown-ups, but I can attest that it's easily amended for your SprinkleBaker-In-Training with a minor adjustment.  As you can see, it's non-alcoholic, kid tested, and mother approved!

She now calls "Candyland" the "SprinkleBakes Game".  No lie.

Replace the prosecco with a fun fizzy soda or juice-infused water like Izze Sparkling Pomegranate.

Pom Pom Prosecco Floats
  • Creamy Pomegranate Ice Cream (recipe follows)
  • Prosecco or other sparkling wine
  • Pomegranate Juice (I love POM, of course)
  • Sprinkles for the rim
  • Corn Syrup
Prepare your toasting glass by dipping the rim in corn syrup drizzled on a flat plate.  Dip the rimmed glass in sprinkles or sanding sugar, being careful not to twist.  Set the glass, sprinkled side down onto a plate to dry for minimum of 1 hour. 

Carefully pour the pomegranate juice into the bottom of your glass, being careful not to disturb your festive rim.  I filled mine about 1/5th full of juice.  Take a spoon and gently rest the tip of the bowl inside the glass, creating a catch for the prosecco to slowly pour down the side of the glass.  If you go slowly, it will "float" on the juice.  Leave about 1/3 of your glass empty at the top.  Carefully place a scoop of pomegranate ice cream atop and watch the celebration begin!  FOAM!

I absolutely LOVE the surprise of the sprinkles' colors running up onto the foamy float. 

Everywhere Sprinkles go, they leave a trail of happiness!
Take it from me, it's very easy with a straw to sip your way into a celebration very quickly.  When you get that hit of tart pomegranate in your throat, it's time to nibble on the rim.* 

*I cannot guarantee your tongue will stay pink.  Prepare for Sprinkle-Tongue.

Creamy Pomegranate Ice Cream
Adapted from

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup white sugar
1 cup pomegranate juice (I love POM)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Stir together cream, milk, and sugar until sugar is mostly dissolved.  Add vanilla, pomegranate juice, and salt.  Stir.  Slowly pour into the ice cream maker per manufacturers instructions.  Mine took a full 30 minutes to reach the perfect consistency.  For more tips about making dreamy ice cream, check out my Chai Ice Cream post.

I really like the simplicity of this ice cream.  No eggs, no cooking a serves perfectly in this float, or any other idea that inspires you.

Congratulations, Heather Baird!  Your creativity, ingenuity, and hard work has come full circle!  Thank you for inspiring so many of us to just try something different! 

This Goodness MUST be Shared...


Marian N. Alcocer has left a new comment on your post "Pom Pom Prosecco Float & Giveaway":

My absolute favorite recipe from SB is the Sparkling Champagne Cupcakes! It was the first one that I tried to make and it was the recipe that made me obsessed with SB. I am so excited for Heather and her book! I love that I get to make something not only delicious but beautiful!
This is my email in case I get lucky[...]


To thank everyone for celebrating with me, I'd like to give away a copy of Heather's book!  She's tag-teaming with me and is including a signed bookplate for the winner as well! She has inspired me so much, I would love for you to share in her magic - I'm paying it forward!

Here are the rules:
1. Leave a comment ON THIS POST telling me what excites you about Heather's book or your favorite SprinkleBakes recipe from her site. No duplicate comments.
2. Please make sure I am able to contact you by email with the information in your post! 
3. Contest will close on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 at midnight EST. 
4. This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by email. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

Love Heather Baird?  She's nominated again for's Best Baking & Desserts Blog for 2012!  Did you VOTE?  Come on *(click here)!  She MUST win!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade Ricotta with Marionberry Preserves

Farm fresh milk, earthy berries, crusty bread, cool mint.  Poetry.
I admit it, I was never a big fan of ricotta.  Until now.  And I will never, ever buy ricotta in the store again!  This base for savory OR sweet is delightful.  This is so easy to do at home, I promise! 

This wonderful dish could easily be served for breakfast or equally enjoyed for dessert.  Everything can be done ahead, and assembled in moments when you wake up in the morning or as your guests move from table to patio at that casual gathering.

The inspiration was the arrival of Fruit Perfect Marionberries from American Spoon.  Their website has some great recipe ideas, where I picked up this one and decided to adapt it liberally to my whim.

Marionberries are lovely, earthy berries who hail blackberries and raspberries as their grandparents.  Make no mistake, they are a berry all their own.  American Spoon really does this preserve justice.  You can taste a sunny day picking these gems in the brambles - right out of the jar.  I loved the idea of pairing them with a homemade element.  So I tried their recipe for homemade ricotta.  Epic fail.  There was zero curdling.  Where there are no curds, there is no ricotta.  There were two variables working against me, I believe. 

While lemon juice can work, it's not a reliable acid level.  Some lemons have higher acid, some lower.  To be certain of a success, I learned white vinegar is the sure thing. 

The milk...ehhh.  Well, we are an organic milk household.  I researched two recipes for ricotta and neither warned about the type of milk used.  So without a second thought, I went into this planning to make organic ricotta.  I found out after the fact that organic milk is ultra-pasteurized (heated) and pretty much takes away the milk's ability to form a curd.

Thank you, Hartzler Family Dairy! XOXO!
Back to the drawing board, I went out and found some wonderful local milk that was non-homogenized.  Starting over, slightly adapting Ina Garten's ricotta recipe, I had the immediate, satisfying result. The milk gave this ricotta the most delicate, almost sweet, hint of nuttiness.  If you can use local fresh milk, DO IT.  The flavor profile takes this from store bought to from the heart.  So. Very. Simple.

Homemade Ricotta
  • 4 cups whole milk (do NOT use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (do NOT use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

Pour the milk and cream into a pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).

Little Miss Muffet, stirring her curds & whey.

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta.

Taking shape.
To help drain more liquid, I lifted the cheesecloth and gathered it around the ricotta, twisting it into a ball and wrapping the ends around a wooden spoon.  I hung the bundle over the bowl as it dripped the last residual liquid.  Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.

When ready to assemble, gather the following:
  • Loaf of rustic Italian bread, sliced into 1/2 inch slices and halved
  • Fruit Perfect Marionberries, or your favorite fruit preserve
  • Fresh mint, chiffonade or roughly torn
  • Toasted chopped cashews (375 degree oven for 10 minutes)
  • Fresh blackberries
  • Honey
Lay the bread on the serving dish, and dollop about 1/3 cup of homemade ricotta on the top of the bread.  Drizzle marionberries around the cheese, letting some soak down onto the bread.  Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top and drizzle sparingly with honey.  Lace with chiffonade of mint and garnish with a few fresh blackberries.

Have you ever made cheese at home?  It's a dessert course, ya know.  Tell me about it!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chai Ice Cream with Fig Palmiers

I know one might expect an "Easter" type of post at this point, but bear with me.  The Easter holiday represents a lot of different things to different people, and to some people nothing at all.  Something I think that's universal, though, is renewal.  Springtime, awakening, rebirth.

Beautiful Mama, Beautiful Baby Deegan

Very recently my dear friend Courtney gave birth to her second son.  He arrived after a hurried move to another state.  The last time I had Courtney and her hubby over for dinner, I made them a dessert of chai ice cream and french chocolate bark.  It was my first time making this particular ice cream, and a broken rule on my part: never make a dish for the first time for company. 

I learned my lesson, because although tasty, my ice cream was sub-par.  I had set the bar pretty high with Courtney's birthday ice cream, a silky smooth Bailey's Irish Ice Cream dream that was something I'd mastered already.  Then I handed her this too-icy and not delectably smooth batch of  chai.  While she was pregnant.  And what turned out to be the last time we were able to host them for dinner prior to the move. 

Courtney, I'm so sorry, even though you forgave me.  I've been thinking about what went wrong and this has been on my list of sweets-to-blog from the start.  I added a celebratory palmier this time, knowing you would love those itty bitty crunchy fig seeds against the creamy dreamy ice cream.  The shape just happened to be a bit like your monograms, too!

In honor of baby Deegan's birth, I've done it right for you this time.

Chai Ice Cream
*adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

1 1/2 cups Tazo brand Chai Spiced Black Tea Latte Concentrate
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, bring the tea concentrate to a boil over medium-high heat.  Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced at least by half, to about 3/4 cup.  This took me about 8 minutes and produced a very intensely spiced liquid, nearly syrup.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow.  (Sugar will "burn" eggs if you don't work quickly, so I began beating the
eggs a moment and poured the sugar in with the beaters going.)  Set aside.

Bring the whole milk to a simmer in a heavy  medium saucepan.  Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and sugar.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens slightly.  You'll be able to "feel" it get heavier while stirring.  Do not let this boil or your cusard will scramble!  Remove from heat and pour the hot custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then add the tea concentrate and heavy cream.  Stir, then cover the surface of the custard with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate overnight.**

Strain the custard mixture again directly into an ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer's directions.  I use an inexpensive Deni brand that has a separate chill-bucket.  The key with this type of machine is to make certain the chill bucket is at or sub-zero degrees.  Standard freezer temps often do not produce this intense cold, and it will leave you with a grainy textured ice cream. 
Custard has doubled in volume and is creeping up the dasher, top middle.

Straight out of the machine: a bit grainy, but holds a peak.  It will smooth as it finishes freezing.

**A note about custard temperature prior to freezing:  having made a LOT of ice cream, the surefire way to get the silky smooth, tongue coating mouthfeel is to start with an ice cream base that is as cold as possible without freezing.  Testing the base with a digital thermopen has been the magic wand for me.  I recommend starting with a base that is no more than 35 degrees, and preferably lower.

I see a lot of C's and D's in these beauties!
Fig Palmiers

1 sheet (half of one 17.5 oz  package) frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
granulated sugar
8-12 oz fig preserves, I love American Spoon's black mission fig conserve, but Gia Russa brand is readily available and just as tasty.

Scatter sugar on rolling surface, place opened pastry sheet on sugar.  Scatter additional sugar on top of the sheet.  Roll lengthwise with a rolling pin,  to approximately 11 x 14 inches. 

Warm fig preserves in a microwave safe bowl about 30 seconds or until loosened.  Depending on the thickness of your preserve, you may need to add a teaspoon of water.  Dollop preserves over rolled pastry with a spoon to evenly distribute.  Spread over pastry gently with a pastry brush to evenly coat with a thin layer. 

Roll the two short ends of the rectangle together, meeting in the middle.  Roll tightly to achieve those curlyques!  Wrap this log tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for two hours. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove log from the freezer, unwrap, and slice 1/4 inch slices from the roll (discard both ends).  Place the slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, allowing two inches between slices.  Bake for 15 minutes, checking for browning after about 12 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to allow palmiers to stiffen up and achieve that characteristic crunch!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sansa's Lemon Cakes

In the Game of Thrones, lemon cakes rule.
I admit it, I'm a fan of George R.R. Martin's series of books, Game of Thrones.  I've always been an anglophile of sorts, and love any good medieval story.  I'm especially fond of anything from the Elizabethan period of English history.  One of the things I enjoy about the series is Martin's consistent descriptions of the food his characters are eating.  Despite the science fiction nature of the story, he truly embraces the type of fare that someone living in this medieval time would have available.  Some of it is downright disgusting to me, but some of it is interesting at the least.

As luck would have it, the HBO premier of season two begins tonight.  I am attending a "premier party" of sorts - and offered to bring the sweets.  Fans of Martin's story immediately agree that Lemon Cake is a must.  One of his characters is especially obsessed with them, despite the disturbing events unfolding about her.  I had to make some Lemon Cakes in her honor. 

Thank you, Hubby, for lending me your 2 liter growler for blog purposes!

I turned to a rather fun source for a recipe, Inn at the Crossroadsa great blog by some true fans of Martin's work.  They've devoted lots of time and ingredients in re-creating the dishes described - even the gross ones!  They had a few recipes for Lemon Cakes, and I knew immediately I'd use their Elizabethan version for the premier party.  I wasn't looking for modern day light and fluffies drenched in buttercream.  I wanted dense.  At least as dense as Sansa's my opinion.

I varied only by omitting the poppyseed and putting in fresh chopped rosemary instead, a nod to my Mother-In-Law who makes the very best modern lemon-rosemary cupcake on earth.

The pennant cake toppers are also a great little extra from Inn at the Crossroads site, in their "plan a premier party" section.

This was harder than a dragon's egg to photograph.

Sansa's Lemon Cakes
(adapted from Inn at the Crossroads Elizabethan Lemon Cakes)

  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
  • 3 TBS warm ale (I used Leinenkugels Summer Shandy for extra lemon infusion)
  • dash of baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • scant TBS fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 TBS honey
In a small pan of boiling water, blanch the lemon being used for zest for about 30 seconds to remove wax & pesticide residue.

Sift together the flours and salt, set aside.  Dissolve yeast in warm ale, along with 1/8 tsp of the flour mixture.  Your yeast should bubble up after a few minutes, indicating that the yeast is still active.* 

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs and rosemary, followed by lemon zest and juice.  Gently add the yeast by hand, and begin to fold in the flour, about 1/3 at a time.  Use as much as you  need to make a smooth, thick batter.  Place liners in cupcake pan and fill the cups about 2/3 full.  Bake in the middle of the oven at 325 degrees for 20** minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool slightly before turning out onto a rack.

While cupcakes cool, mix the lemon juice and honey for the glaze.  When the cakes have cooled, brush the glaze on generously.  This may take several passes as the glaze soaks into the cake.  Don't be tempted to omit this step.  The honey/lemon is crucial to the moisture of these cakes.

Here ya go, Sansa Stark.  You're in for a world of hurt in season 2.  Eat up.

*   I thought this was nuts when I read it, but it really works!  The initial yeast/ale/flour mix looked lumpy and odd, but after waiting a bit it did come together and bubbled!

Probably what the inside of Cersei's head looks like.  Heh.

** Original recipe called for 10-15 minute baking time.  My cakes were still raw at 10 minutes and only half-cooked at 15.  There was little to no rise in these cakes, as I expected.

These cakes would make anyone in Westeros happy.  They aren't the lookers you would see in today's cupcake windows.  I gilded the lilly as it was by using the cupcake wrappers instead of just baking them naked.  Although, HBO would probably have gone that

Are you a GOT fan?  If not, I think you'd still really enjoy these cakes.  If so, I ask you...which banner are you carrying tonight?  Enjoy the show!