Friday, July 27, 2012

Lime Basil Cookies

I've wanted to celebrate basil in dessert for a while now.  I was so tempted to create another ice cream infused with fresh summer basil and a companion, but I really wanted to cook with it.  Right now everyone is knee deep in caprese salads, even sweetened inspired me to thank savory but celebrate sweet - sans tomato.

Basil has such wonderful notes of licorice and spice, it's truly aa masterpiece in nature.  Not to mention at this time of year, it becomes plentiful.  As in, freezer full o' pesto plentiful.  Let's do the twist, shall we?

When your bumper crop comes in, and you find yourself with those handfuls of sweet basil leaves (some of which might be a little tattered, or you may find your plants are about to bust their flowers loose) have no fear.  And, if you didn't happen to plant basil in your garden, you can usually find someone nearby who did and is ready to share.  Like my Mom.  Thanks, Mom!

The recipes I researched were all pretty similar, and most of them went straight basil or used lemon as a compliment.  Then I recalled a certain basil-lime mojito I once had and decided that the icy cold drink certainly celebrated summertime for me. Why not a cookie?

Soft, Cakey, Bursting With Fresh Basil & Lime!
Lime & Basil Cookies
(Adapted from Gastronomy and 5 Star Foodie )

1 ½ cup all purpose flour
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•Pinch of salt
•¾ cup sugar
•½ cup butter, softened
•1 egg
•1 cup basil leaves (packed)
•Juice of one lime
•Zest of one lime

Finely chop basil by hand or in a food processor. Add lime juice and mix until well blended. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the egg.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. In a third large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and zest together, then mix in the basil-egg mixture and flour mixture until the dough forms.  It's going to be VERY. STICKY.  Resist temptation to add more flour!

Shape into a ball, cover in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Form the dough into golf ball-sized rounds.  If dough becomes sticky, stop every 4 cookies to wash hands in cool water and continue.  Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until bottoms are nice and golden.


Pipe with Tinted Buttercream, Sandwich & Refrigerate

Fill with Softened Vanilla Ice Cream, Sandwich & Freeze

Crumble Cooled Cookies & Press Into Mini Tart Pans, Fill with No-Bake Rum Cheesecake Mixture 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Apple & Thyme Blackbrandy Crostada

In the midst of a droughtish Ohio summer, we recently had one entire day of fake-out fall weather.  Barely into the 60's and cloudy, misty rain, it nearly felt like late October.  The very same day I noticed the mostly lovely organic pink lady apples at our grocery store, so very out of character (and season.)  I grabbed a bunch  and off we went.  The next day we woke up and found ourselves at 85 again, sun a'blazing. 

Everyone, I don't switch gears that easy.

Those pink ladies were still whispering to me of the chill in the air, the smell of fresh rain...they would not be ignored.

I refused to break down and do "apple pie" in July.  Too far entrenched in ways to be modern with the classics, I made myself a list, drawing on some old favorites and trying to meld them into something entirely unique, utterly mine.

This would not be your granny's apple pie.  This would be a walk down a brambly path, berry basket on the arm.  This would be farmer's market honey, thyme from my garden, and a few friendly spices to wink exotic.  Sneak in some blackberry brandy, unlikely pink ladies and my go-to crostada crust, and what you have, my friends, is a garden party with your best girlfriends divulging tingling gossip in the summer sun.

(Ina Garten's pastry recipe - from Barefoot Contessa at Home)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 pound (two sticks) unsalted butter, cold & diced
6 Tbs (3oz) ice water

For the pastry, place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with flour (watch that blade!)  Pulse 12 to 15 times until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube.  Keep pulsing to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a well floured board, roll it into a ball & cut in half.  Form each ball into two flat disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.  (For this recipe you only need one disk.  Freeze the other and enjoy this completed step when your friends beg you to make this again...)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the chilled dough into a 10-inch circle on a lightly floured surface and transfer to the sheet pan.

The Sweet Teeth Filling

3 large pink lady apples, peeled, cored, and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup ripe blackberries, halved
3 Tbs honey (divided 2Tbs and 1Tbs)
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 scant tsp ground cardamom
1/8 scant tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs butter, melted
1 Tbs blackberry brandy
1 Tbs white sugar, preferably sanding sugar

Placed sliced apples in a medium bowl, and drizzle lemon juice, tossing to evenly distribute.  Add blackberries, 2Tbs honey, thyme, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, butter, and brandy.  Toss evenly.  There's no need to be delicate with the berries, you want them to share their lovely bright juices and blush those apples pink again!

Unlikely but troublemaking friends - the best kind!

With clean hands, gently move the apple-berry mixture onto the rolled pastry.  I wouldn't be fussy as this is rustic, but presentation will only be a bigger wow if you hum "Call Me Maybe" while artfully tucking apples hither & yon.  Or whatever song you like...just leave yourself a good 2 inch border of pastry around the fruit.

Once the fruit is entirely fanned, begin turning up the edges of the pastry, manually forming a "crust" around the edge, keeping a roughly circular shape.  Let the pastry hug the fruit filling, twisting here and there where it overlaps.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Like a Summer Slumber Party, Ready for the Oven
Bake for 15 minutes, then drizzle remaining 1 Tbs honey over the fruit to keep it moist.  Continue baking another 10 minutes or until the crust begins to just brown and the fruit is bubbling it's gossipy juices all over the parchment.

Allow this crostada to cool for about 10 minutes, allowing the natural apple pectins to create an oozy sauce inside.  A pizza wheel works wonders to slice this "pie".  Serve with vanilla whipped cream (save the ice cream for another pie, trust me).

What you are left with is poetry.  Floral notes of honey, tart and rosy apples, berries tasting like they were just sun picked, all dancing to the tune spun by intermingling juices, brandy, butter, and thyme: it would seriously put the T-Birds to shame.  Pink Ladies always ruled the summer nights.

You got Crostada?  Call Me Maybe!
Might I suggest a lovely riesling or blackberry wine to accompany your crostada?  Breakfast you say?  Well then try it with a glass of mint iced tea.  You won't be sorry!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Marzipan Modeling Memories: Sweet Teeth at School

Not seckel, but SPECKLED with vanilla bean and filled with fruit!
Trying to think back to my earliest experience with Marzipan, I can remember being young school-age and sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom.  I suspect that her recipe may have been the Betty Crocker adaptation, especially after digging out my 1974 cookbook and seeing this:


I didn't know then that these were just a sugar cookie dough with some almond extract, but it left a lasting impression about modeling fruits that just leaves playdough in the dust.  I never realized that sitting in my great-grandfather's basement with modeling clay being taught how to sculpt roses and swans would resurface in such a real way.

Fast forward, oh, maybe 30 years or so.  I was thinking about designs for my wedding cake, shopping local bakeries and inquiring if they could do a cake with Marzipan fruit as edible decoration.  I was turned down at every door.  When I got to the source of who was doing it really well much less at all, it led me to the door of Wendy Kromer-Schell.  The rest of that journey I have documented HERE in a prior post honoring Wendy and her skills with wedding cake design.  As shown in that post, I went a different route from Marzipan on my wedding cake, leaving the door to that confection curiously ajar...

Another five years later, in following Wendy on Facebook, she posted a glorious photo of some Marzipan she had made.  They were just so beautifully done, and I knew that they would taste great from her hands.  I commented about wanting to try making strawberries at home, and she mentioned she may be putting a class together.  I shamefully hinted to my husband.  He went undercover and called Wendy, making sure I'd be in that class, and surprised me with it as part of my 40th birthday gift.  Hero!

I took the class.  I know I passed because I got a certificate that says so.  I know I had fun because Wendy agreed to sign my apron pocket.

Pinch me!
I know that I could have sat there well into the night with the music playing and the graceful guidance of our instructor helping us push each piece closer to refined.  It was a lot more difficult to model than I had expected.  Details are so important.  Mother Nature makes it look so very easy.  Come to think of it, so does Wendy.  But she is truly a gifted teacher, approachable. professional, and passionate.  She wants you to achieve your best.  Here are a few examples of my work:

Fruit Filled Apricot
Lovely Lemon
Fruit Filled Fig
Fruit Filled Pumpkin
Beginnings of a bunch of Queen Anne Cherries

Leaves & Bitty Mushroom

As shown in this last image, starting with a cone and sculpting each petal individually to form a rose is delicate work.  Even before coloring I find myself most proud of this piece. 

The basic Marzipan recipe is not complicated, using equal parts almond paste and confectioner's sugar, adding just the right ratio of corn syrup.  But, using very high quality paste is critical, as this is nut based.  Nuts like to go rancid if not treated right.  Hard to believe that you'd have the nerve to eat these beauties, but they are absolutely delicious "candy" - if you plan to go to the expense to purchase the right ingredients and sculpt something this lovely, do it right!

I don't feel right sharing Wendy's recipe for her fruit filling here, as it was a reward to obtain it in her class setting, but I will say that combining figs, nuts, chocolate and brandy among many other things makes these Marzipan an extra special surprise to nibble on. 

We used gel food colors as well as petal dusts to create the life-like coloring and shading.  If you like to paint and can appreciate the delicate shading each and every apple picked from a tree have, this is your medium!  It's truly an art form!

Lastly, I have to thank my sister for choosing to attend this class along with me.  There was quite a bit of childish giggling and sisterly excitement.  Although she claims she's "not the baker" she produced some of the most beautiful results and she really had a knack for it. Thanks to Wendy sharing her talent with others, my sister and I will share years of memories as we collaborate Marzipan projects.  Thanks to my sister, we also have an incredibly telling photo of me with Wendy in front of our work area, wherein I show that enthusiasm trumps acting professionally. 

Wendy Kromer-Schell has future classes coming up in various sweet mediums: cookie decorating and intense cake decoration included.  If you're a serious baker or confectioner, it's worth a look to make a trip to beautiful downtown Sandusky, Ohio.  Lakefront, quaint, and on the upswing, there would be plenty of places for dinner and lots of places to stay overnight.  Check out her page HERE or follow her on her WKCafe Facebook Page.

How often do you get the chance to learn from The Best?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Birthday Scoop

This is not my usual post, but I wanted so much to share the creation for my daughter's third birthday:

We All Scream...

This was a super simple and fun idea I saw on Pinterest.  Whip up your favorite batch of cupcakes, have buttercream standing by and voila!

I so wanted to make one big tall cone with 20-something scoops all stacked, but alas there was no refrigerated storage device able to hold something that big.  And it was nearly 100 degrees, so...

I sliced a bit off the back of the cone so it would lie flat, and secured it to my platter with buttercream.  I also secured the three "scoops" of cupcake with buttercream and then frosted them and added a little sprinkle-bling.  The cherry is real. 

When I showed my daughter the platter, she went running through the kitchen saying, "I'm SO HAPPY!"  The rewards of forgoing the local Cupcake Shop this year and doing this myself are immeasurable.

My Crafty Sister "bling-ed" these out for me!
I attempted to coordinate my icing colors with the ice cream flavors served at her party: mint chocolate chip, strawberry, and chocolate peanut-butter swirl.

We had a little sundae bar set up with toppings, whipped cream, cherries, and loads of sprinkles to choose from.  I only wish I had taken more photos of the adorable folded paper sprinkle holders my sister created for us!

These are the years she'll be remembering.  As will I.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Time Flying By

I'm so sorry I've been MIA lately, readers.  I have not given up sugar, I swear!

There have been unexpected events in the family and I've been kept out of the Sweet Teeth kitchen too long. 

I will be making up for it, though, as I'll be attending Wendy Kromer's course on Marzipan:

Photo: Wendy Kromer

I have been dying to do this class under her instruction!  If you think you can swing Sandusky, Ohio for a day and are interested, check this out HERE.  Register, you won't be sorry!  Sandusky is a beautiful historic town with such charm.  If you're not within driving distance it would be a great overnight trip, with lots of places to stay, and super summer fun within driving distance.  It's such a hot spot, THE President will be there today! 

I'm hard at work and will be back soon to share goodies to keep summer sweet!