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The Bite-Sized Baker’s Adventures : Positano, Italy

April 16, 2015

Last weekend, Tony, Louie, and I packed our bags and made the 6-hour journey from Florence to the Amalfi Coast. I have wanted to visit the Amalfi Coast ever since I first saw pictures of the colorful little town built on cliffs and overlooking the turquoise sea, but the drive was rather daunting and we always opted for shorter drives or flights elsewhere… So when Tony told me a few weeks ago that he had business outside of Naples, we made the most of it and planned a weekend in Positano.

 

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Typically travel blogs will tell you the best time to go is in September, when the weather is still nice and the tourists have cleared out, but we lucked out with beautiful weather and minimal crowds on our trip! The easiest way to travel from Florence to the Amalfi Coast is to take the train to Naples and then take a ferry to Positano, but since we were already driving to Naples, we chose to drive the entire 60 kilometer/37 mile strip of the Costiera Amalfitana to the little town of Positano, which was in a word, breathtaking… Well, if we’re being completely honest it was also nauseating… but I get carsick easily.

 

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We arrived in Positano at Hotel Marincanto two hours later after multiple stops along the coastline to take pictures and to dry-heave and catch my breath before I had to endure more twists and turns. I was at a loss for words when looking out over the town of Positano from our hotel. It was unreal… picture perfect! Literally, every single photo you take of Positano will be beautiful, which resulted in 600+ photos from our 3-day trip. We freshened up a bit and left our hotel to explore and enjoy the sunset over beers by the beach. If you’re near the seaside in Italy, always go with Nastro Azzuro, it just tastes like the ocean. For dinner we dined at Le Tre Sorelle, based off of the recommendation of our friends and we feasted on some delicious calamari, seafood, and pizza. Side Note: We have NEVER eaten pizza in Italy since moving to Florence. We had the best pizza of our lives in Naples at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele when we first visited in Italy in October 2012 and we have refused to eat pizza north of Naples ever since… Anyway, I’m a binge eater and I ate three pizzas in the total of three days… Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?!

 

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After dinner we stopped for gelato, where I discovered the best gelato combination ever… Pistachio, Stracciatella, and Cioccolato Bianco (which I also ate three times in three days and really wanted to recreate for the blog, but I’m taking a break from ice cream… wah) and then we drunkenly tried taking photos of the city at night without a tripod, which resulted in 50+ blurry photos. Next time, I will bring a tripod for dusk and dawn photos because the views are incredible!

 

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The next morning we woke up early and enjoyed coffee and croissants on the terrace overlooking the sea and got ready for our hike. We planned on venturing to one of the most famous trails in Positano, the “Sentiero degli Dei” (Path of the Gods), where you will come across amazing views of the Amalfi and freshly made lemonade stands. From Positano, the easiest way to get to the base of the trail is to take the local bus to Nocelle and then begin your hike, but since we were with Louie and unsure if dogs were allowed, we decided to take the 1,700 stairs from Positano and then begin our hike… At the base of the staircase, we met an older gentleman who graciously pointed us in the right direction, offered advice about our ascent, and offered to take our photo. We also met a local dog, Flipper, who runs free around Positano all day long, who also accompanied us on our journey.

 

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We regularly climb 83 steps to our apartment, but even we weren’t prepared for 1,700 steps!!! By the time we actually got to the trail, I was slightly less enthusiastic than when we first started, but I carried on for a solid 30 minutes before I decided I didn’t really want to spend all day in the mountains. And thank goodness we called it quits when we did because as we were heading back to Positano we passed through Montepertuso and stumbled across La Tagliata.

 

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I had done my typical research prior to visiting Positano and I knew about La Tagliata, but I wrote it off because it is slightly a trek from the center of town so when we walked past it after 3 hours of hiking, I was thrilled, to say the least. We arrived just as they were opening for lunch and luckily, they had space for us as every other table was reserved! We were hungry, but this meal was truly the best meal of our trip, quite possibly one of the best meals we’ve had in Italy! It is a family-operated restaurant and the menu depends on what’s available in the garden. It’s like eating at your Italian grandma’s house… Oh, and you also have the most amazing views of the coastline.

 

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We started our meal with a bottle of wine and bruschetta on this thick, toasted, grainy bread and then they brought out buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, olives, eggplant parmigiana, frittata, various vegetables, and beans and chickpeas cooked with pancetta… All of it was fresh and delightful. Our next course was a mix of pasta… There was a zucchini-ricotta gemelli, ravioli in a summer squash sauce, some lasagna type pasta in a red sauce, and gnocchi in red sauce. I was crazy about this gnocchi! I normally never eat gnocchi, because it’s always so heavy, but unlike the United States, gnocchi is made without eggs in Italy so they are light little fluffy clouds! Gosh, that gnocchi was amazing. After pasta we were pretty full, but they brought out a platter of grilled meats, where the chef was grilling over an open flame at the side of the restaurant, so we obviously had to try that too. Last but not least, they brought out dessert, which was a mix of pear and ricotta crostata, torta di Nonna, and cream puffs covered in chocolate and pistachio. Besides the delicious food and great views, the price was unbeatable, 79 euro for everything! We were pretty exhausted after our hike, lunch, and (second) hike back to Positano so we just relaxed at our hotel and went out for more gelato that night and then we enjoyed one last breakfast on the terrace the next morning before beginning our journey back to Florence.

 

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Overall, our first visit to Amalfi Coast was an absolute dream! I understand why it’s so popular in the summer because it truly does not disappoint and despite people foreboding not to visit in the summer months, we will actually be returning in July when my sister is visiting and I already can’t wait! Can you tell by how many times I said amazing??? Until next time, Positano!

Stay tuned for next week’s adventure… Lake Como, Italy! If you want to keep up to date with my daily happenings and adventures, follow me on Instagram, @thebitesizedbaker. #shamelessselfpromoting

The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream

April 7, 2015

For the past few months my good friend Lara, whom I introduce to everyone as “the girl who speaks eight languages,” and I have participated in “Baking Wednesdays,” and sometimes “Blogging Thursdays” when it’s a two-day job. Anyone that is willing to walk around the entire city in search of Guinness beer and waffle cones, style food, and help critique photos for 5+ hours is a friend for life, in my opinion!

 

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It saddens me to say that Lara is moving back to Munich this week and I am pretty much depressed. Also, because now I can’t always use her as my translator when talking to strangers… Thankfully we have many mini trips planned across Europe in the next few months, which I’ll get to posting eventually!

 

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Lara and I are both chocolate people. Whenever I go out for ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, etc., I always go with a chocolate flavor combination… If I wanted something fruity, I would make a smoothie... Seeing how this will be my third ice cream post in the past month and I am in full mode ice cream making season, I found it rather alarming that I have NEVER made a chocolate-based ice cream in all of my years of making ice cream!

 

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Since this past Wednesday was our last Baking Wednesday we wanted to make something epic… and we decided for our last baking day, we would need to make a chocolate ice cream. We exchanged ideas about German Chocolate Cake, Rocky Road, Peanut Butter and Chocolate among others, but we ultimately landed on a simple and classic Dark Chocolate Ice Cream. Sometimes simplicity is best.

 

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This is a simple, straight-forward recipe and compared to last week’s Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt it is a breeze to make! Thank goodness, because I don’t like waiting for ice cream. It is an ultra creamy, smooth, rich, full of chocolate, and fudge-like ice cream.. Think truffle meets mousse. The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate (55% to 70%), but I think you could get away with an even higher cocoa percentage like 85% to get a truly dark chocolate ice cream while only slightly compromising the sweetness.

 

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I promise, I will eventually get around to posting recipes other than ice cream, but for now I am just having too much fun with my ice cream machine… and also because my pants are getting too tight.

 

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The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home:

Chocolate Syrup:

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup brewed coffee

½ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate (55% to 70%), finely chopped

Ice Cream Base:

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

  1. To make the chocolate syrup, combine the cocoa, coffee, and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir the syrup until smooth. Set aside.
  2. To make the ice cream, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, warm chocolate syrup, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  3. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes precisely. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
  4. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  6. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and begin to spin the ice cream until thick and creamy.
  7. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least four hours.

Soft and Chewy M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

April 4, 2015

When I feel like treating myself to dessert, which is frequent, I always prefer a baked good over a piece of candy. However, there are times when candy just calls to me and that’s typically when it’s holiday-themed. Maybe it’s the special seasonal colors or the packaging, but I just lose my cool when they start stocking holiday candy on the shelves.

 

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I personally think holiday candy is the best because manufacturers can’t get away with selling Easter candy year-round, so you know it’s fresh(er) than the regular stuff… I’ve had one too many experiences with eating stale M&Ms.

The first time I made these cookies, I was at home in California and I used pink Valentine’s Day M&Ms and used them as a base of a Valentine’s Day themed “Slutty Brownie.” I made several cookies with the leftover dough and was rewarded with thick, puffy, and tall cookies. My family went nuts over them.

 

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Since Target was on top of their game when I visited in February and they were already selling Easter candy just three days after Valentine’s Day, I stocked up so I could recreate these cookies in Italy!

But as you may notice by the pictures, these cookies are not thick, puffy, and tall– despite chilling the dough overnight… But just disregard that because my oven sucks and I always have to eyeball my butter since the United States is the only country that measures butter by volume and not weight… so maybe I added a few more grams than I was supposed to– I still ate half of them during the photo process.

 

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For any of you who are still looking for a last-minute dessert to share this weekend, these cookies are simple, soft, chewy, and buttery and perfectly festive for the holiday! Or any other holiday really… just make sure your M&Ms are seasonally appropriate.

 

Soft and Chewy M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies by Averie Cooks:

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup instant vanilla pudding mix (not sugar-free and not ‘cook & serve’), OR use 2 teaspoons cornstarch in place of pudding mix

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ cup milk chocolate M&Ms

½ cup milk chocolate M&Ms, optional for placing on top of dough mounds

  1. To make the cookies, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat for 4 minute, until creamed and well combined.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour,pudding mix, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture on low speed until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and ¾ cup M&Ms and mix until just combined
  3. Scoop the dough in ~¼ cup-measurements, about 16 equal-sized mounds. Flatten the mound slightly, and add about 1 tablespoon M&Ms to the top of each mound. Place mounds onto the prepared baking sheets and leave about 2″ between the cookies. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 5 days. Do not bake with unchilled dough because cookies will bake thinner, flatter, and be more prone to spreading.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until edges and tops are just set. Do not overbake! Cookies will firm as they cool. Allow cookies to rest on the baking sheet for at least 5-10 minutes before serving them.

Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt

April 2, 2015

When I was younger, my mom would host afternoon tea parties for all of the neighborhood ladies and their children. She would dust off her old wedding china and serve tea for the ladies and hot chocolate for the kids in fancy teapots alongside crustless sandwiches, quiches, shortbread cookies, lemon squares, scones, lemon curd, and preserves. It was during those tea parties that I developed my high expectation for scones…

 

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My mom has maybe a handful of staple recipes at her disposal… Buttermilk Coffee Cake, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Millionaire Bars, Russian Teacakes, and Buttermilk Scones. Don’t get me wrong— my mom is one of my biggest influences as to why I love baking, but exploring and developing recipes isn’t her forte. But scones? Her simple, moist, modestly sweet, and delicate Buttermilk Scones with Lemon Curd? Well, that is one of her greatest baking feats to date. If you are able to eat a warm scone fresh out of the oven, be proud, because you’ve just had one of the best homemade treats of your life. I have known many friends to gobble them up in little Buttermilk Scone-Lemon Curd sandwiches… I’m looking at you, Jenna and Tony.

 

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I had planned on making Buttermilk Scones and Lemon Curd for the upcoming holiday weekend, but then I discovered Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams new spring flavor, Lemon Buttermilk Tart Frozen Yogurt with swirls of lemon curd and pieces of shortbread crust mixed throughout and it sounded a bit magical… even more magical when made with pieces of my mom’s Buttermilk Scones.

 

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Like the Brambleberry Crisp Ice Cream I made last year, there wasn’t an exact recipe in either of her cookbooks for this flavor, but after surveying three different flavors of ice cream (Lemon Cream Ice Cream, Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt, and Lemon Frozen Yogurt), I created something that I think is pretttty spectacular for Easter and spring in general.

 

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I used Jeni’s original recipe for Lemon Frozen Yogurt, but substituted buttermilk for milk to make the frozen yogurt extra creamy, tangy, and tart. I then followed Jeni’s recipe for Lemon Curd, which uses extra lemon juice to ensure the curd doesn’t lose its tartness when frozen and calls for cornstarch so the curd remains intact when swirled into the frozen yogurt. Last but not least, I crumbled my mom’s scones into the frozen yogurt in lieu of shortbread pieces because after all, I was inspired by my mom’s tea parties…

 

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If you’re looking for a fun treat to share with family and friends for the holiday or simply to celebrate the new spring season look no further! It’s spring in a scoop; it’s bright, refreshing, and full of tart lemony flavors!

 

Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt inspired/adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and my Mom:

Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt:

1 quart plain low-fat yogurt

1½ cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

½ cup heavy cream

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¼ cup light corn syrup

Zest from 1 lemon (reserved from below)

Lemon Syrup:

2 to 3 lemons

3 tablespoons sugar

Lemon Curd:

4 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¾ cup granulated sugar

Zest from 1 lemon

¾ cup lemon juice

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Buttermilk Scones (This is the original recipe, which will leave you with lots of leftovers after crumbling 1 or 2 into your ice cream. You’ll want extras!):

2 2/3 cup all purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsalted butter or margarine, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes

½ cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons heavy cream

Buttermilk Scone Glaze:

1 egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

  1. To make the frozen yogurt base, fit a sieve over a bowl and line it with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to drain. While the yogurt is draining make lemon curd and buttermilk scones. Once the yogurt is drained, discard the liquid, and measure out 1¼ cups of the drained yogurt; set aside.
  2. To make the lemon curd, put the yolks and cornstarch in a medium bowl and mix until completely smooth. Add the sugar, zest, and juice and blend well. Pour into a 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it begins to simmer (7 to 10 minutes). Allow to simmer for 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, one cube at a time, until melted and smooth. Pour the curd into a bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skim from forming. Chill completely, about 2 hours, in the refrigerator. The curd will keep for up to 2 weeks.
  3. To make the buttermilk scones, preheat oven to 325 degrees F and add flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. While the food processor is running, add butter one cube at a time and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand (about 1 minute). Continue running food processor and add buttermilk and heavy cream and mix until the dough starts to come together and pull away from the sides (about 1 minute). On a floured surface, roll the dough out to ½-inch thickness and cut with a floured round cookie cutter. Place the scones on an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. To make the buttermilk scone glaze, mix egg and heavy cream in a small bowl and brush the tops of the scones with glaze and bake for 25 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool and then select 1 or 2… or 3 ugly scones to crumble into your ice cream. Enjoy the rest with a cup of tea! While the scones are cooling make the lemon syrup.
  5. To make the lemon syrup, using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest in large strips from 1 lemon; reserve for the frozen yogurt (leave the zest in large strips so it’s easier to strain out later). Juice enough of the lemons to make ½ cup. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  6. To make the frozen yogurt, mix about 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  7. Combine the remaining buttermilk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes precisely. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
  8. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  9. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1 ¼ cups drained yogurt and the lemon syrup and whisk until smooth.
  10. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and begin to spin the frozen yogurt until thick and creamy.
  11. Pack the ice cream into a storage container alternating with layers of lemon curd and crumbled buttermilk scone pieces. Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least four hours.

The Buckeye State Ice Cream

March 19, 2015

There are few things I enjoy as much as ice cream. If it were acceptable, I would eat ice cream for every meal… I would have severe health issues after a while, but dammit, I would be happy for the first few weeks!

 

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After purchasing a European KitchenAid for 3x the price of my American one, I was STOKED to learn they used the same attachments so I didn’t have to spend even more money on replacement parts. Unfortunately, this was not the case, which I quickly learned last year when making my first batch of ice cream… Long story short, what should have been a 30-minute machine-churning process turned into  60-minute hand-churning mess. I felt justified to eat the entire batch of ice cream, which was nice, but I never got around to make any other flavors last year, which was heartbreaking.

 

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Fortunately, Tony is a wise man and he knows that in order to keep me happy, I need ice cream… I knew he was a keeper when he would always save the last bite of ice cream for me– THAT is true love. Anyway, last week he surprised me with the European KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment and it is safe to say that this is the best gift ever. The gift that keeps on giving! I was so excited that I stayed up the next three nights until the wee morning hours revising and adding to my “Ice Cream Flavors” list.

 

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Normally, I reserve ice cream making season for summer; it’s a food policy of mine, like never ordering chicken or pasta at a restaurant (with the exception of dining out in Italy), never ordering Pumpkin Spice Lattes until they’re served in seasonal cups, or never posting photos of unmanicured hands holding food. But since I have an excessively long list of potential ice cream flavor combinations (that I didn’t even get to touch last year!), I figured I should take advantage of the head-start… This situation might get sticky.

 

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I started this year’s ice cream season with The Buckeye State from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. The pairing of The Buckeye State and Salty Caramel is my all-time favorite Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream combinations, it is the perfect combination of sweet and salty. When I first got her cookbook, I attempted to make Salty Caramel and ended up burning the caramel… damn dry-burn technique… so for the sake of creating new flavors I made The Buckeye State ice cream and it is absolute perfection.

Although, I wouldn’t consider myself a Buckeye State fan, those people are actually insane, I will always support the winning combination of peanut butter and chocolate. I personally looooove this flavor because it’s a subtle peanut butter flavor with a touch of honey and flecks of dark chocolate.

 

The Buckeye State Ice Cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home:

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1½ ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

½ cup unsalted natural peanut butter

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1¼ cups heavy cream

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons honey

4 ounces chocolate (50% to 70% cocoa), chopped

  1. To make the ice cream, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  2. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes precisely. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
  3. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  5. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and begin to spin the ice cream. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from the heat and let cool until tepid but still fluid.
  6. When the ice cream is thick and creamy and almost finished, drizzle the melted chocolate slowly through the opening in the top of the ice cream, machine and allow to solidify and break up in the ice cream for about 2 minutes.
  7. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least four hours.

Irish Car Bomb Brownie Sundaes

March 16, 2015

St. Patrick’s Day is always a huge deal in Chicago. After months of frigid temperatures and polar vortexes, people emerge from hibernation and seem to forget they live in Chiberia for the day. There’s a parade, they dye the river green, there are open bars everywhere, and everyone dresses in costume, or at least in green, and generally just gets sloppy in the streets of Chicago by 12 in the afternoon… It’s a beautiful disaster.

If you’re lucky, you’ll make it back to the Celtic Knot in Evanston for Snakebites (one part cider, one part lager, and topped with a touch of blackcurrant), beer-battered chicken fingers, and chips with a homemade Guinness BBQ sauce and creamy blue cheese-ranch dipping sauce… I won’t judge if you mix the two together.

 

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My last St. Patrick’s Day was a relatively tame one as we had just moved to Italy the month before and we didn’t really have friends that we felt comfortable being jack-asses with at that point… But this year, I plan on pulling out all the big stops for our St. Patrick’s Day celebration… Starting with day drinking at one of Florence’s greatest/only Irish pub, The Lion’s Fountain, and then ending the night with Irish Car Bomb Brownie Sundaes at home…. As much as I would love to eat a bunch of beer-battered chicken fingers after a day of drinking, I thought attempting to make them drunkenly didn’t seem like the wisest idea. Too much spitting oil. Dessert it is!

 

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My original plan was to make Guinness Brownies for our little soiree, but on one particularly uneventful day, I thought of including the unopened bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream I had hanging around, which led to my next ingenious idea of using Jameson Irish Whiskey somehow for a very festive Irish Car Bomb dessert. My final product was an Irish Car Bomb Brownie Sundae complete with Guinness Brownies, Bailey’s Irish Cream Hot Fudge Sauce, and Jameson Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce.

 

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I typically steer clear of Guinness beer or any beer darker than a pale ale for that matter… and whiskey of all types (Fireball has a special place in hell). However, it is St. Patrick’s Day and I’m willing to make an exception for brownie sundaes. The beer makes the brownies exceptionally light, rich, and fudgy while the Irish Cream Hot Fudge Sauce and Irish Whiskey Caramel give a creamy, thick, and boozy enhancement to a perfectly delicious brownie sundae.

 

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Bottoms Up!

Irish Car Bomb Brownies Sundaes recipe by The Bite-Sized Baker:

Guinness Brownies:

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

½ cup of butter, room temperature

½ cup Guinness Beer

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Bailey’s Irish Cream Hot Fudge Sauce recipe by Half-Baked Harvest:

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and divided

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Jameson Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce:

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

¼ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup Jameson Irish Whiskey

  1. To make the brownies, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9×13” pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. In a double boiler, melt 6 ounces of chocolate and stir until smooth. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, add beer, and stir to combine. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip butter and sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and cooled chocolate on low speed until just combined. Be careful to not overmix! Fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack and cut into squares.
  2. To make the hot fudge sauce, stir together cocoa powder, brown sugar, Bailey’s Irish Cream, salt and half of the chocolate (3 ounces). Place in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Cook mixture at a low boil, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add remaining chocolate, butter and vanilla and stir until smooth. Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container, then reheat over low heat, stirring frequently.
  3. To make the caramel sauce, stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until deep amber color forms, 5–6 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add heavy cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and salt and stir to combine. Stir in whiskey until sauce is smooth. Set aside. Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container, then reheat over low heat, stirring frequently.
  4. To assemble, place brownies in individual bowls, divide ice cream, and drizzle hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce evenly among bowls.

 

 

Krantz Cake

March 12, 2015

Truthfully, I only wanted to bake Krantz Cake because I fell in love with the photos when I first picked up a copy of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. In reality, yeasted breads make me a nervous wreck.

 

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I read the words yeast, knead, rise, and roll and I shy away. When you mess up yeasted bread, your mistakes are apparent immediately. There’s no way of hiding the fact that you didn’t let your dough rise completely, roll your dough out evenly, or let your bread bake completely leaving you with a stretchy/gummy interior. I don’t like my mistakes glaring at me… I like to hide my mistakes and pretend they don’t exist.

 

But rather than pretending my mistakes don’t exist, as healthy as that may be, I decided to learn from my failures and attempt to bake a yeasted cake last week— Krantz Cake, to be exact. This is my Mount Everest.

 

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I’ve loved every recipe I’ve ever made from this cookbook and Krantz Cake is no exception. It’s a tender, subtly sweet, brioche-like bread filled with smooth dark chocolate and nuts for a delightful crunch in every bite. It is a slightly messy and complicated process and requires your attention, patience, and time…

 

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The entire prep takes two days, but a lot of that is waiting for the dough to rise and then a bit of rolling, trimming, and twisting. I also took photos of every single step so that elongated the process, but I found using a picture tutorial extremely helpful! All those phrases about logs, cigar rolling, plaiting, braiding, etc. can get confusing so I wanted to include that in my post, as well!

 

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Even if your twisting skills aren’t on point, the cakes will still turn out stunning and immensely satisfying. Luckily, you can never go too wrong with a cake saturated in a generous amount of simple syrup and filled with layers of chocolate and nuts.

 

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I followed the recipe exactly and I absolutely loved the finished product (Note: I could not stop eating). But I do, however, have a few notes for the next time I make this… First, I absolutely hate flouring my kitchen counters, it always leaves a huge mess and I like to avoid cleaning whenever possible. I rolled my dough out on a floured half-sheet baking pan (18 by 13 inches), which I found very convenient (without all the rulers) when rolling the dough out 15 by 11 inches. The dough rolls out very nicely so you don’t have any issues with the dough sticking to the pan and it’s also a lot easier to clean than your entire kitchen counter.

 

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Second, it is a lot easier to spread your filling and cut your dough in half when your chocolate is smooth and thoroughly melted. Depending on how quickly you work, your chocolate mixture may have hardened by the time you begin rolling your second cake, so quickly reheat your chocolate using the double boiler method so you don’t burn/overcook the chocolate!

 

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Third, this might just be a personal issue because my oven is inconsistent, but I found my cakes to brown very quickly in the oven. They didn’t overcook, but they didn’t have that light golden brown crust I was hoping for. In order to avoid this, just check on your bread periodically and if you find it browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil (I was simultaneously making diner when I made these so I wasn’t as vigilant as I should have been).

 

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Last but not least, if you can, try to wait to eat them until the next day when the syrup has fully saturated the cake. It is absolutely divine and completely worth the wait. Happy Baking! Conquer the yeast!

 

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Krantz Cake recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook:

Dough:

4 cups / 530 grams all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

½ cup / 100 grams superfine sugar

2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast

Grated zest of 1 small lemon

3 extra-large free-range eggs

½ cup / 120 millilitres water

Rounded ¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup / 150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾-inch / 2 centimeter cubes

Sunflower oil, for greasing

Chocolate Filling:

Scant ½ cup / 50 grams confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup / 30 grams best-quality cocoa powder

4 ounces / 130 grams good-quality dark chocolate, melted

½ cup / 120 grams unsalted butter, melted

1 cup / 100 grams pecans, coarsely chopped (I used pistachios!)

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Sugar Syrup:

2/3 cup / 160 millilitres water

1 ¼ cups / 260 grams superfine sugar

  1. To make the dough, place the flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs and water and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together. Add the salt and then start adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny. During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that all of the dough leaves them.
  2. Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight.
  3. Grease two 2 ¼-pound / 1 kilograms loaf pans (9 by 4 inches / 23 by 10 centimeters) with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with a piece of waxed paper. Divide the dough in half and keep one-half covered in the fridge.
  4. To make the filling, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter. You will get a spreadable paste. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 centimeters). Trim the sides to make them even, and then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread half the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾-inch / 2 centimeter border all around. Sprinkle half the pecans on top of the chocolate, and then sprinkle over half the superfine sugar.
  5. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
  6. Trim about ¾-inch / 2 centimeters off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent. Repeat the whole process to make the second cake.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove the tea towels, place the cakes on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup.
  8. To make the syrup, Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and leave to cool down. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over them. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cakes until they are just warm, then remove them from the pans and let cool completely before serving.
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