August 28, 2012

Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Caffeine is my savior. And my nemesis. It depends on the time of day.

First thing in the morning, caffeine is my friend. My addiction, really. I can’t function until the first drops of it are running through my veins. I set up my coffee machine before I go to bed, knowing I can’t possibly manage to measure out the coffee and the water (not to mention getting the water into the pot) first thing in the morning. Two, three, sometimes four large mugs later, I’m a fully functioning human being.

But when the clock strikes noon, I cut myself off. Completely. Because the same caffeine that allows me to function in the morning also has the power to keep me awake all night. So no Diet Coke to get me through a 3 o’clock slump. No hot tea to power me through a sluggish afternoon. No chocolate-covered espresso beans to…well, just because.

No after-dinner cappuccino. No Java Chip Frappuccino. No coffee Oreo ice cream. No tiramisu.

Yes, there’s decaf. But I’ve stopped ordering decaf in restaurants. I’ve been burned one time too many, tossing and turn at 3 am, cursing the waiter who assured me he was pouring me a cup of the non-caffeinated stuff. And have you ever seen caffeine-free tiramisu on a dessert menu? Me either.

That’s why I’ve taken matters into my own hands. I made this mocha chip ice cream with decaf instant coffee. Not to mention good-quality cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. The result was creamy, mochalicious goodness -- that didn’t keep me up all night.  

Gather your ingredients.

Heat the milk and cream over low heat. Add sugar.

Add instant coffee.

Add cocoa powder.

Gently heat and whisk the ingredients together until the sugar, coffee and cocoa powder dissolve. Turn off the heat and add vanilla extract.

Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. I like pouring it into a large measuring cup so it's easier to pour into the ice cream maker. Refrigerate the mixture overnight.

Finely chop good quality chocolate (or use chocolate chips). The important thing is to refrigerate them overnight. All of the ingredients should be cold when they go into the ice cream maker.

Pour ingredients into the ice cream maker and let it rip. After about 25 minutes, it should look like this. 

Add chopped chocolate or chips to the machine about five minutes before the ice cream is ready.

If you like a soft serve consistency, eat the ice cream right away. 

Otherwise transfer it to a container and let it firm up.

Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Recipe by The Garlic Press

1 cup whole milk, well chilled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp decaf instant coffee granules (or use regular if the caffeine doesn't bother you)
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped, good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate bar, to taste

1.    Gently heat milk and cream in saucepan. Add sugar, cocoa powder and coffee. Heat gently until sugar, coffee and cocoa are dissolved, but before the mixture comes to a simmer.

2.    Off the heat, add vanilla extract.

3.    Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl. Refrigerate mixture overnight.

4.    Finely chop chocolate. Refrigerate chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.

5.    Make ice cream according to the directions on your ice cream maker. Add chocolate chips 5 minutes before the ice cream is ready.

Makes ten ½ cup servings.

August 14, 2012

Corn Muffins

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Corn bread. Corn cakes. Polenta. Grits. I’ve made those. And yet, strangely enough, I’ve never made corn muffins from scratch.

This month’s challenge asked us to use cornmeal in a new way. Corn muffins certainly weren’t the most interesting or difficult recipe I could have chosen. But I wanted to try something that, if successful, I’d make again and again.

To boost my chances, I went with an Ina Garten recipe. The Barefoot Contessa rarely steers me wrong. And again, she had my back. The muffins were moist and tasty. Almost as easy to pull together as muffins from a mix. I will definitely make these again.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, melted butter and eggs.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry.

Fill the baking cups with the batter.

And bake until the muffins are golden, with a crisp top.

Yes, that’s it. Oh, and enjoy.

Corn Muffins

Recipe by Ina Garten

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup medium cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs

1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

3.    In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted butter, and eggs. With the mixer on the lowest speed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until they are just blended.

4.    Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top.

5.    Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are crisp and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly and remove from the pan.

Makes 12 muffins

August 6, 2012

Key Lime Pie

My younger sister and my older cousin are 10 years apart. When we were younger, that difference felt huge. My sister wasn't even allowed to cross the street by herself when my cousin started driving. Now that we’re a little (ahem!) older, the age difference doesn’t seem nearly as significant.

For many years now, the three of us have been talking about taking a girl’s trip. For one reason or another, we’ve had to keep putting it off. This year, we finally made it happen. We all got on the phone in April and chose a weekend. Within a few days, we’d picked a destination. By the end of that week, we’d booked a hotel and made plane reservations.

And so it was, at the end of July, we arrived in Miami. We spent three blissful days laying out by the pool, relaxing on the beach and hanging out in the warm ocean water. We explored the city and drank plenty of wine and caipirinhas.

And we ate. A lot. Because one of the many things we have in common is our love of good food. It must be genetic.

stone crabs
We had delicious churrasco and pan-Latin food and an insanely good Southern brunch (chicken and biscuits!). And of course we went to the famous Joe’s Stone Crab. Stone crabs are a specialty of the area. When harvesting stone crabs, fishermen pull off the large claws and then throw the relatively scrawny body back in the water. Stone crabs can re-grow their lost claws, making them very sustainable. At Joe’s the stone crabs are steamed and chilled, then served with a creamy mustard dipping sauce. 

key limes and a regular lime
I’ve never seen stone crabs up in Boston so I can’t replicate that dining experience. But luckily stone crabs aren’t the only thing Joe’s is famous for. They also serve a killer key lime pie. Key lime pie is another Florida specialty. It’s named for key limes, the small, tart limes that grow in the Florida Keys. Key lime pie has a graham cracker crust, topped with a creamy, intensely tangy lime filling.

I’ve never been a huge fan of key lime pie. Or so I thought. It turns out I’m just not a fan of mediocre key lime pie. Because the key lime pie at Joe’s blew me away. Tart and tangy, incredibly limey, and not overly sweet. So good that all three of us just kept digging in our spoons for more and more and more. And even that wasn’t enough. I found the recipe online and made it at home a week after I got back.

First make the crust. Process graham crackers into crumbs.

Combine the crumbs with sugar and melted butter.

Press the mixture into the bottom of a pie pan or tart pan and bake until just set.

Now the filling, which has only four ingredients: lime zest, lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk. The first thing you’ll want to do is zest and juice the limes. I used a combination of regular limes and key limes (which I found a little bitter).

In a mixer, beat the egg yolks and lime zest until fluffy. (I accidentally used the beater blade instead of the whisk, but it still turned out fine.)

Add the sweetened condensed milk and continue to beat until the mixture is thick.

Finally, add the lime juice and mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the crust, then bake until the filling is just set.

Cool and refrigerate thoroughly. Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest and serve!

Key Lime Pie

Recipe very slightly adapted from Joe's Stone Crab

1 wax paper-wrapped package (or 1/3 pound) graham crackers
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest, plus extra for garnish
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (I used a combination of key limes and regular limes)
lightly sweetened whipped cream

1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

2.    Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined.

3.    Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

4.    Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer.

5.    Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set.

6.    Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate thoroughly.

7.    Garnish with whipped cream and lime zest.

Makes 1 9-inch pie