Archive for the ‘Sweets’ Category

Gummi Bear Love: Sweet Decorating Ideas

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Gummi bears are my favorite candy. Hands down. And while any gummi bear will do in a pinch, I definitely like Haribo Gold-Bears the best.

Needless to say, I lost my mind when I saw this this morning:

Target is selling these pink LED GummiLights by Jellio for $79.99. (You heard me right: That’s almost 80 bucks.) These little suckers are made of rubber, and are powered by three lithium batteries. They stand only seven inches high and also come in blue.

They must be specially made for Target, since Jellio sells the bears directly in a range of colors for $125 each or $500 for five. Incidently, Jellio also makes a few other food-inspired pieces of furniture, including the Cupcake Table, Candy Button Bench, and the Cupcake Seat.

Now, the Jellio bear is fantastic, but I wondered if I could find a similar light for less. (After all, it’s hard to have just one gummi bear.) My dear friend Wendy Friedman from Grand tipped me off to the MyPetLamp’s Terribear sold by Offi.

At $59, this little guy is slightly less expensive. He’s powered by a light bulb, and has a cord instead of batteries. He’s also 11 inches high, so he’s taller than Target’s bear. He also has a matching Dachshund companion. I like this bear a lot, but he looks more like a honey—not gummi—bear to me.

It’s a very gummi world
Intrigued about the idea of gummi decor, I did some poking around, wondering if other people share my gummi bear love.

And as it turns out, lots of people do.

In fact, I’m kind of surprised by all of the non-edible gummi bear themed things out there. So, while it’s a little early to be talking about shopping for stocking stuffers, I thought I’d share my findings with you.

Gummi Bear Soap
These glycerin Gummi Bear Soaps are handmade and come in eight different flavors: Lemonade, Grape Soda, Strawberry, Lemon, Lime, Orange Dream, Watermelon Mania, and Raspberry Blitz. Get your set of 12 for $4.50 from Body Beautiful’s shop at Etsy.com.

Gummy Bear Necklace
If you’d rather wear your bear, check out this solid sterling silver Gummy Bear Necklace from Perpetual Kid for $59.99. It measures about 3/4 of an inch and comes on an 18-inch sterling silver ball chain.

Red Gummi Bear Earrings
For a more realistic rendering, Luster Studio makes gummi bear earrings in a variety of jewel tones. Order yours from Etsy.com for about $6 a pair.

Anatomie Gummi Bar print, by artist Jason Freeny
And if you’d like to get to know your bear from the inside out, you might like the print Anatomie Gummi B�r by artist and illustrator Jason Freeny. Order yours from him at MoistProduction.com for $59.

You can also get Freeny’s design in a protective GelaSkin for your iPhone 3G from Amazon for $14.95. It even comes with matching wallpaper downloads.

Gummi Bear Erasers
These Gummy Bear Erasers are part pencil eraser and part pencil sharpener. Get them for $2.50 each at See Jane Work.

Gummi Bear Stamp
Leave the Mark of the Gummi Bear (doesn’t that sound ever-so-slightly ominous) wherever you go with this Gummi Bear Stamp from Stampin Up sold by Faeriesmak on Etsy.com for $5.

Gummi Bear Chandelier by artist Ya Ya Chou
I don’t think this one is for sale, but it’s too cool not to share. Created by Taiwanese artist Ya Ya Chou, this chandelier is composed mainly of my little gummi friends.

The Lumib�r
Finally, I came across The Lumib�r by German designers Klein and Leidig (sold by Elmar Fl�totto). He’s been around since 1995, so quite possibly, he could be the original light up gummi�and tallest, at just over 22 inches high. I’m having a hard time finding them in the states, but Connox in Germany seems to ship them.

While all this stuff is really kind of fabulous and strange, I wasn’t able to unearth anything that remotely mimicked the jelly-like GummiLights that sparked my investigation.

I’m guessing that I might be placing an order sometime in the future. Or, as The Angry Chef told me, “Christmas is coming, Mouse.”
Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

Geoff and Drews - the finest cookies, brownies and freshly baked gifts

Rustic Apple Galette

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

This may be the shortest intro in Hungry Mouse history. We’re out the door in a few minutes on our way to a party, but here’s what we’re bringing.

A galette is basically a rustic tart. It’s free-form and halfway open faced, so you get a peek at the gooey, caramelized fruit that’s hiding inside.

This particular galette is made with two kinds of apples and a little bit of my mom’s homemade peach jam. It gets a tiny bit of bite from a small amount of ground ginger.

It does just as well at an nice dinner party as it does at an autumn brunch table.

A note on the pan
I use a 16-inch round pizza pan. If you don’t have one of those, that’s OK. You can also make it on a standard, rectangular sheet pan—your finished tart will just wind up more oblong than round.

Rustic Apple Galette

10 Tbls. butter, cut into chunks + 1 Tbls. butter (for dotting the top before it bakes)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold water
5 cortland apples
2 granny smith apples
1/2 a lemon
2 Tbls. peach jam
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 egg
1 Tbls. cold water

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Fit your mixer with the paddle beater. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s long enough to cover your pan, with a little hanging over the edges. Set the pan and paper aside.

Make the crust
Put the flour and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Cut the butter up into small-ish pieces and add it to the flour. Mix on high just until the butter and flour just come together and form little balls.

If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand with a pastry cutter and a little elbow grease. The goal is for your dough to look about like this:

Next, drizzle the water in. Do this slowly, as your mixer is running on medium-high. Try to get the water close to the center of the bowl so it mixes evenly and doesn’t puddle on the edges.

When all the water is in the bowl, flip the mixer up to top speed for about 15 seconds. Turn it off. Your dough should look about like this:

Put a piece of plastic wrap onto your counter or cutting board. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and gather it together into a ball. Put it on the plastic wrap and smoosh it down so it looks about like this:

Wrap the plastic around it tightly so it� doesn’t dry out. Stick it in the fridge to chill.

Prepare the apples
While your dough is chilling, peel and cut up your apples. I don’t have one of those nifty apple peeler/slicers, so I take the peels off with a paring knife, then chunk them up into fairly even-sized pieces.

This is a rustic tart, so they don’t have to be completely uniform. You just want them about the same size so they cook evenly.

Squeeze the lemon half over the apple slices. Stir to coat the apples with lemon juice to keep them from browning.

When your apples are all cut up, you should wind up with about 8 cups of fruit. If you’re a little over or under, don’t worry about it. Like I said, this is a rustic tart.

Put the apples in the fridge and take the dough out.

Roll out the crust
Unwrap the dough and put it in the middle of the piece of parchment paper. Slip the pan out from underneath and set it aside. You’re going to roll the crust out right on the parchment paper.

Roll the dough out until it stretches to the edges of your parchment paper. It should be thin, but not so paper-thin that you won’t be able to handle it easily to form your tart.

Don’t worry if your edges are a little raggy. You can tidy them up later, when you form the tart.

Your dough should be maybe an eighth of an inch thick. For comparison, here’s my rolled dough next to the tip of a paring knife.

Assemble your tart
When your dough is rolled out, put the peach jam in the center.

Using a spatula or your hand, spread the jam evenly out over the dough, being sure to get some on the edges.

When the jam is spread, slip the pan back under the parchment paper.

Grab your apples out of the fridge. Add the sugar and ground ginger to them and stir to coat well.

Pile the apples in the center of your rolled dough.

Being careful not to rip the dough, begin to flip the edges of the dough up over the apples.

Turn the dough up bit by bit to form the crust. Keep going until you’re back where you started. If you make any tiny rips in the dough, don’t fret. You can fix them with the egg wash in the next step.

When your crust is formed, your tart should look about like this:

Finish it up and bake
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cold water. Paint your crust liberally with it.

This is your chance to fix any raggy pieces or holes you may have made in the dough.

Smooth any rough spots out with your finger and a little bit of the egg wash. If you’ve made a hole, patch it up with a little piece of dough (just rip off a bit from an edge and smooth the spot over), some egg wash, and gentle pressure from a finger or two.

The egg acts basically like glue, and is going to seal your crust. This will help keep any of the tart’s juices from leaking out through any tiny cracks in the crust as it bakes.

Dot the top of the apples you can see with 1 tablespoon of butter, sliced thinly.

If you have any drips of peach jam left on the parchment paper, wipe them off with a damp paper towel. You don’t want the sugar in the jam on the paper to burn.

Put it in the oven and bake for about 1 hour at 375 degrees.

After about an hour, your tart should look about like this:

Serve hot or at room temperature with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream.

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

Geoff and Drews - the finest cookies, brownies and freshly baked gifts

Happy Sea Urchin Meringues

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

When I made a batch of Tuxedo Meringues a few weeks ago, my dear friend the Lady Otter and I got to talking about cookies. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hey Mouse, you know what would be really cool?”

“What would that be, Otter?”

“Meringues in the shape of sea urchins. You could make them all purple and spikey.”

Her face lit up and my wheels started turning. Cut to today, where I am covered in gooey meringue and my hands are stained with food coloring.

I, think, however, I’ve succeeded—at least for the first generation. Allow me to present my Happy Sea Urchin Meringues.

Truth be told, I think they look like a cross between a puffer fish and a sea urchin.

A note on making meringues
For a detailed explanation on the ins and outs of making meringues—and an Epicurious video of part of the technique—take a peek at my Tuxedo Meringue post.

Also, compared to the Tuxedos, this is not a quick endeavor. These cookies are considerably larger, so they take a ridiculous amount of time to bake. It’s also raining today, and the humidity may be affecting my bake time.

Happy Sea Urchin Meringues

4 jumbo eggs
1 cup white sugar
red food coloring
blue food coloring

Start with your pots and pans
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Fill a medium-sized saucepan about a third full with water. Set on the stove over high heat to bring to a simmer.

Separate the eggs
Start by separating the eggs. For this recipe, you’re only going to use the egg whites. Be careful not to get any yolk in the whites. Even the smallest speck of yolk will keep the whites from whipping up properly.

Stick the yolks in the fridge and use them up in the next day or so. (I’ll probably make some kind of ice cream, which usually calls for yolks, not whites.)

Make the meringue base
Add the egg whites and sugar to a heatproof bowl. To cut down on dishes, I use the bowl of my mixer, which is stainless steel.

Whisk them together well. Set the bowl in the pot of simmering water. Continue to whisk.

Beat the eggs constantly for about 5 minutes until they are heated through and start to fluff up a little and get opaque.

Whip the meringue
In a mixer (or with a hand-held mixer), whip the egg whites on high for about 5 minutes, until they begin to form glossy, stiff peaks.

Add the color
Now, this part is approximate. To get my shade of pale lavender, I used about 10 drops red food dye and about 15 drops of blue.

Stop your mixer. Start with 5 drops of each color, putting close to the center of your bowl. Whip to mix thoroughly.

Take a peek at the color, and add more until you’re satisfied with how they look. Go slowly, as once you put the color in, you can’t get it back out.

Form your sea urchins
You’re ready to drop and form your meringues.

Remove the bowl from your mixer. Grab your prepared pans and two large soup spoons. You could also use a small ice cream scoop if you have one (I don’t).

Using the two soup spoons like salad servers, scoop up a blob of meringue and drop it on one of your pans. Use the back of one spoon to smooth it out.

With a (very clean) finger, gently tap the surface of the blob repeatedly to coax spikes out of the surface.

I tried a bunch of different methods for making the spikes, from tapping the meringue with the back of a small spoon, to stabbing at it with a toothpick and a chopstick. In the end, my finger worked the best.

When they’re ready to bake, your meringues should look about like this:

When both your pans are done, stick them in the oven at 275 degrees for about 2 hours, depending on the size of your cookies. Check them after 1 hour in the oven, and after about 1 1/2 hours, keep a good eye on them. See below for notes on doneness.

A note on timing & doneness
Now, my Tuxedo Meringues baked in about 45 minutes. These take considerably longer, mainly because the cookies are much bigger. There’s also no chocolate in this one, which I think affects the bake time, too.

The goal is for them to be crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside.

(If they’re rubbery when you touch them, or if they stick or leave a gooey mess, put them back in the oven and bake 5 minutes more, then test again.)

When they’re done, transfer the meringues to a wire rack.

Let cool completely. Serve and enjoy!

Notes for next time
While I’m really happy with how these turned out, I think I’ll make a few changes next time. Namely, I’d like them to be a much more vivid purple. I also think I’ll paint little faces on them.

Chocolate Tasting, Part 1

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

With Halloween approaching, the Angry Chef and I have candy on the brain. Consider this the first article in a series of chocolate tastings.

We spotted these at Whole Foods and couldn’t resist picking them up. If you’re familiar their mind-bogglingly vast chocolate bar selection, you know we’re lucky we walked away with just two.

One we loved, and one was surprisingly just…eh.

Chocolate Bar #1: Mo’s Bacon Bar by Voges Haute Chocolat

With a giant, glossy picture of a rasher of crispy bacon on the box, we were sure that we’d adore this, bacon lovers that we are. Sadly, not so much.

Mo’s Bacon Bar is made by Voges Haute Chocolat, a company that manufactures a range of exotic chocolate bars. Despite the fact that we weren’t crazy about this one, there are a handful of others that I’d love to try, including the Barcelona, with hickory-smoked almonds and Fleur de Sel, and the Black Pearl, with ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds.

The Mo’s Bacon Bar bar is definitely easy on the eyes. From the packaging to the delightful embossing on the chocolate itself, we wanted to eat this the moment we saw it.

The chocolate itself is very nice. It’s a rich, 41% cacao that we think would be lovely on its own. Other main flavors include applewood smoked bacon and Alder wood smoked salt.

It’s the bacon that tripped us up. Not because we don’t like the combination of salty, smokey, and sweet. We do. (Oh, we do!)

The initial taste was more reminiscent of hazelnut than bacon, which was a little startling. After a minute, the smokey notes started to come out, and�though it’s not greasy�we could definitely taste the bacon fat over the butter fat in the chocolate.

After a few more bites, it just wasn’t the overwhelming experience of chocolate-covered bacon that we were expecting�and very much wanted. It kind of reminded us of bacon bits stirred into chocolate. For just about $8 for just under 3 oz. of chocolate, we were both underwhelmed.

Will we finish the bar? Sure. Will we rave about it to our friends? No way. Will we try to make our own chocolate-covered bacon? Definitely.

Chocolate Bar #2: Sirius Pure Icelandic Chocolate

The packaging on Noi Sirius Pure Icelandic Chocolate is much humbler. Wrapped in simple, wax-y paper, you could definitely miss this in a sea of brightly-colored candy. It was the weight of this bar that made us pause, and eventually walk out with it.

This was the one that we loved�and totally didn’t expect to.

The first surprise came when we opened the wrapper. Instead of one thick bar, there were two thin ones.

These bars look like chocolate you would bake with�something that Sirius advises you can happily do. Their bars come in a range of sweetnesses. We chose the 45% semi-sweet.

This chocolate has a nice snap to it when you break a piece off.

In terms of taste, it’s rich, with just the right amount of bitterness. It’s not too creamy. It’s not too dark. It has exactly the kind of smooth, clean mouth feel you want in a good chocolate bar.

And at just under $4, it was definitely a deal. We’ll definitely be buying this again.

And what about you?
Any recommendations for chocolate bars we should put on our list for next time?

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Geoff and Drews - the finest cookies, brownies and freshly baked gifts

Devil’s Delight Chocolate Pudding Cake

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

I swear I’ll post a salad recipe one of these days. I do eat green things. Honest.

This cake is one of my all-time favorites. It’s dense, moist, and rich. It’s not a molten cake, but it’s plenty gooey with pudding-y goodness (call it a cross between cake and fudge). It’s bursting with four different kinds of chocolate. It’s the tiniest bit boozey.

This isn’t really an elegant dinner party cake. It’s the kind of thing you eat and it makes you feel like you’re 8-years-old again (in the best possible way).

It’s also made with ingredients (sour cream, chocolate pudding, chocolate chips) that almost guarantee that it won’t dry out. That is, if it lasts.

Devil’s Delight Chocolate Pudding Cake

Wet ingredients
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, softened
16 oz. sour cream
1/2 cup creme de cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla

Dry ingredients
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup cocoa
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbls. light corn syrup
1 Tbls. creme de cocoa
3 Tbls. butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 10-inch bundt pan and set aside.

Combine the wet ingredients
In a mixer, mix the eggs and butter together until completely combined. Add the sour cream and whip until frothy.

Add the creme de cocoa and vanilla. Mix well.

Combine the dry ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and chocolate pudding mix.

Stir well to make a uniform dry mix.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in your other bowl. Mix to combine.

Add the chocolate chips and mix quickly on medium-high to combine well.

Fill your pan and bake
The batter will be very thick. Spoon it into your greased bundt pan. Smooth it out to distribute evenly. Bake for about 60 to 65 minutes at 350 degrees.

When is it done?
This cake is a little tricky, because all the chocolate chips can screw up the normal toothpick test. You’ll know it’s done when the surface of the cake springs back when you touch it lightly with your finger.

If your finger leaves an indent, bake it for another 5 minutes and test it again. Don’t fret if the top of the cake cracks a little. Because this is a bundt, the surface is actually the bottom of the cake and won’t show.

Cool your cake for about 10 minutes in the pan. Then turn it out and let it finish cooling completely on a wire rack.

In the meantime, make the frosting
The Angry Chef likes frosting on his cake. I like mine plain. My solution is to make a rich chocolate frosting, and serve it on the side. So your slice of cake can be as fancy�or simple�as you like.

This is basically a ganache with some butter and creme de cocoa tossed in.

Make an improvised double boiler (or use the real thing if you have one) by filling a medium-sized saucepan with a few inches of water. Bring it to a boil on the stove. Set a stainless steel bowl in the top of the pot.

In the bowl, add the chocolate chips, heavy cream, creme de cocoa, and corn syrup.

Whisk until the chocolate is totally melted and the mixture is uniform.

Stir in the butter. Turn off the stove and take the bowl off the heat. Cool it on the counter til it’s room temp, then stick it in the fridge to get it nice and cold. Keep an eye on it. You want it to get cold, not solid.

When the frosting has cooled, whip it in your mixer until it’s thick and fluffy.

As it fluffs up, it will get thicker and lighter in color.

When it’s done, it will look about like this:

Serving
Serve thick slices of this cake�plain or slathered with frosting�with piping hot, strong coffee.

If you don’t want to bother with frosting, you could dress up a slice with a little fresh whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Geoff and Drews - the finest cookies, brownies and freshly baked gifts

Big Top Marshmallow Cookies

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

The Lady Otter and I were cruising through Whole Foods last night, on a mission to pick up some flowers for the host of the cocktail party we were attending. It was supposed to be a “quick in and out” trip, as we were already running a tiny bit late.

It never quite works like that, though. Not when there is so much to look at.

Now, usually, I only hit Whole Foods for very specific things (certain cheeses and creams, vitamins, teas, baking ingredients, etc.). That said, I can’t resist poking around a little whenever I’m there. The place is a feast for the senses.

We got stuck by the baked goods, where we discovered Tiny Trapeze Confections’ Big Top Marshmallow Cookies.

These things are as close as you’re going to get to a s’more without sitting around a campfire.

So, what are they?
These are part cookie and part candy. They’re definitely big and satisfying to eat. One cookie measures about two inches across.

A thick layer of creamy marshmallow sits on top of a soft, super-fresh, graham cracker cookie. The whole thing is enveloped in a thin, crackly crust of semi-sweet chocolate.

I can’t find it listed in the ingredients, but there’s a hint of cinnamon-y flavor in there somewhere.

Who makes them?
Tiny Trapeze Confections was started about five years ago in Boston by the same folks who own Dancing Deer Baking Company.

They merged with Whole Foods at the end of 2005, becoming the grocer’s in-house artisan candy maker. It sounds like their goal is to make organic and all-natural versions of classic confections.

If these cookies are any indication of what they can do, they’re off to a great start in my book.

What do they cost?
At three cookies for $3.99, Big Top Marshmallow Cookies are more expensive than any cookie should reasonably be. For a once-in-a-while treat, though, they were definitely worth it.

The bottom line
I had two simultaneous reactions.

First, I want to try to make a homemade version, since this cookie wraps together many of my favorite flavors.

And second? Until I do, I know I’ll be heading back to the store for more.

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

Monday, September 8th, 2008

This week seems to be ice cream week. If vanilla ice cream is my favorite, chocolate is the next runner up.

This ice cream tastes like frozen chocolate mousse. It’s rich and creamy—with a boozy double dose of flavor from vanilla extract and chocolate liquor.

Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 Tbls. vanilla extract
2 Tbls. chocolate liquor
2 Tbls. butter

Yields about 1 quart

Melt the chocolate
Fill the bottom of a double boiler about half full with water and set it on top of the stove on medium-high heat.

Add the chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until melted.

When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and set it on the counter to cool a little.

Start the custard
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar together to combine. Beat until they’re light and fluffy.

Add in the whipping cream and whisk to combine. You want it to be nice and frothy.

Put the mixture into the top of a double boiler. Whisk steadily until the mixture begins to warm up and thicken, about 4 minutes.

Add the chocolate to the warm custard
Once the mixture is warm, add in all the melted chocolate and whisk heartily until completely combined.

When the mixture is fairly uniform, add the add the vanilla extract and chocolate liquor.

Keep whisking until your mixture thickens
Keep whisking steadily for another 5 to 7 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken up.

When it looks like this (below) and heavily coats the back of a spoon, remove from the heat. You’re aiming for the consistency of warm pudding.

Stir in the butter. Let cool for at least a half an hour.

Process, freeze & enjoy
Transfer the ice cream to the bowl of your ice cream maker. Process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For my Cuisinart, this means processing the ice cream for about a half an hour, then transferring it to an airtight plastic container and freezing for at least another hour or two before serving.

To get it super solid, freeze overnight.

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Tuxedo Meringues

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Sometimes the sternest methods yield the most whimsical results. Such is the case with meringue cookies.

Nothing makes me feel like I’m Baking (with a capital “B”) like making these meringues. The separation of the eggs. The melting of the chocolate. The multiple water baths. The whisking. Oh, the constant whisking.

These cookies only have three ingredients. And they’re really very easy to make. You just need to follow a few simple rules. Absolutely no yolk in the egg whites. Don’t overwhip the meringue. And so on.

When done right, they’re beautifully marbled, crisp on the outside, and chewy on the inside. They’re a light and delicate ending to an elegant dinner—or a fantastic and fancy surprise to tuck inside a bento box lunch.



If you’re familiar with making a meringue, skip ahead to the recipe—I do a bit of overexplaining in the paragraphs that follow. If this is your first time and egg whites scare you, read on!

A note on method, equipment & ingredients
Normally, I kind of fly by the seat of my pants when I cook. Not so when I make these.

I lay everything out beforehand. I move slower than usual. I actually do check things twice. Because with this one, timing and technique count. You don’t want to curdle your egg whites by over-whipping them. You want to fold in the chocolate until it’s barely combined—and then stop.

You can make these cookies without any special equipment. A hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment helps, but you can also whip the egg whites the old-fashioned way: by hand. (Hey, your biceps will thank you in the morning.)

You also need to make two water baths: one to melt the chocolate and one to heat up the egg whites and sugar. Traditional double boilers will work, as will heatproof bowls set over sauce pots of simmering water.

The main thing to understand is that fat is a meringue’s arch enemy. This means that when you separate the eggs, be sure you don’t have any yolk in with the whites. Any yolk at all will keep the whites from whipping up right.

If you’re unsure about the business of dealing with egg whites, this video from Epicurious explains the technique really well. (Your whites will be glossier than these, because they have sugar in them.)

OK. Enough explanation. Let’s get baking.

Tuxedo Meringues

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (if you’re using Baker’s chocolate, that’s 3 wrapped squares)
4 egg whites from jumbo eggs
1 cup sugar

First, the pots and pans
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Fill two medium-sized saucepans with a few inches of water. Set both on the stove to bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Melt the chocolate
Roughly chop the chocolate into smallish pieces. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over one pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally to melt.

When the chocolate has melted, turn the heat off. Leave it on the stove, stirring occasionally while you prep the egg whites.

Start the meringue on the stove
Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the second pot of simmering water and whisk steadily for about 5 minutes. You want to bring the temperature up slowly so your mixture thickens.

Finish the meringue at your mixer
Transfer the bowl from the stove top to your mixer. Whip on high for about 5 minutes, until the whites form glossy, stiff peaks.

When the egg whites look like they do below, stop. It’s completely possibly to whip a meringue too much, which results in an icky, curdled mess.

Drizzle in the chocolate
When the egg whites are ready, remove the bowl from the mixer. Give the melted chocolate a stir. Pour it over the egg white mixture.

With a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the chocolate. The goal is to marble it through the egg whites�not mix it in completely. A few folds should suffice.

Drop the cookies onto the baking sheets
With a soup spoon, drop large blobs of the marbled meringue onto your prepared baking sheets. Leave a few inches between cookies.

Bake, cool & enjoy!
Bake for about 40-45 minutes at 275 degrees, or until completely hard on the outside.

When done, transfer cookies carefully to a wire rack. Let cool completely.

They should be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Serve as a light dessert with strong coffee.

Store in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Makes 18-20 large meringues.


Digg!

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Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

Spice Trader’s Reserve Vanilla Ice Cream

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

On the topic of vanilla ice cream, you can, of course, also make your own. It’s really easy to do.

I’ve found that the key to making really good vanilla ice cream is to start with the best ingredients you can get your paws on. If you can get your cream and eggs from a local dairy, that’s ideal.

This recipe makes a ridiculously rich ice cream that gets a double shot of luxurious flavor from vanilla extract and whole beans. It’s thick and creamy and flecked with bits of fragrant fresh vanilla bean.

A note on equipment
You’ll need a double boiler to make the custard. If you don’t have one, you can always improvise with a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.

You’ll also need an ice-cream maker of some sort. I have a Cuisinart 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker, and it does a great job.

Spice Trader’s Reserve Vanilla Ice Cream

5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup half-and-half
2 Tbls. butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 whole vanilla beans

Yields about 1 quart

Get your double boiler rolling
Fill the bottom of a double boiler about half full with water and set it on top of the stove on medium-high heat. Bring the water up to a boil while you prepare the vanilla beans and custard.

Prepare the vanilla beans
Slit each vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape each half to remove the pulp. It will be paste-y in consistency and almost black. Set aside in a little dish.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, this is a good video that illustrates how to cut and scrape the beans.

[youtube]mkp8C6fQR4w&hl[/youtube]

When you’ve removed the paste, save the pods. You can preserve them in a little vodka to make vanilla extract, or bury them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar (great to bake with or to sprinkle on buttered cinnamon toast).

Start the custard
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together to combine. Beat until they’re light and fluffy.

Check to be sure that the water in the double boiler is simmering. (Wait to add the egg and sugar mixture until it is.)

Put the egg and sugar mixture into the top of the double boiler. Add the half-and-half and whisk gently until the mixture begins to thicken.

Add the butter and stir until it’s completely melted.

Remove from the heat (i.e. remove the top part of the double boiler) and set it aside for 10-15 minutes to let the temperature drop a little. Stir occasionally.

Finish the custard
Add the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla paste. Whisk gently to combine. You want to break up the chunk of vanilla paste and evenly distribute it.

Process and freeze
Add the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.

For my Cuisinart, this means processing the ice cream for about a half an hour, then transferring it to an airtight plastic container and freezing for another hour or two before serving.

Peachberry Ice Cream Drizzle

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I love vanilla ice cream. It’s kind of boring, but it’s true.

I love Haagen-Dazs. I love Brighams. I love almost everything in between. Give me a Hoodsie cup on a hot afternoon or a dish of plain French vanilla, any brand, in the evening, and I’m a very happy mouse.

Vanilla ice cream is also a wonderful and unexpected dessert to serve at a dinner party—especially when you dress it up a little.

Want to see a group of adults giggling and licking their dessert spoons clean? Serve them a fantastic dinner, then top it off with something that reminds them of running after the ice cream truck when they were little.

Glorious and creamy blank canvas that vanilla ice cream is, sometimes I just spoon a little honey over it. Or sometimes I pull out all the stops with my Peachberry Ice Cream Drizzle, a luscious and juicy sauce with all the elements of a Peach Melba.

Cooking this makes your kitchen smell heavenly. A pinch of fresh, fragrant thyme balances out the fruit’s sweetness without being overpowering. Serve warm over good vanilla ice cream with strong, black coffee.

Peachberry Ice Cream Drizzle

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 Tbls. peach schnapps
2 Tbls. raspberry liquor
2 Tbls. butter
2 1/2 lbs. ripe peaches
4 cups fresh raspberries

First, chunk up the peaches
Peel, pit, and slice the peaches. Set aside in a bowl.

Make a flavored simple syrup
In a large, deep saucepan, whisk together the sugar, water, thyme, peach schnapps, and raspberry liquor over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Simmer the fruit
Add the butter, raspberries, and peaches to the pot. Toss to coat with the sugar syrup. Cover tightly and reduce the heat so your sauce is just simmering.

Keep it at a low bubble for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are totally cooked through and the raspberries have broken down.

Puree it smooth
When the fruit is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held mixer until smooth. (You can also do this carefully in a regular blender, then transfer it back to the pot.)

Reduce your sauce
Simmer uncovered on medium-high heat, whisking, for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by almost half and has a nice, thick syrupy consistency. Watch for splatters. The color will be anywhere from a deep raspberry red to a creamy dark pink, depending on the color of your peaches.

Remove from heat.

Strain the sauce
Set a mesh strainer over a bowl. Spoon a few ladles of the sauce into the strainer. Stir and push the sauce through the strainer with a wooden spoon.

Let cool to at least warm before serving.

Serve and enjoy
Serve warm or cold over vanilla ice cream. You can also toss this in the blender with some vanilla ice cream and milk for a Peachberry Milkshake.

Keeps nicely for about a week in the fridge.

Digg!

***
Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.