Stuff and Nonsense: dessert

Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dessert. Show all posts


Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

After I'd made two batches of jam and two loaves of strawberry nut bread, I still had four pounds of perfectly ripe strawberries left. I turned some into strawberry vinegar and then decided the rest should be eaten with cake. I mean, cake is always a good solution to the "problem" of too much fruit.

I admit I used a white cake mix as my basis for this cake, preparing it as directed on the box except I used sparkling wine in place of the water/milk. Why sparkling wine? I wanted to be fancy? Also, I thought the carbonation might help the cake bake up light and fluffy. I couldn't taste or smell the wine after the cake had baked and, while it was light and fluffy, cakes from mixes generally are.

Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

Yield: 6 generous servings


  • white cake layers, prepared from mix
  • really good strawberry jam
  • extremely fresh, ripe strawberries
  • freshly whipped cream


  1. After cake has cooled, stack layers and cut into six wedges for a total of 12 pieces of cake.
  2. Whenever you are ready to eat the cake, spread a cake piece with strawberry jam, then top jam with chopped strawberries, and spread with freshly whipped cream.
  3. Top with another piece of cake, add more whipped cream, and garnish with additional chopped strawberries.
  4. Repeat as necessary until everyone has had enough cake.

I would pick more strawberries just to make this cake again.


Exploring Mexican Made Easy for Cookbook Club

For May's library cookbook club, I made "Maria Cookie & Lime Cream Trifle" from Marcela Valladolid's Mexican Made Easy. When I hear "trifle" I think of the English dessert made with fruit, sherry-soaked sponge, and custard. Well, this trifle is nothing like that, but it's still fabulous -- a creamy, sweet-tart no-bake treat that goes together in minutes, keeps well, and can go straight from fridge to table.

Maria cookies are a very mild, slightly sweetened cookie more similar to a British rich tea biscuit than a traditional American "cookie." They're usually easy to find in the "ethnic" aisle of most grocery stores although Valladolid writes graham crackers can be substituted for the Maria biscuits, if you prefer. I stuck with Maria cookies, because the recipe only uses four ingredients and so substituting one just seemed wrong.

I tried my best to make the recipe exactly as instructed, but ended up doubling the number of layers as I still had a lot of biscuit and cream left after following the instructions (it was either that or make two trifles ... which, in hindsight, I realize might have been a grand idea as I would have had my own private trifle). Proportionally, to get the number of layers Valladolid calls for, I think you'd need to halve the amount of ingredients.

The recipe says it makes six to eight servings, but I would say closer to ten to twelve. No-one stinted in their servings, but there was still plenty left for my coworkers. Honestly, it's a very bright, zesty pud -- rather like deconstructed key lime pie -- and I'm not going to complain about having had too much of it!

When I whizzed the milks and lime juice in my stand mixer, the liquids did thicken up a bit but were still worryingly soupy. However, when I went to serve the trifle seven hours later, the liquid had set into a thick pudding. The biscuits had softened up considerably, but still retained their shape and enough firmness to add a pleasing texture to the trifle.

In addition to the trifle, I've made two other recipes from Mexican Made Easy -- "Red and White Kidney Salad" and "Corn and Zucchini Sauté" -- and they were both easy and flavorful. While I imagine the sauté will be even better with in-season ingredients, it was still very satisfying as it was. The crunchy bacon added a delicious smoky savoriness to the dish that pushed the salad from very nice to "I'm going to eat the whole pan on my own."

The bean salad was also pretty wow. Bright and refreshing with just the right about of zip. A lot of bean salads I've made go the "more ingredients are better" route, but this simple combination of ingredients reminded me that more isn't always better. While I made a significant attempt to eat all the tasty beans the first night, there were leftovers and they kept very nicely in the fridge until the next day when I let them come to room temperature before tossing them with baby spinach and eating them as a main.

Overall, I'm very pleased with my experience cooking from Marcela Valladolid's Mexican Made Easy and look forward to trying out her other cookbooks soon.


Exploring Food52 Vegan for Cookbook Club

January's library cookbook theme was veg*n -- vegetarian and/org vegan -- cooking. January is the time of year when many people embrace new lifestyle choices and I thought veg*n cooking might appeal as plant-based diets are very much on trend. Also, I wanted to push the boat out a bit and challenge my regular participants to venture (at least a little bit) outside their comfort zones.

In the lead-up to January's meeting, I made two recipes from Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable-Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen by Gena Hamshaw (Ten Speed Press, 2015). It's a beautifully-packaged introductory cookbook, full of tempting photos, uncomplicated recipes, and handy little "Vegan 101" tips. If you've used other Food52 cookbooks, you'll be familiar with the look and feel. As an omnivore who occasionally dabbles with veg*nism, I didn't find any of recipes "too weird" -- by which I mean I already owned the ingredients I needed or easily found them locally.

The first recipe I tried, "Banana Chia Pudding," was ... okay. It was an easy-to-assemble mixture of unsweetened almond milk, bananas, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and chia. The flavor was good -- creamy, maple-y, sweet-but-not-too. Consistency-wise, I found the pudding a bit runny. In all the photos I have seen of chia pudding, it always looks thick -- like tapioca pudding -- but that's not how mine ever comse out. Could my seeds be duds? Is it possible to have old/nonreactive chia seeds?? Anyway, as I said, good flavor. Just a bit soupy.

The second recipe I tried, "Mexican Chocolate Date Truffles," was the dish I ended up presenting at the club meeting. I actually made the truffles the morning of the meeting and then, as they did not require refrigeration, left the truffles out on my desk until it was time to serve them. It took, maybe, 20 minutes to make the truffles and most of that time was just me trying, obsessively, to shape perfect orbs and then settling for orbish truffles.

While mine did not look quite as nice as the ones in the book, they were so easy to make that I know I will make the recipe variations -- oatmeal raisin, key lime, and lemon coconut -- at some point, too, just to see what they're like. The "Mexican chocolate" variation was very date-y and nutty with just a faint bloom of heat and, surprisingly, very little chocolate flavor. I'd used Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder and I think I should have gone for something more robust, like King Arthur Flour's Double Dutch Dark Cocoa. However, the cookbook club participants all enjoyed the truffles just as they were and there wasn't much in the way of leftovers!


Improv Challenge: Dough & Chocolate

The Husband really loves eclairs and profiteroles ... but only the "proper" kind that are filled with real whipped cream and not with pastry cream or whipped cream that's been stabilized with "something horrible." So when I saw that January's Improv Challenge called for the creative use of dough and chocolate I thought I'd try my hand at pâte à choux (sounds like "pat a shoe") and make the man some profiteroles filled with chocolate whipped cream.

Having watched six seasons of The Great British Bake Off, I'd seen enough cooks make pâte à choux that I was pretty sure I could handle it. I still read many recipes -- both online and in actual printed cookbooks -- before I decided I would be smart to just follow an established recipe rather than attempt my own amalgamation. In the end, I turned to King Arthur Flour's "Easy Mini Puffs" recipe. It worked like a charm and the forty (slightly misshapen) bite-size puffs have kept well, unfilled and ungarnished, in a sealed container on the counter for five days now.

I have been filling the profiteroles as needed with a sweetened chocolate whipped cream I made by combining heavy cream and instant hot cocoa mix in my 1 pint iSi Creative Whip. It's delicious -- light, sweet, and almost gently chocolatey.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling


  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 2 pkts Swiss Miss milk chocolate hot cocoa mix


  1. Whisk the heavy cream and cocoa mix together until the powder is completely dissolved.
  2. Pour into a 1 pint iSi Creative Whip. Screw on an N2O whipped cream charger cartridge and shakeshakeSHAKE.
  3. Can immediately be used to fill profiteroles or refrigerated until needed.

The profiteroles are garnished with an easy chocolate sauce I made by combining dark chocolate, whole milk, butter, and sugar. This sauce keeps well in the fridge, although it needs to be warmed a little to get it back to a pourable consistency.

Chocolate Sauce


  • 4 oz whole milk cream
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 Tbsp white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 2 oz good-quality dark chocolate (use at least 70% cocoa solids)


  1. Heat the cream, butter, and sugar, in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the chocolate, stirring, until it's melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  4. Drizzle over profiteroles or refrigerate until needed.

Overall, I'm pleased with my first attempts at pâte à choux and profiteroles. Choux pastry is nothing to fear and I'm looking forward to making more (bigger) puffs in the near(ish) future. Thanks, Melody, for suggesting January's Improv Challenge theme!


Choctoberfest: Barlean's Mint Chocolate Pudding

For Choctoberfest, the super awesome folks at Barlean's sent me the most delightful box of Chocolate Silk Greens and Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl Supplement.
  • Barlean’s Chocolate Silk Greens, a new product, are great to use in smoothies, for hot chocolate, in coffee, and can be added in cookies, protein bars, and puddings. It has 5 servings of vegetables and antioxidants with important vitamins and minerals and no sugar. It’s dairy and soy free and has superfoods in it. There’s different flavors to chose from too, but since this is Choctoberfest we're obviously working with the chocolate-flavored Greens!
  • Omega Swirl is a blend of Organic Evening Primrose Oil and Organic Flaxseed Oil and contains essential Omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids. While it tastes all sweet and chocolaty, Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl is sweetened naturally with xylitol so it's actually sugar-free and contains fewer calories and carbohydrates than regular table sugar.
I'm already familiar with both Barlean's Flaxseed Oil and Orange Cream Total Omega Swirl 3-6-9 Supplement and unflavored Flaxseed Oil, so I was excited to try the Chocolate-Mint Omega Swirl ... but I wasn't sure about the Greens! I had zero experience with the greens and, to be honest, my "cooking" with the Omega Swirl was limited to stirring it into yoghurt, pudding, and oatmeal. How was I going to combine these ingredients with others in a way that was tasty and didn't make the folks at Barlean's regret they'd ever sent me anything?

While I was pretty sure no-one wanted a recipe for a mint chocolate milkshake (simply because it's too obvious to need a recipe) I thought a pudding -- a mint chocolate pudding fortified with Silk Greens and flavored with Omega Swirl -- might fly with you all. There's actual cooking in pudding-making, after all, and I'd made enough puds in the past that I (probably) knew what I was doing and (probably) wouldn't create a horrible mutant pudding that would make Barlean's come to my house and repossess my container of Greens.

Anyway, I think this pudding turned out really well! Dark and rich (but not heavy) with a beautiful color, it was dead easy to make and keeps well, covered, in the fridge. If you prefer a sweeter, more mild pudding (more like the instant mix stuff), feel free to boost the sugar and/or use milk chocolate morsels.

Barlean's Mint Chocolate Pudding

Serves 4


  • 2 cups plain almond coconut milk blend
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder
  • ¼ semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 2 Tbsp granulated white sugar, such as Imperial Sugar
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 2 scoops Barlean's Chocolate Silk Greens
  • 1 Tbsp Barlean's Chocolate-Mint Essential Woman Omega Swirl Supplement
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • Raspberries and fresh mint, for garnish


  1. Whisk together ½ cup milk and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1½ cups milk, cocoa, chocolate morsels, sugar, espresso powder, and Greens in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, whisking regularly, over medium heat until the morsels have melted.
  3. Whisk in cornstarch slurry and cook over medium-low heat, whisking regularly, until pudding thickens and begins to boil.
  4. Remove pan from heat and quickly whisk in Omega Swirl and vanilla.
  5. Divide pudding evenly between four small bowls or dessert dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Serve garnished with raspberries and mint, if desired.

If you're feeling inspired to try cooking with Barlean's Greens, you should consider subscribing to Barlean's Better Life newsletter which is full of product information, tips, offers, and coupons!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


Choctoberfest: Chocolate Dipped Apricots

Munson's Chocolates, a Connecticut chocolate company that's been around since 1946, makes the most decadently delicious chocolates and chocolate-based confections. Their stores are a kind of dangerous paradise for chocolate lovers, I tell you, because it's so very easy to leave with so much more than you intended. During the bitter give-me-all-your-comfort-foods-now winter months, I like to nibble my way through a box of chocolate brickle -- a delectable blend of brown sugar toffee, almonds, pecans, and walnuts drizzled with milk, dark, and white chocolate -- but the chocolate covered apricots are my hands down favorite year-round. Plump, juicy glacé ‎apricots enrobed in rich dark chocolate ... yum!

Chocolate + glace apricots = superdelicousyumwithknobson

It should be no surprise then that I thought #Choctoberfest would be the perfect time to try my hand at chocolate covered apricots! I knew I didn't want to use the regular ol' dried apricots you find at the grocery store, but the posher (and more correct) glacé ‎apricots. I found a tin at Williams-Sonoma, but the price just about made me cry, so I ended up purchasing them online from for a much more reasonable price. The apricots are beautiful -- plump, luscious fruit -- and taste just lovely all on their own. Obviously, as they're preserved in a sugar syrup (that makes them glacé), they're a bit more like eating apricot candy than, say, a health food and you might not want to eat more than one at a time lest you find yourself buzzing around like a hummingbird.

Superduper awesome glacé apricot on the left & boring ol' regular dried apricot on the right

I'm just saying glacé apricots are a bit sweet. But totally crave-worthy. It's like some cunning soul took a regular ol' apricot and infused it with a mixture of honey and liquid sunlight. It's the kind of thing you need to eat in the darkest, bitterest heart of winter.

Delicious chocolate of melting ... and nibbling!

For chocolate, I used Ghiradelli's dark chocolate melting wafers. I considered using bittersweet chips, but worried the chocolate would be too brittle when it set. I'd never made chocolate dipped fruit before, you know, and I didn't want to mess it up. The melting wafers are advertised as the "trusty recipe go-to for consistent baking and candy-making results" and that sounded pretty good to me! Maybe one day, when I'm all into home chocolate-making, I'll splash out for some couverture chocolate, but melting wafers are just fine for this pessimistic noob. (I mean, I'm not sure where I thought I could go wrong with this recipe -- maybe, blow up the microwave? -- but I was all full of trepidation the first time through!)

Dark Chocolate Dipped Apricots


  • 5 oz dark chocolate melting wafers
  • 12 oz glacé ‎apricots


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Melt chocolate chips in a microwave-safe glass bowl on High 30 seconds; stir well and repeat until wafers are smooth.
  3. Working one at a time, dip about ¾ of an apricot into the melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Place on baking sheet.
  4. Repeat with remaining apricots and chocolate.
  5. Place in refrigerator until set, at least 20 minutes.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

You will note that some of my apricots are ¾-dipped and some are wholly enrobed in chocolate. This is because, as I came to the bottom of the chocolate bowl, it became harder to dip the apricots so I ended up laying them in the bowl and spooning chocolate over them before moving them to the tray.

Ignore my Christmas cupcake papers ... but these would make a nice Christmas gift ...

While I am mostly pleased with my endeavor, I must say that the chocolate wasn't dark enough for me the first time 'round -- especially considering the sweetness of the glacé apricots -- so, the second time, I used 4 oz dark chocolate melting wafers and 1 oz bittersweet chips. This was a definitely closer to what I had in mind!

I can imagine doing this with other glacé fruits like pineapple or peaches. Or figs! Mmm ... glacé figs!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


Improv Challenge: Apples & Oats

For September's Improv Challenge -- apples and oats -- I decided to try my hand at cranachan. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert usually made with toasted oats, whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries. Obviously, mine is a bit different as I used apples, cinnamon, and apple brandy. And Greek yoghurt ...

Thinking about it, I now realize I've actually made an extra posh version of apple cinnamon Chobani Oats!

Whether it's cranachan or a Chobani-clone, it tastes pretty fine! The toasted oats and almonds give the dish a really satisfying texture, the apples are sweet-tart, and the creamy, cinnamon-y yoghurt binds it all together. Admittedly, whipped cream would definitely be more fun, but the yoghurt is a flavorful and healthful substitution. If you omit the brandy, this dish is appropriate for breakfast. If you leave the brandy in, it makes a delightful companion when marathoning The Crimson Field.

Apple Cranachan

Yield: Serves 1 generously


  • 1 oz old-fashioned oats
  • ½ oz flaked almonds
  • 5½ oz container Greek-style vanilla yoghurt [Chobani]
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 Tbsp apple brandy, divided [Josiah Bartlett]
  • ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped small


  1. Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oats and cook, carefully stirring to avoid burning, until they smell nutty and are lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove oats from pan and set aside to cool.
  2. Repeat oat-toasting method with almonds, being careful to keep a close eye of them as it will take much less time to toast them. Remove nuts from pan and set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk together the vanilla yoghurt, honey, and half the cinnamon and brandy. Set aside.
  4. Heat a nonstick saucepan over high heat, add the butter, and sauté the apple for 2-3 minutes. When the apple begins to soften, add remaining tablespoon of brandy and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Combine the cooled oatmeal, nuts, and remaining half teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Layer the yoghurt mixture, oat mixture, and apples in a bowl and serve. (You could also skip the layering and simply mix everything together, but it may not look as nice).


Fancy Oven S'mores

I'm calling these "fancy" oven s'mores simply because I used milk chocolate McVities Digestives instead of plain ol' graham crackers. I'm thinking milk or dark chocolate Hobnobs would be pretty fine, too.

Anyway, making these is easy-peasy. Just turner on your broiler. Arrange a few digestives on a baking tray. Top them with marshmallows. Pop the try in the oven and broiler for 1½ minutes or until the marshmallows are toasted to your liking. Remove from oven, top each with another digestive and nom away.

So fiddly and difficult to assemble, amiright?

All toasty brown goodness.



Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich Cake, Woo-Hoo!

My parents came up over the weekend to help us out with a pesky backyard DIY project well beyond our skillset -- seriously, decades on and we are still not that good at adulting -- so we had a picnic, too, because that's just about the only payment my parents will accept. Food and booze and gossip. Okay, my parents are pretty awesome.

Of course, I garnished it with peanuts and whipped cream!

Anyway, I wanted to make something fancy-looking, but not necessarily complicated, and I hit the jackpot with Kraft's Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich Cake.

It's dead easy to assemble -- layers of pudding mix and peanut butter combined with whipped topping used to paste together layers of ice cream sandwiches and then the whole thing is frosted with more peanut butter and whipped topping. It looks really pretty when assembled and tastes so fine. Everyone seemed to think it tasted like a Snickers bar, which I found rather amusing, and I'm tempted to make a proper Snickers version next with caramel syrup and shizzle.

Ice cream sandwich cake, assemble!


Eton Mess, Yum!

While I've made lovely, lovely Eton Mess before, it's still nice to have someone else make it for me. We bought this beauty at the tea shop in Samlesbury Hall when we were checking out The Brother-In-Laws wedding digs. Eton Mess is a traditional English pudding ("dessert") made of fresh berries, broken pieces of meringue, and whipped cream. Ours had blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and mixed berry puree in it.

Samlesbury Hall is a historic house built in 1325 by Gilbert de Southworth and was the primary home of the Southworth family until the early 1600s. The Youngest Brother-In-Law insists, with all seriousness, that it is the most haunted house in England.

While I admit it's the sort of place that looks like it should be haunted, I hold no truck with that sort of nonsense and will only say that it definitely houses the most adorable bunnies in all of England.


Improv Challenge: Peanut Butter & Chocolate

I have a dim memory of making waffles using tubes of refrigerated biscuit dough. However I have no notes or pictures to support this memory and The Husband, who generally has the memory of an elephant when it comes to recalling All Things Waffle, had no idea what I was talking about when I brought it up with him.

But, at the very least, I knew it could be done (Pinterest is full of ideas) and October's Improv Challenge ingredients -- peanut butter and chocolate -- seemed perfect for waffling!

My recipe essentially makes dessert for breakfast and is probably completely nutritionally unsound. You could be a good, morally upright person and serve the waffles as an actual dessert ... but they're also pretty darn good as an extra-special surprise midweek breakfast when one more day of getting up early and going into work just seems too awful for words when home is warm and snuggly and full of sunbeams and cats.

I tried assembling the waffles two ways -- the first time I split the biscuits in two and rolled them into 4-inch circles before filling them. The second time, I just opened the biscuits up like a book and filled them. Both versions came out of the waffle maker looking and tasting exactly the same. Since the second method saves a little time and uses less equipment, that's the method you'll find in the recipe below.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, & Banana Biscuit Waffles

Yield: Serves 2-8, depending on how much you like waffles
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 03 mins.
Total time: 13 mins.


  • 16.3 oz can refrigerated flaky buttermilk biscuits
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • Warmed peanut butter, as needed
  • Whipped cream, if desired


  1. Preheat oven to Warm or whatever is the lowest setting. Spray waffle maker with cooking spray; heat waffle maker.
  2. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Take each biscuit and open it up like a book. Top one dough half with sliced bananas, peanut butter chips, and chocolate chips. Close up the biscuit. Press dough around edge to seal.

  3. Place 1 biscuit in the center of the waffle maker. Close lid; cook 3 minutes or until waffle is golden brown. If your waffle maker doesn't have a heavy lid, you may want to put a pot or jar on top to smoosh the biscuit down a bit (I used my garlic pot). Remove cooked waffle to oven and repeat with remaining biscuits.

  4. Serve drizzled with warmed peanut butter, sprinkle with extra chocolate chips, and a splodge of unsweetened whipped cream. The whipped cream sounds like pure decadence, but actually helps balance the richness of the waffles.

The dough tubes I find at the market make 8 biscuits, which is more biscuit that two people need so I wrap the extra dough in plastic wrap and then store them in a zip bag in the fridge until needed. They don't bake up exactly the same as those fresh from the tube, but they're close enough -- especially if they're going on top of a casserole or pot pie.


It's Tasty, But It's Not Ice Cream

A coworker shared the bones of this recipe with me a few weeks ago when we were discussing our deep and abiding love of ice cream. She told me she makes this recipe often as a healthy ice cream substitute and it sounded interesting, but (after the first attempt) I felt a need to embellish with vanilla and sugar as it was just a little too mouth-puckering without. A drizzle of honey or agave would work just as well, if that's your thing.

The Husband suggests this would also be better made with regular yoghurt as "the Greek yoghurt flavor just gets in my mouth and sucks the raspberry flavor right out."

I made this for two, hence the small amounts, but as long as you use a 1:1 ratio of berries and yoghurt you can probably make any quantity you desire.
Instant Frozen Yoghurt
Serves 2

6 oz frozen unsweetened raspberries
6 oz fat-free Greek yoghurt
½ Tbsp Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
2 tsp sugar (optional but highly recommended)
Fresh berries, if desired
Fresh mint, if desired

Pop you food processor bowl and blade into the freezer for 20 minutes so everything is cold.

Pulse the berries, yoghurt, sugar (if using), and vanilla around in your food processor until it develops a smooth frozen yoghurt-ish texture and the color is an even shade of raspberry red.

Scrape out into two small dessert bowls. Garnish with fresh berries and mint, if desired. Serve.
While I agree this frozen yogurt concoction is quite yummy and refreshing, it doesn't make me want ice cream any less! If anything, I find myself craving Ben & Jerry's Greek Frozen Yogurt Raspberry Fudge Chunk!


Improv Challenge: Lemon & Lime

I really had my heart set on making a beautiful lemon-lime gelatin mold for May's Improv Challenge, but time got away from me and suddenly it was the day of the Challenge and I had nothing! So I turned to my second choice recipe, "Creamy Lemon-Lime Sherbet," and I am so glad I did. The recipe is so very simple to throw together and yields sherbet that is just totally yum. Cool, creamy, and super citrusy. And, anyway, who doesn't want to be able to say they've made sherbet from scratch? Especially as we head into warmer weather and ice cream season?

This recipe is based on one I found in one of my grandmother's old recipe booklets, Cooling Dishes for Hot Weather, published by the Culinary Arts Institute in 1956. The original dish used lemon or lime and I, obviously, wanted to use both. Also, I was a little heavy-handed with the zest simply because the original amount didn't seem like nearly enough!
Creamy Lemon-Lime Sherbet
Makes about 1½ pints

1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup lime juice
[I used a mixture of fresh & bottled]
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lime zest
⅛ tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 drops green or yellow food coloring, if desired

If you have a stand mixer, put the bowl and beater in the freezer now. If you don't, put a whisk and large mixing bowl in the freezer instead.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Add a few drops of food coloring, if desired.

Put bowl in freezer and freeze until "mushy" (about two hours in my fridge).

Pour mixture into chilled bowl and beat with chilled beater until smooth. Immediately return mixture to freezer and freeze until firm.

When making this dish, I recommend freezing the first stage in a shallow square or rectangular metal pan for greater surface area and a more consistent freeze. The large ceramic bowl I used was great for mixing, but froze unevenly -- edges faster than middle, etc -- making it hard to guess what "mushy" was. In the end I decided mushy meant "jiggly in the center, but the edges are firm and indentations, while easily made with a finger, don't fill back in."

I have no idea how long the sherbet took to firm in the final stage of freezing, because I made this before work and then just left it the freezer for nine hours. I worried about it more or less constantly while I was at work -- had it been the right kind of mushy when I beat it? would use of lime concentrate make a difference to how it froze? -- but it was fine. And now I'm thinking "Sherbet all the citrus fruits!!!"

Thanks to this recipe, I've learned I've spelled sherbet wrong my entire life. There's only one r -- it's not sherbert -- but everyone I know pronounces in sureBERT so I am thoroughly confused. (Sorbet's not the same thing, imho, but more like Italian ice and we pronounce it soreBAY).


Raspberry Chocolate Bites

I made these little bites for New Year's Day as a sweet way to begin 2014. The cookie butter can be easily replaced with Nutella or any other cookie butter/chocolate nut spread you desire. Also, if you have chocolate wafer cookies on hand, you could crush a few of those and use the crumbs in place of the crushed hazelnuts.

Raspberry Bites

Do not omit the raspberries and crushed whatever garnish. Without them, they're just pretty much just chocolate pudding cups. A perfectly delicious pudding, yes, but lacking brightness and sophistication. We all want 2014 to be brighter and more sophisticated than 2013, yes?
Raspberry Chocolate Bites
Serves 2

6 mini phyllo shells, thawed according to directions
2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp Williams-Sonoma Cookies And Cream Butter (or Nutella)
Splash of milk, as needed
6 raspberries
Crushed hazelnuts, as needed

Beat mascarpone and cookie butter together with a little milk until it is fluffy and more spreadable. Divide between filo cups. Garnish with raspberries and hazelnuts.

I have shared this recipe at these delicious blog parties:
Swing by and link up your own dishes!


Improv Challenge: Lime & White Chocolate

When I saw December's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients were lime and white chocolate, I immediately knew I wanted to make a pudding. Essentially, I wanted something like a pavlova -- a soft meringue nest filled with lime curd mousse topped with white chocolate whipped cream and berries. I've never actually eaten or baked a pavlova, but I've made several Eton Mess and what is that but a deconstructed pavlova?

white chocolate & lime clouds

I used King Arthur Flour's pavlova recipe, because their recipe for Angel Kisses (a meringue cookie) always come out well. While the pavlova recipe makes one big meringue, I chose to make five smaller single-serving meringues. If I'd been a bit neater I could have gotten six meringues from the recipe, but I'm not(and probably never will be) a neat baker.

The meringue recipe only needs five common kitchen ingredients and goes together easily so do give it a try if, like me, meringue makes you a little nervous.

Meringue Ingredients
Meringue Ingredients
Unbaked Small Meringue Shells
Unbaked meringues (the baked ones look almost exactly the same)
Lime Mousse

11 oz jar lime curd [Thursday Cottage]
1¼ cups whipping cream
zest of one lime

Put curd into the bowl of your stand mixer with the zest and cream, and whisk until thickened and fluffy. Chill 2 hours. (Whisk in a few drops of green food coloring with the cream, if you like, otherwise the dish will be very white).

Ingredients for lazy lime mousse
Lime Mousse Ingredients
White Chocolate Whipped Cream

2 ounces white chocolate, broken into small pieces [Ghiradelli]
1½ cups plus ¼ cup heavy cream

Microwave chocolate and ¼ cup whipping cream in large microwaveable bowl on high 1 minute or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl to soft peaks. Fold in the cooled white chocolate mixture and beat to stiff peaks.

Or, if you have a whipped cream dispenser, pour the cooled chocolate and cream into the container. Replace cap, charge with one cylinder, shake, and maketh with the whip creameth.

white chocolate whipped cream
White Chocolate Whipped Cream Ingredients
Fill meringue shells with lime mousse, top with white chocolate whipped cream, and garnish with blackberries and additional lime zest, if desired. (You will have extra mousse and whipped cream. The mousse will keep. The whipped cream probably won't if you didn't add stabilizer or make it in a whipped cream dispenser).

These lime and white chocolate pavlovas where very light and bright-tasting. Tangy, with most of the sweetness coming from the meringue itself. I'd expected the mousse to be quite sweet as there was a fair amount of sugar in the prepared curd, but it wasn't. It was wonderfully fragrant, though, and made my whole kitchen smell fantastic. I was also rather impressed by the white chocolate whipped cream as the flavor of the chocolate really came through.

These pavlovas are very pretty served as I photographed them, but I admit that when it actually came time to eat them, we found it easier to bash the pavlovas up into small pieces and stir them into the mousse ... Eton mess, all over again.

The meringues will keep indefinitely in an airtight container and the mousse is good for two or three days, so these are easy enough to make ahead.


Eating The Alphabet: K is for Kiwi / L is for Lemon

I dithered over July's recipe possibilities for too long and, suddenly, it was last weekend and I still hadn't made anything. Flipping through my newest cookbook acquisition, Weight Watchers One-Pot Cookbook (Wiley, 2012), I stumbled across the recipe for "Lush No-bake Lemon Cheesecakes" and thought that, when tarted up with kiwi, raspberries, and fresh whipped cream, I might have a winner on my hands.

I already had kiwi, raspberries, lemon, and unflavored gelatin at home so it just meant a quick trip to the market for ricotta. I ended up buying part-skim ricotta, not fat-free, as the fat-free ricotta had (imho) too much stuff in it to keep it resembling cheese. The part-skim was just milk, vinegar, and salt. Also, if you're not keen on lemon, I don't see why you couldn't use lime or orange zest.

Was my trip to the market worth it? I'd say yes. Didn't that cheesecake turn out so pretty?

No-Bake Cheesecake & Fruit

These cheesecakes were a lot of fun to make and helped me get over my fear of double boilers. I'm always afraid I'll mess up with double boilers -- the bowl will be too close to the boiling water and get too hot or too far away and not get hot enough, etc -- and ruin whatever I'm trying to make. I promised myself I'd just relax and do as well as I could. If I ruined it, I'd just start over. The glass of wine I drank while re-reading the recipe probably helped, because I was very relaxed when the milk-zest mixture exploded all over the microwave.

When a recipe says "microwave on High until it boils, about 1½-2 minutes," you want to check at 1 minute. Don't whack it in for 2 and walk away. Clumps of zest and splashes of milk all over the inside of the microwave!

So I started over again and it all went smoothly. Things turned pale and thickened at precisely the right times. The ricotta mixtures beat smoothly into the thickened, cooled custard. The gelatin set up in the fridge. After four hours of refrigeration, I had achieved deliciousness.

Would I make these again? Oh, yes. They're smooth and creamy with a light, almost flirty, lemoniness. The chopped kiwi and raspberries paired well with the cheesecakes and fresh whipped cream never goes amiss! The Husband, who can be picky about lemon and "healthy" desserts, really liked these and seems to be of the opinion I should make them every weekend this summer.

Weight Watchers One-Pot Cookbook has a number of other interesting dessert recipes, including one for "Warm Cherries with Goat Cheese & Thyme" which uses a little dark brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and fresh thyme to make a sauce for the fresh cherries! Maybe for next year's Alphabet Challenge?