Grapefruit-Aperol-Grenadine Sorbet

Got inspired by this: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/04/grapefruit-campari-sorbet/. We made significant changes, using bottled, non-pink grapefruit juice and Aperol, because that’s what we had on hand. The grenadine helps make it a little rosier.


Continue reading Grapefruit-Aperol-Grenadine Sorbet

Rhubarb Sour Cream Cake

I am reminded yearly of how much I love rhubarb when I see that long pinky-red celery show up in the spring. While shopping for groceries last week, I saw the rhubarb and bought it. With no plan. This is not something I do. A storage-challenged kitchen means that nothing comes in without a plan for consumption. But the rhubarb is in, which means all descends into chaos.

The recipe is here and I didn’t change anything. I would bake it for the longer amount of time. The finished product was a little too moist in the middle, and that might be due to rhubarb’s tendency to be juicy as all get-out. This is gorgeous as a coffee cake. And don’t skip the topping: it makes a wonderful texture for the top crust.

1/4 c (50 g) room temperature butter
1 1/2 (315 g) c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 1/3 c (322 g) flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 c (200 g) sour cream
4 c rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 c (52 g) white sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

In a bowl, blend butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with the sour cream. Stir in rhubarb. Spoon into a buttered 9×13″ pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350° F/175° C for 50-60 minutes.

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: slightly less than one 1 quart

Adapted from: David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Result: Excellent!

This is a milk chocolate flavor. I love that there’s no “don’t let it boil” admonishment and no eggs involved (which you have to cook, but not cook into scrambled eggs while shooting for custard). Go for a nice 50%-70% cocoa content in the chocolate bar. It doesn’t have to be richer than that.

We did the variation that David Lebovitz mentions on his site (resulting from a typo in the book, originally) and are sticking with that because of the extra smooth and dense texture, and a more intense chocolate flavor (owing to the reduced sugar) — more like a chocolate gelato than homemade chocolate ice cream.

Extra trickiness for European kitchens: you need ice (yeah, frozen water) around to make an ice bath near the end of the batter preparation. I’m not sure what other methods you could use to lower your batter temperature while keeping it pourable, but if you have some ideas, please share them in the comments! Before we got our stand-up chest freezer, we never had room in our two midget fridges to keep ice cubes around at the ready. But now we do.

Ingredients

1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream — we used whipping cream (Schlagsahne)
1 cup (250 ml) evaporated milk
1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (60 gr) light corn syrup
1/3 cup (35 gr) unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
3 ounces (85 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make a slurry by mixing a few tablespoons of the milk with the corn starch in a small bowl, until smooth.
  2. In a 4-quart (4l) saucepan, heat the rest of the milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup. When the mixture comes to a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder, then let it cook at a modest boil for 4 minutes.
  3. After four minutes, whisk in the corn starch slurry then continue to cook for one minute, stirring constantly with a spatula, until slightly thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Make an ice bath: Find a smaller metal bowl that will fit into a larger metal bowl. Add ice, along with some cold water, to the larger bowl then set the smaller bowl into the ice. Pour the ice cream mixture into the smaller bowl and stir until completely cool.

    The original recipe suggests pouring the batter into a zip-top bag and then submerging the bag in an ice bath for 30 minutes, and we tried this, but it was a PITA to get the batter out of the bag and into the ice cream dasher. And you waste a zip-top plastic bag in the process (either because you cut the corner to squeeze it out, like a pastry bag, or because it’s impossible to get all the batter out of the bag for any possible reuse).

    Next time, we’ll use the alternative method with the two metal bowls he mentions (above).

  6. Pour the now-cooled batter into the canister of an ice cream maker, then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a shallow container. This is a good time to sprinkle stuff on top. We used chocolate shavings, but I think we’ll go with slivered almonds next time for a contrasting flavor. Freeze it for a few hours. Portions will be necessarily small (we’re talking about less than a quart here), but that’s OK given the richness.

Pumpkin Bread

When we make a pie crust, a teaspoon of sour cream (or crème fraîche to be more precise) is required for a little moisture and flavor. Often this means we’re opening a new container. And if you’ve bought dairy products in Germany, you know how crappy the packaging is — unresealable, and in inconvenient sizes to boot. So then there’s a barely-used, broken-seal sour cream/crème fraîche hanging around.

Fortunately, there is a solution: Pumpkin Bread. We found the recipe on food.com and gave it a shot with just a few modifications and metric conversions of our own.

1/2 cup (100g) butter
1 cup (209g) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (207g) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger — hit up ochef.com for some ratios to choose from)
1 cup (330g) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraîche (100g) or 1/2 cup plain yogurt
optional chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, whatever)

Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Stir flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt together and add that dry mixture to the wet mixture. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, and stir. If you’re using nuts, then fold them in after the pumpkin and sour cream.

Bake in a greased/floured loaf pan at 350°F (177°C). for at least 1 hour; ours took about 1.5 hours to pass the clean-stick test.

Lemon Mousse

My desserts have a tendency toward heaviness. I think that’s why I enjoy mousse so much. If there’s anything in which heaviness is an unacceptable attribute, it’s a mousse. And as much as I enjoy chocolate mousse, I liked the idea of a citrus flavor more for warmer weather. And as it happens, it’s simpler to make than chocolate, too. The inspiration comes from Thursday Night Smackdown and the gorgeous pictures over there, but we used our own lemon curd recipe and halved the whole thing. Follow the link for the original, the steps I took are below.

Ingredients
1 recipe lemon curd*, cooled
6 ozs (170 g) mascarpone cheese
3/4 c (180 ml) whipping cream

Using whisk attachment, blend together curd and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth and well-combined. Whip cream and gently fold into curd mixture. Divide into serving dishes and chill at least 4 hours, but consume within 36 hours. Serves 4-6.

*If you want to be really fancy, pass the curd through a fine mesh strainer to get a smoother product. We don’t bother with this, but we’re pretty lazy.

Baked Doughnuts

Expats missing their doughnuts — listen up. You don’t have to travel to a city with Dunkin Donuts franchises on every corner to get a basic doughnut fix. You will, of course, have to do that to get your Boston Creme fix, and I kinda always thought doughnuts are supposed to be fried in oil, and not baked, but as the blogger who opened our eyes to this recipe puts it (and seriously, follow that link — they are beautiful!),

Baked doughnuts are better than no doughnuts.

But you know what? These baked doughnuts are better than anything I’ve had in Germany outside of a Dunkin Donuts. The vanilla flavor in the dough is subtle, but a delcious counterpoint to the yeasty tang, and it will remind, dear North American expatriate, what sweet baked goods are supposed to taste like. If your favorite textural aspect of the doughnut experience is the crispy outer layer, these are not the doughnuts for you. You just won’t get that without deep frying them in oil. If you tend toward inner cakiness however, keep reading.

Ingredients

1 egg
1/4 cup (53g) granulated sugar
1 cup (237ml) whole milk, heated to 115°F (46.1°C)
1 tablespoon (one 10g packet) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 to 3 1/2 cups (418 to 483) all purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading (we needed all 3 1/2 in our batch)
1/2 cup (1 stick, 110g) butter, cut into 1 inch cubes (presumably cold, right? you can’t cut soft butter into cubes)

For Topping:

1 stick (100ish grams) butter, melted
1 cup (210g) granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon (more or less, depending on your taste), mixed together

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg and sugar on medium speed until blended, about 1 minute. Add the milk, yeast, salt and vanilla, and stir to blend. With the machine on low speed, add 2 cups of flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until the dough is thick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook. With the machine on medium speed, add the butter one piece at a time, and beat until no large chunks of butter are left in the bottom of the bowl, 3-5 minutes. We beat ours a lot longer than that, trying to get those butter chunks to integrate mechanically, until I finally gave up and broke them into smaller pieces with the spatula. Then the kneading hook made short of them. Perhaps warmer butter would have made it a little quicker. Reduce speed to low and add the additional flour until the dough gathers around the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. It will be soft and moist, but not overly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl.

Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and roll out to 1/2 inch thick. With a doughnut or a cookie cutter, cut out 3 inch diameter rounds with 1 inch diameter holes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the doughnuts at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 25 minutes.

Bake until the doughnuts are light golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes, being very careful not to over bake them. Immediately out of the oven, dip into butter and then dip directly into cinnamon sugar mixture.

Best eaten fresh and warm, according to the recipe’s sources, but the next day they were still super tasty with a cup of coffee, and my office apparently agreed.

Pecan Pie

PC291395Pecans are not the easiest thing to find here. Most of the ones you find are smoked or salted or candied or something and not suitable for pie-making. Sarah did find them once at Aldi, but we’ve been prepared this time, somewhat, by importing a few pounds thanks to our Costco-membership-having friends and family on our last U.S. visit.

So, armed with those, we tried out a pecan pie. We took this recipe from epicurious.com used it mostly as-is, with the exception of the orange peel. It seemed dumb to me to only use one half-teaspoon of zest, so we put in the zest of a whole orange. That tasted great. Also, we backed off on the corn syrup somewhat (versus the original recipe), and I think we could have backed off even more.

Here’s what you need:

3/4 stick (75g) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (262g) packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (150ml) light corn syrup
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest from one orange
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups pecan halves (1/2 pound or 227g)

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C) with a baking sheet on middle rack.

Get yer pie crust into a 10-inch pie plate. Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze 10 minutes). Our all-natural walk-in fridge (the little room between the hallway and our apartment) is ideal for this, but only some months of the year.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt. Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk the corn syrup mixture into that.

PC291394Dump the pecans into the pie shell and pour the corn syrup mixture evenly over them. Our pie plate was pretty deep, so we didn’t need to worry about syrupy eggy spill-over, but the original suggests baking on a hot baking sheet until filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely (go with the walk-in fridge again) — overnight is probably best.

American-style Cheesecake

Cheesecake in Germany is different. It’s good, but it’s far lighter and crumblier than American cheesecake, with nowhere near the tangy flavor I expect. I’ve tried to make cheesecake over here before, but it never quite works out correctly. The flavor is always somewhat lacking and the texture is a little off. I’m certain it has to do with availability of ingredients. The cream cheese here is all spreadable – they don’t seem to have the big, dense blocks of Philly, wrapped in foil, that have to sit out and soften on the counter before you can put it in the mixer. Even if I could get the blocks (and I probably could – I have ways), I really don’t have the fridge space to store it.

While planning Thanksgiving desserts with our friends, we decided a cheesecake might be in order (counterpoint to the omnipresent pies). So I started my usual recipe search, when I had an idea; look for a German-language recipe for ‘American’ cheesecake! I found a winner here. The original recipe is in German with metric measurements, but here’s my translation.

Crust
25-30 Leibniz wholegrain (vollkorn) cookies, crushed
5-6 T (80 g) butter, melted

Filling
17 oz (500 g) cream cheese1
14 oz (400 g) quark cheese
3/4 c (160 g) sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (wanna be fancy? Scrape a whole vanilla bean instead)
3 eggs
1 pinch salt

Topping
1 large jar sour cherries (Schattenmorellen)
2 T cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350°F/170°C.

Mix the crushed cookies and melted butter together in a bowl, until all the crumbs are evenly moistened and are starting to clump. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 24-26 cm. springform pan until they make an even layer.

In a large mixer bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and beat until smooth and light. Pour into the springform and bake for at 40 minutes or until the center is somewhat jiggly, but no longer liquidy. I prefer to bake mine a little longer, until the top is no longer shiny – but this will probably cause your cake to crack. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

The topping is optional, but I like my cheesecake with cherries. Into a small saucepan, drain your cherry juice and set cherries aside for now. Put 4-5 T of the cherry juice in a small glass or measuring cup and add the cornstarch, stirring well. Bring the juice in the saucepan to a boil, then add the cornstarch slurry while stirring. The mixture will immediately thicken. Remove it from the heat, stir in the cherries and serve with the cheesecake.

  1. Edited on 2018-04-30; a previous incarnation of this recipe had the cream cheese-to-quark ratio flipped. This way (as written here, now) is even better. []

Pumpkin Pie from Real Pumpkins

Sarah and Tammy took the German pumpkin situation into their own hands — literally — last week when tackling the time-honored American Thanksgiving dessert option. Canned pumpkin puree is hard to come by around here. You’ve got to have a military post hook-up or have flown it in with someone who otherwise travels light. Note to those reading and thinking about moving to Germany: fill up extra space in your shipping container with hard-to-find canned goods. Even if you don’t like them yourself, they are worth their weight in trade.

So here’s the weird part: the cute little good-for-cooking pumpkin varieties are pretty easily available in Germany. Most supermarkets and organic markets seem to carry them. But does that mean that everyone is cooking with pumpkin from scratch? I don’t think so. You see the occasional pumpkin soup or pumpkin-infused pasta sauce around here in restaurants, but I don’t get the impression that pumpkin is a part of standard Bavarian cuisine. So what are they doing with them? Not making pie, as far as we can tell.

I found this recipe online for pumpkin pie from real pumpkins and they set to work. This recipe is very generous with metric conversions and dietary and preparation alternatives (nice!) and Comic Sans (less nice). But oh well. The content is solid, with lots of ideas for extra pumpkinny usage.

Sarah and Tammy opted to roast the cleaned-out pumpkin chunks in the oven to soften up the flesh as described in her recipe for pumpkin purée. The upshot here was avoiding too much moisture in the puree.

pie crustsThis is the part where I got involved. I whipped up a pie crust from our standard recipe. We were worried that the crust might have been a little too thin (you can see the pie pan pattern through it!), but it came out just fine — probably owing to the reduced moisture from the roasting method of puree collection as well. I even had enough dough left over to make a midget pie, too. Sarah does the fluting (looks nice, right?) and you can see that I was in charge of the midget pie and went for the more rustic (read: lazy) look. Here are the pie filling ingredients we used — see the original recipe for alternatives:

1 cup (210 g) sugar
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I ground fresh nutmeg shavings and cloves together in our spice grinder to make ours a few months ago; individual proportions are available in the original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin puree
18oz (530ml) evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Note: don’t get confused by the milk nomenclature here in Germany. Evaporated milk is known in Germany as “Kondensmilch” and Sweetened Condensed Milk is called “Kondensmilch, gezuckert” — at least in our supermarkets. You’ve got to look pretty carefully at the labels. You’ll probably find them in the same section as the canned coffee creamers.

one pie, one custardMix all that stuff up together, in no particular order, though I submit that if you add the spice ingredients last, you’ll have less chance of your spices collecting on the bottom of your mixer bowl. That happened to us, and you can see spicy plumes in our midget pie and crustless pies. All three still tasted great, but the spice distribution was uneven and obviously more concentrated in the midget and crustless pie.

two pies and a custardThen fill your pie shells right up to the top. With our 9″ pie shell, we still had enough for the midget pie, and still some left over, which we baked as a crustless pie in a non-stick loaf pan. Bake the pie at 425°F (210°C) for the first 15 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 350°F (175°C) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean. You can see what happens if you forget to reduce the heat after the first 15 minutes on our crustless pie. Still totally edible but with more of a skin developed on the top layer.

This is a fluffier-than-I’m-used-to variety. I normally think of pumpkin pie as a dense and heavy custard, and I enjoy that, but this lighter variation was really good.

Lime Curd

I’ve had great success with my Lemon Curd recipe and I’m quite pleased with it. When we came into an accidental excess of limes recently though, I went shopping for a new lime curd recipe at epicurious.com using the iPod Touch app. It was fruitful. Here are my tweaks.

1/2 cup (1 stick, 110g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (158g) sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (4 medium limes’ worth)
2 limes’ worth of finely grated peel
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks

Place fine strainer over a bowl glass bowl. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat. Add sugar, lime juice, lime peel, and salt; whisk to blend. Add yolks and whisk until smooth. Return saucepan to medium heat and whisk constantly until curd thickens and is steaming pretty heavily (do not boil), 10 to 12 minutes. Epicurious says to heat it to 160°F as measured with an instant-read thermometer, but I didn’t bother with that. Steaming heavily for a few minutes after thickening but before a boil develops was good enough for me. Pour curd into prepared strainer; discard solids in strainer. I don’t bother with this step when I’m making my lemon curd, but I have to admit, the cooked lime zest shreds looked kind of gross, so I’m glad I did it this way this time. They tasted pretty awesome, though; maybe I’ll leave them in next time. The curd will thicken some more as it cools; then you can spoon or scrape it into a jar. Chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and keep chilled.