Sunday, September 25, 2011

savory and sweet

zucchini, potato and leek crostata
I was baking last week but not blogging. Chris and I went to a funeral on Saturday and I was feeling very introspective.

I made the tart, or crostata, pictured above, last weekend. Lovely, right? Chris kept driving me nuts by calling it a pizza. This is not a pizza. It is a savory crostata---a medley of vegetables baked inside a buttery pie crust. CROSTATA.

ricotta ice cream with caramelized pistachios
and chocoate ice cream

I finally made my favorite gelato from Rome. It came out so well because I've upgraded my ice cream machine to the Lello Musso Pola 5030 Desert Maker. It's HUGE, especially since it only churns 2 quarts of ice cream at a time.

But OH what amazing ice cream. Absolutely as smooth as the ice cream I churned at Gramercy Tavern. I tested a basic recipe of vanilla and was amazed at the difference in quality between what i used to get from my old machine and what I got from the Lello. And best of all, it churns 2 quarts in a meager 20 minutes.

So I've gone a little mad over the last two weeks.

I've made a total of eight batches of ice cream: peanut butter with dark chocolate chunks, mint julep, Vietnamese coffee, vanilla bourbon, ricotta with caramelized pistachio, five spice pumpkin, olive oil and chocolate.

As I said, a little mad.

The chocolate in the picture was a recipe that included evaporated milk. I did not like the end result. It was chocolatey, but not as deeply, soul-piercingly chocolatey as I like.

The ricotta, however, also pictured above, was amazing. The caramel on the pistachios melts in the freezer, creating ribbons of bitter, lightly salted caramel running through the ice cream. I usually don't feel satisfied by a dessert that doesn't include chocolate, but it was different with this ice cream. Totally satisfied and wishing I had made a double batch instead.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

double deliveries

red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting
Anthony and I had two cakes this weekend and I thought this wedding cake would be the easier of the two. Boy was I wrong. It assembled easily enough, but because of a communication issue regarding the venue, we nearly had a cake wreck on our hands. The reception was outside.


Cream cheese frosting is not meant to hold up in humid, warm weather. We set the cake up outside and knew immediately we had to move it into refrigeration before the icing melted off. We rolled it on a cart through the restaurant's chaotic kitchen, over an uneven floor and to the walk-in fridge in the back. The only problem was that the fridge was used to store seafood in it and the cake would have absorbed the fishy odors. So we moved it again, back through the kitchen chaos and into a spare freezer. Drama. Stress. Deliveries are the worst.

vanilla cake with nutella buttercream
This Victoria's Secret bag was for Amanda, the bride-to-be. Really would have liked some black to go into this cake, but that idea got vetoed. We created the stripes with surgical tape and airbrushed on the color. I'd seen other people do a cake like this with strips of colored fondant they cut out and pasted onto the surface. It looks bumpy that way, and vaguely like railroad tracks for what I assume would be a sexy, pink train.

Monday, September 5, 2011

last taste of summer

ginger shortbread cookies with watermelon
and crenshaw melon sorbets
I've been hankering to make some ice cream sandwiches all summer, so I figured I had to do it this Labor Day weekend before the summer officially ended.

I wanted to use a crispy cookie just to see if I would enjoy it as much as I enjoy a traditional soft cookie. If I had made the cookie a bit thinner, I think it would have been enormously successful. Also, the cookie recipe called for crystallized ginger. I wish I had grated in fresh ginger because the crystallized ginger just wasn't intense enough for me. The sorbets, though, turned out beautifully---smooth and sweet with intense melon flavor.

chocolate gingersnap cookies with strawberry ice cream
These cookies were INSANELY delicious---chewy and spicy and dotted with chunks of melting semi-sweet chocolate.

I decide to stuff the cookies with strawberry ice cream. One problem, though. I don't like fruit-flavored ice creams because they always end up tasting, well, flavored and not truly like fruit. I would much rather eat a sorbet. But strawberry ice cream is a difficult flavor to abandon because it is part of the HOLY TRINITY OF ICE CREAM.

Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry. Or as it is sometimes labeled, Neapolitan.

When I was a kid, my parents used to buy a gallon tub of Neapolitan from Pathmark called "Whale of a Pail." Back then, that neon-colored strawberry was my favorite flavor. Partly out of sentimentality and partly because of the flavor's universal appeal, I decided to give strawberry ice cream another chance.

I went with a base recipe that used cornstarch instead of eggs as the thickening agent because I was hoping that the strawberry flavor would be stronger that way. The end product was good but not intensely strawberry enough even though I tripled the amount of strawberry puree the recipe called for. Arg. At least I have the cookies to drown my disappointment in.