Welcome back.

I think one of the hardest things a foodie can endure in life is cancer.  Now I’m not saying cancer is a walk in the park for anyone because it just isn’t, plain and simple.  But in my experience, it was additionally difficult as I watched this disease whittle away at not only a hobby, but a defining facet of who I was.  Without me in the kitchen, Ben and I started to lose out on one of the things we enjoy most about our relationship – our mutual love of food and wine, shared nightly at our little dining table.  A severe deficit of energy, an extremely sensitive stomach and an esophagus ravaged from radiation treatments ensured not only weight loss (hey skinny jeans!) but an utter lack of interest and desire to do anything in the kitchen, including re-arranging the dishwasher per my OCD tendencies.

Thankfully, all of that is changing.  Treatment is over and with each day, I get stronger.  And more hungry.  And more ambitious.  So it should go without surprise that I am starting to have random ideas and crazy cravings again.  The first on my list?  Passion fruit curd.  As I hunted the local Asian market for 100% passion fruit juice, I mentioned my idea to Ben – I wanted to make a passion fruit curd and fill angel food cupcakes with the delightfully sweet and tangy concoction.  A random stranger stopped in her tracks, looked at me and asked if I own a bakery.  When I said that I didn’t and I just really liked food, she continued on her way.  Ben looked at me and said “Bet that made your day.”  I grinned.  It did.

Well, finding passion fruit proved harder than I anticipated.  That is, until I went to Foodie Mecca, aka Whole Foods.  I love this place.  It is so easy to be inspired while walking through the aisles of pristinely displayed produce, freshly baked breads, piles of gourmet cheeses, oh, I could wax on.  But, last I checked, I don’t have a job in the Whole Foods marketing department, so let’s move on.  I happily strolled through the store and made my way to produce.  Jackpot – passion fruit!  I was off to the races.

So I learned something very quickly this weekend.  I am r-u-s-t-y.  Five months of quality couch time had not sharpened my skills.  This was a great idea that I think still has merit, but I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe did not turn out as expected.  That might have a little something to do with me overcooking the curd and scrambling my eggs a little.  Or, being a little too shaky to separate eggs and starting over not once, but three times when making the angel food cake.  In the past, I probably wouldn’t have shared this recipe until I had it right.  But you know what?  Life’s too short.  And I have a lot of cooking to do.  Welcome back, friends!

– j

Passion Fruit Curd Filled Angel Food Cupcakes

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

7 passion fruits

2 large eggs

1/3 c. sugar

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced into small pieces

1 3/4 c. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. cake flour

1 dozen egg whites, room temperature

1/3 c. warm water

1 tsp. orange extract

1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

 

For the passion fruit curd:  Cut passion fruits in half.  Using a spoon, scoop flesh from passion fruit and place in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer and remove from heat immediately upon simmering.  Stir constantly for five minutes.  Pour fruit puree and seeds into a fine mesh strainer positioned over a small mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, press juice and pulp through strainer until only seeds remain.  You may have to bruise a few seeds to get them to pop and release juice.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your strainer before discarding seeds.  Set passion fruit puree aside.

Combine 2 eggs and 1/3 c. sugar in a saucepan or bowl.  Fill another saucepan with about 1 inch of water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low.  Add passion fruit puree to sugar/egg mixture and place saucepan/bowl over the prepared double boiler.  Whisk constantly for 8 minutes or until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from heat.  Place butter, one small piece at a time, in curd and whisk until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining butter.  Transfer curd to a container and place a section of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

For the angel food cupcakes:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine half of the sugar, the salt and cake flour in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  Using a whisk, incorporate cream of tartar into egg whites thoroughly.  Add water.  Place bowl on stand mixer and whisk on high until doubled in volume.  Slowly add in remaining half of sugar and whisk until medium peaks form.  Add orange extract and whisk for about 30 seconds more.  Remove from stand mixer.  Sprinkle in about 1/3 reserved flour mixture and fold into egg whites.  Repeat with remaining 2/3 flour.  Carefully spoon batter into mini muffin pans.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If making regular sized cupcakes, bake for 17 minutes.  Cool completely.

Fill a plastic bag with curd.  Using a paring knife, puncture a small hole in the bottom of cupcakes.  Snip a corner off of the bag filled with curd and pipe curd into hole on bottom of the cupcakes.  Repeat until all are filled.

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vanilla bean-lavender pot de creme

Spring never fails to amaze me.  After the dreary cold days of winter have finally passed us by, suddenly the landscape wakes up and bursts forth in spectacular shades of green, pink, purple, red, yellow and on and on.  The trees are nearly done blooming here, but the tulips now wave like little flags in the breeze.  The new-lime color of the budding leaves has turned over to kelly green and the smell of freshly cut grass perfumes the air.  Spring is new, starting over, beginning again.  I think it is time B and I had a little spring in our lives as well.

We’ve made it through the winter, through the long lonely drives on weekends, through the tears every Sunday.  If only we could turn those driven miles into airline miles, we’d be jetting off to a white sandy beach and cocktails with umbrellas in no time!  But the newfound scars on the suitcases and the spinning numbers on the odometer say otherwise and I hope, on this festive day, that the end is in sight soon.  We’ve traveled this yellow brick road for a while, admittedly more wearily than we care to admit on some days, but I think we’re rounding that last bend along the way.

It was with hope for the end of this journey that sent me into the kitchen and sent pots, pans and mixing bowls flying.  I was in a mood for something special, something decidedly spring.  I was in the mood for dessert.  This doesn’t happen often, my sweet-toothed kin can attest to that.  But there I was, staring at a bag of plump vanilla beans, when seredipity struck and I found myself rummaging through my borrowed organizing bin looking for my dried lavender. 

A bit of cream, eggs, and sugar later, I had the makings of a pot de creme (don’t pronounce the “t”).  A silky, elegant custard, pot de creme is the precursor to creme brulee.  It is a little looser, a little more unctuous, and decidedly easier given there’s no need for a torch to caramelize the sugar.  What can I say?  I couldn’t bring my entire kitchen with me to this little apartment!  So I had to make do.  Boy, we’re roughing it, huh?  The combination of heady vanilla beans and floral lavender create a dessert that sings along with the robins in the backyard.  It was something out of the ordinary, something fitting for a hopeful future.

vanilla bean-lavender pot de creme

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

2 c. heavy cream

 2 vanilla beans

1 tsp. dried culinary lavender (I use Penzey’s)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

1/2 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and using the back of the knife, scrape the seeds from the bean.  Place the vanilla bean halves, seeds, and lavender in a medium saucepan with the cream.  Bring to a slight simmer over medium heat.  Remove  from heat, cover, and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract to the cooled cream mixture.  Strain the cream into a large mixing bowl.  Place the egg yolks and sugar in a medium mixing bowl or stand mixer and cream until light yellow in color.  Add about 1/3 of the cream mixture to the eggs, mixing constantly.  Add the cream/egg mixture to the remaining cream, mix well.  Place four ramekins in a large baking dish.  Divide the cream mixture evenly among the ramekins.  Fill the baking dish with hot water until the water reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Take care not to spill any water into the ramekins. 

Carefully transfer the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until the center is barely set (the sides of the custard will remain fairly stable but the centers will move around like Jello when jiggled).  Carefully remove from the oven and chill until cooled, at least 2 hours.  Serve.

Here’s to the Emerald City…

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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apple pie palmiers

Brrrr.  Autumn has definitely arrived.  In fact, I think winter might be knocking on the door.  I swear I saw a snowflake the other day.  I might have flipped it off (my apologies if you thought I was randomly providing you with a one-finger salute).  The good news is, with all of the wind we’ve had lately, all of the fallen leaves in our yard have conveniently relocated to our neighbors’ yards.  Hooray for reduced yard work!  As Mother Nature wails outside and the wind howls and whistles through our windows (very energy efficient, let me tell you), I want nothing more than warm, comforting foods.  It is this time of year when I start to put the kitchen to work as a furnace, warming our house and filling the air with the scents of slowly braised meats, bubbling pots of slow simmered sauces, and spicy notes of cinnamon and baking apples.

Apples abound at the grocery stores and at the last farmer’s markets of the season.  I had grandiose plans for traipsing around an apple orchard, but bathroom projects galore have prevented me from doing so (or trying to talk B into going).  With the cold weather expected this weekend, I think my fingers and toes will thank me if I pluck my apples from the grocery store shelves instead of from the trees blowing in the brisk wind.  But no matter where the apples come from, my plans for them remain the same.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and sugar.  I was looking for the comfort of apple pie, but with a ceiling to paint, a floor to seal, and a whole house to clean once this project is finally in the books, I needed to find a way to get the same flavors without all of the fuss.

I’ll be the first to admit that I really dislike making pie dough.  I’m not terribly good at it, nor am I very good about rolling out nice even circles.  So that was out the door.  I do like puff pastry though.  It’s not very hard to go wrong with butter-laden dough that puffs into golden brown airy layers.  But to take advantage of those flaky layers, I needed to get the apples into small enough pieces to blend them into the dough fairly seamlessly once cooked.  Enter the vegetable peeler.  I’ll admit, I’m pretty proud of this idea.  Slicing the apple into long, thin strips using a vegetable peeler lets all of the apple flavor shine through the pastry without thick chunks of apple distorting the flaky dough.  Toot, toot!  (Yup, that was me and my horn!)

Call them palmiers, elephant ears, pinwheels or tarts.  In the end, they taste like apple pie regardless of the name.  Warm and spicy cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove dance with the apple in the heat of the oven, filling your home with the smells of fall.  I’ll take that over an “Autumn Spice” or what-have-you candle any day.  Plus, you can’t eat a candle.  At least you shouldn’t.  It’s apple pie in half the time and at half the cost.  And I bet you can’t eat just one.

apple pie palmiers

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 baking apple, such as pink lady

3 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

1/16 tsp. ground cloves

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator (reserve other sheet for additional use)

Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove peel from apple and continue to shave apple lengthwise into long thin strips using a vegetable peeler.  Place apple strips in a medium mixing bowl and toss gently with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  Set aside.

Lightly dust a working surface with flour.  Unfold puff pastry sheet and place on working surface with seams running lengthwise.  Lightly flour dough and rolling pin.  Roll dough out to an approximately 12” x 18” rectangle.  Slice in half lengthwise.  Take about half of the apple mixture and lay across one puff pastry rectangle in an even layer, leaving about ¼” around all sides.  Starting at a long end, gently roll pastry jellyroll style, tucking apple slices as needed.  When nearly to the opposite edge, dip finger in water and lightly brush edge of exposed dough.  Roll the pastry cylinder on top of the exposed edge to seal.  Slice pastry cylinder into about ½” pieces and place cut-side up about 1” apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough and apple mixture.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until dough has puffed and is golden brown.  Let cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy apple season!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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deep chocolate brownies with chevre swirls

PLLLEEEEEAAAASEEEEEEE!

There it was in the subject line of my email, a pleading request from my sister. 

I just watched Throwdown with Bobby Flay and will you please, please, please try to figure out how to make these brownies?

This wasn’t the first time I’ve received such a request, and I’m willing to bet it isn’t the last. 

Vanilla bean vinaigrette!  Monster cookies from a local (to her) boutique deli!  Strawberry-Black Pepper Beurre Blanc!  Lasagna from a St. Louis restaurant!

My sister has a way of finding things she likes when I’m no where near her, then requesting that I magically recreate the recipe.  There’s usually just one problem.  Without a sample or a taste, I’m not sure what direction to take.  In other words, I wing it.  And so was the case with the brownies – I hadn’t seen the show and I knew nothing of the brownies.  Luckily for me, and for my sister, the blogging world had heard of and had tasted the brownies and many had put forth their versions for the masses.

And so, when my sister and her husband came for a visit this past weekend, I decided to put one version to the test.  After a busy morning of farmer’s markets, nachos and beers, boutique shops, specialty grocers and spice stores, we headed back to our house to escape the increasing heat of the late August sun.  As I set about the kitchen pulling out ingredients, pans, mixing bowls and measuring cups (yes, I actually used them), I quickly realized that I was the only one awake.  My sister and her husband had stretched out across the couches with their Boston Terrier and our Yorkie happily curled up on each couch.  B had retreated to the basement, and a quick trip down the stairs found him sleeping to a never-ending stream of infomercials.  So I concocted the brownies in silence (with the occasional snort from Joey the Boston Terrier).

As the oven timer sounded, my family was awakened to the smell of intensely chocolately brownies (lucky ducks, right?!).  Not wanting to wait any longer, we sliced into the dense chocolate mass and split a square amongst the four of us.  Of course, we have no idea if they tasted like the real thing or not, but they were rich, gooey, and swirled with the faint tang of goat cheese.  These are glass o’ milk brownies, my friends.  They are the kind that are so rich and mouth-coating that they demand a splash of cool milk after each bite.  If you are a chocoholic, this is a recipe you should certainly add to your repertoire.  Make sure to seek out exceptional quality goat cheese, as you really want the flavor to shine through all of the chocolate.  You’ll find the goat cheese to be fairly subtle, not at all overwhelming.  The chocolate, on the other hand, is not subtle at all…

deep chocolate brownies with chevre swirls

recipe:  adapted from The Pink Apron

 

8 oz. exceptional quality goat cheese, room temperature

1 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1 Tbsp. all purpose flour

2/3 c. Dutch process cocoa powder (recommended:  Penzey’s)

¾ c. dark brown sugar

¾ c. powdered sugar

¾ tsp. finely ground sea salt

1 c. all purpose flour

1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks

3 large eggs, room temperature

½ c. canola oil

2 Tbsp. water

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp. finely ground sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8” x 8” baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine goat cheese, 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar, egg and 1 Tbsp. flour in a small mixing bowl.  Using a hand mixer, blend until thoroughly combined and goat cheese forms ribbons.  Set aside.

Combine cocoa powder, dark brown sugar, powdered sugar, sea salt and flour in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add chocolate chips and set aside.  Combine eggs, canola oil, water, and vanilla extract in a separate mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Add egg mixture to cocoa powder mixture and stir until just combined.

Add about half of the chocolate mixture to prepared baking pan and spread to evenly distribute.  Pour the goat cheese mixture over the top of the chocolate mixture in the prepared pan.  Spread lightly to distribute.  Add the remaining chocolate mixture and spread to evenly distribute.  Using a knife, swirl the mixture as desired.  Sprinkle the top with ¼ tsp. sea salt.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in several spots comes out clean (due to chocolate chunks).  Let cool for as long as you can possibly tolerate and serve warm with a tall glass of cold milk.

Happy recipe experimenting!  Can’t wait to see what you send me next, C!  =)

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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sweet corn cake with lavender-blueberry compote

“Ode to Sweet Corn,” Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

I have a confession to make – I am not a dessert person.  I don’t swoon over sweets or crave chocolate.  In fact, if dessert is an option, I’m likely to pass.  If for some reason I am tempted, my preference is usually toward fruit-based desserts or those that are light on the sugar with subtle touches of sweetness.  Crazy, I know.

Crazier still is that when I do make a dessert, nine times out of ten, I’m going to have a single serving and leave the rest to the hubs or sadly, eventually throw it away because we’ve abandoned it on our counter.  There are a few exceptions to that rule, and this is one.

My curiosity was immediately piqued by this recipe.  A sweet, buttery cake with two different additions of corn, garnished with plump blueberries, whole sweet corn kernels, and a lavender-infused simple syrup.  So simple looking, yet complex, subtly sweet, elegant, and unique.  Definitely a winner.  And definitely worth making again.

The cake starts out like any other – flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs.  But then, a few tweaks take it out of the ordinary.  Stone-ground coarse cornmeal (polenta) is added to the flour, adding a slight crunch and texture to the cake.  Pureed sweet corn and sour cream are added to the batter, tinting everything a pale yellow.  And a well-buttered pan turns the edges and bottom a deep golden brown.  Think of it like cornbread but sweeter, lighter, more delicate and even more delicious.

Certainly, the cake is good on its own.  But the kicker here for me is the lavender simple syrup.  I love lavender.  I love the way it gently perfumes a dish without coming across as too soapy or flowery.  And when paired unexpectedly with sweet corn and juicy blueberries, it subtly sings in the background.  The cake eagerly soaks up the syrup, adding even more to the moist texture.  One bite reveals the light texture of the cake, the crunch of the sweet corn, and the burst of the berries.  The dessert is simultaneously refined and rustic – perfect for brunch, easy entertaining, or to end a summer feast.

sweet corn cake with blueberry-lavender compote

recipe:  adapted from fine cooking

 

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for buttering pan

1 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ c. stone-ground coarse yellow cornmeal (polenta)

3 ears cooked fresh corn, kernels removed, divided

½ c. sour cream

¾ c. plus 1 c. sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten

2/3 c. water

2 tsp. dried lavender

1 c. fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch cake pan (couldn’t find mine, so I used a springform and it worked beautifully).

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.  Add cornmeal and whisk to incorporate.  Set aside.

Puree the kernels from one ear of corn until smooth.  Strain the puree (will be very thick) through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, being sure to scrape all liquid from the bottom of the strainer.  Discard solids.  You should have approximately ¼ c. corn puree remaining.  Add sour cream and mix well to incorporate.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and ¾ c. sugar on medium high speed until fluffy.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and return to low speed.  Add the eggs and mix until incorporated.  The mixture will be loose and curdled looking.  Scrape the sides of the bowl again.  On low speed, slowly add about 1/3 flour mixture and mix until just blended.  Add about 1/3 sweet corn mixture, mix until just blended.  Repeat with remaining flour and sweet corn mixtures, scrapping bowl about halfway through process.  Do not overmix.

Using a spatula, scrape the batter into prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.  If using a springform, let cake cool completely and release mold prior to serving.  If using a cake pan, let cake cool about 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack until ready to serve. 

Combine 1 c. sugar and 2/3 c. water in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add lavender, and let infuse for 10-30 minutes (the longer you infuse, the stronger flavor you will have).  Strain syrup into a small bowl and discard solids.  Let cool. 

To serve, slice cake into individual portions.  Drizzle about 2 tsp. syrup over the cake.  Top with about 2 Tbsp. blueberries and 1 Tbsp. remaining sweet corn kernels. 

Serves 8-12.

Enjoy this elegant and simple summer dessert!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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adult milkshakes: peach & brandy

note:  this is the first of a three-part series chronicling a recent romp around Green County in southwestern Wisconsin, aka “Baja Wisconsin” to my family

The sign read: “Chin Drippin’ Peaches.”

How could you resist that?

Ah, Wisconsin.  The land of beer, cheese and sausage.  (Really, the license plates should be changed to reflect that statement.)  A rolling countryside dotted with century barns and spotted cows (more on that later) where wide spots in the road reveal treasure troves in the form of little general stores.  A place where hand painted signs advertise summer’s bounty, beckoning drivers to pull into small parking lots and explore. 

This year’s annual pilgrimage was no different.  Seeing the sign, we pulled into Brennan’s Market  and wasted no time grabbing a grocery cart.  Moments later, a flat of peaches sat in our cart, the golden blush fruit wafting its sweet summer perfume into the air.  No matter the direction you looked, piles of peaches, blueberries, plums, apricots, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons and more piled high against the rough, worn wooden tables.  Rows of jams, jellies, relishes and sauces stood at army-like attention against the wall.  And just beyond the doors, miles of cheese chilled comfortably in case after case, boasting of Wisconsin’s pride and joy with stickers announcing them as champions of world cheese competitions.

If Brennan’s is a specialty grocer, it certainly doesn’t put on airs.  Comfortable and casual, it is a fantastic noshing spot as you hop from one plastic deli container to the next, sampling the goodness hidden beneath each lid.  Of course, a sample usually leads to a jar, pint or package being placed into a cart, so sampler beware as you are likely to become a buyer in short order.  A sampler I was and in no time, the cart I pushed ahead of me was piled with cheeses, fruit, relishes, and wine.

We packed our purchases into the coolers waiting in the car (we came prepared) and headed off to our next adventure.  Despite the copious sampling, stomachs rumbled and we headed off in search of a more substantial meal.  In small town Wisconsin, town squares are thriving with boutiques, bars, restaurants, and shops.  Monroe, WI boasts Wisconsin’s oldest cheese shop in the form of Baumgartner’s, a rowdy tavern with communal tables, dollar bills on the ceiling, a small menu featuring cheese, cheese and more cheese, locally brewed beers and a mural spanning the length of the tavern with beer steins and wine bottles at war in the countryside. 

Highfalutin this is not.  A jovial hum permeates the bar with occasional spikes of laughter.  Orders were placed (are you brave enough for the Limburger sandwich?) and pints filled with local brews were set in front of thirsty patrons on the thick wooden tables.  Suddenly, the hum stops.  The fans slowed as the power fails and suddenly the bar is cloaked in darkness. 

“Free beer!!”

Someone shouts a wishful proclamation met with cheers, and the laughter and chatter resumes.  Soon, candles are placed on the long tables as waitstaff dance in the dark, holding flashlights high above their heads.  In the absence of the electricity needed to prepare our orders, our amusing and engaging waiter (name spelled J-o-h-n-n-y D-e-p-p, or so he says) filled the void by keeping the cold brews coming.  What else are you going to do in a Wisconsin bar with no power?!

The people of Wisconsin like their beer.  They also like their spirits.  It is a long, cold winter in this part of the world – might as well have something to keep you simultaneously amused and warm – and another wide spot in the road features a local specialty.  The Ding-A-Ling Supper Club (named for a bell, not anatomy) may be known for many things, but I have only known it as a stop for one thing:  a brandy Manhattan with pickled mushrooms.  This unusual concoction has been the litmus test for men marrying into my family.  If you are man enough to down one of these, mushrooms included, you have passed the test and are welcomed into the family.  Order a Tom Collins afterwards, however, and you’ll be mercilessly mocked for eternity.

Brandy Manhattans aren’t my cup of (spiked) tea, but the bottles of brandy glimmering in the afternoon sun got me thinking about the brandy peach pie I’d made the summer before and the flat of peaches waiting in the car.  Peach ice cream is a local specialty here come late summer/State Fair time, and I couldn’t resist the call of the adult milkshake.  The ice cream maker went into the freezer and peach juices dripped off of my cutting board onto the counter as I peeled and diced the golden orbs. 

Not wanting to waste a drop of the peaches, I slow simmered the milk and cream with the peach skins and pits to glean every last drop of flavor from the fruits.  Already sweet, I macerated the diced peaches with sugar to release even more flavorful juice which I pureed and poured into my waiting peach-infused custard.  The diced and macerated chunks of three peaches were reserved to add texture and additional peachy goodness to the ice cream as it churned around and around in the frozen cylinder.

Twenty-four hours later, the blender whirled in anticipation with the homemade peach ice cream and caramel colored brandy (or Cognac, as it turned out).  Into a glass it went and in no time, it was gone.  How am I doing?  Peachy keen.  And Grandma, I’ll save you one.

 

 

adult milkshakes:  peach & brandy

recipe:  jb’s pour house

7 ripe peaches (chin drippin preferred)

1 c. sugar, divided

1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¾ c. heavy cream

1 ¾ c. whole milk

4 large egg yolks, room temperature

¼ c. brandy

Peel and dice peaches, reserving skins and pits.  Place diced peaches in a medium mixing bowl and sprinkle with ¾ c. sugar.  Mix well and let sit for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.  Place peach skins and pits in a large sauce pan.  Add ¼ c. sugar, cornstarch, salt, heavy cream and milk to saucepan.  Bring to a boil (slowly) over medium heat, stirring often.  Do not raise heat as you want to slowly infuse the cream with the peach flavor and you do not want to scald the cream on the bottom of the pan. 

Place egg yolks in a small bowl.  Once cream mixture has come to a gentle boil, slowly add ½ c. of the cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Slowly stream egg yolk mixture back into the cream, whisking constantly.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon (170 degrees on a candy thermometer).  Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the custard into a medium mixing bowl, discard solids.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent forming a film and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about 1 ½ c. peaches from the macerated mixture, set aside.  Place remaining peaches and juices in a blender and puree until smooth.  Add puree to custard and stir well to combine.  Using a potato masher, gently mash the reserved peaches.  Add to custard mixture. 

Prepare an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Pour custard into the ice cream maker (you may need to make two batches, as I did, depending on the size of your ice cream maker) and process until frozen.  Remove to a freezer safe container and repeat if needed.  Freeze at least 12 hours.

Place ¼ c. brandy into a blender.  Using a standard ice cream scoop, add 4-5 scoops of peach ice cream.  Blend carefully, just until ice cream begins to form a wall around the walls of blender and a hole forms in the middle.  Serve immediately.

Makes 2.

On Wisconsin!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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grand marnier crêpe cake

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~ The Wonder Years

My memories are recipes.  Nothing reminds me more of certain people or places in time than food.  A piece of chicken grilled in just the right way instantly transports me back to a pool filled with my cousins, splashing away as my grandparents grilled on the patio and our parents chatted and laughed.  Dad’s “Can’t Miss Ribs” suddenly remind me of a boisterous night with neighbor friends and a rousing chorus of “In Heaven There is No Beer” with five dancing, jumping little girls and laughing moms.  Cinnamon apples or warm homemade yeast rolls appear and I can hear my grandpa making Donald Duck noises at the opposite end of the holiday table.

A single bite is like a time machine, taking me back to a place or point in my life.  A taste simultaneously tugs at my heart and my mind, making me wistful, happy, nostalgic, or sad as I remember those that have come and gone or momentous occasions in my life.  Whenever I’m longing for comfort, I can open my recipe box and have those that I love at my kitchen table.

Crêpes will always remind me of our wedding.  We didn’t serve crêpes at our reception, there were none to be found on our brunch menu the following day, and we did not indulge in a single bite as we traversed the Napa wine country on our honeymoon.  But on the Thursday evening before we married, after a day of bustling about with last minute preparations, we dined al fresco at a quiet little French-inspired café in our college town.  The weather was perfect with blue skies and moderate temperatures.  A chilled rosé sat on the wrought iron table and plates of balsamic dressed greens, Croque Monsieur, and savory crêpes sat in front of each waiting diner.  The fast pace of the day melted into a leisurely evening as we lingered over our dinners, enjoying the conversation, the gentle breeze, and the anticipation of the excitement and activity the next few days would bring.  Enjoying the moment, we stayed on through dusk, sipping steamy cups of coffee and nibbling on crêpes beurre sucre and sweet crêpes filled with warm summer berries.  If perfection could be captured in a single dining experience, this came extremely close.

I closed my eyes and time had sped forward a few years (or so it had seemed).  I was enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, one so clear and calm that it reminded me of that peaceful patio dinner, and I stumbled across a recipe for a cake towering with layers of lacy, delicate crêpes and orange zest-flecked whipped cream.  In an instant, I knew I had to make it and I knew, without a doubt, that it would remind me somehow of that dinner. 

There are a few things you need to know about crêpe making.  First, tradition says you should let your batter rest for several hours, up to overnight, to allow the flour to absorb some of the moisture for a thicker batter.  This also allows the batter to relax and for the bubbles to dissipate.  The end result is a tender crêpe free of holes.  This recipe eschews tradition (ha HA!) and moves straight to the stove.  While I’m sure this batter would benefit from a little snooze, impatience wins out in the battle between perfection and consumption.  Sure, you may have a crêpe or two with a few holes, but those can easily be buried in the middle.  I always set aside my shining star – the perfectly golden crêpe with delicately lacey edges – and use that as the crowning jewel. 

Second, I will put money on the fact that you will throw out at least one crêpe out of the first five you make.  It is guaranteed.  Crêpe making can be a fickle business as your pan is too hot or too cold and you fiddle with the knob on your stove until you finally get it just right.  Goldilocks would be proud.  And hungry, when she saw this spectacular dessert set before her wide eyes. 

To me, this is dessert perfection.  I have it on good authority that this is an “anytime” cake.  Perfect following a lovely dinner, ooh-and-aah inspiring mid day, and decadent for breakfast when paired with a mimosa.  Just sayin’…

 

 

grand marnier crepe cake

recipe:  prepared exactly as instructed by Gourmet

 

6 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

3 cups chilled heavy cream, divided

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners sugar, divided

2 teaspoons grated orange zest, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Blend eggs, milk, 1/2 cup cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with flour, salt, 1/4 cup confectioners sugar, and 1 teaspoon zest in a blender until just smooth.

Brush a 10-inch nonstick skillet lightly with some of melted butter, then heat over medium-high heat until hot. Pour in a scant 1/4 cup batter, immediately tilting and rotating skillet to coat bottom. (If batter sets before skillet is coated, reduce heat slightly for next crêpe.) Cook until underside is golden and top is just set, 15 to 45 seconds. Loosen edge of crépe with an offset spatula (my personal preference – feel free to use a heat resistant rubber spatula), then flip crêpe over and cook 15 seconds more. Transfer to a plate. Continue making crêpes, brushing skillet with butter each time and stacking on plate.

Beat remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon zest, and Grand Marnier in a large deep bowl with an electric mixer until cream holds stiff peaks.

Center a crêpe on a serving plate and spread with 1/4 cup cream. Continue stacking crêpes and spreading with cream, ending with a crêpe. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 24 (although I have left this sit for as many as 72 hours – it usually doesn’t last much longer than that).

Here’s hoping this creates a memorable meal for you!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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key lime pound cake

“In my mind, I’m going to Carolina.  Can’t you see the sunshine?  Can’t you just feel the moonshine?”

This song has been on continuous repeat in my mind, playing over and over ever since it kicked off my youngest sister’s wedding reception on a stormy beach on Hilton Head Island in March.  It played over and over as I packed us up for a vacation back to Hilton Head – one of my favorite places – just a few weeks ago.  And it plays in my head still, beckoning me back to the sea pines, to the sandy beaches, and to the lazy harbors I’ve come to love in the more than 15 years since my first visit there.  Sadly, a return trip isn’t in the cards in the immediate future.  But if I do a little baking and close my eyes, you’ll find me going to Carolina in my mind.

There’s a hidden little gem on the island that’s known, at least amongst my family, for their pound cakes.  My newlywed sister called as we were vacationing to make a few requests:  a shrimp po’boy and a slice of key lime pound cake.  I wasn’t too keen on the idea of packing shrimp alongside my flip flops and sunscreen for the return home, so instead I set out to at least provide the key lime pound cake so we could have a little taste of the Palmetto State whenever wanderlust strikes.

There’s something magically “vacation-y” about the flavor of key lime for those of us in landlocked states.  The simultaneously tart, sweet and almost creamy flavor instantly refreshes and reminds us that we’re in a warmer, sunnier place.  The palm trees don’t hurt, either.  Key lime has been one of my favorite flavors for as long as I can remember.  Every time we’d go to visit my grandparents when they were living in Florida, I’d always have to stop for a slice of my favorite key lime pie.  Super tart and creamy with just a hint of frost from the super chilled refrigerator, it was the perfect way to combat the heat of the summer sun.  To me, key lime is as refreshing to my palate as a sudden jump into the pool at 4:00 on a hot and sticky afternoon.

I was intrigued by this key lime pound cake and set out to make a lighter, less dense version than the traditional pound cake.  Disclaimer:  I don’t bake much.  I don’t like to measure.  Therefore, as I willy-nilly added ingredients here and there, I wasn’t so sure of what the final product would look or taste like.  To be honest, taste was good.  It was pleasantly tangy, perfectly flavored with the key lime and sweetened condensed milk.  Looks were good too – at least for the first five minutes out of the oven.  My lightening attempts (whipping the egg whites into soft peaks before folding into the batter) resulted in a concave center to my lovely cake when I returned to see how the cooling process was progressing.  Mistake #2 was leaving the cake in the pan for a full 24 hours, covering with plastic wrap, and transporting across state lines so my little sister could have a taste.  My advice would be to follow the directions as written below.  Hopefully you’ll have better luck.

key lime pound cake

recipe:  adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Food, Florida Key West Inc., and Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery & Cafe

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Salt

4 large eggs

3/4 c. plus 2 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. grated key lime zest plus 1 Tbsp.

1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk

1/2 c. key lime juice

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a loaf pan.  Sift 1 1/2 c. flour onto waxed paper.  Spoon the flour back into the sifter and add baking powder and a good pinch of salt.  Sift the flour mixture two more times.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs until light and lemon colored.  Add in 1 1/2 tsp. key lime zest, sweetened condensed milk, and key lime juice.  Mix until thoroughly combined. 

Gradually fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Combine remaining key lime zest and 2 tsp. sugar.  Sprinkle over the top of the cake and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a baking sheet.  Serve in slices.

Here’s to Carolina dreamin’!

-j

PS – even as I loaded these pictures to Flickr, an ad for visiting Charleston appeared as my photos uploaded.  It must be fate!

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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roasted strawberries with zabaglione

 

While spring has sprung here in the Midwest and we’ve been gifted a few beautiful 80 degree days, we’re still a ways off from summer.  It feels like it should be June but it is only April, which I’m reminded of when picking up some strawberries at the local grocery store.  Although they look and smell like summer, the trucked-in berries (because it certainly isn’t warm enough to have local yet) give away their early spring secret when you bite into them.  They just aren’t that sweet yet.  Don’t fear friends, I have a way to have your summer temperatures and your summer berries too.

The idea is a little unconventional, I’ll be the first to admit that.  Roasted strawberries, huh?  Well, if you roast an onion or garlic, the sugars caramelize and you end up with something entirely different.  I thought the same could certainly apply to strawberries that just weren’t quite there yet.  I’m an impatient person and I wanted my summer dessert with my 80 degree days and patio lounging!  So I set off on a way to make to do with the berries I had, but I wanted an interesting and unique way to dress them up.

Zabaglione (say zab-ah-yōn) is like the angel food cake of custards.  It isn’t solid like a crème brûleé *yum* but instead, it is loose and airy and more like a thick sauce than a custard.  Traditionally made with Marsala, I chose to liven it up a bit with some bubbly instead.  No need to spend the big bucks on this kids, we’re cooking with it, so opt for a prosecco or cava.  Of course, you are going to want something that is palatable because let’s face it, you are going to drink the rest of the bottle with dessert, aren’t you?!  The real secret to zabaglione is a hand mixer.  You whip all sorts of air into it as the eggs, sugar and bubbly are cooking and the result is a light, foamy sauce.  It’s a little bit of heaven, I promise.  The best part is that this is a perfect dessert for entertaining.  While the strawberries roast (8 minutes – that’s it!) the sauce can be completely prepared and will be ready and waiting to blanket the berries in its boozy goodness.

roasted strawberries with zabaglione

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced in half

3 tsp. plus 1/2 c. sugar

4 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 c. sparkling wine, such as prosecco or cava

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place strawberries cut side down on a large baking sheet covered in foil (trust me – makes clean up a breeze!).  Sprinkle 3 tsp. sugar across the berries and place in the oven.  Roast for 8-10 minutes or until strawberries have softened and sugars have begun to caramelize on tops of berries.

Using a double boiler, bring a small amount of water to boil in the lower pan (note – make sure the level of the water in the bottom pan is low enough that when the top pan is added, the water does not touch the bottom of the top pan).  Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top saucepan of the double boiler.  Using a hand mixer, thoroughly blend the egg yolks and sugar together until pale yellow, about 1 minute.  Add the sparkling wine, mix to incorporate, and place the pan over the boiling water.  Continue mixing with the hand mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture has thickened and doubled in size, about 6-7 minutes.  For those concerned about egg safety, an instant read thermometer should register 140 degrees.  Remove from heat.

Remove the strawberries from the oven and place in individual serving dishes.  Spoon about 1/3 cup zabaglione over the top of the berries.  If desired, garnish with a slice of fresh strawberry and mint.  Serve immediately.

 

Enjoy a taste of the summer goodness to come!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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