Spanish Vanilla Marshmallows

Last Friday we had a marshmallow party. It was fluffy and delicious, thanks for asking. And after the festivities I shared my favorite flavor with my coworkers, some of whom asked for the recipe, so here it is!

I call these “Spanish Vanilla” because it makes sense; there’s honey, vanilla, and almond–just like in Spanish nougat. The name is kind of a contrast with French vanilla, which is vanilla and hazelnut.

We originally got the proportions and the how-to from Cooking for Engineers’ post on marshmallows, but I did tweak some things.

Hardware you’ll need:
Stand mixer (or hand mixer and tall bowl if you’re not afraid of boiling hot sugar)
9 X 13 cake pan–glass or metal
two quart pan (or taller)
candy thermometer
Rubber spatula

Ingredients:
Butter
Powdered sugar

1/2 cup water
3 sachets gelatin (aka 3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup water
2/3 cup honey
2 cups sugar

~1 tbs vanilla extract
~1 tbs almond extract

Making marshmallows involves a lot of anticipation; there’s not much to do but wait for things to happen, and when the moment’s right, there’s a flurry of activity then you wait again.

To start, butter the pan to make sure the fluff doesn’t stick, then generously sift on powdered sugar. Now set the pan aside.

Next, prep the gelatin. That involves pouring the first 1/2 cup of water and the gelatin into the bowl you plan to mix in. If you have the option, use a taller bowl. Not only will that help protect you from fast-moving molten sugar, it will also make fluffier marshmallows. My awesome Kitchenaid works really well for this.

While the gelatin is blooming (absorbing the water), combine the sugar, water, and honey in the pan and heat on the stove just under medium. A problem you’ll face when making candy with honey is that it will puff up. When using corn syrup, I can set it to full-blast medium and walk away, but that’s not something you can do with honey. If it starts to puff up on you, lower the heat and start stirring. If it’s happening very fast, pick it up and move it away from the heat–that should deflate it pretty quickly. This needs to heat until it has reached 250 degrees. Once that’s happened…

Turn the mixer on low, then pour in the sugar-lava slowly, in order to avoid a fiery and painful demise. It will be hot and sloshy for a while, but increase the speed to high as quickly as you safely can. A tall bowl helps with this, but either way you should be there after a minute or two. Oh and be warned, it smells kind of horrible. Gelatin is made of ground up bones, and heating that up isn’t pleasant. But don’t worry–you don’t taste it at all in the final product and the smell goes away after a minute of mixing.

It will start to lighten and fluff up. That’s a good thing. Keep mixing for five minutes or so, and when it seems like it’s not going to get any bigger, add the extracts, then mix a little more and turn it off.

Now quickly pour the liquid marshmallow into the prepared pan. The faster the better, because it starts to set and get really thick and unmanageable. Then sift on some more powdered sugar and let sit for 24 hours. You will then have a slab of marshmallow. Cut it if you want, but the temptation to just bite in will be strong.

Lamb Burgers

This isn’t so much an instructional article as a show-off article. I’ll probably end up breaking this down into multiple articles explaining the different bits, but for now this will suffice.

We used:
ground lamb
shallots
olive oil
Asian pears
egg yolks
arugula
gruyere

This was a very long and complicated dinner, but it was so good we made it twice.

We started by dicing the shallots.

Then we cooked them in olive oil for about an hour on a med-low heat. The goal was to infuse the oil with the shallot flavor.

Once they had browned, we strained them out of the oil, careful to keep as much of it as possible. Then we mixed the shallots into the meat, along with a little salt and pepper.

Next, in the oil we fried thin slices of Asian pear. Not until crispy though, just until soft.

After that we let the oil cool and made an aioli with it and the egg yolks.

Ok, now imagine all that combined together–perfectly cooked meat along with a slice of gruyere and some arugula. I have to tell you, it tastes a bit like Heaven.

A Tale of Two Icings

I’ve made butter cream multiple times in the past, but I’ve never been quite satisfied. (Except when I make it at work, which is extremely rare and lucky…) So I hesitated to use it on my precious, precious Halloween cupcakes. Consequently I decided to try to make two types and see which one I liked.

I made a small batch of royal icing, at the recommendation of a coworker, and it turned out amazing. And this time my butter cream came out really well too, so I feel I know what I’m doing now.

But since these are for a special occasion, I didn’t think any normal tasting icing would do, so I made them cinnamon flavored with the addition of a few drops of cinnamon oil.

For the Royal Icing I used:
1 large egg white
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
~2 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
4 drops cinnamon oil

I had trouble using my stand mixer for this because it was such a small amount, so you may have to either do this by hand or use a hand mixer. Start by beating the egg white and lemon juice until combined.

Add the cinnamon oil then the sugar one half cup at a time and mix. How much sugar you ultimately use depends on how thick or runny you want it, so make sure you have a test surface. Wax paper works well, or even spare cupcakes. I had plenty of those since this whole endeavor was an experiment. Originally I was only going to use a total of 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but that was way too runny for what I wanted. I was looking for something thick that wouldn’t run off the edges too much and got pretty much what I wanted.

One thing that’s nice about royal icing is how pretty it looks. It stays very smooth and as it is exposed to air, it hardens slightly and makes a sort of glossy shell. It is perfect for pouring over something to make an immaculate cover, or for creating a clean look (as long as it’s not too runny). One danger though is that what you don’t use must be handled carefully if you don’t want it to try up and become useless. I put my extra in a bowl in the fridge with cling wrap directly on top, eliminating any air from touching the surface. That’s how you store it, but ideally you’d use all of it instantly.

Next was the batch of butter cream. For this I only used:
1/2 stick of butter (room temperature, or close to it)
quite a bit of POWDERED sugar
7 drops cinnamon oil

I put the emphasis there because I think that is where I went wrong in so many of my previously failed attempts. Also, I guess because of butters overwhelmingly delicious taste, more cinnamon oil was necessary for this icing, which was a bit disappointing.

I started by whisking the butter to a creamy consistency, dropped in the cinnamon oil, then added the sugar little by little (about 1-2 tbs at a time) until I had achieved optimal consistency and taste. It is integral to perform the finger-lick test periodically to ensure maximum scrumptious-ness.

What’s nice about when you have the right ingredients, there isn’t an exact stopping point; there is a wide range of how thick it can be and all of which work for cupcakes. Butter cream’s also pretty easy to spread, but it comes off looking a lot more informal, unless you take a lot of time making it look nice.

After tasting both of the end results, multiple times, I decided that for this event royal icing would suit the cupcakes best, with the butter cream saved for writing and decorating.

Honey Cupcakes

So this year some friends and I are throwing an awesome Halloween party and we kind of want to go over the top. We’re going to decorate her backyard with all sorts of props, have neat little party favors, and of course, incredible cupcakes. The party’s Alice in Wonderland themed, so a lot of the decorations and of course, food, are ridiculous and non-nonsensical. So I tried to come up with flavors that not everyone would have tried before.

The first batch of cupcakes I made were honey flavored. The cake came out very moist and fluffy, but not overly sweet. And super amazing.

What I used is:
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk (I used whole)

Depending on how fast you work, you may want to preheat the oven to 350 now.

Start by creaming the butter and sugar.

Creaming the butter calls for the beater attachment to your mixer and mixing on the lowest speed until no clumps remain. Once that’s done, mix on medium for about ten minutes, while scraping the sides for batter periodically to ensure it blends well. Blend until fluffy, then add the honey.

Then beat until light and fluffy. This shouldn’t take more than a minute or so.

Next add the vanilla and eggs, then beat well to combine. After that, pour in half the flour as well as the baking soda and salt, then mix. You should be careful not to over-mix here, because overworking the flour can make cakes, breads, and biscuits (i.e. anything with flour) come out tough.

Add the milk, mix it in, then add the rest of the flour and mix until smooth. For this batch I tried to fill the cupcake containers to about 1/2 or 3/4 full, but some of them overflowed, so I’m going to try 1/2 full next time.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes then check on them. The toothpick test is one of my favorite done-ness indicators.

As for icing, I tried out two different types, butter cream and royal. But not just your ordinary icing–recipes coming soon!

Birthday Tarts

I’ve never really liked birthday cake. It’s sacrilege, I know, but there’s something so sickly sweet and terrible about the birthday cake and all that icing on top of it that just really turns me away from it. Don’t get me wrong; there’s always a time and a place for cake, just not on my birthday.

Because of this, at the joint birthday parties my sister and I would have, there’d sometimes be some alternative like a gigantic cookie cake or ice cream cake, but sometimes it was just so easy to go the the grocery store bakery and pick something up.

But a few years ago I moved in with my mom and for my 15th birthday we made this.

It was awesome. And ever since I haven’t been content with just any cake. It may seem silly, but at the same time I don’t care what you think! Hahaha. And for the most part I’ve been making my own birthday desserts, so it all works out.

One thing that’s hit me and really stuck was the tart.

For the longest time I’ve been making these with my mom and sister. We always followed the Martha Stewart recipes for the crust and the filling, but this time I wanted to try to make my own recipe. (Part was due to the desire to create from absolutely nothing, not even a recipe, part was due to the laziness encountered when faced with the task of looking up the recipe.)

I started off by selecting and preparing some fruit that I thought would go well together and look nice.

I chose blackberries, strawberries, kiwis, dragon fruit, raspberries and blueberries. Good stuff.

And for the crust, I used:
1/4 cup sugar (you can use less or none at all, as you wish)
2 cups flour
8 oz cream cheese
1 tbs water

This makes enough for one 9inch round plus a little extra. I used my handy-dandy stand mixer (thanks mom!)

to mix the dough but any sort of mixer (or even your hands) would work fine. You want it to have the consistency of a crumbly cookie dough.

I just put it in the pan and flattened it out with my hands, but it would also work if you rolled it out first. That’d probably look really nice, but at the same time, it’s about to be covered with cream so it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t bake it, I wanted to see how it would come out as is. So I just set it in the fridge to get harder and cold while I did the next parts. (I think I’m going to try baking it later, maybe into a pear-tart, mmm.)

***UPDATE***
So I tried baking them this time. They came out kind of crunchy and nice, so I definitely recommend it. If you want it to be flakier and lighter, try adding a little butter. Maybe even replacing some of the cream cheese for butter.
I preheated and baked at 360-375 (my oven’s not super accurate) for about 25 minutes. I checked on them every 5, so that may have let out a bunch of heat, thereby making it take a bit longer than it should have. They brown a little, but not very much; you don’t want them to be golden all over, just some on the edges. (If they cook too long they get kind of too hard.)
***

Next I made the filling. It was very simple and light because it doesn’t use cream cheese like a lot of other fillings I’m used to making.

It calls for:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (powdered would be best, but in all honesty I used granulated)
16 oz cottage cheese (small curd)
1 tbs vanilla

Similarly, just whip until it’s whip-creamy. I think I got up to the 6th speed setting, and maybe let it sit there a few minutes. But you can play around with it some, like stop it for a “quality control taste test,” if needed.

Then when that’s done, just plop the whipped cream onto the tart shell, flatten it out with a spatula, and start decorating.

I had a couple of friends help me decorate, which explains the variety of designs. This is really one of those tangible manifestations of food-ing as a social thing. It’s nice when people can get together over something playful and delicious like this.

Peach Ice Cream

I didn’t make this recipe up myself, it came from Martha Stewart. For the most part. We did make some changes, but they were very minimal.

Here’s what you need (aside from an ice cream maker):
3-4 large ripe peaches
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 yolk
1 cup and 1 tbs heavy whipping cream

This is one of those things you can definitely have going on in the background; there’s a lot of waiting. The first thing you need to do is cut up the peaches. Honestly, the smaller the better, but we didn’t worry to much and eventually resorted to the blender. Then, combine the peaches, lemon juice, and only 1/2 cup of the sugar in a bowl and let it sit for 2 hours.

See what I mean about waiting–and that’s not even all of it.

When that’s done, it’s time to add the vanilla and milk. At this point you can either blend it or potato mash it. Turns out mom conveniently didn’t have a potato masher, so…

Then let that sit for another half hour.

After that, beat the egg and yolk with an electric mixer until they’re well mixed, then add the rest of the sugar (1/4 cup). When that’s all nice and blended, add in the creamy peach mixture.

While that’s finishing up, have a friend prepare the ice cream maker. (You’ll know it’s ready when the penguin shows up.)

Then when everything’s just right, pour the pre-ice cream into the ice cream maker and let it make for a couple hours until it’s done.

We made whipped cream to go with it using the leftover cream. It was super good and yummy.

And as per Martha‘s recommendations, serve in a goblet.

And this recipe works really well for all sorts of fruit, we’ve tried it with different kinds and none have disappointed.

Peach-stravaganza!

Though I don’t have pictures of everything (my camera broke part way through the trip and I haven’t been able to recover all the pictures) I’ll tell you about everything we made with mom’s peaches.

First of all, grilling peaches is awesome. We cut them in half and pitted them, then made a sauce with honey, water, and soy sauce to flavor them, then grilled them until they got soft. Sooo good. Especially with tuna (I love tuna and fruit together–apple tuna sushi is great).

(No picture for the moment, unfortunately)

We made four fresh fruit tarts.

Peach ice cream is one of the best fresh fruit ice creams you can make. It’s almost like they’re naturally creamy.

We always make cobbler with my grandma. Normally we use blueberries, but the peaches were too bountiful to not cook with.

And then, for something new, we made jam.

We also made a yummy salad and salad dressing with the peaches that was similar to the berry salad we made earlier in the summer.

I think that was everything we came up with, but my memory’s not so good without pictures to remind me. That’s why I take so many pictures. (If you knew me in real life, you’d know what I’m talking about.)

But! We’re going to have a similar situation next year, assuming the tree survives the hurricane season and the coming winter. There’s also going to be plums, which seem harder to deal with, according to me. So give me ideas!

Mom’s fruit trees

Mom hasn’t been in this house long enough to see what explodes out of the backyard every summer. Last month, we had to figure out what to do with a million plums.

Because of the overwhelming task at hand, we ended up giving most of them away. But because of that, we were slightly more prepared for the peaches. So far we’ve made two tarts, ice cream, grilled them (which is super good), and made cobbler. Monday we’re making jam. And possibly some candy once I get back to Texas.

Everything’s been tasty so far, but we’re running low on ideas and there’s still about a half a tree left. So I’m coming to my point. I need ideas! Feel free to leave comments with whatever ideas you have! Also, expect a few more peach posts than normal for a little while. I’ll try not to make a bore of them, so I’ll probably spread them out anyway, so hopefully you’ll enjoy them!

Whipped Cream

This is so easy and tasty I can’t believe I haven’t posted it yet. It’s even something that you could probably make with what you’ve already got. We decided to make ours because we figured it’d go perfectly with our home made peach ice cream (Mom conveniently has an ice cream maker and a peach tree).

I wouldn’t make too much at once (unless you’re me), so I’d start off with:
A half cup heavy whipping cream
A couple tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

First pour your cream into a bowl and start whipping. The end, if you don’t want the sugar. (See, it’s super easy.)

We started off the hand mixer on one and didn’t get past 2. All the whipping only took a few minutes–I’d say less than five, but it’s more of a texture thing. Then if you want sugar, sprinkle that on top and fold it in with a spatula. Then scoop it onto whatever fabulous desert you want!

Goat Cheese Toastlets

I don’t really know what else to call these. If you have a better idea, feel free to let me know.

Basically, I came up with these as an idea for finger food for my French class’ end of the year party. I did warm them up before serving, but after tasting them cooled, they worked fine that way too. They end up looking pretty and they’re not too hard to make. (Cutting the cheese to make sure it stayed spherical was the hardest, but I’ll give you some tips to make it easier.)

I made three flavors, one that I knew was really tasty (goat cheese and honey) and two that I was pretty sure would work (cheery preserves, and basil-lemon-pepper). And for this all you need is:

A loaf of mini toasts (I got mine from the grocery store deli)
Goat cheese (I had 4 4oz logs)
Honey
Cherry preserves
Basil
A lemon
Pepper
Olive oil

Before you start anything, make sure to refrigerate the cheese. The cheese must be very cold (but not frozen) to ensure nice slices. So I kept mine in the back of the fridge while I prepped the other ingredients.

I started by slicing the basil into strips.

Thinner would work too, but I was kind of rushing. I mainly wanted them to be straight so they’d be pretty.

Next I juiced the lemon,

laid out the toasts,

and started cutting up the first cheese log.

Cutting it is, like I mentioned above, kind of hard. You want to make sure the cheese is very cold, and the knife, hot. I kept the cheese in the back of the fridge until the moment I needed it. And I kept a bowl of hot water in the sink to use to warm up and clean the knife between every slice. I found that a very sharp, non-serrated knife worked very well, and there was a certain technique I used to make sure they came out ok.

I started by warming the knife, drying it quickly with a paper towel, then going straight into the cut. I didn’t pull back and forth, because when I tried that, the knife just crumbled the cheese along the horizontal. So I just pushed straight down, trying to hold the log and keep if from smooshing in on itself. Then I shimmied it off the knife because just pulling it off would have broken it in half.

I posted the video on my brand new YouTube channel, in case you’re having trouble seeing it here.
Perfect Goat Cheese Medallions
And if you happen to have a YouTube account, feel free to subscribe! I plan on adding more videos once I get a big enough memory card.

Most of the medallions were placed directly on the toasts, but the savory lemon-basil toasts were coated with a little olive oil first. I’ll start with the sweet ones because they were more simple.

Place cheese

then add toppings. For the jam, I topped the cheese with a heaping teaspoonish of cherry preserves.

And for the honey I just squeezed on a pinwheel shape.

The lemon-basil had a few more steps. After olive oil-ing and cheese-ing the toasts, I brushed on the olive oil and cracked on some pepper.

Now I topped them off with the basil before baking them, but it might be better to do this step after baking. The basil won’t crisp up and it will still look as pretty as when you plucked it.

Now for the baking, I popped them in a 350 degree oven until the cheese was a little melty and soft. I didn’t want too high a heat because I was worried about the toast becoming inedibly hard. And don’t worry about the goat cheese not melting; it’s not like other cheeses and it won’t melt much.