Wrong-time-of-year King Cake

First thing I want to start off this post with, is something very personal and revealing.

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This is the most cohesive recipe I’ve ever gotten from my mom. Everything else I’ve gleaned through my nose and eyes. A couple of times I’ve gotten a dictated recipe full of vague measurements like “enough” and “some.”

It’s definitely possible to learn from and work with stuff like this!

This is also a big part of why I’ve always been a little inconsistent in how I post recipes. I fundamentally believe that the ingredients themselves are inconsistent–no two jalapeños are alike, and it’s important to be prepared to handle the differences.

Even with baking, I follow the same ideas. I started out using recipes as a crutch, but I grew to trust my senses. All sorts of things–humidity, age of the yeast or flour, temperature of each ingredient and of the air–influence the dough, and it is more important to look at the dough itself than to look at a dead page with dead script on it. So now recipes are starting points, style guides. And the pictures help keep me in tune with what things should look like. Good descriptions help fill in my senses and build my expectations.

So with that in mind, I took a ton of pictures of the process and I’ll try to be detailed in all my sensory descriptions.

It wasn’t the right season, but I’m consistently out of town for Mardi Gras, so we made a King Cake anyway last time we visited.

We’re not big on excessive food coloring or sugar, so the toppings are a bit different than what you’d normally see.
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For our version, there are actually two recipes. One for the filling (which we also used as an icing) and one for the dough. Our filling is a basic fluffy-almost-cream-cheese, but you can use anything you like. The filling was whipped up too fast for me to get a good picture, so here’s the recipe:

2 cream cheeses
1 tub of mascarpone (8oz)
1 cup confectioners sugar
tap of vanilla

Mix these all together in a bowl until smooth.
Resist the temptation to eat it all while making everything else.

But as for the dough, that’ll be a bit more interesting.

Assemble the following:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
2 packages of yeast (or 4.5 teaspoons)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
5 1/2 cups flour (we used bread flour, cake flour would be nice too)
1 1/2 tsp salt

your selection of toppings/extra filling (we used a mix of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries)

To start, we’re going to need to scald the milk.

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To do this, just heat the milk up on medium high. Keep an eye on it, because you don’t want it to boil, scalding is just before that. Stir it if you like, but it will slow down the process. When the milk starts to froth at the edges, you’ve reached the right point.

Take the milk off the stove, and pour it in your mixing bowl. Add your butter and allow to melt. Now that the pressure’s off of watching the milk, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375.

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Yeast is alive, and you don’t want to kill it. If you put it in the butter + milk too soon, you could murder it with heat. So let that cool until it’s cold enough that you would comfortably touch it, then add the yeast, sugar, water and eggs.

Lightly mix it. You don’t want to froth it up, but you want the ingredients to be equally incorporated. Top it off with the nutmeg.

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Then, add the flour slowly, about a cup at a time. Tap it into the mixer while it’s running, and add more once what was in there has blended in. Your dough will end up somewhat sticky, but not soupy. It’ll stick to your fingers, but that’s totally fine.

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This recipe makes three king cakes, but we only made two last time and that worked out well. You can play with this to see how many cakes you want and how thick they’re going to be. Once we grabbed as much dough as we wanted to use, we then separated it into two pieces. After the rolling and the filling, each piece will be a half circle for the whole cake.

Before rolling it out, prep the countertop and the rolling pin with more flour. Sprinkle liberally, but try not to have clumps.

As you roll it, if there are spots where the dough sticks to the rolling pin, just sprinkle more flour on. You’ll notice that it becomes easier to handle the dough once you start working it like this.

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Aim for a crust that is rectangular instead of square or circular, and make it around 1/4-1/2 inch thick. We’re going to roll it into a tube, and then make it a circle from there. But before that!
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Slap down some of the cream cheese filling and sprinkle your favorite things inside. We used mixed berries, but it works really well with any type of fruit, flavored cream cheese fillings, or even chopped up candy bars.

With your hands (not the rolling pin!), roll these flat doughs into tubes.

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You can see both of ours in the picture, back in the background is the second one. Once they’re both ready, curl one into a half-circle and make room to bring the other half over.

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We overlapped the dough a little to help seal the halves together.

Once the oven was ready, we popped it in, covered with high quality butter, and bake for 30 minutes. The butter isn’t strictly necessary, but it gives it a beautiful GBD color and texture.

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When the cake is done, let it cool on a cake rack until cool to the touch. If you try to ice it while it is still hot, the icing won’t set and will melt down the sides. We used the leftover filling for the icing, but you could definitely use something like a royal icing or a buttercream, or your favorite type of other-icing.

We sprinkled on the leftover fruit to finish it off, then chowed down.

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It was great as a dessert, but if you can manage, I recommend saving at least a little. It tastes great chilled (and I love the texture of the filling both hot and cold, so it’s good to try it both ways).

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Lemon Ice Cream

I’ve been in a citrus kind of mood these days, it seems. It’s hard to escape in the summer through–tart can be so refreshing in this heat. This recipe definitely delivers on tart and refreshing. It’s probably the most sour thing I enjoy.

As far as ice cream recipes go, this one is a bit different from what I’m used to. What first struck me was that it is an ice cream–so there’s dairy in it–as opposed to a lemon sorbet. Seemed like it’d be an interesting texture to try out, and I wasn’t disappointed. With the cooking and the chilling, this ends up being a two day recipe, but it’s worth the wait.

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Start by mixing the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and lemon zest. Fancy zesters make this a lot prettier than cutting flakes off with your knife, but the most important thing is to make sure they’re sizes that you don’t mind eating. Once the sugar has melted and the mixture has had a chance to steep off the heat, put it back on the heat and bring to a simmer. While that’s going, separate the eggs and beat the yolks in a separate bowl. To help temper the process, don’t add the eggs to the mix, instead, slowly incorporate some of the hot mixture into the yolks, tablespoons at a time. Once it’s to temperature, add the egg mix back into the pot and let it all cook for about 10 more minutes. Now comes the patience: cool, cover and chill overnight.

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On the morrow, add the lemon juice to the mix. Once it’s ready, behold the wonder of an ice cream machine at work while you anticipate the creamy tang of the ice cream you wish you were already eating.

It came out of my machine too soft, so I had to freeze it for a few hours before I could really enjoy it, but that extra wait was worth it. If you’re interested in exploring toppings or mix-ins, I highly recommend considering crumbled madeleines.

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Lemon Ice Cream (this is for a 2 quart ice cream maker)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup and 1 tbs sugar

1 – 3 lemons’ worth of zest

2 1/2 egg yolks (you can do it!)

1/4 cup and 2 tbs lemon juice

  1. In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar, and zest, let simmer over low heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove lid and bring mixture to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks in a separate bowl.
  4. Very slowly, ie tablespoons at a time, add some of the warm mixture to the eggs. This is to temper the eggs while avoiding cooking them.
  5. Once tempered, add egg mix into saucepan. Stir and cook over low heat until mixture thickens, about 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight in a covered container.
  7. THE NEXT DAY: add the lemon juice to the mixture and stir, then pour into ice cream maker as per it’s instructions.
  8. Either eat and enjoy right away, or freeze for a little to enjoy slightly later.

 

Avocado Ice Cream

I’d been wanting to make this for so long, and one glorious day, avocados were on sale.

 

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And with Texas summer, ice cream couldn’t be denied. So I finally tried it out. There are a couple variations out there, so it took me a while to decide how to go for it. In the end, something close to plain avocado won out. I figured, it’d be the best way to help me experiment more, since that way, I’d end up leaving an open door for more ice cream. There should definitely be more ice cream this summer. I need to make that ice cream maker sing!

The ingredients were pretty basic:

3 large Avocados
1.5 cup Milk
.5 cup Sugar
1 cup Cream
1-2 Juiced Limes

Since I don’t have a blender or food processor, I relied on a potato masher to “purée” the avocados. Despite a few small chunks, I was happy with the results.

 

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I was a little nervous about mixing the lime and the dairy, but incorporating the lime in thoroughly before adding the milk avoided any issues. A pretty heavy duty whisk will help with the mixing, if you get tired of using the potato masher. Stir it all up, chill according to your ice cream maker’s instructions (about 4 hours), then mix!

 

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This one’s pretty basic, in that you can swap things our pretty easily from this recipe and make something very different. I’ve got a couple more ideas this summer that’ll be even more interesting.

 

Avocado Ice Cream:

1. Mush avocados in a big enough bowl to hold all the ingredients.

2. Squeeze 2lbs lime juice into the avocados.

3.  Mix thoroughly!

4. Add milk, sugar and cream.

5. Mix even more!

6. Chill for 4 hours

7. Make with your ice cream maker.

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.

How to Fill Hard Candy

You can’t make the “remember those strawberry candies that are hard on the outside then have that awesome strawberry stuff in the middle” without filling some hard candy. Over all it’s not too hard, but it does take a while. Luckily it’s really passive, though.

For this specific example, I used our honey hard candy and http://imakefood.net/2010/10/candided-jalapenos-and-strawberries/.

And to fill hard candy, you pretty much just need to make your first batch the same way as in the honey hard candy article and fill the molds halfway.

We had the mold sitting in ice so that it would cool faster, but that’s optional. If there’s any candy leftover in the pan, try to keep it warm (on 1 or 2) until you’re ready to bring it to temp again.

When the candy’s hard, fill it with whatever you want. In our case, candied strawberries. It was kind of tough, so what we ended up doing was gathering an amount of strawberry then plopping it in the candy shell. Sometimes it was too big, but most of the time it wasn’t. But since this was a first-time experience, we didn’t fret.

Once that was settled, we reheated the leftover candy (which then burned, so we made another, smaller batch) and poured on the bottoms.

It was so incredibly tasty. You have no idea.

Candided Jalapenos (and strawberries)

For some reason, the jalapenos turned out much prettier than the strawberries. Both tasted good, it’s just that it’s weird when your fruit looks like beached jellyfish. That’s not to say that the strawberries were a complete failure, though; they made a great filling for a candy that I’m going to talk about later on. But the weirdest thing about then wasn’t how they looked but how they tasted. Once you make candied fruit you understand why fruit candies don’t taste like fruit–they’re the concentrated super sweet version of fruit.

To candy fruit all you need is
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Fruit
2 hours

To start, slice the fruit. No so thin that they fall apart, but nice and bite-sized thin.


Then combine the water and sugar in a saucepan then heat and stir until the sugar’s dissolved. Once that’s ready, toss in the fruit and let it simmer for two hours.

They syrup would be good to use for other candies or for pancakes, so if you have the means, strain the fruit and keep the syrup in an old pasta sauce jar or something.

When the fruit’s strained, let it sit in the open air to dry a little.

(See I told you they look like jellyfish. But they taste super good.)

You also want to stop them from touching, if possible, that way they don’t make clumps.

Once they’ve dried for a while, you’re done!

Personally, I like candied jalapenos, but they are super spicy. We boiled them along side habaneros which only made things hotter. But if you like spicy treats or Mexican candies you might really like this. But if you’re afraid, this is the same technique to make other candied fruits. Lemons and oranges taste really good when made this way, and you can even eat the peel!

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.

Grandma’s Peach Cobbler

Now this one’s kind of a family recipe, but I’ll tell you about it just because it’s so tasty. I’m pretty sure Grandma won’t mind. Most of the time when we make this, we use blueberries and garnish it with globes of vanilla ice cream, but with the over abundance of peaches, it seemed natural to try it out with those.

We used:
1 stick butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups mashed peaches
3/4-1 cup water
About 1 tbs lemon juice

It’s a pretty simple recipe to throw together and make. Plus it’s so tasty, everyone will be happy to eat it. And because it doesn’t take too long to put together, preheat the oven to 350.

Once you chop up the peaches, sprinkle on the lemon juice.

That helps the peaches preserve their color and the acidity breaks them down so they’re sweeter, juicer, and just overall more delicious.

Then combine all the dry ingredients (the flour and sugar) while melting the butter in the baking pan.

Then pour the dry mix and milk into the buttered pan and add the peaches on top.

Before it goes in the oven, pour some water on over the top. When that’s done, let it bake for about 45 minutes, until it browns on top, then serve as soon as you can with scoops of ice cream.

Be careful not to have too many people over when you make this–some people might be left wanting.

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!