Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cherry Ice Cream Recipe

Two cherry ice cream recipes - one from the Batch family, one from me. I'm sitting here with my mouth stained red, and my fingers purple. My teeth, lips, fingernails, and cuticles all look like I've been hanging out in someone's berry patch. The tiny red splatters on my cheeks add a nice touch as well. I don't know what to say - It isn't everyday that you get a 5-pound box of the worlds most perfect Bing cherries delivered to your front door. Five pounds of perfect cherries, and not a bad one in the lot - I looked!

The cherries came from family-run Batch's Best Fruit in Manson, Washington and they are only available for a few short weeks each year. You may have read about these cherries in past issues of Saveur and Bon Appetit and I'm telling you - forget sending flowers or chocolates the next time you are in the dog house, send cherries. I laughed when Greg Batch told me he had a daughter named Ruby - of course he does.

The Batch orchard is located on a high bench in the hills above Lake Chelan, 350 miles from the nearest city. The elevation and the 55-mile long, 1500-foot deep lake create a unique micro-climate, and warm days and cool nights equal cherries that are crunchier and sweeter than most. Every single cherry is picked by hand from their small orchard of twelve acres. The cherries are very fragile so they have to be picked in a short time and handled gently. Freshly picked cherries are carefully placed in foam-lined buckets(!), and shipped later that same day. The harvest day starts at 5 a.m., when there is just enough light to see. Cherries are picked until around noon, because as the sun gets hotter, the cherries get softer....and well, that can be messy. Before packing, the Batch crew drenches the cherries in water from Lake Chelan and cools the cherries to 34 degrees. This quick chill - again, helps to keep the cherries desirably crisp and juicy. They are sorted, packed, boxed and shipped.

I received one of their last shipments of Bing's. The Lapins ship next week, and if you are quick, there is still time to get onboard with the Sweethearts (they will be taking orders until this Thursday, the 14th). These cherries have nothing in common with supermarket fruits that have been picked long before their prime - before the natural sweetness of the fruit has been allowed to develop. If you've only ever tasted is a mass market cherry, treat yourself to a box of these - it will change the way you think about these plump, little, red gems.

I asked Greg if there were any interesting factoids he could tell this city girl about growing cherries, eating cherries, or living a life amongst cherries. One funny thing he told me was that when it rains, they really worry. If cherries that are nearly ripe get too wet, water settles in the bowl around the stem. Too much water will cause them to split. To dry the trees after a rain - get this....they contract with a helicopter pilot who flies slowly over the orchard to dry the trees. Fortunately it doesn't rain too much in Eastern Washington, so it is good cherry-growing country.

The dreaded cherry stain is also no match for the Batch family, and they tipped me off to their secret stain-stripping ingredient. To get cherry stains out of cotton shirts, soak the stain in cold water, then wring out. Squeeze fresh lemon juice directly on it and let it sit for 30 minutes. Wash as usual.

While many people have robust farmer's markets in their communities, others don't. Even if you have a farmer's market or road-side farm stand(s) in your community you may not have the SELECTION of locally grown produce that you are after. Not everyone can get cherries locally. One of the coolest things about small growers utilizing the reach of the internet is it gives people the option to still buy beautiful, farm-direct produce even if they can't get say cherries, citrus, etc, farm-direct in their own communities.

So, what to do with 5 pounds of perfect cherries? We ate a pound, I took a pound to share with friends when I went out yesterday, I'm saving a pound (or so) for tomorrow when I will need them to lure people to the garage sale we are having. I used some of the remainder to make cherry ice cream. Coincidentally, Greg Batch and his family have also been busy making cherry ice cream up in Washington, and he was nice enough to share his family recipe with me as well. I'll include both recipes below.

If you want to win someone over big-time, or if you just want to treat yourself - it's not too late to place an cherry order. I'll let you know down the line when more of Batch's Best is available.

Batch Family Mountain Cherry Choconut Ice Cream

    1 1/2 cups sliced Bing, Lapin or Sweetheart cherries
    1 pint whipping cream
    1 pint half and half
    2 egg yolks (hs note: to eliminate risk of food poisoning from raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs product for this recipe)
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
    1/2 cup shaved dark chocolate (or to taste)

Whisk whipping cream, half and half, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add cherries and stir. Chill mixture for 30 minutes in freezer. Pour into ice cream maker canister. Run machine until mixture reaches milkshake consistency. Add almonds and chocolate and mix until they're incorporated. Continue running machine until ice cream reaches desired consistency.
My Basic Cherry Ice Cream

This ice-cream isn't overly sweet and is packed with big. juicy cherry chunks. It has a honey finish and tastes best the same day it is made.

    2 cups heavy cream
    1 cup whole milk
    1/4 cup honey (light flavored honey is best for this recipe)
    3/4 pounds Bing, Lapin, or Sweetheart cherries, pitted and torn into chunks
    3 tablespoons cherry liquor or cherry brandy or Amaretto

Place cream, milk, and honey in a medium saucepan. Stir to dissolve the honey. Heat over low to moderate heat, stirring from time to time, until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Be careful not to heat to a full-out boil.

Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the chopped cherries and liquor. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled. Don't skimp here or your ice-cream might not set up.

Stir the mixture again to blend and transfer it to an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions and eat the same day.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Quinoa Cloud Cookies Recipe

It's spring here. I know because I'm standing in my kitchen, looking out onto the porch, watching a robin gather bundles of dried grass (from a neglected planter) to use as bedding in her nest. I was feeling bad about the state of my patio garden, but this makes me feel a bit better. I'm watching the robin, the sun is out, and I have a batch of cloud-shaped cookies in the oven. Even better, I'm excited to finally put my hand-crafted cookie cutter from Herriott Grace to use.

  The inspiration for these cookies came from a quinoa shortbread recipe in a new cookbook focused exclusively on cooking with quinoa - Quinoa 365. Whitecap sent me a copy, rightly thinking I'd enjoy the ideas and recipes in it (the photography is quite nice as well). The quinoa shortbread recipe caught my attention, many people use rice flour in their shortbread to achieve a more crunchy shortbread texture, so making a shortbread with quinoa flour made sense to me. Both are gluten-free flours that crisp up nicely in certain preparations. So, although I made some pretty significant changes to my version of the cookies (mainly in relation to technique, measurements, ingredients I had on hand), they were certainly inspired by Patricia and Carolyn's version.
One of the things that makes these cookies great is toasting the flours ahead of time. It's one of those steps that takes a bit of time, but is well worth it. The resulting cookies are buttery, nutty, and rich. They are good after cooling and settling a bit, but best the next day (after sitting on the counter uncovered over-night). The flavor and texture seem to come together after spending the night together.

I think it may be obvious, but because of the shade of the quinoa flour and the flecks of chocolate shavings, these clouds are of the stormy variety. And, I know not many of you have cloud-shaped cookie cutters - you can certainly cut these into whatever shapes you like.

I know some people like to toast flours in the oven, but I find toasting them in a large skillet gives me more control, resulting in even browning, less occurrences of burning. Also, avoid big chunks of chocolate, it makes it hard to roll out the dough into uniform thickness.

    3/4 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g quinoa flour
    1 cup / 5 oz / 145 g all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
    1 cup / 8 oz / 225g unsalted butter, room temperature

    1 cup / 5 oz / 140 g sifted fine-grain natural cane sugar (or light brown sugar)
    1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g shaved chocolate
    3 tablespoons large-grain sugar flakes (or turbinado)

Combine the flours in your largest skillet over medium heat. Toast the flour stirring constantly, until they get slightly golden and fragrant. If the flour takes on an acrid smell you've likely gone too far, or the pan is too hot. Remove from heat, sift the flours into a bowl, add the salt, then place in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes or so to facilitate cooling.

Cream the butter either by hand or using an electric mixer. Add the sugar, then cream some more, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple times along the way. Stir in the flour until it is just incorporated, then stir in the chocolate shavings.

Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a 1/2-inch thick patty, wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill - roughly 45 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 350F / 180C, placing racks in the center. And line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper, and set aside.

After the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured counter-top 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes, sprinkle with the big sugar grains, and place at least 1 1/2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are nicely golden. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Makes 12+ large cloud cookies. Your yield will vary depending on your cutter shape.

Prep time: 60 min - Cook time: 15 min

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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sourdough Pizza Crust and two Toppings

I make pizza crust with sourdough. This recipe is for two pizzas, one with a pepperoni, bacon, cheese and garlic topping, the other with vegetables and cheeses. The toppings are just suggestions, I'm not even giving exact amounts of the ingredients. You can of course also follow some traditional pizza recipe or just make up your own.
Sourdough Crust

Pre-dough: 125g flour, 125ml water, 1 tbsp sourdough starter culture
470g flour
140ml water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
olive oil to coat the dough and oil the pans

Pepperoni, Bacon and Garlic Topping

half of a 6oz can tomato paste (ca. 85g)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dry white wine
1/8 tsp oregano
Pepperoni (amount to taste)
Plum Tomatoes, sliced (amount to taste)
Mushrooms, sliced (amount to taste)
Bacon, diced (amount to taste)
Mozzarella, sliced (amount to taste)
Onions, sliced (amount to taste)
Swiss (and/or other) cheese, grated (amount to taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Vegetables and Cheeses Topping

half of a 6oz can tomato paste (ca. 85g)
Red bell pepper(s), sliced (amount to taste)
Plum tomatoes, sliced (amount to taste)
Onion, sliced (amount to taste)
Mushrooms, sliced (amount to taste)
Garlic, thinly sliced (amount to taste)
Mozzarella, sliced (amount to taste)
Other cheeses, e.g. cubed feta, grated cheddar, grated swiss cheese or some blue cheese (amounts to taste)
A few basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Pizza Dough

Prepare the pre-dough a day in advance. Combine flour, water and sourdough starter culture in a mixing bowl, stir well and let stand overnight or until very bubbly.
Add flour, olive oil, salt and water.
Knead well, stretching the dough as much as possible, until dough is firm and elastic.
Form a ball, coat with olive oil and let rise until volume has about doubled.
In the meanwhile pre-heat oven as high as possible (mine goes to 550°F and takes quite a while to get there).
Cut the dough into two halves. Roll out or stretch out each half and put on a lightly oiled pizza pan. Let proof for another 5-10 minutes.

Pepperoni, Garlic and Bacon Pizza

Prepare garlic-tomato paste: In a small food processor blend together tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, white wine and oregano.
With a bench knife spread tomato paste on one of the pizzas. Add sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella, onions and cheese. Season with freshly ground pepper.
Bake until the crust turns golden brown (depending on the temperature of the oven, ca. 15-30 minutes).

Vegetable and Cheeses Pizza

With a bench knife spread garlic-tomato paste on one of the pizzas.
Add tomatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper, garlic and cheeses. Season with pepper and salt.
Bake until the crust turns golden brown (depending on the temperature of the oven, ca. 15-30 minutes) and the cheese has melted and starts to brown lightly.
Put the basil leaves on top. Serve.

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INDIAN COOKING: ladys finger-recipe

INDIAN COOKING: ladys finger-recipe

ladys finger-recipe

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