Monday, August 22, 2011

lavender honey ice cream

I've been wanting to make lavender ice cream for a while now, but I was never able to find edible lavender at any stores.  Until... we were recently on a road trip in Oregon, and we found a beautiful lavender farm!

We met Deborah, owner of the Applegate Valley Lavender Farm, who was kind enough to let us take a look even though they weren't open for tours that day!  She showed us around, explained the different types of lavender and how to grow and take care of them, and let us pick a huge bunch for only $5!  We talked about baking with lavender, bought a variety of lavender products, and took some pictures at the lovely farm.

I excitedly brought my lavender home from the trip, and dried the flowers according to Deborah's instructions - tied in bunches and hung upside down in a dark room (to preserve the vivid color of the lavender).  After they had dried for a week or so, I hand-plucked all the buds from the stems, and stored them in glass jars.

And then, I could finally make lavender ice cream!  Once again I used a recipe from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop".  The recipe calls for infusing lavender into honey for an hour or so, then adding that (strained) honey to the ice cream base.  It also called for adding more lavender into the custard at this point and letting that infuse in the fridge before churning, but when I tasted it at this point I thought it already had enough lavender flavor, so I skipped that last step.

I loved the resulting ice cream - it was creamy, refreshing, and reminded me of being at the spa.  My husband, on the other hand, commented that the ice cream reminded him of soap!  Oh well, that just means there's more for me! :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

s'mores cupcakes

This post is long overdue!  Way back in June, we went on a family camping trip with my friend Reggie and her friend Showshan.  I wanted to make something for dessert, and since s'mores are the ultimate camping dessert, I made s'mores cupcakes!  I've actually wanted to make these cupcakes for some time now, after seeing these s'mores cupcakes from Xiaolu at 6 Bittersweets.  But I never had an occasion until now.

Since Reggie's daughter is allergic to dairy, I changed the recipe slightly.  At the bottom of the cupcake was a graham cracker crust, which I made with oil instead of butter.  Then came a moist chocolate cake, with which I substituted soymilk instead of milk.

Then it was all topped with a marshmallow frosting.  The original recipe called for a frosting made with whipped uncooked egg whites, but since I knew we'd be camping and didn't want to have to worry about keeping the cupcakes cool, I made this homemade marshmallow frosting instead.  All it contained was water, gelatin, and sugar - and it tasted exactly like marshmallows!

Once the marshmallow frosting was whipped to the right consistency, I piped it on as fast as I could before it cooled and set.  By the time I piped the last few cupcakes, the marshmallow frosting had become so difficult to pipe, it was like squeezing a giant solid marshmallow through the piping tip!

The final touch was toasting the marshmallow frosting with my creme brulee torch.  I wanted the frosting to be like freshly toasted marshmallows while we were camping, so I even brought my torch along to the campsite! Hope everyone enjoyed them!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

bridal shower cookies

Two years ago, I made these "H" and "M" cookies (in the picture below) as favors for my friend Helen's bridal shower - "H" for Helen, and "M" for her husband Mike.  

I decorated them with yellow and navy royal icing to match the color scheme of their wedding.  Then I wrapped them in cellophane bags, and tied them with raffia and a custom favor tag.

Helen liked the cookies so much that she asked me to make them again for her out-of-town wedding guests and wedding party - she was putting together a welcome package for all of them and wanted to include these cookies.  So I made the cookies again for her out-of-town wedding guests, and slipper (flip-flop) cookies for her wedding party.

Recently, Helen asked me to make cookies again, this time for a bridal shower she was planning for her friend Irene.  She initially wanted "I" and "I" cookies (for Irene and Ivan), but after I saw their wedding website, which had a floral theme, I sent Helen a picture of my flower cookies which I had just made for a friend's daughter's birthday party.  We decided that I would do half of them flower cookies, and half of them "I" cookies, in the bride's color scheme of vintage pink, cream, and yellow.

When the time came to make the cookies, I got out my alphabet cookie cutter set and searched for the "I".  To my dismay, it was not the kind of "I" that had top and bottom lines - instead it just looked like a long, skinny rectangle!  I immediately asked my husband if he could make me a custom "I" cookie cutter.  Lucky for me, he made it (out of a soda can) that same hour!  (Thanks hubby!  You're the best!)

After I finally baked the cookies, I decorated them with pink and cream royal icing, and added my accents - yellow centers for the flowers, and tiny yellow hearts on each "I".

I hope Helen and everyone at the bridal shower liked the cookies!  Congratulations Irene and Ivan!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

blueberry ice cream

A few things inspired me to make blueberry ice cream this summer.  First, lately my daughter just LOVES blueberries.  Second, my husband's parents were in town visiting from Hawaii, and while they were here they would often go to Trader Joe's and buy giant boxes of blueberries for my kids to eat.  And finally, it's summer, and I've been on an ice-cream making kick!

I found a recipe for raspberry ice cream in my copy of David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop", so I used that recipe and substituted blueberries instead.

The color of the ice cream came out beautiful.  And although I enjoyed the flecks of fresh blueberries in it, next time I think I'll try cooking the blueberries down first, to see if I can make a more concentrated blueberry flavor.

Happy Summer!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

fresh strawberry fruit tart

I have always wanted to make a fruit tart.  The kind that has a thick layer of pastry cream, with fresh fruit arranged beautifully on top.  I finally had a chance to make one while my cousin Angie was in town a few weeks ago.  On the second night of her visit we invited my mom, my other cousin Yvonne and her fiance Marvin to come over for dinner.  Mom cooked up a variety of delicious Chinese dishes, and I made dessert.

I've seen a few recipes that call for a layer of melted chocolate in between the pie crust and the pastry cream, to keep the crust from getting soggy, so I decided to try it.  First, I blind baked my pie crust, using my favorite all-butter recipe.  Then after it cooled, I spread on a thin layer of melted dark chocolate.  While that set in the fridge, I prepared a batch of pastry cream (I used the recipe from my bostom cream pie birthday cake) and also let it cool in the fridge.

After the pastry cream cooled, I spread it into the tart, then put the whole tart back in the fridge to set once more.  Finally, I sliced up some fresh strawberries, and arranged them in a nice pattern on top of the tart.

When we finally cut into the tart for dessert, I realized that the melted (hardened) chocolate made it very difficult to cut into - both with the knife, and when eating it with a fork.  So although I loved the taste of the chocolate in the tart, next time I'll probably leave it out.

Can't wait to make another tart!  Next time I'll use a varity of berries!