Monday, May 25, 2015

Dark Chocolate Sorbet

My husband has decided he can't tolerate lactose anymore, so ice cream is out for us.   Bummer!  I tried this recipe for dark Chocolate sorbet and it is fantastic.

Dark Chocolate Sorbet
makes about 3 cups sorbet.

1 c sugar
2/3 c Dutch-process cocoa
pinch of salt
2 t espresso powder for enhanced chocolate flavor
1 4 0z bar Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, broken up
2 1/4 cups water
1 t vanilla extract
2 T vodka, optional; for enhanced scoopability

Combine the sugar, cocoa, salt, espresso powder, chocolate chips, and water in a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the chips and sugar are dissolved.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and vodka. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; overnight is best. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions. It'll remain quite soft; freeze for several hours before serving, to firm up.  This recipe is based off ones from Ina Garten and David Liebovitz, I wonder if it's possible to make vanilla sorbet somehow?   This is delicious!  I could see making a thin mint version by using a few drops of mint extract.  Speaking of thin, a half cup of this sorbet is only 3 Weight Watchers points.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2016 Prom Cookies: Dark Chocolate Cutouts

My nest is almost empty.   Actually, I know this isn't really true, because as I have been told repeatedly by many and have read about the millennial generation, my nest won't really be empty for quite some time.    I guess it's more accurate to say my days of school parental involvement are almost over.   My son will be graduating from high school two weeks from last volunteer gig is only fitting; it will be my fifth and final time working the band uniform turn in at the high school after the Dexter Memorial Day Parade.   My last days as a prom volunteer are now complete.   I was a field chaperon at Michigan Stadium last night....
Eddie and Morgan
I also made cookies for this year's prom (theme: Masquerade).  My friends Lori and Julie helped me,  I wanted to try a dark chocolate cutout cookie recipe, since the prom colors were deep purple, silver and black.  

I found a Martha Stewart recipe that looked interesting, but way too big of a hassle with sifting, freezing of the dough, etc.  I decided to adapt it to make it easier.   

Dark Chocolate Cutouts
(makes about 2 dozen large 4 inch cutout cookies)

3 c all ­purpose flour
1 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 c confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together butter and sugar with a
mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Divide dough in half. Form each half into a disk, and wrap each in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until firm but still pliable, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4­inch thickness on
lightly floured parchment.  Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, rerolling scraps as needed.  Bake until
crisp, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating once Let cookies cool for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Making cookies like this is a 3 day affair: one day to bake, and two days to decorate with royal icing.  I used Wilton #4 tip for flooding and piping, and check out my post from last year's prom about the recipe and technique for royal icing.  

I really loved this recipe!  It went very well with my favorite cutout recipe for cream cheese cutouts (see last year's prom cookies recipe).   As usual, my friend Marcia did an excellent job with the dessert table....

So, this is probably my last prom volunteering gig, but I still have a graduation party to work on, so my baking days aren't quite over yet.  I had some leftover dough and icing that I have put in the freezer to see how it holds up.    Stay tuned!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Why Canning?

My moment of Zen: Pear Vanilla Jam

In these very busy times, people often ask me how I possibly have time to preserve food and the answer is simple…I make time to do it.   I have a 50+ hour week job and a husband and kids, but I take the time to preserve food every year.  Why?  First of all, canning provides me the opportunity to slow down and spend some time with family and friends.    There is no “hurrying up” the process; the time it takes is what it takes.  No shortcuts, except that many hands make the work light.   To borrow the old phrase about “making hay while the sun shines”, Mother  Nature waits for no one.    When the strawberries are ripe, you’ve got a short window to make jam.   No putting it off for a few weeks.   I can remember coming home from a long work week and spending a stormy Friday night with my friend Ellen putting up peaches and drinking wine.   Best happy hour ever!  

Preserving food grown locally requires me to make a connection with a farmer.    I have my favorite farmer’s phone numbers programmed into my phone  so a quick text is all that’s required to know whether there’s a bushel of tomatoes waiting for me to make into salsa.    The foods I preserve must be better (and often cheaper!) than what I can buy in the grocery store.    A jar of my homemade salsa is way more delicious, and costs about half, of anything you can get on the shelf.     But the most important reason why I preserve food is that when I open that jar months later, I have the memory of making it.   Currently, the jar of pear vanilla jam shown above is sitting on my desk at work, getting ready to be added to some yogurt and granola for my lunch.   But just seeing it reminds me of last fall, when I was deep in the process of making that pear vanilla jam.  

At first, I was going to pick some pears from my friend Liz’s tree, but by the time I got there, they were gone.  As usual, Mother  Nature had no time to wait for me.   Then, in late fall,  I drove out to the west side of the state to meet up with some friends and on the way back, I stopped at a farm stand in Michigan’s “Fruit Belt” to see what was left on the shelves.   Nothing but pumpkins and apples, but then I spied a bag of pears in the back!  YES! I got back and the pears languished in the fridge a few days.    I carved out some time to make the jam, adding some vanilla bean scrapings for good measure because I thought it sounded good.    The pear jam (along with other items from the canning pantry like red currant jelly and wild grape jam) were gifted to family and friends all through the holidays.   My daughter and her boyfriend came home from college for spring and had some for breakfast….they thought the label said “Pearl Jam”, which made them laugh.   They loved it so I sent them back to school with a jar.   And now a jar sits here with me in May in my office, reminding me to take some time to enjoy it, and plan what I am going to put up this summer.  

Here’s to the future!