With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sweet Cherry Sorbet

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been on somewhat of an ice cream bender lately... now that I've finally conquered using my ice cream machine.  However, at heart, I will always be a water ice girl.

Water ice is a local phenomenon to the Philadelphia area and one of the reasons I doubt I could ever move that far away.

(If you're thinking of the Italian ice that you get in a cup and have to scrape with a spoon - that is not the water ice I'm talking about.  That is actually one of my least favorite things in the world and when it grade school they would try to pass it off as water ice it was one of the most disappointing moments.  Oh the things that infuriated 7 year old me.)

As I learned while traveling to Canada this summer, if you haven't ever tried water ice before, it's truly hard to explain.  So I'll save my breath here and go on with my story, and hope by the end you begin to understand.

For me, when it comes to water ice, there is nothing better than Rita's.

This is the place where I spent literally almost every summer night with my family and friends, eating a water ice on the stoop and savoring every bite.  I even worked at my Rita's for 3 years, and when people warned me it would ruin it for me, it did the opposite - only making me fall in love with water ice even more.

Working at Rita's however, did make me a tad more of a Rita's snob, being able to taste water ice as soon as it was freshly made and taken off the machine minutes before I would put some in a cup for myself.  

Since I don't work at Rita's anymore, I haven't had this experience in a long long time.  Too long.

...then, fate stepped in.

When properly frozen, this sorbet has the consistency of a sherbet and is at least somewhat firm, but right out of the ice cream maker, it was pretty much spot on to my memory of fresh water ice right out of the batch machine.

I think I actually swooned when I stuck a spoon in and tasted the results.  This is by far one of the best tasting things I have come across in a long long while.  Don't get me wrong, when shoved in the freezer for a few hours it was still divine, but being the water ice fiend that I am, right off the ice cream machine was the perfect way to serve this for me.

Either way, whether you're a water ice lover or not, this is definitely a recipe that is worth a try.  While sweet cherries are still in season and plentiful, get it while the going is good.  

And if you are one of those people that live in an area where you can't get real water ice in the summer (first of all I'm so so sorry), give this a shot and experience a bliss that's as close as you're going to get to the real thing.

I die.


Sweet Cherry Sorbet
Servings: About 1 Quart

2 lbs fresh sweet cherries (I used Bing and they were delicious)
1 cup water
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp almond extract

Stem and pit cherries.  In a medium saucepan warm the cherries, water, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat until cherries begin to release juice.  Cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cherries are very soft.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Puree the cherries and the liquid with the almond extract in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Chill in a bowl in the refrigerator overnight and the next day freezer in a ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.  Eat straight from the ice cream machine or transfer to an air-tight container and store in the freezer for a few hours before serving.  If storing in the freezer make sure to take out at least 5 minutes before serving to let soften slightly.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Friday, August 19, 2011

4 Ingredient Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream

I have a confession to make.

We're among friends here.  I can do that right?  You'll still love me.

... For the past year (year!) I have been afraid to make ice cream....

Ok. Ok.  I know it's not the most personal or revolutionary confession to ever flash before your eyes, but it still factors in to how this all played out.

Usually when it comes to trying new things in the kitchen I'm relatively fearless, the worst I figure, is that it won't work out.. I'll pick myself up and try something else.  

But last summer me and homemade ice cream, we just didn't see eye to eye.  I decided to go out and treat myself to a very expensive ice cream machine from a very well known cooking store (which I completely love but will cost you a pretty penny just looking inside) and I was so thrilled to try it out.

Needless to say after following a recipe for chocolate ice cream "to a t" all I was left with was a soupy mess.  I was defeated.

When I went back to said store above (defeated), it turned out my machine was defective.  Even still, after returning it (and getting a much less expensive maker instead at a store that starts with a W and ends in MART), I just couldn't bring myself to try again.  I knew if it ended in a soupy mess for a second time, I wouldn't want to try and tackle homemade ice cream anymore.

So there my ice cream maker sat, untouched, for a year (a year!).

And then this summer happened.

Somehow over the course of the last three months, ice cream and I, well we've started a love affair.

Now I didn't see this coming.  Not by a long shot.  I have always been (and will always be at heart) a water ice girl.  But somewhere in between, ice cream has won my affection as well.

I found the greatest little organic local ice cream shop with gourmet flavors like "tahitian vanilla" and "sambuca cream" and before I knew it, for dessert, ice cream was my only option.

A few weeks into the affair, I could just hear the ice cream maker calling me from the back shelf, beckoning me to try again.


When my (much less expensive) new ice cream machine churned out beautiful ice cream on the very first try, I knew there was no looking back.  This is by far the richest, creamiest, most sinful ice cream I have ever eaten in my entire life.

And it was so simple to make.  4 ingredients is all it takes to bring you to ice cream induced bliss.  The portion size I've shown was literally all I could eat in one sitting - that's how rich it was.  I was blown away and now that I have had such success with my ice cream maker, I can truly encourage you to think about one for your own home.

If you go the right place (starts in W ends in MART) you can find one on the cheap, and I promise you, you will never want to go back to the stuff in the carton again.  This literally blows it out of the water.

My affair with ice cream doesn't seem to be dwindling anytime in the near future, so you can expect many more frozen treats from me.  But for now, a container of this in my freezer is much more than enough.

One word. Yum.


4 Ingredient Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream
Servings: 3 Cups

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 Tbsp dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's special dark)
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen - though I highly recommend fresh)

Whisk together cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan.  Heat (whisking constantly) until it comes to a full rolling boil.  Remove from heat and add raspberries.  Cover and let stand 10-15 minutes.  Puree the mixture in a blender or a food processor until smooth.  Press mixture through a mesh sieve into a bowl.  Chill the mixture in the refrigerator over night.  The next day freeze in an ice cream mixture according the manufacturer's instructions.  (Mine took 15-20 minutes in a pre-frozen bowl).  Don't forget to transfer to an air tight container after done on the machine and store in the freezer for an additional hour or to for optimal texture.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Friday, August 12, 2011

Roasted Cherry Fudge Brownies

Today is my first day home from the great north!  Toronto Canada that is!

This was the second time this summer I was fortunate enough to venture to Toronto and each time was beyond incredible.  I'd never really heard anyone sing the praises of Toronto, but after visiting twice I must say.. I'm still as in love as when I got off the bus the first time.  It really is a fantastic city with so much to offer.

But before I went I invested in possibly 6-7 lbs of cherries.  (This is just a guesstimate.  It's probably closer to 13.)  As a child I was under the impression that I didn't like cherries.  The culprit to this, I believe, was the maraschino cherry, which I'm still not overly impressed by.  But this summer when I realized fresh cherries are completely out of this world delicious, I went a little crazy about them.

These brownies are SUPER fudgy, like the most fudgy brownies I've ever eaten in my whole life.  At my first bite I was a little deterred by this, but by the end of the day I had eaten quite a few, so the verdict stands that even though they are very rich they are oh so good.

Especially when you get a big bite of cherry.  That alongside of the fudge like chocolate melting in your mouth was apparently too much for me to take and I swiftly packaged these babies up and shipped them to a neighbor, to save myself and my jean size from being progressively larger in the morning.

Even the roasted cherries by themselves are absolutely divine,  I plan on topping vanilla bean ice cream, angel food cake, and countless other things with them in the future (or at least as long as I can still get them fresh!).

So while cherry season is still here make these.... while I go figure out what to do with the other 11 lbs of cherries still sitting in my fridge, just waiting.  All I know is, it's going to be good.

Roasted Cherry Fudge Brownies
Servings 15-20

2 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
11/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 Tbsp dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's special dark!)
3 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss halved cherries and 2 Tbsp sugar in a small bowl.  Spread in an even layer on a small roasting pan and bake 8-10 minutes (stirring once halfway through) until cherries begin to release juices.  Place in a small bowl and set aside.

Bring oven temperature down to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x9 in baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with baking spray.  In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water melt the butter and chocolate (stirring occasionally) until smooth.  When melted take off heat and whisk in sifted cocoa powder until smooth.  Whisk in remaining sugar.  Whisk in eggs one at a time and finally whisk in vanilla.  Switch to a spoon and stir in sifted flour and salt.  Fold in chopped cherries.  Spread in prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Bake 33-35 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out with only small crumbs).  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely (place in freezer if you're in a rush.  Lift tinfoil off of pan and peel off of brownies.  Cut brownies into 15-20 squares.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake

Now before you shake your head in disgust and click away, don't be fooled.  This cute confection is actually just chocolate cake with buttercream icing!

I love faux savory confections - desserts that look like one thing but are actually a sweet surprise instead.  And for me, the more realistic, the better.  By the time I was finished making this cake I was positively giddy.

And it's so so easy to do!

So many people are under the impression that they are not able to make homemade cakes or icing and just automatically reach for the canned and boxed stuff instead.  Now I have no aversion to boxed cake mixes (when doctored a tad I think they actually taste great!) but store-bought vanilla buttercream in a can just isn't my favorite, flavor wise.

And truth be told I find whipping up this chocolate cake and simple buttercream just as easy (if not easier) then going with the pre-made stuff.  So I urge you to give it a try for yourself.  The flavor is just incredible and you won't even break a sweat doing it.

You obviously can tweak the recipe I have come up with to suit your own needs and with what you have on hand, but for me, this version reigns supreme.  My favorite way to serve it is with a thin layer of strawberry jam between the layers.  The moist chocolate cake and the not overly sweet buttercream with just a hint of fruitiness can't be beat.

So jump off the ledge and try a homemade cake with homemade buttercream.  You most likely have all the ingredients on hand and you may find you'll never go back as well. 

Enjoy :)

Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake
(One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Basic Vanilla Buttercream)
Servings: 10-12

(This recipe is for two 6" pans.  For a larger cake baked in two 9" pans.  Double the recipe.  Be sure to also adjust the buttercream recipe as well.  This recipe can also be used to make approx. 12 cupcakes.)


For Cake:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup and 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use hershey's special dark!)
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp espresso powder (not instant coffee)
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup very hot water

For Buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar
dash of pure vanilla extract
few dashes of milk

Other Ingredients:
Seedless strawberry jam
brown food paste food coloring
yellow gel paste food coloring

For cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 6" baking pans very thoroughly with baking spray.  Sift all dry ingredients (flour to salt) in a medium bowl and whisk briefly to combine.  Add egg, milk, oil, vanilla, and sour cream and beat with an electric mixer on low-medium speed until combined.  Stir in very very hot water last.  Split batter between both pans evenly.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cakes cool 15 minutes on cooling rack and then turn out and cool completely.

To make buttercream soft powdered sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat with butter until creamy.  Add vanilla and milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, beating until just combine.  (If icing is too stiff - add a tad more milk until desired consistency is reached.  If too thin - add a tad more powdered sugar.)

Reserve a small portion of the buttercream and color with dash of brown food coloring.  Color 1/3 of the remaining buttercream with yellow food coloring.

To assemble cake, cut small portion of the top of each cake to level.  Place all cake scraps in a clean bowl.  (Save for later)  Place one layer of cake on a cake stand.  Spread small layer of seedless strawberry jam on layer.  Top with second layer of cake (cut side down).  Take remaining cake scraps and mix with brown colored icing.  Shape with hands into 2-3 "meatballs".  Place cake and "meatballs in freezer for 20 minutes to firm up for icing.  

When cake has firmed spread with white buttercream, using an offset spatula to smooth if desired.  Place yellow icing in a piping bag or plastic bag and snip small corner off.  Squiggle the yellow icing all over the cake in one big pile to resemble spaghetti.  Top with meatballs.

For spaghetti sauce microwave some strawberry jam for 5-10 seconds on high and stir.  Drizzle over meatballs and spaghetti to resemble sauce.

Serve and enjoy.

Recipe idea adapted from: Food Network Magazine
Chocolate cake adapted from: All Recipes
Basic Buttercream adapted from: Food Network