Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lesson #154: Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Berry Swirl

This ice cream tastes like a spoonful of summer! I absolutely fell in love with the idea of corn ice cream last year, but I didn't have a chance to make it during prime corn season. I haven't made homemade ice cream in at least 2 months (we have TWO season ice cream stores within walking distance of our house.....and yes, they pretty much know us since we visit often!) and yesterday I was in the mood to make ice cream.

Fresh super sweet corn is infused into the ice cream base and then swirled with a sauce made from raspberries and blackberries once it's frozen. I really enjoyed the sweet flavor of the corn mixed with the tangy bite of the berry sauce. It may sound weird to put corn into ice cream, but if you are adventurous, I would give this recipe a shot.

LESSON LEARNED: Fresh corn is good in desserts too!

Recipe for Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Berry Swirl

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lesson #153: German Chocolate Cupcakes

A little over a week ago I made these multiple component cupcakes for my grandpa's birthday. As long as I can remember, German Chocolate cake is one of his favorite desserts. I was excited to make these because I have never made German Chocolate cake from scratch before. Sure, I have opened up a cake mix box and canned frosting, but I wanted to see if I could make it completely homemade. I believe the last time I tried was about 10 years ago as an entry for the county fair. If I remember correctly, my recipe did not work out well and I ended up scraping the project and using a boxed cake mix........

Well, this time I was successful! The cake was extra light and fluffy due to whipping egg white and folding them into the batter. BTW, this makes the raw cake batter INCREDIBLY silky and makes you want to eat spoonfuls of it! I guess that's the benefit of cooking by yourself, you can do things like this with absolutely no shame. :)

The filling is a cooked custard with toasted pecans and coconut. Piped along the side is a dark chocolate ganache. It was around 95 degrees the day I made these, so they started to get a little soft from the heat. I ended up placing some cupcakes in 1/2 pint jam jars (the same jars I used for these desserts). It worked perfectly!

LESSON LEARNED: I froze some of these cupcakes (assembled with frosting) after I made these so the filling/frosting wouldn't melt. They were just as good to eat when I pulled them out of the freezer.

Recipe for German Chocolate Cupcakes

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lesson #152: Award Winning Apple Pie

Last weekend I decided to enter an apple pie contest at our local county fair. I entered just for fun and decided to not take the contest too seriously. In fact, I tried a new apple pie recipe that I thought looked good in a magazine and decided to enter the pie regardless of how it turned out.

The crust was an all butter crust (8 oz. of REAL butter!) with a touch of salt and sugar. The filling contained 3 lbs of apples - a mixture of sweet and tart - along with a healthy amount of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. The top of the crust is brushed with egg and sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar which results in deep golden color after it bakes.

Since I was entering the pie in a contest, I couldn't cut into it, but I did taste some the filling which bubbled out and it had an amazing sweet and buttery apple flavor. I almost decided to eat it instead of entering it! Here's a picture I took after it came out of the oven. It looked good to me!

Justin and I dropped off the pie at the fair building and showed up about an hour later for judging. We found out there were 16 pies in the contest and we could watch the 3 judges test the pies. We settled into our seats and immediately started chatting with the ladies around us. As far as I could tell, I was by far the youngest person to enter a pie :)

By luck of the draw, my pie was the last in line to be judged. On one hand, I thought this could be bad because the judges would be too tired of eating pie by the time they got to mine. On the other hand, the judges might recall my pie better because it was at the end and not in the middle of the pack (called the recently effect for any psychology nerds!).

After an hour of judging, the winners were finally announced.....and I received 3rd place! Here's a picture of my pie being uncovered at the judging table and myself waiting with the 2nd place winner.

The lady who won 2nd place was very nice and we talked about how she entered a peach pie into the Ohio State Fair 30 years ago and won first place. She also told me that the secret to her pie was making a homemade crust and she made me promise to buy something for myself with my prize money! She was so sweet!

Another highlight of the day was getting interviewed by the local news station. My interview didn't make the air, but they did announce my name as a winner on the evening news. Woo hoo!

LESSON LEARNED: I need to make this pie again to actually taste a piece of it! :)

Recipe for Award Winning Apple Pie

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lesson #151: Soft White Bread

Last week I made this peach jam, so naturally I needed to make something to spread it on. I settled on this recipe for soft white bread which has been in my favorite recipes folder for a few years.

To help organize my recipes, I put them in plastic sleeves in a 3 ring binder. I only put recipes in the binder that I've tried and was impressed enough with the results to make it again. I love trying new recipes, so recipes have to meet a pretty high standard to make it into the book. Every once in a while, I re-make the recipes to make sure I still think they rock.

In terms of making homemade bread, this recipe is fairly easy to execute. You need a little time to wait around for the bread to rise, but the recipe isn't too temperamental and doesn't require a sponge or starter mixture. It's perfect for slicing, toasting, and spreading jam on top. It's also wonderful after a day or two for french toast. YUM!

LESSON LEARNED: Homemade bread is the perfect accompaniment for homemade jam!

Recipe for Soft White Bread

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lesson #150: Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodle cookies are one of the classic American cookies. I was thinking about entering these cookies in our local county fair in a few weeks, so I wanted to make a test batch. I made one of my favorite chewy sugar cookie doughs- which I love because it's slightly tangy with the addition of cream cheese- and generously rolled it in cinnamon and sugar. The result is a soft, chewy cinnamon/sugar cookie. I'll let you know if these are winners! :)

LESSON LEARNED: If you make these cookies on a hot & humid day, you may want to refrigerate the dough before you roll it into balls. When I made these cookies, I didn't have to refrigerate the dough, but it was starting to get sticky as I handled it.

Recipe for Snickerdoodle Cookies

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lesson #149: Vanilla Bean Peach Jam

A few weeks ago my in-laws were in town visiting from Atlanta. I knew that my mother-in-law is an avid canner, so I asked her if she would teach me how to can. I remember my grandma canning when I was growing up, but I had never canned anything myself. It turns out that the whole process isn't hard once you get everything set up!

This was the first recipe we made. It's a really simple recipe - just peaches, sugar, lemon, and vanilla bean. I think the hardest part of the recipe was peeling and cubed the peaches! So, it that doesn't sound hard to you, you could definitely make this jam. The end result is a lusciously thick peach jam with a hint of vanilla and lemon.

 LESSON LEARNED: If you don't want to can this jam, simply ladle it into jars, let it cool, and store it in the refrigerator.

Recipe for Vanilla Bean Peach Jam

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lesson #148: Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

I enjoy peanut butter cookies which are soft, chewy, and rolled in sugar. This is my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe that never fails. I would suggest baking a big batch and keeping them in the freezer for emergency cookie cravings. Yes, they are AMAZING straight from the freezer! :)

LESSON LEARNED: Chill the dough in the refrigerator before baking to keep the cookies from spreading too much as they bake.

Recipe for Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lesson #147: Raspberry Brownies

I made these gooey, raspberry brownies a few weeks ago to bring to my cousin's new house. As soon as she requested brownies, I knew exactly what I would make.

I haven't baked these brownies since my dissertation defense a few years ago -which made me a bit nostalgic. A few years into graduate school I started to have more time to bake and these were one of the few desserts I made time and time again. I used to bring treats to the lab for my undergraduate research assistants (it just occurred to me that I have a soft spot in my heart for feeding college students since I currently make treats for my classes too!).  

If you are in the mood for a combination of fruit and chocolate which will please a crowd, this may be a good recipe to try. Bittersweet chocolate brownie batter is layered between a mixture of seedless raspberry preserves and (my secret ingredient!) raspberry liqueur to create a gooey, fruity bite of chocolate goodness.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you bake these brownies until they are set. If you under-bake them, the raspberry filling doesn't set and they will be super messy (but equally delicious!) to cut.

Recipe for Raspberry Brownies
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