stracciatella ice cream

This is the first batch of ice cream we’ve made this summer.  When the warmer weather rolls around, I always intend to make lots and lots of ice cream, but I somehow put off pulling out the ice cream maker. It’s really not such a big deal — retrieve box from the cellar, put the bowl in the freezer overnight, mix up the ice cream base and chill, then spin in the machine.  But as with many things, I manage to procrastinate… I’m not sure we made any ice cream last year.  Anyway, C. suggested we make some chocolate chip ice cream, so when we got home from our annual Cape vacation, I set the above process in motion.

The recipe is from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. The base is a French-style (i.e. using an cooked egg custard mixture) vanilla ice cream (see the recipe on David’s site here). Instead of using actual chocolate chips, which would have turned into hard little tooth-breaking rocks in the freezer, I made stracciatella or Italian-style chocolate chips by drizzling melted bittersweet chocolate over the ice cream at the end of the spinning process (scroll way down on this page to read how to make stracciatella) and then breaking up the chocolate bits as it cools and hardens. The tricky part is incorporating the hot melted chocolate into the just-spun and still very soft ice cream without rendering it all into a soupy mess. I found this really challenging (sometimes I really wish I had a couple more hands) and although there was a bit of melting, it refroze just fine.

I think this is the first time I’ve made a French-style ice cream outside of pastry school.  Before JWU, the idea of tempering a heated liquid into egg yolks would’ve petrified me, but now I’ve done it with such frequency that it doesn’t require much thought. The egg custard base produces a much smoother, creamier ice cream than the easier Philadelphia-style ice cream (which uses an uncooked base and doesn’t contain eggs). It is easily the best ice cream I’ve made at home thus far.

scenes from a busy fall trimester…

Here are just a few of the things I’ve baked the past few months. There’s so much more than I just didn’t have time or forgot to photograph — sorry.

Practicing Palmiers at home for my Classic Pastry practical back in October. I blame the cheap butter.

Some sort of chocolate chip bar cookie… not for school. I honestly can’t remember what they were or where the recipe came from.

Dutch Apple Galette, from first day of Pies and Tarts class.

Lattice Apple Pie, also from Pies and Tarts class.

Ungarnished but partially eaten Turtle Pie.

Chocolate Cream Pie — a big hit with the kids at Thanksgiving.

Lemon Curd Tartlets (my favorite) and Fruit Tartlets.

This is actually from the first day of Winter Trimester — Linzer Torte from Cookies and Petit Fours class.

on-the-fence brownies

Another in my quest for homemade brownie perfection (or “just like it came from a box” which is C.’s criteria for the perfect brownie). The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion features three different basic brownies — fudgy, cake, and this one — on-the-fence, for those who like something in between. I think they’re wonderful — nice rise like a cake brownie, but moist and fudgy too. And I love the extra boost of chocolatey goodness from the chocolate chips.

double chocolate chunks revisited

The last time I made these I ran out of confectioners’ sugar and wasn’t able to photograph them powdered as intended. I made these yesterday for an end-of-school-year party. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour and can be found here. Double Chocolate Chunks are soft and cakey, dotted with gooey chocolate chips. The espresso flavor really shines too. It’s rather hard to tell when they’re done since they are so dark and so soft… I’ve found that the best way is to taste one or two!

three-chip cookies

Happy National Chocolate Chip Day! Wait, you didn’t know it was Chocolate Chip Day? To be honest, neither did I, and I probably never would have known had I not been desperately scouring the Internet for a cookie recipe that would use up all the odds and ends I have in my pantry. And so it was fitting that I ended up with the Jumbo 3-Chip Cookies on Nestlé’s website.

I halved the recipe as I didn’t have enough of the various chips or nuts to make a full batch and also opted to make smaller cookies to make the half batch go farther. The cookies are of the classic Toll House cookie model — very thin, almost crisp, buttery — except with three different kinds of chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk and white chocolate). I have to confess that I think the charm is mostly in the name and the appearance of the cookies since I found it difficult to distinguish tastewise between the semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips, and the white chocolate flavor was completely overwhelmed by the other darker chips. One positive note: since I usually don’t add nuts to my chocolate chip cookies, I was pleasantly surprised by how nicely the hazelnuts I used complemented the other flavors. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to make these again, but they were just what I was looking for this afternoon.

a learning experience: double chocolate muffins

I’ve always been told that baking is a science and not an art (unlike other culinary endeavors). Proportions and chemistry are to be respected and not messed with. At the same time, some of the best bakers are the ones who push the envelope and experiment and tweak. The key is to remember that for every successful baking experiment, there are a hundred failures.

I recently checked out a handful of baking books from my local library, and once I got over my initial “I have to buy a copy of each of these books” impulse, I resolved that I would select and bake one recipe from each. My first selection was Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need: 201 Mouthwatering, Kid-Pleasing Treats by Laurie Goldrich Wolf and Pam Abrams, adapting the recipe as I saw fit. With that, my current streak of making unproblematic baked goods came to a screeching halt.

Here are some of the ways I changed the recipe and what I learned:

(1) The recipe calls for 1 1/2 sticks of butter (or 3/4 cup), which way exceeds my personal “acceptable use of butter in a 12-muffin recipe” policy, so I substituted unsweetened apple sauce for (I thought) a third of the butter. As it turns out, I actually added 4 oz. (1/2 cup) of apple sauce to the 4 oz. (1 stick or 1/2 cup) of butter rather than 2 oz. (1/4 cup), which resulted in an additional 1/4 cup of liquid. This caused problems later down the road (see (4) below).

(2) I also cut a 1/2 cup of the sugar, since I thought a ratio of 2 cups of sugar to 2 1/2 cups of flour was a bit excessive. The finished muffins were perfectly fine in the sweetness department.

(3) I did not squeeze out the shredded zucchini. The recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded zucchini (“about 4 medium zucchini”) ; my 2 cups came from only 1 1/2 medium zucchini. Even though the recipe did not suggest squeezing out the excess liquid, doing so would have compacted the zucchini (likely to the tune of 4 zukes). So I was off on that measurement.

(4) When I filled the muffin pan, I had way too much batter, which completely stymied me at the time. I had enough to fill the cups to almost full, and enough leftover from that to make 6 mini muffins. The reasons why? See (1) and (3) above.

(5) When the recipe says to fill the muffin pan cups about two-thirds full, it’s best to fill them just that full. Not more. If you have too much batter, grab another pan.

(6) I’ve been on a bit of a paper wrapper-free muffin kick and greased the muffin pan lightly. Unfortunately these muffins stuck like, well, something really sticky. In hindsight, this was likely due to the reduction in fat in my version.

(7) My finished muffin tops merged together so I had to cut them apart (ugliness ensued). Furthermore, the muffins stuck to their cups and I had to jimmy them loose (more ugliness) and all of them tore apart to some degree in the progress (an extra helping of ugliness).

(8) It seems the extra liquid in the batter made the crumb finer and more cakelike than muffinlike. This didn’t hurt the taste, but it helped if you closed your eyes when you ate them.

They are actually fine-tasting muffins, just not presentable to anyone you want to impress. Since I made them fully planning to share with friends and coworkers, this was a bit of a blow. Because now I have to eat them all myself.

Many-Mistakes Double-Chocolate Muffins
(with corrections)
adaptation of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
from The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need

301g unbleached all-purpose flour
40g natural cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. unsweetened apple sauce
3 large eggs
2 cups shredded zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup milk
112g semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper muffin wrappers. Whisk together the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add applesauce and mix until combined; mixture may look curdled — this is fine. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. Add half the flour mixture, then half the zucchini, followed by half the milk, and repeat with the remainder of each, mixing each until combined before adding the next. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds of the way full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the the tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and let rest for 3 minutes before removing muffins from the pan to dry on a cooling rack. Makes 12 muffins.

(You can also make mini muffins with the batter; bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 24 mini muffins.)

chewy choc-oat chip bars

Chocolate chips and oatmeal are always a winning combo for me. In fact, I love oatmeal in almost any cookie, but I’m not sure everyone does, and chocolate can certainly make it more palatable for those folks. Oat bran/fiber AND chocolate? How can you lose?

Usually when I bake goodies for L.’s teen gatherings, a few come home, so I wasn’t too concerned that I wouldn’t get to sample one later. However, this time there were no leftovers at all. So you’ll have to take L. and friends’ collective word for it that they were delicious. The recipe was from Nestle’s Very Best Baking site, and they were a snap to make and contained ingredients that most bakers have handy — which was a very good thing for me since I had forgotten to pick up a snack at the grocery store for L. to take!

thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies

Another skiing treat. These are definitely the most attractive chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. And they are delicious too — crisp yet chewy, and thick in the middle, even though they are made with butter and no shortening. I’ve never before been able to make a chocolate chip cookie without it becoming flat as a pancake once it goes in the oven. There are all sorts of secrets as to why these look the way they do, so obviously they’re from the clever folks at America’s Test Kitchen, by way of The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Personally, I still love the King Arthur Flour Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies best tastewise — their crisp, buttery, caramel-y quality just can’t be beat in my book, plus I love my chocolate chip cookies overdone (even burnt!) — which is something the ATKFBB recipe doesn’t recommend. Nevertheless, I assure you these cookies won’t last long in our house — we love homemade chocolate chip cookies in all their variations!

P.S. — P.’s review: “These are GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!”

chocolate-chocolate chunk muffins

On a typical Saturday morning, I make chocolate chip muffins for C. He’s a great aficionado of that variety and to make us both feel better, I add a little bit of whole wheat flour and substitute apple sauce for some of the butter in my version. This Saturday morning, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I made these double chocolate muffins from Baking: From My Home to Yours. No whole wheat and full butter (and more than the original untweaked chocolate chip muffin that I usually make) but heck, it’s Valentine’s Day, right?

C. wasn’t sure about the results — he felt they were light on chocolateyness. L. liked them; he said they were about as chocolatey as he would expect a muffin (i.e. non-cake, non-brownie) to be. I myself was unsure about the recipe, since the batter contains a small amount of cocoa powder and melted chocolate, and only 2 ounces of solid chocolate chips. I might use more chocolate chips in the future and perhaps more cocoa powder in the batter. Also, the batter might benefit from a little espresso powder to draw out more of the chocolate flavor. If you didn’t want to up the amount of chips in the batter, I think it would be better to use mini chocolate chips instead. Something about the smaller bits makes them distribute themselves more evenly in batter so you feel like you’re getting more in every bite.

rocky road bars

My third offering for the Chocolate Auction. I got this recipe from Nicole Weston’s excellent blog Baking Bites. She credits Everyday Food magazine with the original recipe. Beneath the layer of mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and walnuts is a thin layer of very moist and dense brownie. I debated about cutting the bars up because I thought it would’ve been nicer to see the bottom layer (which is not visible in the pan), but couldn’t figure out how to package it cut up.