Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Honey-lavender-ice-cream

For the past several years, July has brought about the annual Oregon Lavender Festival and this year was the largest festival to date. Unfortunately, the baby wouldn’t allow us to go to the festival but we still managed to get a little lavendery goodness by making a homemade batch of Honey Lavender Ice Cream.

If you haven’t had honey lavender ice cream before you are in for a real treat with this one. On first bite, you get the slightly floral taste of the lavender blossoms. Yet, the ice cream has an after taste of honey. We took this ice cream to a friends house for dinner and the flavor descriptions floating around the room would have made one think we were describing the attributes of a fine wine instead of fresh lavender ice cream. This one is definitely a keeper in our book!

The ice cream gets its lavender flavor by steeping dried lavender blossoms in warm cream. Be sure to only use food grade lavender and not arts or crafting lavender. I get my dried lavender at Cost Plus but you can get it in most specialty food stores. This recipe can also be adapted to make vanilla bean ice cream by exchanging a split whole vanilla bean for the dried lavender.

Honey Lavender Ice Cream


Active Prep Time: 20 minutes

Chilling Time: 3-4 hours

Freezing Time: 25-30 minutes

Yield: 1 Quart

Recipe inspired by:

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half & half
2 tablespoons dried food-grade lavender
2/3 cup honey
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt

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Pour the cream and half & half in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until warm. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. You are looking for steam to rise from the pan and the liquid be warm to the touch. Turn off the heat and add lavender to the pan. Cover and let steep for half an hour. After flowers have steeped, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and discard the flowers.

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Add the honey to the cream mixture and heat on medium low until the honey is dissolved. Again, heat only until it is warm to the touch and do not let the mixture boil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Temper the eggs by stirring in about 1 cup of the warm cream mixture.

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Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium low heat for five minutes or until it is slightly thick and coats the back of your spoon. You’ll know it is done when your finger leaves a clear line when ran across the back of the spoon.

Pour cream mixture into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. Once chilled, freeze ice cream base according to your ice cream maker’s directions.

Cake Mix Doctor Pound Cake

Cake mix Doctor pound cake

I have to admit, it is amazing how quickly your opinion of baked goods can change once you add a newborn baby to the kitchen equation. Just a few short months ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of using a boxed cake mix when asked to prepare strawberry shortcake for an office party. Yet, today I present to you my version of the Cake Mix Doctor’s pound cake recipe. The cake was surprisingly easy to put together and tasted good enough to change my perspective on baking with dressed up cake mixes. Now, I’m still a die hard scratch cake baker but will be more willing to use a cake mix in the future if needed.

This pound cake recipe is ridiculously easy to prepare and everyone at the part thought it was a homemade cake. It may have been a combination of the 4 eggs and vanilla pudding mix but this cake did not have the overly sweet and processed flavor I associate with most cake mixes. The final pound cake was light and full of air yet strong enough to support heaping piles of strawberries and whipped cream. Since there are only 8 people in my office, I decided to make giant pound cake cupcakes instead of the traditional tube pan. The cupcakes take only about 15 minutes to bake but if you want to make a tube pan the bake time will increase to 45-55 minutes.

The final verdict? This recipe is a keeper and will be made again in the future when there isn’t time to make a real pound cake from scratch.

Cake Mix Doctor Pound Cake


Active Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 14-20 minutes minutes

Yield: 12 large cupcakes, 24 regular cupcakes or one 9-inch pound cake

Recipe inspired by:
The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

Ingredients:

Non-stick cooking spray
1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

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Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325° F. Lightly spray cupcake pan with non-stick spray. Set pan aside.

Place cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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Increase mixer speed to medium and continue mixing for two more minutes. The batter should be thick and well blended. Scrape down sides of the bowl and pour batter into the prepared pan. Place pan in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes (45-55 minutes is making pound cake in a tube pan), or until golden brown.

Remove cakes from pan and place on a wire rack until completely cool. Store this cake, unfrosted and covered with foil or plastic wrap for up to 5 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator.

How-to Hull Strawberries with a Pastry Tip or Paring Knife

removing strawberry hulls

Nothing says spring like a nice piece of strawberry shortcake. My wife’s grandpa had this very thought a few weeks ago when he requested strawberry shortcake for his 86th birthday cake. Unfortunately, his cake was sculpted to look like a forklift transporting a couch and just a little too elaborate for simple strawberry shortcake. But, we did manage to work in pound cake with a fresh strawberry filling so he was happy.

If you are eating strawberries whole you don’t really have to worry too much about removing the stem, hull (calix) or bitter white tops because you can just eat around those parts. However, if you are cooking with strawberries or making strawberry jam you definitely will want to remove the strawberry hull to make a much tastier product.

There are several tools available on the market to make removing the strawberry hulls easier. A few of my favorites are shown below. However, in my opinion strawberry hull removers fall into the same category as a lot of other kitchen gadgetry. They tend to be one hit wonders that ultimately clutter up the kitchen.

strawberry-hullers

If you want to remove the strawberry hull or white part of the strawberry without buying a fancy gadget, this tutorial can help. When removing a strawberry hull, I prefer to use either a star tip for a piping bag or a good ol’ paring knife. If you have little hands who want to help in the kitchen, the star tip is probably the better option of the two because it is less dangerous than arming a small child with a sharp tool.

How-to Remove Strawberry Hulls with a Cake Decorating Tip


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To remove strawberry hulls with a cake decorating tip use a large star tip. Begin by holding a strawberry in one hand and the decorating tip in the other. Gently twist the cake tip into the center of the stem end of the strawberry, making sure to go as deep into the berry as the tip will allow. Gently pull out the tip and your strawberry will have a nice hole in the center where the hull used to be.

This is a pretty quick and easy method to use when hulling a lot of berries at once. It is also a pretty safe method when little hands want to help in the kitchen. However, if you are like me and use a relatively small star tip then you won’t be able to cut out all of the white strawberry top when removing the strawberry hull.

How-to Remove Strawberry Hulls with a Paring Knife


Strawberry-hull-with-knife

Step 1: Angle a small sharp knife and cut, in a circular motion, around the green leafy top of the strawberry and into the pale flesh directly underneath.

Step 2: Remove the hull and discard. Wash strawberries thoroughly under cold running water before using.

Savory Pizza Cupcakes

Pizza-cupcakes

The idea of making a pizza cupcake came to me about seven months ago when I bought a copy of Who You Callin’ Cupcake by Vinny and Michelle Garcia. While the recipes in this book are pretty lackluster and leave me feeling underwhelmed, the book is loaded with cupcake-related eye candy. In fact, if it weren’t for all the lovely food pictures I probably would have dropped the book in the donation pile a while ago. But, I digress. I’ve been waiting for the most opportune occasion to make a batch pizza cupcakes and finally decided the time was right when my birthday rolled around a few weeks ago.

This recipe (adapted fairly heavily from the original) creates a light, savory cupcake which makes it an ideal party appetizer or light entrée. I took most of the sugar and all of the vanilla out of the cake batter which makes it taste and act similar to cornbread. The acidic and slightly spicy pizza sauce is nicely complemented by the sweeter pizza crust. In fact, you can make this recipe even easier by replacing the pizza crust with a package of premade pie crust.

All in all, this was a very tasty and unique creation which got approval from all who dared to try it. I would definitely make it again but have them before dinner as opposed to after a heavy dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.

Pizza Cupcakes


Active Prep Time: 40 minutes

Rise Time (for the pizza crust): Overnight (about 18 hours)

Bake Time: 20-25 minutes minutes

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Recipe inspired by:
Who You Callin’ Cupcake by Michelle and Vinny Garcia

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough
1/2 cup water, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/3 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound butter, room temperature and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound pastry flour
4 egg yolks, room temperature

Cupcake Batter
1/6 cup granulated sugar
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter, room temperature and diced
1/2 cup skim milk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature

Pizza Toppings
1 cup marinara or pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
12 ounces Italian sausage

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Preparing the pizza dough (day ahead of time). In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook), whisk together the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the salt. Add the diced butter and use an electric mixer on medium speed (or stand mixer on low) to mix in a little of the water.

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Add the pastry flour and mix until the butter and flour are fully incorporated. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing until the eggs are incorporated. It is important to stop mixing as soon as the eggs are incorporated or the dough will be very elasticy. Pour the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disc. Wrap it with plastic and tuck it in the fridge overnight.

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Preparing the sausage patties. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Form the sausage into silver-dollar sized patties and fry until they are fully cooked. Transfer to a few paper towels to absorb any fat remaining on the surface of the sausage patties.

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Rolling out the pizza crust. Spray a cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough (similar to pie crust) until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a small bowl or large cookie cutter to cut out 12 4-inch circles of dough. Working with one at a time, place the dough circles over each cupcake cup and gently press it into the pan. Place a sausage patty at the bottom of each dough cup. Set pan aside while you prepare the cupcake batter.

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Preparing the cupcake batter. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and use an electric mixer on medium speed (or stand mixer on low speed) to mix together until it has a coarse and mealy consistency. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and mix slowly to make a paste.

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Add remaining milk and eggs. Mix on high speed for about 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon to fill the sausage-filled cupcake pan with cake batter.

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Baking the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with about a tablespoon of marinara sauce and bake the cupcakes for 10-15 minutes. You are looking for the cakes to be baked through and the pizza crust to be a light golden brown. While the cupcakes are still warm, top each pizza with about a tablespoon of mozzarella cheese. Pizza cupcakes can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Related posts from around the web.

Pizza Cupcakes (The Life of a Cupcake)

Pizza Cupcakes (Jeanne Benedict)

Pizza Cupcakes (Kitchen Daily)

Tuscan Herb and Sun Dried Tomato Bagels

Herb-Sundried-Tomato-Bagels

These bagels were inspired by a meeting I had in the Provost’s office on campus a few weeks ago. As a treat, the Provost brought an assortment of bagels from the local bakery. While the bagels were fairly ho-hum, there was one flavor that struck my fancy and ignited my baking senses…an herb and sun dried tomato bagel. Not only had I never seen such a bagel flavor but the mix of tomatoes and herbs was an awesome change from the normal sweet breakfast bagels we normally make! Thus, my Tuscan Herb and Sun Dried Tomato Bagels were born.

Like my other bagel recipes, this recipe is pretty straight forward and can be made a day ahead of time which makes it go together without taking tons of rise or prep time. The trick to making this bagel unique is the 4 tablespoons of dried herbs. There really isn’t any secret or set recipe on this mixture so just go with whatever herbs you like. I prefer to use a mixture of oregano, thyme, basil, parsley and garlic powder. For an added kick, try shredding a little Parmesan cheese on top of these bagels in the last few moments of baking.

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out the rest of my bagel collection: 100% Whole Wheat Bagels, Cranberry Bagels and Just Plain Ol’ Bagels.

Tuscan Herb and Sun Dried Tomato Bagels


Days to Make: 2

Active Prep Time: 40 minutes

Rise Time: Overnight (about 18 hours)

Bake Time: 30 minutes minutes

Yield: 12 bagels

Recipe inspired by:
Bagels served at a meeting with the campus Provost.

Ingredients:

Bagel Starter
1 teaspoon (.11 ounces) instant yeast
4 cups (18 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
2-1/2 cups (20 ounces) water, room temperature

Final Dough
4 tablespoons mixed dried herbs
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
3-3/4 cups (17 ounces) high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2-3/4 teaspoons (.7 ounce) salt
2 teaspoons (.33 ounce) malt powder OR 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce) dark or light malt syrup, honey or brown sugar
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

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Combine the herb blend. In a small bowl, whisk together about 4 tablespoons of your favorite dried herbs (I prefer using 2 tablespoons oregano, 1/2 tablespoon thyme, 1/2 tablespoon basil, 1/2 tablespoon parsley and 1 teaspoon garlic powder).

Preparing the sponge (starter). In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yeast and flour. Add the water, whisking only until the mixture forms a smooth, sticky batter (similar to pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise on the counter until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly, about 2 hours.

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Making the final dough. Add the 1/2-teaspoon yeast to the same bowl as the starter. Mix until combined. Add 3 cups of the flour, salt, granulated sugar, herb mixture and malt/brown sugar. Stir until the ingredients form a rough dough, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to make a stiff dough.

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Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead for about 10 minutes. In the last few minutes of kneading, gently press the dough into a flat rectangle. Spread chopped tomatoes on the dough and continue kneading until smooth. The dough will be firm and stiff but still pliable. The dough should be able to be stretched into a windowpane when finished kneading.

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Divide the dough into 12 4-1/2 ounce pieces. A 4-1/2 ounce piece of dough is about the size of a small baseball. Shape each piece of dough into a ball by rolling it between the counter and palm of your hand. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 20 minutes.

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Shaping the Bagels. Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper and spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray. To shape the bagels, working with one at a time pinch your thumb and forefinger through the middle of each ball of dough. Then, gently stretch the dough ring until the hole is about 2-inches wide. Place each shaped bagel 2-inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Let the pans sit for 20 minutes. Gently cover the tray with plastic and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

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Baking the bagels. The next morning, preheat the oven to 500° F. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil; the wider the pot the easier it will be to boil the bagels. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda to the water. Remove bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water. Be sure to not crowd the pan and only boil as many at a time as will comfortable fit.

Boil bagels for 1 minute on each side then return to the pan with at least 2-inches space between them. After all the bagels are boiled, place bagels in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate pans; switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. After the rotation, lower oven to 450° F and continue baking for another 5 minutes, or until the bagels are golden brown.

Remove pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving.

Related posts from around the web.

NY Style Sun-Dried Tomato Bagels, Gluten Free (Jenn Cuisine)

Spicy Sun dried tomato cream cheese (Mango & Tomato)

Herb & Gruyere Biscuits (Happy When Not Hungry)

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Twists

Cinnamon-Sugar-Twists

These cinnamon sugar twists are purely the result of whimsical food cravings. The other day, while driving home from work I was suddenly hit with an intense craving for an order of Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists. I thought of stopping since I was going to drive right by Taco Bell but then had a stroke of culinary genius…why not just make them at home instead of shelling out the all of $.99 an order would have cost me? And then, cinnamon twists were born.

Taco Bell’s Twists are full of deep fried goodness and I almost went that route when creating this recipe. But then I remembered the Quick and Easy puff pastry recipe I stumbled across and thought eating copious amounts of butter would be much more enjoyable than deep fried dough. The quick puff pastry is great because it goes together in about 10 minutes but it’s really more of a cross between flaky pie crust and puff pastry. Nonetheless, it was still really tasty in this recipe.

This cinnamon twist recipe produces a light and flaky pastry which complements the cinnamon and sugar filling nicely. I actually think the dough would also make a nice baklava but that’s a different recipe for a different day.

So, as we sit back and enjoy the $.99 saved by making our own cinnamon twists I ask you this my friends…what restaurant foods have you craved but later decided to try making them yourself instead?

Puff Pastry Cinnamon Twist Recipe


Prep Time: About 40 minutes

Bake Time: 25-35 minutes minutes

Yield: 18 Cinnamon Twists

Recipe inspired by: Cravings for Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists

Ingredients:

Quick and Easy Puff Pastry Dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 3/8 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon very cold water

Cinnamon Sugar Filling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cinnamon Twist Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

Directions for Puff Pastry Cinnamon Twists:


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In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Place the cubed butter onto a clean, unfloured counter. Then, pour the flour mixture over the top of the butter.

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Use a bench scraper or chef’s knife to cut the butter into the flour. This is very similar to cutting butter and flour when making pie crust. Continue cutting the butter and flour until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Pile up the butter crumbles and make a well in the center. Pour about half the water into the well. Use the bench scrape to cut together the water and dough. Once combined, add the rest of the water and continue mixing just until it comes together.

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Shape the rough mess into a rectangle. It will look too dry but resist the urge to add more water. It will eventually come together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Use the bench scrape to fold the dough in thirds toward the middle; this is similar to folding a letter. Do not worry if it breaks. Just stick any broken pieces on top of the dough.

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Turn the dough 90-degrees so it runs vertically away from you. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle that is 1/2-inch thick. Be sure to only roll along the long side (away from you) and not across the dough. Continue rolling, folding and turning the dough until it comes together and looks smooth. It will take 4-5 turns before the dough is ready. When finished, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at-least 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling by combining the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

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When you’re ready to bake, remove dough from the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Give the dough two more folds and turns. It’s now ready to use.

Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Lightly flour the counter and roll the dough into a large rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Brush the dough with melted butter.

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Pour the cinnamon sugar filling over the dough and smooth it out with your hand. Working with the long side of the rectangle, fold the dough in half. Use a bench scrape or knife to cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide strips. Working with one piece at a time, gently twist the dough to form a loose spiral.

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Place twisted dough on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake cinnamon twists for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow twists to cool on the pan for at least 15 minutes before drizzling on the glaze.

While cinnamon twists are cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla and milk to form a smooth glaze. Drizzle glaze over the baked cinnamon twists.