It’s August and Summer is in full swing here in Michigan. Actually, with the weather we’ve been having here the past few weeks, it feels like Fall. Not that I mind the cooler temperatures; I’m just hope the mild summer is not going to translate into a brutal winter. But enough about that — nothing says summer quite like a nice boozy watermelon punch.
I did just have my summer shindig recently and made this again. I usually have 4 big get-togethers each year when I invite my close friends (actually I consider these guys to be family) and treat them to some free food and booze. Sure this explanation is a little simplistic, but y’all don’t need to get into my big bag of crazy when it comes to planning and prep. I actually don’t remember what else I made, other than stuff on the grill. But I did remember this! Making this concoction this time seemed a lot easier, but last time I was face down in my backyard all afternoon so who knows what my recollection can actually count for. And, of course, I could not find my old recipe no matter how much I looked around for it. So this is a whole new deal.
Now I really like this recipe. I didn’t think it was overly sweet and you could still pick up on all the ingredients. And if you are like me, you may just have a couple of portions of mint syrup just hanging out in the freezer for emergencies.
I did hollow out the watermelon and use it as a serving utensil, which is completely optional. I like the presentation. If you were interested in serving it this way but don’t know where to get a spigot like this, you could check out your local brewer’s supply shop. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 watermelon (medium-sized, I guess. Use the pictures as a reference)
- 1/2 – 1 c. vodka
- 1 c. cachaça
- 1 1/2 c. rum (I used a dark 8-year-old rum)
- 4 oz. Midori
- 6 limes, juiced
- 2 c. mint syrup
1. Take your watermelon and see if it’s able to stand on its end. If not, just cut off a small slice to level it off, making sure not to expose any of the inner flesh.
2. Cut off the top couple of inches of the watermelon to expose some of the red flesh inside (wow that sounds a little macabre). Using an ice cream scoop, start scooping out the fruit (berry?) and place it in a food processor. Pulse it in batches until smooth and run the purée through a fine sieve set over a large bowl.
3. In a large pitcher or jug, combine the vodka, cachaça, rum, Midori, lime juice, and mint syrup. Stir to blend.
4. Add the strained watermelon juice and stir to combine. You can refrigerate this overnight, just be sure to mix it before hand.
5. Pour yourself a little happy. Add some ice if you like!
Notes — you may want to run the watermelon through a very fine sieve. you could just line a sieve with some paper towel, but that sounds like a long process. . . if you cut off too much on the bottom to level the watermelon, it’s not the end of the world. just be sure not to hollow out the watermelon too much or you will have a boozy, leaky mess on your hands. . . also, be careful not to take out too much of the pulp (is that the right term?). if you are overzealous with your scraping, the hollowed out shell might crack and there’s another boozy, leaky mess. . .
Alright so this isn’t all that much of an experiment, but I’m doing this in a different way. But what I wanted to do is try to make some mini cheesecakes and clean out the pantry at the same time. I had a bunch of cream cheese in the fridge, but not enough to make a whole cheesecake; I had some raspberry coulis left over from the Marquis Roulade I made a few weeks ago; and there was some honey that I was just tired of looking at. Throw in some graham crackers and some frozen raspberries and it all made sense.
Actually there is a little bit of an experiment going on here. Instead of making the filling using a stand mixer, I tried to make everything in the blender. I was thinking to myself that this should work, in theory. It actually didn’t work out too bad. There was a little bit of work trying to get the blender going at first, but the batter was very smooth. Doubt that I could do this for a full cheesecake recipe though — my blender is too small.
It’s hard to figure out a recipe here. Like I’ve said before, I do have a specific formula for cheesecakes that I like to follow, so I just used that as a guide. I cut down a graham cracker crust recipe in half which I just sprinkled on the bottom of the tins or cupcake papers. My serious recommendation that I have for a recipe like this is to definitely use paper liners. One of the pans that I used is non-stick which I also generously sprayed with cooking spray — I still had to dig the cheesecakes out with a fork and spoon. Here’s what you need:
For the crust:
- 6 graham crackers
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
Pulse the crackers and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs. Mix in butter and set aside.
For the filling:
- 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c. honey
- about 4 oz. frozen raspberries
- raspberry coulis
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard cupcake pans with liners.
2. Throw the cream cheese, eggs, and honey in a blender. Or you could beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the honey and combine. Then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. (See! Using the blender is easier).
3. Place a couple of tablespoons of the crust mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Lightly press down and place 1-2 of the frozen raspberries on the bottom. Fill about halfway with the cheesecake batter. Add about 1 t. of the coulis and carefully fill the liner about 2/3 full.
4. Bake in the over for about 30 – 45 minutes, until the middle is set. Allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.
Mental note — do not make pancakes while Hot Fuzz is on the tele. The concept itself wasn’t bad, and I am referring to the breakfast, not the movie, although I love the movie. Anyhoo. . . I wanted to make a nice anniversary breakfast and came up with some Apple-Pecan pancakes (since I had to use up an apple and had some pecans in the freezer). Plus I had an apple syrup / extract that was leftover from a pie that was made a couple of weeks ago.
Although a little charred, they didn’t taste bad. They just needed a little bit of extra syrup :) At least these pancakes are great makeshift doggie treats.
I love garlic. There, I said it. What’s not to love? And what I especially love about this recipe is how simple it is. Plus it’s so useful since it has so many applications. You could put it in salads, really into any dish you might need, you could just spread it on some toast, or you could just get a fork and go to town. And you could use the oil to cook, to flavor dishes, or to make a salad dressing.
The garlic takes on a nice sweetness when cooked, much like when it is roasted. In this application though, it is much more subtle.
For those who might not know, a confit is a preparation that helps preserve food by covering it in a layer of fat or oil. An example is duck confit where the duck is cooked in the rendered duck fat, allowed to cool while submerged, and stored in the cooled duck fat. This preserves the meat without having to refrigerate it. Probably has its roots back to a time when refrigeration wasn’t as common as it is today, but that’s just a guess. Making this recipe follows the same principle.
This recipe is from Chef Thomas Keller’s book Ad Hoc. His restaurant that folks think of is of course the world renown French Laundry. But there is a whole group of restaurants in his portfolio, including Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bistro and Bakery. The list of ingredients is so simple — garlic and canola oil. That’s it! And if you love garlic, you definitely need to add this to your basic repertoire. I did change the amounts a little bit, just because I wanted to make a little bit more than the recipe calls for. Here’s what you need:
1. Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Pour enough oil to completely cover immerse them in oil by about an inch.
2. Place on medium-high heat. Cook the garlic very gently; only small bubbles should come up through the oil when cooking, but the bubbles should not break the surface. Adjust the heat as necessary. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring about every 5 or so, until tender.
3. Remove from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil. Store the garlic in the refrigerator in a covered container, submerged in the oil. Should last about a week.
As y’all may already know, I had some family visiting for several days and I remember my brother saying that he’s never had rhubarb. So I thought why not let him try it in a pie! It is the “pie plant” after all. And I do have all that frozen rhubarb, if you remember from a while back. Now he’s very concerned with nutrition and fitness so I will use the whole wheat pâte brisée for this one. Although this doesn’t quite qualify as healthy, but at least it is healthier. And rhubarb is a vegetable. Plus I use some coconut flour in the topping which is high in fiber and protein (just eat around the butter and sugar). As an aside, using flours like this in baking is what you need to do if you need to make something gluten-free. To top it all off, it smells like coconut! According to the directions, you can substitute up to half the flour in a recipe with this. But you could combine it with other flours, like bean, rice, or tapioca. Bob’s Red Mill is a nice resource for different kinds of flours.
For this recipe you’re supposed to cut the rhubarb into smaller more manageable pieces, but it was already frozen and I didn’t want to have to try to chop all that up. I can admit I was being lazy, but I was busy trying to get the house ready for my family visit. Priorities priorities!. But be aware, if you don’t chop it into smaller pieces, things can get a little fibrous. Here’s what you need:
- 1/2 c. coconut flour
- 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1/3 c. light brown sugar
- 1/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
1. Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk to combine and break up any lumps.
2. Add the butter. Cut into the flour with a pastry knife or your hands until crumbles form. Set aside.
For the pie:
- 1/2 whole wheat pâte brisée recipe (or prepared pie crust)
- 6 c. rhubarb, cut into about 1-in pieces
- 1/3 c. light brown sugar
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 1/2 t. salt
- 2 T. cornstarch
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the oven rack on the lowest wrung in the oven.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough enough to cover a 9-in. pie pan with a 1-in overhang. Cut to fit and tuck the ends of the crust underneath to from a nice rim. Refrigerate for about an hour to let the dough rest.
3. Place rhubarb in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl combine the sugars, salt, and cornstarch. Pour the sugar mixture over the rhubarb and toss. Pour the entire contents into the rested pie dough. Top with the prepared crumbles.
4. Put the pie in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375. Bake on a lined sheet pan for about 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.
Strawberry and Rhubarb — another one of those classic combinations. Now this cake is interesting in that it is a little bit different from ones that I usually make. First of all, it has more of a sheet cake thing going on (but not really). Not that I don’t make sheet cakes, but I usually do rounds. Secondly, there’s a filling baked into the cake. But third (thirdly?) and most important (importantly?), this is made using a different technique.
Here is how I usually make a cake: 1) sift together dry ingredients and set aside; 2) cream together the butter and sugar; 3) add your eggs one at a time; 4) gradually add your dry ingredients, alternating with milk or something like that. And that’s your batter. This is known as the creaming method, which is the most popular way to make a cake. This particular recipe is different in that you cut in the fat directly into the flour, like you were making some shortbread or pate brisee. Known as the rubbing-in, cutting-in, or one-bowl method, this technique gets you a very delicate cake, but it’s not as light and airy as when you use the creaming method. There’s lots of technical reasons why, but that could be discussed some other time. Anyhoo, here’s what you need:
- 3 c. rhubarb, cut into 1-in. pieces
- 1 qt. fresh strawberries, chopped
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/3 c. cornstarch
In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. This might not seem like a lot of liquid, but the rhubarb holds a lot which cooks out. Meanwhile mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir into the strawberry – rhubarb mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Set aside.
For the topping:
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
Mix together all four ingredients until everything resembles a crumblike texture. Set aside
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 c. honey
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, diced
- 1 1/2 c. buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1 c. strawberries, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter into the flour mixture until you get a coarse crumblike texture. I mixed this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment for about 5 – 7 minutes.
4. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Gently spread the strawberry – rhubarb filling over the top. Spoon the rest of the batter over the filling. Sprinkle the topping on top of the cake.
5. Bake for about 45 – 60 minutes, until done in the center. Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Is there a better combination that chocolate and peanut butter? It is one of those combinations which is now a classic. I am a huge fan of peanut butter cups, and it doesn’t matter who makes it either. In fact, I love those ones that you find in the bargain bin at your local grocery store that you can buy by-the-pound for like $0.25 / lb. I almost prefer them; maybe it’s all the additives. But what I really love are the Peanut Butter Eggs that Reese’s puts out during Easter. There is something about the Eggs that are delicious! I don’t know what’s going on there, but those are the best! And it’s just the Eggs. The other things like the Christmas Trees just don’t taste quite right.
Anyhoo, to the cake. . . This recipe is a sour cream chocolate cake with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting. I garnished the top with some chopped candied peanuts that I made earlier. I was thinking about reversing it, having a peanut butter cake with a chocolate buttercream. The problem was that I don’t have a tried and tested peanut butter cake recipe, so go with what you know. I wish I could follow that logic with those damn Sugar Cookies (which is on take #3, by the way)! This recipe makes 2 9-in. cakes which I split to make a 4-layer cake. Since it has 4 layers, you may need a double batch of the frosting, depending on how much you put in between the layers. Here’s what you need:
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2/3 c. cornstarch
- 2 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 c. sour cream
- 1 T. vanilla
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 c. vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 c. cold water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-in round cake pans with cooking spray; line with parchment and spray the parchment as well.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking soda, and salt) into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk together the eggs and sour cream in a separate bowl until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix well. Set aside as well.
4. In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the melted butter and oil. Add the water and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low for about 1 minute. Now add the egg mixture in one addition and mix until well blended (about another minute). Scrape the sides down as needed.
6. Divide the batter evenly into the two pans. Bake for about 35 – 40 until a cake tester comes out clean.
7. Cool cakes in the pans on top of cooling racks for 15 -20 minutes. Then invert the pans onto racks, remove the parchment liners and cool the cakes completely before splitting lengthwise to make your four layers out of the two cakes..
For the frosting:
- 1 c. creamy peanut butter
- 8 oz. cream cheese, about room temperature
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1/4 c. sour cream
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1 T. vanilla
Using a food processor, mix all the ingredients until smooth and well blended. Scrape down the sides as necessary. To get the chocolaty frosting, I took a portion of the peanut butter frosting and folded in some melted chocolate. But I’ve also folded in a dark chocolate spread before as well. You can also fold in some Nutella or gianduia, that is if you are lucky enough to have some gianduia lying around the house. One day I’ll be able to make this part of my regular pantry items.
Assemble the cake:
I like to start by putting a small dollop of the frosting in the middle of a cakeboard round. This helps hold the cake in place. Place about 1/3 – 1/2 c. of frosting on top of the first layer and smooth it out. You can use strips of wax paper in between the bottom cake layer and the cakeboard to help keep it or the serving platter clean. Place the next layer on top of the bottom one and repeat frosting. Repeat with the other layers as well.
Smooth out a crumb coat on the outside of the assembled layers and place in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes. Complete frosting over the crumb coat. You can garnish the top of the cake with some of the chocolate frosting mixture (if you made some) and pipe out some rosettes.
Notes — One trick you can use is to cut a very small notch out of the cakes before you split them. That way you can line them up correctly so you can get a nice level top.
This is a quick post, but it seems like everyone seems to go crazy for rhubarb. So I wanted to post something showing how to freeze some rhubarb so that you can have some on hand months after the season is done. It’s simple and the process takes just a couple of minutes. The only area of concern is making sure you have enough space in your freezer!
There are methods out there that involve packing the rhubarb in some sugar or a simple syrup. I like this method, maybe because it’s the quickest and easiest. Here’s how I do it. You will need the following:
- resealable freezer bags
- permanent marker
- sheet pan
1. Wash your rhubarb and allow it to dry. While waiting for it to dry, use the permanent marker to label and date the freezer bags.
2. Chop them into 1″ or 2″ pieces. Lay them onto the sheet pan in a single layer, leaving some space in between the pieces. Put the pan into the freezer.
3. Leave in the freezer for a couple of hours, just to be sure that everything is frozen. Once frozen, transfer them into the labeled freezer bags and remove as much air as possible before sealing them. You could use a straw to remove the air. Store in your freezer until you need them.
Notes — Keep in mind that when you thaw the rhubarb, it will lose some moisture. In the process of freezing, ice crystals are formed in whatever it is that you’re trying to preserve. These crystals rupture cell walls, which is how you get all that liquid. The cells can no longer hold everything together, so everything just kinda spills out. Now don’t discard any of that liquid. I say that you should save that liquid and just put it into whatever recipe on which you are working. Or you could use it to make syrup, or make a sauce, or something along those lines.
One way that you can avoid all these hassles (but get a whole different set of hassles) is to use dry ice. Dry ice freezes everything so quickly that large ice crystals don’t have a chance to form. So in theory, once you thaw something that was frozen with dry ice, it should taste and feel the same as if it were fresh. I got this from Alton Brown on his show Good Eats. It was on one of his shows (Here’s part 1 and part 2 of “Strawberry Sky”. The bit about freezing is in part 2). It’s a shame that they won’t be making any more Good Eats shows.