Raspberry Coconut Sherbet

There are some flavors I just go wild for and raspberry is one of them.  I made this on a whim one night after making something I nicknamed Heart Attack Bars (butter, chocolate, sugar and sweet condensed milk).  I took raspberries frozen from last summer, a bit of sugar (not much was needed because the berries were sweet – that peak of the summer sunshine captured in juicy little packets) and decided to add coconut cream to make a simple sherbet.  I wasn’t sure how the coconut cream wasn’t going to mix but the resulting product was subtle on the coconut and in-your-face with the raspberry.  For me, it is a complete embodiment of a raspberry sherbet I had in Newport when I was seven or so from a small Italian gelato cart.  I’ve been looking for that raspberry taste ever since.  In this, I’ve found it.

After I made this sherbet and then proceeded to lick the entire ice cream maker clean (with the help of a spatula – otherwise we would have had A Christmas Story on the playground moment), I seriously contemplated hiding all evidence that I had made it.  I would clean up everything, wash all traces of raspberry away and squirrel the finished sherbet down into our deep freeze in an opaque container to be pulled out only when alone.

I ended up being not selfish and sharing it with my husband, my older sister, my niece and my mother.  Though truthfully, I did eat most of it myself.

Raspberry Coconut Sherbet

4 cups ripe raspberries (defrosted if frozen)
1/2 cup sugar (add more if your raspberries are on the tart side or lack flavour)
2 cups coconut cream

Puree the raspberries and sugar in a blender or food processor.  Strain to get the seeds out.  This should produce about 2 cups raspberry sauce.  You might need more raspberries depending on the size.  I used delicious huge raspberries we froze after picking last summer.  Combine the coconut cream in and stir.  Immediately put in your ice cream maker and freeze.

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Strawberry Fool

Strawberries mark the beginning of a long and fruitful (I had to go there!) season of berries in Portland.  Though we had a mediocre year of strawberries due to some serious gloomy weather in May and June, I still managed to beat my personal record of last year’s strawberry haul.

Since getting our chest freezer, my husband Dave and I have become obsessed with filling that freezer with as many pounds of berries as possible so that we can access frozen sunshine and sugar in January.  Last year we picked a respectable 27 pounds of strawberries and froze 16 pounds.  This year we picked 45 pounds and froze 27 of those.  Woohoo!

There are days I wonder what the hell we’re going to do with that much strawberry but I didn’t have much trouble using last year’s bounty.  It took a minute to get going and after some hesitation, we used them for:

Strawberry lemonade
Yogurt parfaits
Rhubarb Strawberry Oat Bars
Strawberry Mousse

The strawberry mousse was my favorite use of them.  The recipe is from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Molly Katzen.  The original recipe title is “Fresh Strawberry Mousse” but if you use amazing strawberries like the Hood varietals we pick, it’ll be awesome with frozen berries too.  I remember my mother making this recipe for a potluck years and years ago when we lived in a tiny little South-eastern Oregon town.  I was thrilled at the prospect of sugar in the form of cream and berries but I also recall the color was nothing like what I made this past March for a birthday potluck.  In the high desert town we lived in, strawberries were shipped in and made a pale pink mousse.  The local Hoods make a vivid pink dessert.

Hood Strawberry Mousse
4 cups Hood variety strawberries (defrosted if frozen and whole is fine)
6 Tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (regular fresh lemon juice will work but if you can get Meyer – use it!)
1 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon peel
1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped

Place strawberries in a medium saucepan.  Heat until hot (if using fresh, 5 to 8 minutes until soupy).  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan without washing it, combine the cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice and whisk until uniform.

Pour the still hot strawberries into the pan of sugar/cornstarch mixture.  While stirring constantly, return the pan to the stove and cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and add the lemon rind.

Cool the mixture to room temperature and puree in a blender until smooth.  Chill the mixture.  Fold into the whipped cream and serve.

P.S. – I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m convinced you could make a dairy-free version of this using whipped coconut cream.  I hope to try it out and see how it works.

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Joyful Almond

I once had a brief conversation with a former co-worker who informed me that he just didn’t think homemade ice cream could be worth the trouble or that it could possibly taste as good as what you can get at the store.  The conversation was brief because this statement made me think he was an idiot lacking taste but in hind sight there was a valid point in there about time and effort verses grocery store convenience.    There are some good brand out there so why make your own?

Well here are three reasons to make your own ice cream and one recipe to prove it.

1. I have yet to come across a dairy-free brand of ice cream that comes even close to this recipe.  Problem number one is that if you want creamy but dairy-free (or vegan), you are presented with rice or soy ice cream.  And while I want to like them, they often lack that mouth-feel that cream gives you in ice cream.  Rice and soy are often grainy in texture as well.

2.  There are brand out there who use only coconut milk or cream, the basis for my recipe below but I do have another point of contention and this holds true for rice, soy, coconut and even dairy commercial brands.  Sugar.  They use far too much sweetener and the actual flavors get lost.

3.  And here we come to the third point.  Flavors.  When you make your own ice cream, you control the flavors.  You control the quality of chocolate, the amount of sugar, you toast the almonds to bring out the nuttiness and you use the best local berries or fruit at the peak of their season.

The below ice cream tastes wonderful and if you use a mild coconut cream (I use Kara brand – it doesn’t have an overpowering coconut taste like some other brands can) and good chocolate, you’ll mostly taste chocolate.  I fed this to a houseful of non-vegan, dairy-happy folks and everyone loved it.  My coconut-wary, dairy-happy and chocolate-loving husband informed me that it was like eating a candy bar.

Chocolate Coconut Toasted Almond Ice Cream (Joyful Almond)
1 c toasted and chopped blanched almonds (I used slivers but I imagine it’d be awesome with slices)
8 oz chopped semi-sweet chocolate (use a good quality chocolate since you’ll really taste it here- I like Trader Joe’s huge Belgium bars or Scharffen Berger brand)
1 small can coconut milk (5.something fl oz – about a cup)
2 c coconut cream (unsweetened and natural – watch the ingredients list!)
3/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
pinch of salt

Heat coconut milk, sugar and salt until hot.  Add this to the chopped chocolate and stir until melted.  Stir in coconut cream and extract if using.  Cool and then chill in the fridge.

Freeze mixture in your ice cream maker.  At the end or when it is churned (this totally depends on the type of ice cream maker you have), stir in the chopped almonds.  Put in freezer until set.  Eat and think of candy bars!

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Whoopie Pies

There have been a few baking fails lately.  I made some strawberry cheesecake bars which while tasty, look pathetic and don’t maximize the strawberry flavor.  Earlier, I made some truffles and used butter in addition to the cream and chocolate.  These would be fine except that I put them in candy molds and found out they were impossible to pull out in one piece.

There is one thing recently though that I was inordinately proud of making.  For a work potluck celebrating LGBTQ month,  I decided to make whoopie pies.  Rainbow filling whoopie pies.

I found a recipe online and altered it ever so slightly by using double dutch dark cocoa powder.  I’ve been waiting for the moment to pull out this goody that I received as a birthday present.  This cocoa powder basically creates that deep, black and rich chocolate color in baked goods – think the chocolate cookie on commercial ice cream bar cookies.  The chocolate flavor is very satisfying as well.

As for fillings, I scratched the usual marshmallow cream and went with cream cheese frosting as the filling.  I have to admit, I don’t use a recipe for cream cheese frosting.  I take 8 oz cream cheese, sometimes 1/4 cup of butter if I’m feeling saucy and powdered sugar.  I’ve found most cream cheese recipes call for obscene amounts of powdered sugar but I dump it in 1/2 cups and beat until it holds together well enough and is sweet but preserves that cream cheese tang.  My throat should not burn when I eat it.  All in all, it’s probably 2 cups (half the normal).  I then separated it out and added the flavorings:

Pink – Raspberry (juice from defrosted raspberries, sugar and cornstarch into a gel – no food coloring needed)
Orange – Citrus vanilla with a few drops food coloring (flavoring is an extract from King Arthur’s Flour called Fiori di Sicilia)
Yellow – Vanilla with a drop of yellow food coloring(vanilla extract and the scrapings of half a vanilla bean)
Green – Mint with a drop of green food coloring (peppermint extract)

I used the recipe from here:Whoopie Pies on Epicurious .  The only changes were that I used the double dutch dark cocoa powder and that I never, ever have butter milk in my house so I put 1 Tb white vinegar in my liquid measuring cup and then poured in the required cup of milk.  Voila’!  Buttermilk enough.

Whoopie pies satisfy the same pleasure space as cupcakes.  Individualized, cakey, frosting and decadence.

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Ginger Limeade

We keep this in our fridge on a routine basis and I try to have it on hand weekly.  I first came across a recipe for “ginger beer” in a street food cookbook in the Caribbean section.  I bookmarked the information in my head and came back to it one Christmas Eve for a party when I thought something gingery with citrus sounded tasty and potentially sick-fighting.  I know I gave a family member a glass but at some point my husband tasted it and I think hoarded it in fear I’d never make it again.

I didn’t make it again until that summer in two-fold effort.  One part was to have something fun but non-alcoholic on hand for myself but the second part was the big one.  I made it to take in small pint Mason jars to work for both myself but mainly for my dear husband who was developing a Coke habit (the sugary drink not the powdery nose kind).  This is my fall back homemade drink now and if you’re the kind who likes a cocktail, I suspect this would be good with a slash of rum.

Ginger Limeade
(makes 1 gallon)

6 inches of Ginger Root (more or less to taste)
6 Limes
2/3 c Turbinado Sugar
Water (total 1 gallon – 4 cups, 2/3 cup and then to fill in the rest)

Peel and grate the ginger root.  Place the grated ginger in a heat proof container (I use a ½ gallon Mason jars –which later doubles as a container for ½ the finished product).  Pour about 4 cups boiling water on top of the ginger.  Allow to steep for several hours or overnight.  You can put it in the fridge when it’s cooled down but I like to leave it out; I’m convinced it increases the ginger flavor.

After the ginger has steeped, strain the liquid into a separate bowl or large measuring cup.  I usually press and squeeze the grated ginger to get as much of the flavor out as I can.  Discard the grated ginger pulp.  Put the ginger water in your preferred container; at this step, I usually put half in one ½ gallon Mason jar and half in another.

Juice the limes and add to your ginger juice (again, split evenly if you’re using 2 containers).  I say 6 limes but it can vary.  If they’re not juicy limes or are teeny tiny, you’ll want more.  I estimate that you’re looking for a total of ½ cup lime juice, ¼ cup per ½ gallon.  If you love limes, add more but be sure to adjust your sugar.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 2/3 c water.  Heat on medium until you have a nice simple syrup.  Add to your container(s) like the lime juice.  Fill the rest with water and shake.  I recommend filling it with water leaving room for about 1 cup of liquid and test tasting it.  Too little lime or sugar allows you to add more to your preference.

Store in the fridge and enjoy.  You’ll have to shake it before pouring a glass as there is some ginger sediment that settles but that’s where the flavor is so don’t skip it!

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Dirty Hot Chocolate

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones you give yourself.  Those gifts are even better if they can be shared with others too.

I turned 30 this year and in the spirit of excessive celebration (I love birthdays), we threw a potluck with a “dirty” food theme.  Not funny-shapes kind of dirty but cooking dirty.  Like dirty rice.  My contribution and as it turns out, a gift to myself, was a cinnamon milk chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies crumbles in it.  We dubbed it Dirty Hot Chocolate Ice Cream.  And then we devoured it.

Dirty Hot Chocolate Ice Cream
(Milk chocolate base adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)

8 oz milk chocolate (you’ll want one that has 30% or more cocoa solids – Trader Joe’s is a great source if you have one)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used Vietnamese Cinnamon from King Arthur’s Flour – a wonderful birthday gift – it has excellent flavor)
1 tsp brandy
1 to 1 1/2 cups crumbled double chocolate sandwich cookies (I used the Late July brand)

Finely chop the milk chocolate.  Tip: I’ve had better luck using a large serrated bread knife to chop chocolate.  I can’t remember where I read this tip but it has come in handy.

Combine the milk chocolate, cream and cinnamon in the top of a double boiler (or a bowl over a pan of hot water).  Stir until the chocolate is melted and remove the bowl from the pan.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Warm the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean (be sure to scrape out those lovely sticky seeds into the mixture to get the full flavor and flecks) in the top of a double boiler.  In a separate medium to large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the pinch of salt.  When the milk mixture is hot and little bubbles are forming on the edges (but before it boils!), remove the pan from the heat.  Immediately pour the hot milk mixture in a slow and steady stream into the eggs yolks while beating them continually.  Pour the mixture back into the double boiler pan and return it to the heat.  Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens (be sure to scrape the bottom to prevent eggy bits from forming).  Once the custard has thickened, pour it into the chocolate mixture and mix together with the brandy.  Here if you’re all serious, you’ll plunge the pan of this mixture into an ice bath and stir until it’s cooled.  I’m lazy so I just remove it from the heat, put the pan on a cool surface (like the enamel part of the stove if the oven isn’t on) and whisk until I get bored.  Then I pour it into a glass mason jar, let it cool to room temp before popping on a lid and putting it in the fridge.  So far there are a few eggy bits that form sometimes but they are usually whisk-away-able later.

I figure most of you know how to make cookie crumbles but I’ve always wanted to have the phrase “bludgeon” in a recipe so:

To crumble the cookies, put them in plastic ziplock bag and bludgeon them with a heavy dull object like a rolling pin.  Ultimately the size of the chunks are up to you but I recommend mostly crumbs with a few small pieces that will make for a bit of variety in the finished product.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge and then churn into ice cream in the ice cream maker of your choice.  Just after the ice cream is churned, stir in the cookie crumbles.  Put it in the freezer to finish it off to that solid ice cream consistency.  Put the ice cream making bowl, paddle and spoons out for general frenzied licking for all household participants.  Enjoy!

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