Thursday, September 30, 2010

Best Chocolate Pudding for Kathleen

My good friend Kathleen just moved to Istanbul. I admire her for a great many reasons, but in this case particularly for going to an entirely different place with nothing but courage and enthusiasm. She just began teaching, an unexpected fork in the road, but one that will allow her to share her gifts and knowledge while learning in turn from her experiences about this new culture. I am so proud to be friends with someone who can take up a challenge like that.

Kathleen's between her old life and her new one, and unfortunately this transition does not involve a kitchen with an oven. She asked me if I could post some no-bake dessert recipes. She was tired of only eating fruit and whipped cream, which is a pretty good problem to have as far as problems go, but some days you just want something rich and filling. I have those "some days" every day that ends in the letter y.

Luckily, chocolate is always a solution.

This is my favorite chocolate pudding recipe. It's like being a kid again, but with higher quality chocolate than Jello. The rewards are reaped in under an hour with this pudding, made on the stovetop for 20 minutes and then set in the fridge for 30 minutes.

So I send my chocolate-covered wishes of happiness, hope, and good dessert half way around the globe and into your kitchen. Fruit with whipped cream can be the addition here, not the main focus, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Best Chocolate Pudding
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

yields 6 servings

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
6 ounces chocolate (I used 71% cacao Swiss dark. Use your favorite!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*

*You could add any number of flavorings to this: peppermint extract, orange juice, Baileys, Kahlua, fruit liquors...

Bring 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan to a simmer on medium-low heat. Combine the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a bowl heatproof bowl (not plastic). Place bowl over the saucepan (double broiler) and slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Stir contents of the bowl occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate (chopped, if not using baking chips).

Whisk for about 3 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the extract.

Pour into serving bowls. If you like pudding skin, pull plastic wrap over the top of the serving dishes before refrigerating. If you dislike pudding skin, place plastic wrap on top of the pudding itself and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Pin It

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Almond Cream Cheese Tartelettes

Ok, so I'm lying. These aren't really tartelettes... this a recipe for bars, but I didn't have enough confectioners' sugar for the whole recipe, so I halved it, and tartelette pans are adorable, so here we are. By all means double this recipe and make bars, an unexpected alternative to brownies or lemon squares (Three desserts mentioned in one sentence. Oh, I'm hungry now.). This recipe is beautiful, no matter the shape or size.

Almond Cream Cheese Tartelettes
adapted from

yields 4 tartlettes or 8 mini tartelettes (tartelettettes?)
(if the recipe is doubled, you get a 9 x 13 pan of about 24 bars)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup flour

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract if desired

1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons almond milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Crust: Cut butter into dry ingredients (you can use a pastry cutter or a food processor). Pat into pans. Bake 15-20 minutes until just starting to become golden around the edges. Remove from oven.

Filling: Cream sugar and cream cheese until blended. Beat in egg and extract until fluffy.

Pour over warm crusts and return to oven to bake for about another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Frosting: Cream sugar and butter, add almond milk and beat for 2 minutes.

Spread evenly on cooled tartelettes. Sprinkle with almonds.

Pin It

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweet Basil Ice Cream with Strawberries in Balsamic Syrup

A massive basil plant resides in my backyard, growing faster than its leaves can be consumed. I wanted to take advantage of this abundant fresh herb as much as possible so I began searching for recipes - capreses, pestos, sauces, herb spreads galore - but then, then I stumbled across basil ice cream. Studying physics all these years must have made me gravitate towards the most nonintuitive recipe. I took a quantum leap of faith and set out to make an herb dessert.
I'm glad I did. This ice cream is sweet with a kick of flavor. I can't say that if you don't like basil, you will like this recipe, but the basil is not the only dominant flavor. Spoon after spoon of creamy, sweet ice cream, you are ever so much happier that you dropped the pasta sauce seasoning into your ice cream maker.
To make matters even more untraditional, I concocted a sweet balsamic reduction and marinated strawberries in it. We all know ice cream and strawberries go together like basil and balsamic, but the two couples are a double date made in heaven. So treat yourself, and your stomach, to this delicious treat.

Sweet Basil Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
the zest of one lemon

Grind the basil leaves, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream in a blender until the leaves are as fine as possible.
Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl and add the other cup of cream. Place the bowl in an ice bath and place a strainer above the bowl.

Warm the rest of the mixture in a saucepan with the milk and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warmed basil mixture into the egg yolks a little at a time while continuously whisking. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and constantly stir over medium heat. Scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool. Pour the custard into a quart-sized container and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Freeze according to your ice cream manufacturer's instructions.
Serve (with strawberries in balsamic syrup, perhaps - recipe follows!).

Balsamic Syrup
1 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 pint strawberries, cut to your fancy
squeeze of lemon juice

Reduce the balsamic vinegar, sugar, and lemon juice over low heat for about 10 minutes. Let cool.
Transfer to a bowl with cut strawberries, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Pour over ice cream.  Enjoy.
Pin It

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Flaked Coconut Jujube Balls

Until this past Sunday, the only Jujubes I'd ever heard of were the ones in the glass counter at the movie theater. Apparently they are a fruit, most common in Persian, Indian, and east Asian cuisine.  For some reason they showed up at the local farmers' market in Tucson for 15/$1. I was intrigued and paid the dollar to satisfy my curiosity.

To a simple jujube-newbie (say that five times fast!) like myself, a jujube is basically a mini apple. I decided to add some complementary flavors from my cupboard and came up with this delightful and easy to make snack.

If you don't run into a jujube, apples would be an appropriate substitute, and a great way to trick your friends and family into eating fruit. I think they make a cute bite-sized gift as well.

Flaked Coconut Jujube Balls

yields about one dozen 1-inch balls

15 jujubes, cored and chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds (whole or slivered)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 flaked coconut

Pulse jujubes, almonds, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor until a paste forms. Transfer paste to a cool surface and roll into 1-inch balls.

Roll balls in flaked coconut. Can be stored in refrigerator up to two days.

Pin It

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Lemon

It's the weekend, and you know what that means: pancakes. I'm not going to lie - I'm the kind of girl who likes to drench her pancakes in syrup and butter. However once I realized that the butter is a solid hunk in the freezer and the cabinets are bare of real maple syrup (once you've tasted the good stuff it becomes difficult to keep up strong friendships with Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemima), I set out to make a different kind of pancake - one that didn't have to hide behind all that butter and syrup.

This cottage cheese (I know, I know... but it's delicious. If I hadn't told you, you wouldn't have known it was in there) pancake with lemon is perfection: airy, moist, and filling. It's a good thing I have roommates because I definitely would have eaten the entire batch. Going out on a limb and trying something new can yield good (and tasty) results. Lesson learned.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Lemon
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields one dozen pancakes

3 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 lemons (1 zested, 1 cut into wedges)
confectioners' sugar for dusting

Separate the eggs. Lightly beat the yolks.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs whites until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Stir together the yolks, cottage cheese, granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in one third of the egg whites.

 With a spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Grease the griddle/skillet with cooking spray or butter; heat until a drop of batter sizzles upon contact. Pour about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto the griddle/skillet.

Cook until the surface of the pancake bubbles and the edges are slightly dry (this takes only about 1 minute). Flip pancakes. Cook until undersides are golden brown (about 3 more minutes). Serve sprinkled with lemon zest and confectioners' sugar with lemon wedges on the side (they tastes SO GOOD if you squeeze lemon juice onto them). Start your day happy.

Pin It

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ricotta Chocolate Tart with Strawberries

So, the original recipe for this called for kumquats, but I just couldn't handle that. The word "kumquat" is inherently hilarious. I can't say kumquat with a straight face. Go ahead. Say kumquat without giggling. There's a reason Patrick Henry didn't say, "Give me kumquats, or give me death!" No one would have taken our country seriously for as long as they did.
In order to save myself from cramping of the abdomen and a permanent fracture to the funny bone, I decided to substitute in strawberries. Any fruit would fill your need here (even, dare I say it... the k-word). How can something chocolatey, creamy, and fruity not hit the spot?
It's a simple tart that can be made on the fly, leaving you time to lay on the floor, crippled with amusement after reading the words "discombobulate", "turdiform", and "weenis"* in your dictionary.
*discombobulate (v) - to throw into a state of confusion
turdiform (adj) - shaped like a thrush
weenis (n) - slang for the extra skin on your elbow

Ricotta Chocolate Tart with Strawberries
adapted from Martha Stewart

yields 8 servings

5 ounces (~24 cookies) chocolate wafers
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 strawberries, thinly sliced crosswise

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Pulse wafers in a food processor (or smash if on a low-budget, low-tech life) until crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining crust ingredients (melted butter, sugar, salt). Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

To make the filling, beat together ricotta, cream, sugar, and cinnamon until fluffy.

Fold in half of the strawberries. Pour into cooled crust. Top with the remaining strawberries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight) before serving.

Pin It

What's Hot This Week?