Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

I love cooking with herbs. I had a beautiful potted herb garden several years ago and miss it dearly. It was brimming with an abundance of mint, pine scented rosemary, nasturtiums, thyme and lemon thyme with beautiful golden leaves.

My father in law has such a wonderful array of herbs in his garden. Sage, oregano, basil, parsley and mint to name a few. Before I left their home last weekend I clipped some sage for my Wednesday night roasted chicken, basil for my marinara sauce and mint for this mint chocolate chunk ice cream. (By the way, it was the most pleasant scented ride home I had ever experienced!)

When I tasted the custard a cloud of doubt draped over me. It had a "grassy" taste. But once churned it was not as strong. If you are looking for an ice cream that tastes like those you buy from the store or tastes similar to candy-this is not the recipe for you. If you love the hint of fresh herbs-then you've got to try this.

This ice cream is very fresh tasting and creamy. There is not a drop of food coloring or extract to be found. Its pale green color and pure flavor come from a cup of fresh picked mint. Chocolate chunks add a nice snap and sweet finish to this cool, creamy and sprightly flavored ice cream.

Fresh Mint Ice Cream
(adapted from Martha Stewart Living)
Makes 3 cups; 4-6 servings
1 c. fresh mint, packed
1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Cook mint in a small saucepan of boiling water until bright green, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mint to ice-water bath. When cool, drain and squeeze out excess water. Reserve ice-water bath.
  2. Puree mint and milk in a blender until mint is finely chopped. Transfer to a medium saucepan, add cream, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Gradually whisk 1/3 of the cream mixture into the egg mixture, then pour egg-cream mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture. Set over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly with a spoon, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 8 minutes. (Do not let it come to a simmer.)
  5. Strain through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing on mint to extract liquid. Set bowl in ice-water bath. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Add chocolate during the last 5 minutes of churning.
  6. Transfer to an airtight container, and freeze until firm, about 4 hours (or up to a week).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Tiny Cake For A Big Birthday Month

August is a big birthday month for my family. My sister, her husband, my husband's two older brothers and my son were all born in the month of August. In honor of this busy birthday month I am featuring a tiny cake. This cake is a mere 4 inches of moist, golden, yellow cake delicately frosted with chocolate buttercream.

Many people in my family fore go the birthday cake and choose another dessert. My husband, for instance would much rather eat cobbler, brownies or pie. Though not birthday related he chose a trio of cheesecake for the groom's cake at our reception.

My youngest sister celebrates her birthday in November and it is not uncommon to find a pumpkin pie in place of a birthday cake. This year I opted for a birthday fruit tart filled with pastry cream and topped with apricot glazed berries, kiwi, grapes and oranges.
What would you rather eat? Cake? Cobbler? Pie?

I cut the original recipe in half and made (4) four inch cakes. I couldn't see two people take down a nine inch cake alone. It was tiny and perfect!

Yellow Butter Cake
yield: four 4" cakes-can easily be doubled
source: marthastewart.com
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 +1/8 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 + 1/8 cups milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 4" round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
  3. Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
1/4 c. egg whites, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
pinch cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 T. Bacardi golden rum
  • Chop chocolates and melt in a bowl over simmering water until melted. Allow to cool.
  • Mix egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Heat egg whites in the bowl over simmering water until they are warm to the touch and sugar is no longer grainy (about 5 minutes). Whisk on high speed until mixture is cooled and hold a stiff peak.
  • Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating at medium speed. Scrape down the bowl, add chocolate, vanilla and rum and mix until chocolate is completely blended.