Friday, April 04, 2014

Fig Ice Cream


Making your own ice cream is so rewarding and fun. The world's your oyster when it comes to flavour combinations, and there are different ways to make your ice cream base. For example, some recipes require making a custard-type base using eggs (such as in my pistachio ice cream recipe) and others are more basic like a sherbet using only water and milk. These will offer differing levels of creaminess.

Recently I wanted to experiment with making a creamy ice cream without having to faff about using eggs, basically I wanted to be lazier and also use less ingredients. And here is the result, a rich and creamy ice cream just using sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. I used dried figs and cinnamon as my flavours, which is an amazing combination, but it'd work with millions of other flavours too. I'll definitely be experimenting more with it. Good thing is you don't even need an ice cream machine to get good results, you just need to be aware of a few tips if you're unfamiliar with making handmade ice cream, so I'll be sure to put those with the recipe.

FIG ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

200g dried figs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups whole milk
1 tin of sweetened condensed milk (397g)
(Almond flakes and extra chopped dried figs as optional garnish)

Method:

Add the dried figs, cinnamon and half of the milk (2 cups) to a saucepan.
Bring to boil, simmer over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the figs soften.
Remove from heat and let cool. Blend until smooth.
Now add the rest of the milk (2 cups) and sweetened condensed milk.
Whisk well.
Pour into a shallow, freeze-proof container.
Place in freezer, follow instructions below.
Serve.

Tips:


To ensure a creamier ice cream, remove the ice cream from the freezer as it just starts to freeze around the edges. Blend or beat the mixture to remove the lumps and incorporate air into it. It's best to do this often until it's too frozen to handle anymore. I tend to do it every hour as it takes my ice cream several hours to set, but your timing might be different. You could skip all of this and just leave it to freeze, but the result will be more icy. Also, handmade ice cream tends to freezer quite hard, so you'll need to let it stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before attempting to serve it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grape Tartlets


Recently I was given a whole bunch of grapes. Well technically it was several bunches, and was more than I could eat. So, since necessity is the mother of all invention, I decided to try an incorporate them into some baking. So here this tartlet recipe was born.

I decided to use the grapes to make a jam/jelly type thing, then used it to fill some homemade tart cases. The pastry creates a 'buttery biscuit base' similar to shortbread, but the jam is the highlight. I'd make it again just to use on its own as a jam or a dessert sauce. I never knew or expected grape jam to be so good. It's sweet but not overly so and has a smooth tangy grape flavour, reminds me a bit of rhubarb jam in that it's nice and earthy with a mild tartness. If I ever inherit more of those grapes they will end up being bottled for sure. I don't think this recipe would work so well with certain store bought grapes, especially seedless ones, as you want a strong robust flavoured grape, nothing too sweet or watery. I'm not sure of the variety I was given, but you can see them in the pic below. They were ideal.


I'm now really keen to look more into making jams and preserves, I've only ever dabbled in it. However, the amount of sugar you need in a lot of recipes is quite scary. But no worse than store bought stuff I guess. Plus it'd be quite a handy skill to have, especially when there is an abundance of seasonal produce.

Anyway enough rambling, onto the recipe!


GRAPE TARTLETS
(makes approx 42)

Dough:
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (225g) salted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks
1/4 teaspoon salt
(note: you can use unsalted butter, just add 3/4 tsp salt instead of 1/4)
1/4 cup ice cold water

Jam:
4 cups (680g) grapes
4 cardamom pods, crushed
Juice of one lemon (approx 3 tablespoons)
1 cup granulated sugar (I used some mandarin sugar which added extra dimension)
Pinch salt

Make the dough:  Combine flour sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (see the pic).  Add the ice water, a little bit at a time, and mix until the dough holds together. Knead the dough into a ball or two then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dough keeps well in fridge so you can even prepare it a day or two ahead.

Make the jam: Add the grapes and lemon juice to saucepan. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently, you can even mash them with a potato masher or spoon to help grapes release their juices. Next, strain this mixture through a sieve (you should end up with just under 2 cups juice). Return the juice to saucepan over high heat, stir in sugar and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer for approx 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool, stir occasionally. Will thicken up even more upon cooling.

Make the tartlets: Remove dough from fridge, use extra flour to dust and roll out to approx 3mm thick. Use an appropriate sized cutter to cut out disks to fit in the bottom of lightly greased muffin or cupcake pans (I use a 9cm cookie cutter).  Fill the dough cases with a bit of jam liquid, for my sized tarts I used 1 heaped teaspoon of jam. Just note: too much jam will result in it bubbling over.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 min at 190 Celsius (375 Fahrenheit).

Makes 42

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Banana Cupcakes, Lemon Butter Icing


I recently learnt that New Zealand has the highest rate of banana consumption in the world per capita. In my household we contribute to that quite a lot. Thing is, we buy bananas every week but yet we still seem to always leave a couple of them in the fruit bowl to go brown. Guess I could just buy less bananas, but the more tastier solution is to use the overripe ones in some baking or freeze them to use in baking at a later date. It's a regular thing for us, so quite often I wonder if my husband and I have an unspoken rule that we will never eat the last 2 or 3 bananas. Just so we get to eat cake. Yes we are pigs. Cunning pigs.

Usually the brown neglected bananas will end up as a loaf in my favourite go-to recipe, but a few weeks ago I thought I'd try them as cupcakes in a more delicate recipe and with an icing. They are equally as delicious, but lighter and sweeter than the loaf. It's also nice to have icing as a decadent treat, and the lemon is an awesome addition and cuts through the sweetness of the icing. To be honest though as good as this recipe is I think I'll keep it for special occasions, as for my day-to-day cooking I like to keep things simple and quick. So this weeks batch of brown bananas will probably be back in my old faithful loaf. Anyone have any other suggestions for using up old bananas? Or am I destined to be known as the banana loaf lady.

This recipe is an adaptation from one I found online, you can find the original here.

BANANA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

CAKE:
115g butter (approx 1/2 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (approx 2 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
(note: if you don't have buttermilk just add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice to 1/2 cup milk, and let it sit for 5 minutes, then use as replacement)

ICING:
2 cups icing sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons mashed ripe banana
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more)
grated lemon rind, for garnish

Method:

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 180 Celsius/ 375° Fahrenheit for 10-20 minutes (depending on size) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Then, in a bowl, combine the icing ingredients; beat until light and fluffy. Ice the cupcakes as you desire. For mine I piped small swirls and topped with lemon rind for garnish.

Makes 60 mini bite-sized cupcakes (using 4.5cm diameter cupcake papers)
or (according to original recipe) it makes 1 and 1/2 dozen classic sized cupcakes.