Saturday, January 27, 2018

Chocolate Tequila Sundae

There was a time when I thought that liquor and ice cream would never go together. After all, liquor is an item that freezes at subzero temperatures. This is why you always see someone grabbing the ice cold tequila from the freezer instead of the cabinet.

This particular sundae is not for the martini types like James Bond. However, since it is made with rum and tequila it may have the approval of someone like Jack Sparrow. Outside of the adult spirits, there are flavors of cinnamon and chocolate. The rum is paired with the cinnamon and the chocolate is paired with the tequila.

Both types of ice creams contain egg yolks and follow the same preparation instructions. While the mixtures come together pretty easily, the freezing step takes the longest. While sundaes do contain ice cream, it is the fudge, nuts and buttery slices of bananas on top that really locks it into that delicious category.

This recipe makes about 8-10 servings, depending on the size of the ice cream scoops. Since there are two flavors of ice cream, make sure that you consider the advance freezing time required prior to serving.

Chocolate Tequila Sundae
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients/Cinnamon Rum Ice Cream
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 inch piece of vanilla bean (split lengthwise and opened)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp light rum
3/4 cup half and half
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 large egg yolks (room temp)
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients/Chocolate Tequila Ice Cream
3 tbs cocoa (not Dutch processed)
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cup half and half
3 large egg yolks (room temp)
5 oz semi sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp vanilla
3 tbs tequila

Ingredients/Sundae Layers
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted pecans
4 sliced bananas (sliced into rounds and, if preferred, slice rounds in half)
12 oz semi sweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter

The required equipment, per the recipe instructions, is an ice cream maker. Prepare the machine prior to creating the sundaes.

For the cinnamon ice cream, start by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and egg yolks. Using a spatula, blend the two together. Place the bowl in the stand.

Fill a saucepan with the cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, whipping cream, half and half and ground cinnamon. Stir until ground cinnamon is distributed into the liquid. Place over medium high heat and let cook, mixing until it reaches the boiling point and remove from heat. Take out the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean. Stir again and turn on the stand mixer to medium speed.

As the mixer is running, slowly stream the cream mixture into the egg yolk/sugar blend. Once all is mixed together, transfer to the saucepan. Place over medium heat. As the liquid cooks, continue to stir. The mixture should thicken to the correct consistency after cooking for about 7 minutes. Make sure that it stays below the boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and rum.

Pour into a heat proof bowl and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill.

Once the mixture is cold, process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Then transfer to a container and cover and freeze.

Prior to making the next flavor, make sure that your ice cream maker is at the stage to freeze ice cream again.

Start on the chocolate tequila ice cream by setting up a double boiler. Fill the top pot with chocolate and let melt, stirring occasionally. Once completely melted, remove from heat and set aside.

Fill the bowl of stand mixer with egg yolks and sugar. Stir together until blended and place bowl in stand.

Take out a saucepan and fill with half and half, cream, honey and cocoa. Stir until blended and place over medium heat. Let cook, stirring constantly until it reaches a boiling point. Remove from heat and add tequila and vanilla. Then mix together.

Turn mixer on, blending sugar and yolks together. Continue to run the mixer and slowly stream in the cream/cocoa mixture. After it is combined, pour into saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it thickens and turns to custard, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add melted chocolate, vanilla extract and tequila. Mix together and transfer to a heat proof bowl and place in refrigerator to chill for about and hour. Then transfer to ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions. Then remove from machine, cover and place in freezer to firm up.

To make the fudge sauce, fill a saucepan with cream. Place over medium heat and let come to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add chocolate and vanilla and then whisk until smooth.

For the banana topping, place the banana pieces on a baking sheet. Turn the oven on the broiler setting. Once the broiler has heated up, brush the banana pieces with the melted butter and place under broiler. Let the bananas cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Remove from oven and set aside.

To assemble, place 1 tbs of warm chocolate sauce in the bottom of serving goblet/dish. Sprinkle on 2 teaspoons of nuts. Using an ice cream scoop, place one scoop of the cinnamon ice cream in the dish and then a scoop of the chocolate tequila ice cream. Add some more nuts and bananas to the top, either covering the bananas or leaving them for last. Serve immediately.

Tips and Notes:
1. Sauce can be refrigerated for later use, just rewarm.

2. Due to the melted chocolate, that flavor will freeze faster than the cinnamon.

3. Feel free to make this ice cream using different flavors of chips and different spices.
                                **LAST YEAR:Upside Down Banana Cake**

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bear Claws

Finding a good flaky pastry can be difficult, sort of like the fable of Goldilocks and the three bears when she went to try the bears' porridge. Some you bite into and they shatter into a million pieces because each layer is crispy and brittle. Others just do not seem to have any layers at all, the pastry is just bread. Yet, once in a while, you find one that is just right.

The secret to landing on the thin line of perfection is butter. Toss in some cold chunks of butter and roll out, fold, turn one quarter turn and repeat the process. It may be a little time consuming, but the end result is well worth the time. The dough in this recipe has a minimal chill time of 4 hours and rising time of 1 hour.

This particular recipe is the traditional bear claw. If you have never tried one of these delicious pastries, it is time to taste one and add it to your recipe box. Each flaky claw is filled with a confection of almond paste and cinnamon. The distinct flavor of almond can also be found in the dough. If that has not hooked you, then the buttery layers will. This recipe makes 18 bear claws.

Bear Claws
adapted from Panera bread at home website 

5 cups flour (plus additional for rolling/forming dough)
1 pkg yeast
1 1/2 cups cold butter (cubed)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups half and half
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients/Filling and Topping
1/2 cup almond paste
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
sliced almonds for sprinkling

For the dough, start by filling a bowl with 2 cups of flour. Then sprinkle the yeast on top and stir, so the yeast is evenly distributed. Set aside. Fill another bowl with 3 cups of flour and add the butter cubes and toss until evenly coated. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Fill a saucepan with the sugar, covering the bottom of the pot evenly. Then add the half and half, salt and vanilla and almond extracts. Place over medium heat and let cook to a temperature of 120F to 130F degrees. As it cooks, stir with a whisk or spatula.

Add the egg to the bowl with the flour/yeast mixture and stir. Then, using a spatula, empty the cream/sugar blend into the same bowl. Mix together until fully combined. Lastly, remove the cubed butter and flour mix from the refrigerator and fold into the batter. Stir just until no dry streaks remain.

Prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Then line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the dough on the floured surface and roll out into a rectangle, measuring 21 inches by 12 inches. As you roll, you will run into sticky chunks of butter. Use more flour to patch over the butter. Lift the 12 inch side and overlap 7 inches of the dough, making a fold at the 7 inch mark. Lift again and overlap, ending with a 12 x 7 inch rectangle. Make a quarter turn of the dough and roll into a 21 x 12 inch rectangle. Fold dough into thirds (like the previous folding) and make a quarter turn and roll out again into a 21x12 inch rectangle. Lastly, fold into thirds again. Cover with plastic wrap and place on baking sheet. Put in refrigerator to chill for a minimum of 4 and maximum of 24 hours. The dough must be very firm to work with.

To make the filling, start by slicing slivers of the almond paste into a small bowl. Using another bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and add the slivers of almond paste. Beat the mixture for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. The mixture should be fairly smooth in consistency.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Place one half in the refrigerator and the other half on a flour dusted surface. Roll the dough out, forming a 12 inch square. Measure out 3 strips, 4 inches by 12 inches and cut the dough accordingly. Divide out 2 tablespoons of filling and spread down the center length of 1 strip. Then sprinkle with about 1 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Fold long edges together. Crimp ends and edges together forming a seal. Cut into 3 equal pieces and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the other two strips.

Each claw will have a folded edge and a crimped edge. Using scissors or a knife, cut the crimped edge into 4 strips, cutting towards the folded edge and leaving about 1/2 inch border with no cut. Curve the claw and spread the strips apart so there is about a 1/4 inch space in the middle of each strip. Remove the other half of the dough from the refrigerator and repeat the process, cutting and forming into claws.

Lightly cover the bear claws and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once the rising time is complete, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush over the top of each claw. Sprinkle a little of the cinnamon sugar on top and lightly press some slivered almonds on the surface. Place in oven to bake for about 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and place on rack to completely cool.

Tips and Notes:
1. This recipe makes 18 bear claws and may require 4 baking sheets. Due the the rising time, the best thing is to either split the measurements and only make 9 or bake the 9 and then start forming and baking the other half of the dough.

2. Since the sides of the bear claws are not sealed, some of the filling may seep out when baking.

3. Be prepared to use a lot of flour to patch the dough when rolling. There may be several areas of butter that comes to the surface of the dough during this process. 
                             **LAST YEAR:Inside Out German Chocolate Cake

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Salty Sweet Nut Bars

They say that opposites attract and I believe in that statement. It applies when it comes to people as well as several other things. I guess it is human nature's attempt at making things more even instead of extreme. It is the diversity of people that make up the world, not people that are exactly the same.

Focusing on the theory of opposites, today I bring you a candy recipe that is a perfect example. One bite of the velvety chocolate surrounding sweet honeycomb and salty peanuts will have you believing that opposites attract. In the aftermath, you will be seeking out other salty sweet combos to satisfy your taste buds.

So if you are already in love with salty sweet combos or you have yet to take a step in that direction, this recipe is well worth a try.

Salty Sweet Nut Bars
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients/Honeycomb Candy
(this component adapted from
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs honey
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup

7 oz of bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped bar)
3 tbs of golden syrup or corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tbs butter
2 1/4 cup salted peanuts
6 oz of crushed honeycomb

Prepare an 8x8 inch cake pan by lining with parchment paper.

Fill a medium size saucepan with the sugar. Smooth out to cover the bottom with an even layer. Carefully pour in the water so the sugar is not displaced too much. Add the corn syrup and honey, pouring in the center of the pan. Then swirl (do not stir) the pan, so the liquid ingredients cover the sugar layer.

Place the pan over medium high heat and rest a candy thermometer in the liquid, clipping it in place on the upper edge of the pan. Monitor carefully as the sugar dissolves and cooks. Once the temperature reaches 300F degrees, remove from heat. It should take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes in order to reach the desired temperature. Once removed from the heat, sprinkle in the baking soda and stir. The mixture will foam up, but continue to stir until the foaming stops. Empty contents into the prepared pan and let rest until completely hard, about an hour.

Once hardened, break off pieces and place in a zip lock bag and crush into smaller pieces using a rolling pin or the bottom side of a glass. The largest pieces should be only pea sized when finished. Continue with the process until the crushed honeycomb equals 6 oz.

To make the candy, start by lining a 9x13 inch pan with foil.

Set up a double boiler and place over medium heat. Add the chocolate, syrup and butter to the top pot. The ingredients will start to melt together. As it melts, stir occasionally.

Fill a small bowl with the peanuts and honeycomb. Stir to combine. Once the chocolate and butter has melted in the double boiler, remove from heat and mix in the nuts and honeycomb. Using a spatula, empty the contents into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly.

Place candy in refrigerator to set up and harden. This should take about 4-5 hours. Then it is ready to cut and serve.

Tips and Notes:

1. You may have some honeycomb leftover. It is good in tea or ice cream or delicious on its own.

2. Semi-sweet chocolate can be used in this recipe as well. However, I do not recommend milk chocolate.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Italian Christmas Pastry**

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cocoa Almond Pound Cake

Chocolate cake..I recall one story from Bill Cosby about this dessert. Apparently, he was unwillingly in charge of breakfast. He did not want to get out of bed, but eventually was booted to the kitchen. Slamming around getting the pan and eggs out, in walks the youngest daughter. He asked her what she wanted and she pointed straight to the big chocolate cake on the counter. That was his cue for a shortcut. Well, the end result was all the kids eating cake for breakfast and the mother quite furious. It was Saturday, so I am sure they weren't sitting around quietly.

I do not recommend it for breakfast, but I will admit that there is something about a chocolate cake that makes it a choice favorite of all ages. When you find cake on the menu at a restaurant, there is very little chance that it is not chocolate. If there is a variety, chocolate flavor is always included. As far as type, milk chocolate has definitely taken a back seat to that deep, dark bitter or semi sweet chocolate.

So with that in consideration, this particular recipe reflects that dark chocolate that we all favor. In addition to chocolate, it is paired up with almond flavor. The almond paste in the batter and the crunchy almonds on top make this chocolate pound cake extra special.

If you are hosting a dinner party or are craving some dark chocolate, this is a good choice. It does make 2 loaves, but an extra loaf is good to have on hand. However, if you have kids, do yourself a favor and make sure it is not on the table at breakfast time!

Cocoa Almond Pound Cake
adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate

1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup or 2 sticks butter (room temp)
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup or 7 oz of almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sliced almonds

Prepare two loaf pans (8 1/2 inch) by buttering the interior and lining the bottom and two long sides with parchment. Leave some over hang of parchment on the long sides. Butter the surface of the parchment paper. Dust with flour and empty out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350.

Start by taking the almond paste and breaking it up into small pieces. Add it to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until broken up into finer pieces. Then add the sugar and the almond extract. Beat the mixture on medium speed for about 5 minutes. The mixture should still be crumbly and have some pea sized pieces in it (it will not be all fine crumbs) Set aside.

Take out another bowl and sift the baking powder and flour together. Then whisk in the salt and cocoa, distributing evenly.

Cube the butter and drop into the bowl of the almond mixture. Cream the ingredients together with the mixer on medium high speed for 2 minutes, stopping at intervals to scrape down the size of the bowl. This should result in a less dense, airy batter. Add one egg and beat for 30 seconds to incorporate into batter. Repeat this process with the remaining eggs, adding and beating one by one.

In the next step, the dry ingredients are to be folded into the batter in increments. In between the increments, whisk in the milk. Start and end with folding in the dry ingredients.

Measure out half of the batter and fill one of the prepared loaf pans. Smooth the top and repeat, filling the other pan. Lastly, cover the top of each loaf with the almonds, making sure the amount is evenly distributed.

Place in oven and bake until tester comes out clean, turning pans at the halfway point in baking. The recommended bake time is about 45 minutes.

Tips and Notes:
1. You are welcome to try this recipe with marzipan, but be aware that it contains more sugar than almond paste.

2. As usual, the higher quality of cocoa yields a much taster cake.

3. Dark chocolate is very strong in flavor, so the almond flavor is subtle.
                                 *LAST YEAR:Almond Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies*