Monday, September 24, 2012

A Spoonful of Secret Sugar | Pistachio Ice Cream

I've been keeping a secret: All summer long I've been making ice cream, almost once a week. (And, believe me, I have the extra poundage to prove it.)

For Mother's Day, my daughter Amy gave me the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and I've had a ball experimenting. I think of all the desserts in the whole wide world, ice cream -- well, well-made ice cream -- has to be the best treat. Really. Forget my other favorites: cheesecake, apple crisp, German chocolate cake, pecan pie. All very good, of course, but nothing beats really good ice cream.

To assure myself of success right out of the chute, the first ice cream I made was straight out of the manufacturer's book. It was caramel nut ice cream. And it was very good.  How could it not be? It had sweetened condensed milk, cream, dry pudding mix and a jar of caramel topping in it! (Now you understand the weight gain!)

Then I tried a plain vanilla ice cream a couple times, using pretty much the same recipe. But I was getting a mite bolder and decided to add my own touch -- a bit of cinnamon and some chocolate chips to one batch. That didn't suit Mr. Rosemary. After one bite he said, "What's that funny taste?"  Not "Hmmm. That's good. What's in there?" No, something funny. 

But the grandkids ate it. (And it was good.)

And then I made cookie dough ice cream from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook.  An indubitable success. Outstanding.  Everyone liked it. Me. Mr. Rosemary. And the grandkids.

But the ice cream flavor I really wanted to make was pistachio.  My all-time favorite ever since I was a little kid and had my first one at the Howard Johnson's, or HoJo's. 

After I hunted a few recipes, I put the one I finally made on the the refrigerator door. I kept it there for a couple months to daily tease me until I finally made it.  I was intimidated by the thought of curdling the eggs. Or maybe by not cooking the custard long enough. Or too long.

The more likely truth about why I procrastinated was that I didn't want to shell all the nuts. Plus, it was hard to keep a bag of nuts around.  Mr. Rosemary and I both love to snack on them.

But I finally kept a stash hidden, shelled them and made a batch. And it was everything I wanted. Except the &*%$^# stuff is really difficult to photograph! So you'll just have to believe me. It was really good, really worth it.

And  -- dare I say? -- even better than HoJo's. 

Pistachio Nut Ice Cream
from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes about 1½ quarts

1 1/3 cups shelled pistachio nuts
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Grind the 1 1/3 cups of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, but not to a paste. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ground nuts. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for at least 30 minutes.

Strain the warm nut mixture, pressing on the nuts to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids. Return the milk and cream mixture to the saucepan. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and stir until combined.

Refrigerate until cold. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once finished churning, fold in the ¾ cup pistachios with a rubber spatula.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Headed to Maine | Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

We'll be leaving for a Maine vacation shortly and I'm very excited about it. I've never been there and it's a trip that's been on my bucket list. (So is Italy -- Tuscany, Naples, Amalfi, Palermo, I don't care. Soon.)

And is it just coincidental that in recent weeks a couple blogs I frequent wrote about their trips to Maine? Joy the Baker enjoyed a schooner trip (and lobster) and Karen at The Back Road Journal posted about Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park and Rockport.  And after I commented on Karen's blog, I heard from Linda, another Maine blogger, who gave me some great insider information.  If my appetite wasn't whetted before then, it sure is now.

And although the scenery is the biggest attraction, food comes in at a very close second.  And I don't think there's anyplace that has two foods more synonymous with its name than lobster and blueberries, is there?

I don't have lobster very often so I'm anxious to wrestle a couple. Blueberries I get plenty of, since we have 10 bushes of our own. I know Maine blueberries are different: they're wild, low bush berries, mine are the cultivated, high bush. Supposedly Maine berries are sweeter, but I'll reserve judgment, since I like my own pretty darn well.

In the meantime, if I wasn't ready already, this pie helped put me more in the Maine frame of mind. I made  pie filling with my frozen berries and it was just great. I make a pretty darn good traditional cheesecake, if I do say so myself,  but this pie is less cheesecake, more blueberry and it's a very nice change of pace from my usual blueberry sauce topped cheesecake.  Would it be any different with Maine blueberries?

Blueberry Cheesecake Pie
makes about 10 servings
adapted from Eagle Brand

1 recipe blueberry pie filling (see below)
1 unbaked pie shell -- your own pastry or purchased
1 8 ounce brick of cream cheese, softened
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Combine 1 cup of the blueberry pie filling (reserve the rest for topping) and pour into the pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  With motor running, gradually pour in the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla.  Pour into partially baked pie.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake an additional 25 minutes or until set.  Cool. Chill. Spoon the remaining blueberry filling over sliced pieces as you serve them.

Blueberry Pie Filling
adapted from
2 pints (4 cups) blueberries, fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine 1 cup berries with 3/4 cup sugar in pan on stove. Simmer on low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is very liquid, about 5 minutes.  Combine cornstarch and water in a bowl and then add to the pan with the blueberries.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil and is clear and thick. Pour hot mixture into a large bowl and let cool until warm.  Fold in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries, lemon rind  seasoning s and butter. Let cool before adding to pie crust or using in the cheesecake pie recipe above.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Loneliest Cookie | Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bar

Who leaves just one cookie on the plate? What difference is that little bitty piece of sweetness going to make to your waistline when you've already had more than your share? Who leaves just one cookie!?!

Mr. Rosemary does.

An incurable late night snacker with a sweet tooth, he is. He's mindful of what he eats all the rest of the day, but late at night, catching up on whatever golf, tennis, football or hockey event he'd DVR'd, he'll go on the prowl for something sweet. Sometimes it's something salty he goes after. Sometimes it's sweet before the salt.

Sweet or salty, listen to my story:

I had made these chocolate peanut butter cheesecake bars for my brother-in-law's birthday party. My SIL was making a cake, but to make sure there were plenty of sweets all around, I volunteered to bring something extra: these cookies.

I didn't leave myself enough time to photograph any before we left the house, so I sneakily held a few back, and put them in the fridge.

The next day, when I went to get the cookies out for their photograph, I found one lonely cookie, left in the container and put back in the fridge, snugly lidded and all.

He wasn't in the house when I found them. Had he been, he swould have heard me scream -- just a little.

Yikes, how can I take a picture and post it? One little bitty cookie. And I have nothing else ready to post!  And it's been over a week since I put up anything new!

Guess I'll just have to tell the truth.

And the truth is he was saving the last piece for me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
Makes 24 Bars
For the Crust:
2½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake:
16 ounces cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Glaze:
6 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons vegetable shortening 

1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the melted butter and toss together with a fork until the crumbs are all evenly moistened. Press the crumbs into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack and cool.
2. Make the Cheesecake Layer: Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, peanut butter and flour on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Slowly pour in the milk and then the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
Pour the cheesecake batter over the crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cheesecake layer is set around the edges and still appears slightly soft Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
when the pan is wiggled. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
3. Make the Chocolate Glaze: Combine the chopped chocolate and vegetable shortening in a small bowl and microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the cheesecake layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.