Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

After reading so many blog entries about homemade ice cream and sorbets, I decided to give in and purchase an ice cream maker two days ago. As soon as I got home, I opened the box like a fortunate kid on Christmas day and placed the bowl in the freezer for future use.

I then went to David Lebovitz's website to look for his Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe because I knew that I wanted my first batch of ice cream to be simple yet very decadent. When I returned home, I read over the recipe again and realized that I needed ice. Since I don't use ice regularly, I had to fill up some ice trays and wait for them to freeze. Needless to say, I had to wait until the next day to make the ice cream custard. :(

The next day, I mistakenly thought that I had the rest of the ingredients necessary to make this dish; however, I realized that I needed to get some whole milk, too! Since I only drink skim milk (I was raised on the stuff, so drinking whole milk alone tastes too weird to me), I had to go to the store to buy a pint of whole milk. I first went to Whole Foods. While there, I decided to buy some vanilla beans (4.99 EACH! Woah!), but I could not find any small quantities of whole milk, but they had skim and 2% that size! I asked an employee if they had pints of whole milk, and he informed me that they didn't carry that size. What?! ARGH! So, I had to go to another store to get the milk! Whew!

As soon as I returned home, I started putting everything together. I read the recipe carefully, slowly, and intently. The instructions were slightly more confusing than other recipes I've read (the list of ingredients could have included ice, and the order of the instructions was a bit off), but I was still able to produce a lovely, yummy, and rich dessert.

Making vanilla ice cream was a very eye-opening experience for me. The process made me realize not only how much is put into creating custard-based ice cream, but also how fattening rich, vanilla ice cream can be. Not only did I have to use 1 cup of whole milk and 5 egg yolks, but also TWO cups of HEAVY CREAM! Consequently, just one scoop of this stuff was very filling. Um, yeah, I think I will be making only fruit sorbets from here on out. haha

July is National Ice Cream month, so I'm sending this to the Ice Cream Social Challenge, put together by Savor The Thyme. Tangled Noodle, Scotty Snacks & to Ben’s Homemade# 5: Ice Cream.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Kitchen Challenge: Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake

Interesting Daring Kitchen conversation about the name of this cheesecake:

Daring Baker (DB) 1: Are you sure you mean infamous and not famous? Infamous means "having a reputation of the worst kind: notoriously evil'! Big Grin"

DB2: Ha, you haven't met my friend Abbey. *grin*

Me: Then if Abbey is the infamous one, shouldn't it be called "Infamous Abbey's Cheesecake"? The cheesecake is not the infamous one, unless you are personifying it.

DB3: hahaha. I love the vocabulary battle!

So yeah, I still don't quite understand why this cheesecake is being referred to as infamous, but that is the name! haha

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This was my first Daring Kitchen challenge, and I was hoping to get something more difficult and new like the lasagne from last month. At least I got to try another cheesecake recipe! Also, I was afforded the opportunity to jazz up a plain cheesecake, which aside from strawberry toppings or glazes, was something I had never done before. This was the first time I'd ever used a real piping bag, as opposed to a Ziploc bag. So, I will need to practice a lot more to get it perfect.

Since I already have a go-to cheesecake, I was sort of doubting that this cheesecake was going to knock my socks off.

I decided to spruce it up by making it a key lime cheesecake. It was good, but not great. In fact, I gave almost the entire cheesecake to my neighbor/colleague. If I had never been exposed to Greenspan's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake, I think I would have really enjoyed this cheesecake, though. It was creamy, and the crust was really good. I doubled the crust and halved the filling because I love graham crackers!

As you can see, I didn't put much effort into decorating it because we are nearing the end of the semester, and I have way too many other things to do. Aside from adding 1/4 cup of key lime juice and some lime zest, I followed the recipe exactly. You may get the full recipe here.

Thanks, Jenny! Be sure to check out the other Daring Bakers results: Daring Bakers Blogroll

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Homemade Oreos and Oreo Cupcakes!

A quick post to show the homemade Oreos I made...and Oreo Cupcakes!

The batter spilled over on some of the cupcakes so they look a bit deformed :). Fortunately, the taste was not affected. I still need to work on decorating. I had trouble making pretty, consistent spirals with my piping bag due to the chunks of Oreos in the buttercream icing.

To make the Oreos, I used the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. The cookie dough and filling were really easy to put together. Go to her site, and see her beautiful photos of these delicious cookies.

The cookies are softer than the crunchy ones you find in the store; however, the filling tastes exactly like the Oreo filling! In my opinion, the homemade versions taste better than the store versions, and I plan to make these again for my students during their final exams. They will be so surprised.

For the cupcakes, I used the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe, and it will forever be my go-to chocolate cake recipe. The cupcakes are so moist!! I substituted 1/2 of the milk with buttermilk and added Oreos to the batter and the icing. The idea to make these cupcakes, the addition of Oreos to the batter, and the icing recipe came from Heather Drive. Thanks, Heather!

I have over a dozen cupcakes in the freezer now for future consumption. I also plan to give some away to my colleague/neighbor. For some reason, he never complains about my tendency to give him all of my leftover treats! :P

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Homemade White Bread

I made my first loaf of homemade bread about a week ago! Since homemade bread only lasts 2-3 days on the counter, I cut up the bread and placed it in foil and ziploc bags (2 slices each). So, whenever I want some bread, I just take out a bag and place the slices in the toaster for a minute or two. Next time, I plan to make and freeze two sliced loaves of whole wheat bread.

You can see from the photo above of the bread's innards that I rolled the dough in a somewhat jelly-foll fashion and still ended up with a little opening in the top right part of the bread. The whole got bigger towards the middle to end of the bread, and then it closed up again. I will have to roll it tighter next time. The bread still was/is (I still have some in the freezer!) very good and functional.

I followed the recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook (a gift from an ex-neighbor who ostensibly didn't get married), but you can find the recipe here. I did half of the recipe to yield one loaf, since it was my first time.

May I never go back to that bread-in-a-bag you see in grocery stores again! :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Key Lime Pie

For months I have been craving Key Lime Pie. I don't know what prevented me from making it. I guess it was because I didn't want an entire pie in my house, because I know I will end up eating all of it instead of sharing it with my colleagues. :) [Hey! I'm an only child (on my mother's side)! I'm not used to sharing! That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.]

I cheated with this recipe by purchasing Nellie and Joe's Key Lime Juice and an already prepared graham cracker crust from my favorite store, HEB Central Market. I also used the recipe on the bottle and added some lime zest.

Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Pie
adapted from Nellie & Joe's

9" graham cracker pie crust
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
1-2 tsp lime zest (optional)
½ cup Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice

Combine egg yolks and lime zest. Then add in the milk and the lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust and bake at 350º for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating. Just before serving, top with freshly whipped cream and garnish with lime slices.

The whipped cream on top was homemade, of course. After my first batch of homemade whipped cream, I vowed to never ever purchase or taste Cool Whip again. The homemade stuff is so good and has a softer, creamier, more luscious texture. The taste is just unbelievable, and it is so easy and fun to make!

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Place the (mixer) bowl and a whisk (or the whisk attachment) in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Afterward, pour the heavy cream into the (mixer) bowl and start whisking vigorously or on med-high. Once the cream reaches the soft peak stage, add in the sugar and vanilla. Continue to mix until it reaches the firm peak stage. Don't mix too long, or you will end up with sweet butter and buttermilk. After the mixture reaches the soft peak stage, I stop and start the mixer every few seconds to make sure I don't over mix it. Then, dip your finger in the cream, put the cream in your mouth, close your eyes, and savor the best whipped cream in the world! :D


Many people in the U.S. mispronounce and misuse the Italian word calzone. First, it has 3 syllables [kal-ZO-ne(h)], not 2 [kal-ZONE] (insert BUZZER SOUND here!). Second, calzone refers to one doughy envelope of yummy fillings, while calzoni refers to more than one, not calzones (insert appalled gasp here).

I usually make the pizza dough from Peter Reinhart, but I decided to try another recipe to see if there would be a big difference. I definitely prefer Reinhart's recipe. The dough comes out beautifully, and the texture is perfect with a satisfying crunch. The dough I found on allrecipes did not even come close. It had a plain taste by comparison, but it was satisfying enough. The allrecipe version produced enough dough for two big pizze (the plural for pizza), so I used the second portion to make calzoni. I took the frozen pizza dough out of my freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight.

My calzoni were filled with Italian sausage, provolone [pro-vo-LO-ne(h)], parmiggiano reggiano, a mixture of other cheeses, mushrooms, and spaghetti sauce. The calzoni turned out okay, but they came out misshapen because I forgot to transport the rolled-out dough to the jelly pan before filling them (DOH!). I studied some youtube videos to see how the Italians prepare their calzoni. They add tomatoes or tomato sauce and olive oil on top of the calzoni, and some also add salt and oregano, which is what I did. I also added extra parmiggiano reggiano on top. I plan to make these again with the Reinhart dough. I'm sure they will look and taste a lot better than these did. The ones pictured here were still delicious, though.