BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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C’est Magnifique!

Magic is what happens when impossibilities become reality.

Thus, this new development can only be explained as an act of magic. How else could France’s sole 100% vegan publisher, L’Age d’Homme, have picked my modest tribute to dairy-free ice creams out of a veritable ocean of cookbook options? Of all books, of all things- It’s still hard for me to believe! I don’t speak French and have only visited the country briefly, but this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

I haven’t yet seen the translated and reformatted rendition, renamed Veganice Glaces Véganes, but I’m already thrilled by the adorable new cover. For all you Francophiles out there, keep you eyes peeled for the release on June 21st! Should any French-speaking vegans out there get your hands on a copy, please let me know how the the recipes read, since I wouldn’t know the difference whether the instructions ultimately make ice cream or bicycles. Plus, I just got word that Vegan Desserts and Easy as Vegan Pie will also be joining Collection V shortly… Stay tuned for more details as they develop!

Since I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a big scoop of freshly churned ice cream, my recipe for Beurre Noisette Ice Cream, straight out of Vegan a la Mode, sounds like the perfect flavor to mark the occasion.

Beurre Noisette Ice Cream

Otherwise known as browned butter, the French have a much more elegant way of describing this rich nectar as “hazelnut butter,” alluding to the toasty, hazelnut-like flavor derived from a quick flash in the pan. The application of gentle heat transforms this everyday substance into something otherworldly, redolent with both salty and savory notes that heighten the sweetness of baked goods, or in this case, frozen treats. Many chefs would have you believe that this decadent substance can only be made with dairy, but au contraire, I’ve found that the same process works just as well with vegan “butter.” Taking the French term a bit more literally, a generous handful of hazelnuts cranks up the volume on that naturally nutty essence all the way to 11, so really, who needs the dairy anyway?

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
3 1/4 Cups Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Light Corn Syrup or Light Agave Nectar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Cup Toasted Hazelnuts, Finely Chopped

Cut the margarine into tablespoon-sized pieces and place them in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Wait for all of the margarine to melt, then begin swirling the pan around to stir, as needed. In a fairly short time it should begin to look somewhat separated, with a foamy white top and yellow oil underneath that will gradually progress to a darker color. Eventually, the solids will settle to the bottom and begin to brown. The best judge of doneness here is to watch and listen to the bubbles; they will start making a more hollow pinging sort of sound near the end, and slow nearly to stopping.

At that point, quickly add in the sugar, whisking slowly but continuously. The mixture will be clumpy initially, but it will smooth out. Cook the sugar to a deep amber color, but do not be alarmed if it’s still not completely dissolved yet. Add in 1 1/2 cups of the non-dairy milk very carefully to arrest the caramelization process– Stand back, because it will sputter angrily. Things may look like a mess now, with the sugar solidified and clumped at the bottom of the pan, but do not panic! Continue stirring over gentle heat until the sugar melts and becomes smooth again.

Whisk cornstarch and remaining milk together separately before adding it into the pan with the corn syrup and salt. Turn the heat up to medium, bring the mixture to a full boil, then turn off the stove. Stir in the vanilla and let cool to room temperature before moving the cooked custard into your fridge. Chill thoroughly, for at least 3 hours, before churning.

Churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the last 5 minutes of churning, slowly sprinkle in the chopped hazelnuts so that the blades of the paddle incorporate and distribute the nuts throughout the ice cream. Transfer the soft ice cream to an air-tight container, and store it in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving.

Makes 1 – 1 1/2 Quarts

Printable Recipe


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The Right Tool for the Job: Ice Cream Machines

Questions keep on pouring into my digital inbox about all things ice cream, but surprisingly, rarely about the recipes themselves. 9 messages out of 10 are from ice cream-churning virgins, first dipping a toe into the great pool of frozen treats. It’s the very machines that turn liquid into creamy confections that are the cause of most confusion, since there are so many models on the market these days and little guidance for the inexperienced shopper. The one most critical tool to have on your side is the ice cream maker, and that can be an intimidating and pricy investment- But it doesn’t have to be. As excerpted from my latest cookbook, Vegan a la Mode

Once a prohibitively expensive luxury item, both unwieldy to use and incapable of churning out any decent amount of ice cream, it’s a whole new world of frozen dessert technology out there now. Making ice cream at home has never been easier or more accessible, with countless options to delight your inner gadget geek. Originally limited to different sizes of hand-cranked wooden buckets, you can now find machines that will mix the base, chill themselves, churn the ice cream, do your taxes, and all under 30 minutes. Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration (it may take closer to 45 minutes), but frozen dessert technology has come a long way. Prices rise precipitously with each additional feature, so be prepared to pay for the luxury of a self-contained unit that can freeze simply with the flip of a switch.

For starters, let’s get one thing straight: I do not recommend hand-cranked machines. They may have an irresistible nostalgic quality, and the illusion of creating a more DIY experience, but trust me here, the novelty will wear off after the first batch, if not during the first batch. These archaic machines take much longer to freeze a quart of liquid base, can be terribly messy if they require salted ice as the chilling medium, and are downright exhausting. Plan to skip your workout if you’re churning ice cream by hand; the amount of labor that goes into such a process is no joke. If this hasn’t yet dissuaded you, bear in mind that at the point when it becomes thicker and even harder to crank, you must actually increase your vigor, to ensure that the finished ice cream has the smallest ice crystals possible, and thus smoothest, richest mouth-feel.

One of the most basic, affordable, and thus popular models is the simple freezer bowl design, which, just as the name suggests, has a separate insulated bowl that must sit in the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours before each batch. It’s essentially a giant ice pack shaped like a bowl, which rotates around a stationary but removable paddle. The downside is that you must plan your ice cream forays well in advance; a partially frozen bowl hastily pulled from the deep freeze will yield only slush. The big upside, however, is that $40 – $50 can get you one of these babies, brand spanking new. I would argue that these modest appliances are ideal for just about everyone, from newbie ice cream creators to those with intermediate experience. This is what I employed for many years, until the base fell on the ground one time too many and cracked beyond repair. Treat your machine nicely and it should last your whole lifetime.

If you have a stand mixer, there is likely an ice cream attachment created for your particular brand that can be purchased separately. A fine option, these are also of the freezer-bowl variety, but have the added benefit of making use of your existing appliance, saving space and hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of multi-taskers, but there’s also something to be said for specialized equipment that does one thing, and one thing very well. These types are fine options, but are actually a bit more expensive than the stand-alone sort, ringing up at about $70 – $100. Additionally, when trialing the attachment designed for my KitchenAid® stand mixer, I found that the resulting ice cream was slightly icier than average.

Panicked when I had to replace my trusty freezer bowl machine, I turned to the generosity of my grandmother. It occurred to me that my grandpa had made sorbet every Thanksgiving, but since his passing, that contraption hadn’t seen the light of day. Luck was on my side, because my grandma was thrilled that I would take that bulky thing off her hands, which had simply been collecting dust for nearly a decade, and also because it turned out to be a self-freezing unit. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from my grandpa, a self-confessed gadget lover. Fond of having the top-of-the-line tools before anyone else on the block, though the machine was perhaps twenty years old, it was still a state-of-the-art ice cream churn. This variety of machine has in-set bowls that typically can’t be removed, which makes for trickier clean up, but freeze down from room-temperature to a state of readiness in about five minutes. You can generally churn consecutive batches to your heart’s content, with a 10 – 15 minute pause in between. A good substitute for this outdated brand now would be the Cuisinart® ICE-50BC Supreme Ice Cream Maker, which has largely the same design and functionality. For hardcore frozen dessert divas, these are your only option, but they will set you back quite a few pretty pennies. Most start at about $250, and can escalate all the way to $1,000 and beyond, depending on the brand and capacity. For some, the investment is absolutely worthwhile, but most can get by just fine without such a fancy tool.

Of course, there are also many methods for making ice cream without any specialized equipment altogether… But that’s another post.


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Around the World in 80 Plates: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is it: The final stop on our edible adventure. It’s been quite a journey, tasting our way through nearly a dozen unique cuisines, and racking up just as many recipes as souvenirs.  Converting a different palate of flavors into a vegan plated dessert every week has proven more difficult than I initially envisioned, but it’s impossible to imagine having approached the challenge any other way. To think, that I would have once considered adding savory dishes into the mix! I guess that’s just not what comes most naturally to my sweet-toothed disposition. So, for a grand finale to cap off a feast of world travel, we’ve arrived at last in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

While I’d like to say that I’m well acquainted with the culture and the fine nuances in the indigenous edibles, the truth is that I spent about 15 minutes just trying to pronounce “Uruguay” correctly. Sure, it doesn’t seem so complicated, but for some reason I could just not wrap my tongue around all of those consecutive vowels. Luckily, it turns out that one of the most popular desserts there is much easier to swallow.

Postre chajá, a layered affair involving sponge cake, peaches, whipped cream, and meringue is actually named after a type of bird. Somehow the fluffy dessert made its inventor think of this feathered creature, however inexplicably, and the name has remained intact since. Though the combination of flavors and textures immediately grabbed me, inspiration for my final dessert didn’t come until the last minute. Rather than simply creating an elegant, bite-sized version of the original, it suddenly became clear that I had all the components here for a baked Alaska to remember.

Tender rounds of vanilla cake are topped with a dome of creamy peach ice cream. The whole stack is smothered in my foamy eggless meringue, doused in high-octane spirits, and promptly set ablaze. Admittedly, I hit a snag at this stage and had to resort to the trusty kitchen torch for a more even browning, but the little cakes can easily be tossed into a fast oven should the meringue need a bit more of a crisp. The quickly melting interior is revealed after slicing each snowy peak in half, and the plate is completed with slices of soft peaches and a simple fresh peach sauce. In fact, the sauce is so simple that I didn’t measure a thing. Two whole, ripe peaches went into the blender along with agave to taste, and just enough non-dairy milk to puree. It’s a fittingly sweet note to end this series on.

The final episode of Around the World in 80 Plates airs this Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo. Who will win, and what will they cook? Don’t miss the culmination of this whirlwind trip across the globe!

Postre Chajá Baked Alaska

Vanilla Cake
Peach Melba Ice Cream, Minus Raspberry Ripple (Vegan a la Mode, page 164)
Meringue (Vegan Desserts, page 191)

80-Proof or Greater Rum, Brandy, or Vodka
Sliced Fresh Peaches
Lightly Sweetened Peach Puree, if Desired

To put the baked Alaska together, freeze the freshly churned and still soft peach ice cream into silicon hemisphere molds. Let them set up solidly in the freeze; at least 4 hours. Meanwhile, slice out rounds of cake with 2 3/4-inch circular cookie cutters. Line the pieces up on a small tray, and chill thoroughly in the fridge.

When you’re ready to serve, top each round of cake with a hemisphere of ice cream, and smooth a generous coating of meringue all over. Make sure that you seal the edge where the cake meets the plate, to prevent heat from getting in and melting the ice cream too soon. Sprinkle each meringue-covered dessert with alcohol, and use a long match to set each on fire. Once the flames burn out, quickly slice the towers in half, and plate each half with a few fresh peach slices and a smear of peach puree, if desired. Eat immediately!

Makes about 6 Servings

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.


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A Frozen Fourth of July

Our Independence Day, the most patriotic of national holidays here in the US, typically fails to stir up much enthusiasm from me. The backyard barbecues are a welcome excuse to grill some easy entrees and catch up with old friends, but that could happen on any summer day, too. Plus, that red, white, and blue color scheme is a bit uninspiring… Most of the time. Inexplicably and without warning, it just hit me the right way this time around. Without plans or any party to attend, I still couldn’t resist the bait- I went all out to make a festive fourth of July dessert. In fact, now I want to throw my own little fete because of this impromptu project…

This cake is the key to turning the holiday into a real celebration. Fluffy billows of snow-white whipped coconut creme obscure a sweet surprise within. Though plainly ordinary from the outside, just remove a slice and watch guests’ faces light up…

To cool off a sweltering summer day in the sun, ice cream cake is just what the doctor ordered. Trust me on this one, it’s the only prescription suitable to combat exhaustion, hunger, heat, and dessert cravings all at once. Red velvet cake, one of my unexpectedly most popular recipes, has been given new life as the base of this icy layered treat. Revised and tweaked to perfection, it now practically glows with a crimson-red hue, all from a little can of cooked beets. For anyone who complained about an overtly lemon flavor, that issue is now a thing of the past. All you can taste is cake, sweet, moist, lightly cocoa-flavored cake.

Blue Moon Ice Cream lends a subtly fruity, mysterious yet comfortingly familiar flavor to the assembly. The real inspiration for this whole frozen dessert, it’s rare to find such a bright blue food, and so I seized the opportunity as soon as I could. Never mind dusty blue corn chips or purplish-blue potatoes- This ice cream is really blue!

If you didn’t plan ahead and pre-order a copy of Vegan a la Mode, then you’re in luck- Sarah of The Sweet Life is generously hosting a giveaway, which she put together without any prompting and paid for out of her own pocket. There’s still time to get in on the action and see this recipe for yourself, so don’t delay and enter the contest now!

Putting together this ice cream cake is much easier than it looks. Simply prepare the red velvet cake according to the instructions, but transfer the batter into a 9-inch round springform pan lined with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and lightly greased. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean, with perhaps a few moist crumbs clinging to it (but absolutely no wet batter.) Let cool completely, and chill before proceeding. Meanwhile, prepare the Blue Moon Ice Cream from Vegan a la Mode (page 8) according to those directions, and after churning, transfer the still soft ice cream to the same springform pan, smoothing it over the baked cake evenly, leveling out the top with a spatula. Let the whole thing harden in the freezer overnight before attempting to unmold.

Once firmly frozen, remove the sides from the pan, peel the parchment off the bottom of the cake, and transfer the two layers to a serving platter, cake plate, or cake stand (remember that you’ll have to fit it back into the freezer though, so double-check that there will be enough space to accommodate your dish!) Frost with coconut whipped creme, and top with edible star glitter, if desired. Store in the freezer until ready to serve, and then…

Celebrate!

Have a Happy Fourth of July!


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MOO Who?

As an ardent and rather stubborn DIY-er, it can be difficult to hand over the reins of a project to someone else. That’s why I was reluctant to accept an offer from MOO.com to lend a hand with printing. Why did I buy that bulky, large format professional photo printer anyway, and didn’t they only produce business cards? Au contraire, although best known for their brilliantly colored, multi-photo business cards, it turns out they also produce equally stunning stickers of all shapes and sizes, not to mention the greeting cards, too. The endless possibilities presented by a pack of completely customizable stickers was the spark that started my creative fire.

With Vegan a la Mode due literally any day now, I began to think towards future book signings, and how I wished I could have a greater reach in my two-state “tour.” Book plates could solve all of that! A simple sticker that could be mailed in a standard envelope, no muss, no fuss, for those abroad who might want a signature. Rather than slap together something reasonably decent, this was a job for MOO, plus the adorable illustrations of the ultra-talented Michelle Cavigliano.

Have happy ice cream scoops ever looked better on sticky paper? I think not. The color quality and sharpness is impeccable; What came in the mail less than a week after placing my order was a flawless replica of my original submission. (There’s just a bit of glare in the photo, not a printing issue at the bottom of the sticker.) Certainly better than I could have done alone, and about 100 times easier.

In celebration of my third cookbook‘s imminent release, I want to start by giving away 5 of these adorable book plate stickers, signed, to anyone who pre-ordered or won’t be able to see me in person- Or just loves the design (I don’t blame you; Michelle totally exceeded my expectations on the cute factor.) In addition, MOO.com was so generous as to offer both a pack of 50 Business Cards AND 50 Retangular Labels to 3 more lucky readers! That’s 8 chances to win right there. All you have to do is leave me a comment and specify if you want to be in the running for both a book plate and the printing prize packs from MOO, or just one. If you want your own MOO.com business cards and stickers, tell me about what you would have printed on them. Make sure you fill out a valid email address in the appropriate box, and please, only one comment per person.. This contest will be open to entries until June 5th at midnight EST.

UPDATE: The random number generator has spoken, and the winners of the MOO.com prize packs are…

Amanda and Jessica K!

And the lucky five getting signed book plates are…

Jill, Kelly C, Sarah, veganamericanprincess, and Aya!

Congrats everyone! Keep an eye on your email, and expect a message about your winnings from either me or MOO shortly.


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The Drunken Grape

It’s reasonable to expect a scorching summer ahead, at the rate the temperature is rising already. When was the last time you could even dream of donning shorts and flip flops come mid-April? It may be a sign of worse things to come, but right now, this sudden taste of the tropics is a welcome wake-up call from winter. Best of all, it’s now perfectly reasonable to bust out that ice cream maker and get churning, no further excuses necessary.

Rum raisin would have to be on the short list of classic parlor flavors, an essential scoop that must make every menu worth its salt. Sure, raisins can be a polarizing ingredient in desserts, but when soaked in spirits and thoroughly intoxicated on a heady mix of rum and sugar, what’s not to love? A mere replication of this tried-and-true formula wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite for experiment though, and my mind turned to other candies and successful raisin dessert mash-ups.

Ultimately an amalgamation of both the classic rum raisin ice cream and yogurt-covered raisins, the resulting marriage of tart, sweet, and slightly boozy makes me wonder why no one makes the traditional candies infused with spirits in the first place. Do yourself a favor and lose the the waxy coatings in favor of a smooth and creamy coat of thickened vegan yogurt- You’ll end up with not only a healthier treat, but a much more satisfying and grown-up option as well. This particular recipe may have been cut from the final line up in Vegan a la Mode, but there’s yet another rendition on this drunken raisin dessert, with a more chocolaty twist…

Rum Raisin Frozen Yogurt

3 Cups (1 24-Ounce Container) Plain Soy or Coconut Yogurt
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 Cup Raisins
3 Tablespoons Dark Rum
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth and fill with soy yogurt. Wrap the edges of the cheesecloth over the yogurt until fully covered, and place strainer or colander over a pot deep enough to catch the liquid and keep the yogurt from sitting in the moisture. Cover pot with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. You should end up with about 2 1/2 cups of thick yogurt.

In a medium bowl, combine the strained yogurt, sugar, raisins, rum, vanilla, and salt. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Yes, this one does take a good measure of patience, but allowing the flavors to meld and develop before churning will create a more complex and harmonious final product. Plus, by effectively soaking the raisins for a good couple of hours, this will prevent them from turning into rock-hard icicles once they hit the freezer.

The following morning (don’t worry, there’s no shame in admitting you wanted to sneak a scoop for breakfast!) freeze mixture in an ice cream machine based on the manufacturer’s instructions. For a soft-serve consistency, serve immediately after freezing. For a firmer consistency more like standard ice cream, pack into an airtight container and let chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe


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Leftovers

The dust is finally beginning to settle after the final grueling round of edits for Vegan a la Mode, and I can breathe more easily once again. It may actually be done. Such a crazy thought, to consider that my third cookbook is on it’s way, possibly being printed as we speak. It sure didn’t happen overnight though; like most of my grand concepts, this one has been churning for a couple years now, before I even knew I wanted to do a book devoted solely to frozen treats. The gentle hum of the ice cream maker was my siren song, and I couldn’t stop dreaming up creamy concoctions even if I tried. It was a natural segue to turn those recipes into a book, where they could all live happily together. But like any process that drags on through months and months, evolving with the changing seasons and weathering different patterns of inspiration, there had to be some difficult cuts to make at the end of the line. As per usual, I had too many ideas, too many words, and not nearly enough pages to stretch my writerly legs.

Perfectly tasty ice creams had to be set aside to make the book work as a whole, and this Maple Nut Royale was one of them. Sandwiched between a maple-pecan number and a handful of other peanut-based confections, it simply made sense to pare back. It took the news with grace, but I could tell it was quite disappointed it wouldn’t see the pages of a published book after all. Leftover but still perfectly good, this creamy, nutty ice cream seemed like the perfect little teaser to share here instead. One of the earlier recipes I churned up, circa 2009, the photo may not be my best work, but I like to think that the deliciousness still shows all the same.

Maple-Nut Royale Ice Cream

3/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2/3 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk*
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans

*Almond milk is recommended to further the nutty theme, but any sort of non-dairy beverage, other than rice milk, will do.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pecans, in a medium saucepan until smooth. You can bring things together more easily in a blender, but it should smooth out with a sturdy whisk and just a bit of elbow grease, too. Set the saucepan over medium heat on the stove, and continue to whisk gently, scraping the bottom and sides as you go, to prevent the mixture from sticking and burning.

Cook until the liquid comes to a boil and has thickened significantly; bubbles should break slowly but regularly on the surface. Turn off the heat, and let cool to room temperature before chilling thoroughly in the fridge. Allow at least 2 – 3 hours for the mixture to come down to a cooler temperature.

Once chilled, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the final 5 minutes of churning, add in the chopped pecans, and allow the moving paddle to incorporate them into the soft ice cream. Transfer to an air-tight container, and stash in the freezer for at least 3 hours to further harden before scooping and serving.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe

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