Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

I am partially writing this post to distract me because I am heading to the hospital this evening to be induced for labor. I was actually scheduled to be induced yesterday, exactly at 37 weeks, but they called about 90 minutes before my scheduled time to tell me there was not a single room open in Labor and Delivery. Let’s hope there will be a room open this evening because I’m ready to get off this roller coaster.

While I’ve been pregnant, people always tend to ask me what my primary food cravings are. Honestly, I have not had any cravings beyond foods that I tend to like to eat anyway. The only real thing I have noticed is that my sweet tooth is definitely more noticeable than normal, and one thing that seems to taste particularly good is ice cream. I can, in all actuality, say that I have eaten more ice cream this year than I have ever consumed before, and I have a bowl nearly every evening as dessert. I was, therefore, not disappointed at all to see that a second Good Eats ice cream episode was next in my lineup. Three flavors of ice cream to make? Yes, please.

Vanilla Ice Cream

The first ice cream flavor in this episode is a classic vanilla. The basic formula for all of the recipes in this episode can be remembered by the following sequence of numbers:  9, 8, 3, 2, 1. Nine stands for 9 oz of sugar, eight is for 8 egg yolks, three is for 3 C of half and half, two is for 2 t of vanilla, and one is for 1 C of heavy cream.

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Ingredients for Alton’s ice cream: heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar, and half and half.

For the vanilla ice cream, Alton prefers you to use vanilla sugar, if possible, which can be made by leaving a vanilla pod in the sugar for a week or more. I was ready to make my vanilla ice cream the day I watched the episode, so I made my vanilla ice cream with plain sugar. Alton’s ice cream begins with placing a medium saucepan over medium heat, adding the cup of cream and the three cups of half and half. Bring the dairy to a bare simmer.

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Cream and half and half placed over medium heat, and being brought to a simmer.

While the dairy heats up, whisk the eight egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar to the yolks, whisking as you add. The resulting mixture should be very thick, light yellow, and should fall from the whisk’s tip in a thick ribbon.

When the dairy has begun to simmer, remove it from the heat. It is now time to temper the eggs by very slowly whisking 1/3 of the dairy mixture into the yolks; don’t rush this process or your egg yolks will curdle.

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Ready to temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in the simmered dairy.

Once you have added about a third of the dairy to the yolks, it is safe to add the rest of the dairy all at once.

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Egg mixture (right) after adding about 1/3 of the dairy.

Pour the entire mixture back in the medium saucepan and place it over low heat, stirring as you bring it to 170 degrees.

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Custard back in saucepan and heated over low heat to 170.

Once at 170, remove the custard from the heat – it should be thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. When you run your finger across the back of the spoon, a clear line should remain in the custard; this is called nape.

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Nape: thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and stay parted.

Transfer the custard to a bowl and place it in the freezer until it has cooled to room temperature. Stir in the 2 t of vanilla.

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Vanilla stirred into cooled custard.

Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate it until it is below 40 degrees, which will take several hours. I made my custard a day prior to churning.

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Custard to be chilled overnight.

When your custard has sufficiently chilled, churn it in any ice cream maker you prefer.

Place the finished ice cream in an air-tight container and let it freeze for six to eight hours before serving.

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Alton’s vanilla ice cream.

I was really happy with this basic vanilla ice cream recipe. The custard was rich, creamy, and had a bit of an egg flavor to it, along with a slight yellow hue. Sure, you could improve this recipe by adding some vanilla pulp from a vanilla bean, but this is a great standard recipe for just utilizing vanilla extract.

Mint Chip Ice Cream

Apparently, mint chip ice cream is (or at least was) Alton’s favorite ice cream flavor, so he included a mint chip recipe in this episode. This recipe follows the same 9 (oz of sugar), 8 (egg yolks), 3 (C of 1/2 and 1/2), 2 (t of vanilla), and 1 (C of cream) formula as outlined in the vanilla recipe above.

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Mint chip ice cream ingredients: 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, egg yolks, mint oil, and cream.

Again, begin by pouring the 3 C of 1/2 and 1/2 and the cup of cream into a medium saucepan over medium heat.

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1/2 and 1/2 and cream in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, whisk the eight egg yolks in a bowl until they have lightened. Slowly whisk the nine ounces of sugar into the yolks until you have a thick mixture that falls in a ribbon from your whisk.

When your dairy has reached a bare simmer, remove it from the heat. Slowly temper the cream into the eggs, gradually whisking about a third of the dairy into the eggs. It is then safe to add the remaining dairy all at once.

Pour the egg/cream mixture back into the medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the temperature hits 170 degrees and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a freezer-safe bowl. Place the bowl in the freezer until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Stir in 1 t of mint oil instead of the vanilla extract used for the vanilla ice cream recipe.

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Adding the mint oil to the cooled custard.

Place the custard in the refrigerator to cool until it is below 40 degrees, which will take hours; I always just do this part overnight. The following day, or when you are ready to churn, chop three ounces of Andes mints.

Add the mints right after you begin churning the custard, as Alton says the mints will contribute more flavor if added earlier in the churning process.

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Andes mints added at the beginning of the churn.

Once churned, transfer the ice cream to an air-tight container and place it in the freezer for 6-8 hours before serving.

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Alton’s mint chip ice cream.

IMG_0154(1) This is a really good mint chip ice cream. The addition of Andes mints gives an extra kick of mint, as opposed to just using chopped chocolate. The basic custard is rich and slightly eggy in flavor, and the mint oil manages somehow to make an ice cream that is simultaneously indulgent and refreshing. I’m actually wishing right now that I still had a little bit of this in the freezer right now because it sounds really good. This was probably our favorite ice cream recipe of this episode.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Last in this episode is Alton’s chocolate ice cream. This recipe uses the same formula as in the vanilla and mint chip recipes, but the first step is to place 1.5 ounces of cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process) and 1/2 C of 1/2 and 1/2 in a medium saucepan, whisking until the cocoa powder has dissolved.

Once the cocoa powder has dissolved, the formula continues as in the vanilla ice cream recipe. Add the remaining 2 1/2 C of 1/2 and 1/2 to the pan, along with 1 C cream.

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The remaining 1/2 and 1/2 and a cup of cream added to the chocolate paste.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. While the dairy heats, whisk eight egg yolks until lightened and slowly whisk nine ounces of sugar into the yolks, forming a light, thick mixture.

When the dairy just begins to bubble, remove it from the heat and temper the yolks by slowly whisking about 1/3 of the chocolate/cream into the yolks.

Once 1/3 of the warm dairy has been added, you can add the remaining dairy to the yolks. Place the pan back on low heat and stir until the custard reaches 170 degrees and will coat the back of a spoon.

Transfer the custard to a freezer-safe bowl and let the mixture cool in the freezer until it is about room temperature. Once chilled, stir 2 t of vanilla extract into the chocolate custard and place the custard in the refrigerator to chill overnight, or until it is below 40 degrees. When the custard has chilled, you can churn your ice cream.

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Custard after chilling overnight.

Place the churned ice cream in the freezer for 6-8 hours before serving.

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Alton’s chocolate ice cream.

Alton’s chocolate ice cream is rich and packed with chocolate flavor. If you are a chocolate ice cream lover, this is a quick, easy chocolate ice cream recipe that is sure to satisfy. Chocolate ice cream has never been my absolute favorite flavor, but I sure wouldn’t turn down a bowl of this.

 

Recent happenings have caused me to fall way behind on this blog, which actually provides a great distraction at times. After feeling “off” a couple weeks ago, I ended up having various tests done, which led to a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia last week, which can be a life-threatening pregnancy complication. I am currently 30 weeks pregnant, and I am being tested/monitored weekly, with a goal of taking the pregnancy to 37 weeks before delivery. It all depends on how my body handles things in the coming weeks, but I am unfortunately facing the reality that I will be delivering this baby early; it is just a question of how early.

I made the recipes in this episode quite a while ago actually, but am only now sitting down to finally write. My newest lab results should be in today or tomorrow, so I am trying to distract myself in the meantime. Since this is sort of a summery episode, I figured I’d better get on it while the warm weather is still here! The recipes from this episode are great to make on a hot evening because they are both grilling recipes and thus won’t heat up the house.

Spicy Beef Kebabs

First up, Alton makes beef kebabs in this episode. You will want your meat to sit in the marinade for 2-4 hours before grilling, so be sure to allow adequate time for marination. To make the marinade, combine 3 cloves of garlic, 2 t smoked paprika, 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t cumin, 1 t Kosher, 1/2 t pepper, and 1/3 C red wine vinegar in the bowl of a food processor.

Process the marinade until smooth, and then drizzle in 1/2 C olive oil with the machine running.

For these skewers, Alton recommends using boneless beef sirloin, of which you will need about 1.5 pounds.

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Boneless beef sirloin.

Cut the meat into two-inch cubes, place the cubes in a large plastic bag, and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and toss the meat to coat thoroughly.

Place the meat in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-4 hours. Before threading his meat onto skewers, Alton likes to pre-arrange his meat on a sheet pan, placing cubes of similar sizes on the same skewers for even cooking.

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Beef after marinating for several hours. Pieces of meat arranged such that pieces of similar size go on the same skewer.

Once your meat is sorted, thread the meat onto metal grilling skewers, placing about five or six pieces on each skewer; leave about a half inch of space between the meat cubes.

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Beef cubes threaded onto metal skewers.

To grill the skewers, first be sure that your grill grates are pretty clean and preheat your gas grill to medium-high. Place the skewers on the grill, rotating them every two minutes for a total cook time of eight to 12 minutes. For this cut of beef, Alton prefers his meat to be cooked to medium doneness, which should take about 12 minutes.

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The beef from Alton’s skewers.

When done grilling, wrap the hot skewers in foil and let them rest for a few minutes before eating. To cook the skewers on a charcoal grill, remove the grate and place four bricks around the center mound of charcoal. Rest the skewers on the bricks, suspending the meat above the hot charcoal. I cooked my skewers for the full twelve minutes recommended by Alton, and I thought the meat was a tad bit chewy. The marinade for this recipe was excellent, however, and made the meat super flavorful. I could see using this marinade for a variety of meat preparations. This recipe made for a quick, easy, flavorful meal. My only gripe was that the meat was a little bit too chewy, so I might try cooking the meat a little less next time.

Vanilla Lime Pineapple Skewers

If you are looking for a side dish for your beef kebabs, or for a dessert to follow, Alton has you covered with his pineapple skewers. Begin by splitting a vanilla bean in half and scraping out the seeds/pulp. Reserve the bean. Place 1 C dark brown sugar, 1/2 C lime juice, a pinch of Kosher salt, and the vanilla pulp/pod in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Whisk the mixture until the brown sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for two hours. After steeping, remove the vanilla pod and discard it.

Transfer the cooled syrup to a plastic squeeze bottle. Next, prepare your pineapple by cutting the top and bottom off of the fruit. Stand the fruit on one end and cut the pineapple into quarters. Lay the pineapple quarters down and cut them in half, creating eighths. Cut the core off of each eighth of pineapple, discarding it. Finally, use a sharp knife to fillet the pineapple off of its skin.

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Pineapple cut into eighths.

Thread each eighth of pineapple onto a metal grilling skewer, squirt them with the vanilla syrup, and grill them for four minutes per side, for a total of 12 minutes. As you grill the fruit, squirt it occasionally with the vanilla syrup.

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Alton’s grilled pineapple.

Serve the pineapple warm. This was a fun, summery dessert that was easy to prepare. The pineapple softened and became sweeter, and its flavor was complimented nicely by the flavors in the syrup. The lime juice added a nice tartness to an otherwise very sweet syrup. You could certainly use this syrup on other fruits also, or you could simply take Alton’s suggestion and eat the syrup over ice cream. Either way, the syrup is a multitasker!

I have not been able to bring myself to write up a Good Eats episode. My dad died on March 18th, after spending three weeks in the ICU; those three weeks were a roller coaster ride, as his condition fluctuated often and rapidly. At times, we thought he would soon be leaving the hospital to head to a rehab facility, but then he would head downhill again. Finally, on March 18th, he succumbed. We received a great gift that day, as Dad was suddenly the most lucid he had been in weeks. He was able to tell us that he was ready to go and he said his goodbyes to all of us.

Needless to say, my dad’s funeral was two days ago and I am still completely devastated, as I lost one of my very best friends, and also my key life adviser. Dad and I shared many common interests, but food and Good Eats were among them. Dad always loved to chat about the recipes I was cooking for my next blog post, and he often recalled watching particular episodes with me in earlier years. Although it is emotionally tough to write a post without him here, I also know he would want me to continue my project, as he thought it was really “neat.”

Carrot Slaw

For a make-ahead side dish, try Alton’s carrot slaw. Begin by washing two pounds of carrots. If they are thicker than an inch at their bases, peel them also.

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Two pounds of carrots.

Next, use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrots into thin strips. This was quite a noisy task in my house, as our coonhounds are obsessed with carrots, and they howled for the duration of my peeling!

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Two pounds of carrots, peeled into ribbons.

Place the following ingredients in a lidded container that is twice the volume of your carrot strips:  1/2 C mayo, pinch of Kosher salt, 1/3 C sugar, 1/2 C drained crushed pineapple (canned), 1/2 C raisins, 2 t curry powder, a pinch of caraway and/or celery seed, and 1 t minced garlic.

Whisk these ingredients together to form a dressing.

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The combined dressing.

Finally, add the carrot strips, place the lid on the container, and shake the carrots until they are thoroughly coated with the dressing.

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Carrot slaw.

You can eat the slaw immediately or refrigerate it for up to a week. We ate this slaw as a side dish with dinner and both found it to be a flavorful vegetable option, though I felt it was a little sauce-heavy. I don’t know about you, but we tend to get in a rut with our vegetable side dishes, so this was definitely a different choice. My carrot strips were pretty long, which ended up being a bit tricky to eat (like super long noodles), so I would recommend trying to make slightly shorter carrot strips. This recipe is a mix of sweet and savory flavors, and the raw carrots maintain a slight crunch. This could be a good make-ahead option for a summer potluck.

Glazed Carrots

In this episode, Alton refers to this recipe as his all-time favorite carrot recipe. When purchasing carrots, Alton recommends buying carrots with fresh-looking green ends; be sure to trim the stems to a length of one inch once you are home, as they tend to pull moisture from the carrots. And, if you want to store carrots as Alton does, keep them wrapped in bubble wrap. I tend to just opt for plastic wrap, myself. To make glazed carrots, cut, on the bias, a pound of carrots into coins that are 1/3″ to 1/4″ thick.

Place the carrot discs in a 12-inch skillet, along with an ounce of butter, a large pinch of Kosher salt, and a cup of ginger ale.

Heat the burner to medium heat, cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Once simmering, decrease the heat to medium-low and cook the carrots for five minutes with the lid on.

After five minutes, remove the lid, add 1/2 t chili powder, and increase the heat to high. Resist the urge to stir the carrots, though you can gently shake the pan. Continue to cook the carrots until the liquid is almost gone, which should take about five minutes.

Check the carrots with the tip of a sharp knife – they should be just knife-tender. Sprinkle the carrots with a tablespoon of chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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Glazed carrots.

I have to agree with Alton that these glazed carrots are delicious. This recipe comes together super quickly and is perfect for any weeknight. I highly recommend this one for a side dish.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake seems to be the most polarizing type of cake. For me, carrot cake is way up at the top of the list, so this recipe gave me a good excuse to have a few slices. To make Alton’s version of carrot cake, preheat your oven to 350 and lube the bottom and sides of a cake pan with butter. Coat the pan with flour, removing any excess, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. When I watched Alton prep his pan, I recognized the pan immediately as the same one he used to make his cheesecake in episode 61.

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Buttered and floured pan, lined on the bottom with parchment.

Next, shred 12 ounces of carrots on the large side of a box grater and place them in a bowl. Yes, this part is a pain, but at least your arm burns some calories, so you can eat a larger slice of cake later.

Dump the following ingredients into the bowl of a food processor:  12 ounces of flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 t baking soda, 1/4 t allspice, 1/4 t  cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, and 1/2 t salt. Pulse the dry ingredients until combined and add them to the carrots, tossing them until coated.

Next, combine 10 ounces of sugar, 2 ounces of dark brown sugar, 3 eggs, and 6 ounces of plain yogurt in the food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in 6 ounces of vegetable oil. Add the wet mixture to the carrots, mixing ten times with your hands.

Pour the carrot mixture into your prepared pan and bake the cake for 45 minutes.

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Batter poured into prepared pan.

After 45 minutes, decrease the heat to 325 and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the cake has an internal temperature between 205 and 210 degrees (mine was at 208 after the initial 20 minutes). Oh, and when taking the temperature of a cake, place the thermometer half-way between the center of the cake and the rim of the pan.

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Cake after baking for 65 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting. I let my cake cool in the pan for the first half hour, and then removed it from the pan for the remainder of the cooling process.

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Cake, removed from pan after 30 minutes of cooling. Allowed to cool completely on rack.

For Alton’s cream cheese frosting, combine 8 ounces of room temperature cream cheese with 2 ounces of room temperature butter.

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Softened cream cheese and butter in mixer.

Add 1 t vanilla and 9 ounces of sifted powdered sugar, mixing until smooth.

Chill the frosting for 5-10 minutes before using it to frost your cooled cake.

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Frosted carrot cake.

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A slice of Alton’s carrot cake.

As I said before, I love carrot cake, and this is a simple one. I like the fact that the carrots are really the star of this cake, as there are no pineapple chunks, or walnuts, or raisins in this one. Also, since this is a one-layer cake, it is a cake that can easily be made on a busy day. Alton’s carrot cake is moist, dense, and has just the right amount of sweetness to balance with the sweeter cream cheese frosting. The frosting is smooth and creamy, and the recipe makes the perfect amount to frost the top of this carrot cake. I am actually making this cake again this weekend, as it is my dog’s 13th birthday on Sunday and he adores carrots. He will only get a tiny nibble, but we humans will eat the rest in celebration of him.

Seeing as it is currently 12 degrees outside here, it really isn’t peak melon season. I take the episodes in the order they come, though, so we enjoyed a couple melon recipes in February. Although the melon was not of the greatest quality, these recipes still managed to give us a little taste of summer.

Hot Melon Salad

I have wanted to make this melon salad since I watched this episode with my dad when it originally aired in 2005. I remember that it just sounded so good to me when I first watched this episode. Alton prefers to use a high-powered outdoor gas burner for his wok, which is a setup my dad adopted after watching Good Eats. I do have my dad’s outdoor burner, but it needs a new hose, so I used our flat-bottomed wok on our regular old stove. Whether you are cooking indoors or out, heat your wok on a hot burner until water droplets instantly turn to steam upon hitting the pan. As with any stir fry, be sure to have all of your ingredients ready ahead of time, as the cooking goes very quickly. The ingredients for this dish are 1 1/2 T olive oil, a thinly sliced red onion, 8 ounces of cubed honeydew melon, 8 ounces of cubed cantaloupe, 1 T basil chiffonade, Kosher salt, black pepper, 2 t red wine vinegar, 2 ounces feta cheese, and 1 T toasted pine nuts.

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Ingredients for salad: red onion, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. Not pictured: melon.

Speaking of cantaloupe, did you know that all of the cantaloupes in this country are really muskmelons? Anyway, once the wok is hot, add the oil to the pan and swirl to coat.

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Oil in hot wok.

Add the sliced red onion and toss until heated through.

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Onion added to hot wok.

Next, add the cubed melon and toss again, cooking until the corners of the melon just start to brown slightly. Add the tablespoon of basil, along with a pinch of Kosher salt and some black pepper.

Drizzle the vinegar into the pan and transfer the salad to a serving dish. Finish the salad by sprinkling on the feta and pine nuts.

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Alton’s hot melon salad.

We had this as a side dish one night and we ate the entire salad. I really like the flavors in this salad and how they compliment each other. The melon becomes sweeter from the heat, yet the red wine vinegar gives just a light touch of acidity. The feta adds some much-needed salt, while the red onion gives some pungency. The crunch of the pine nuts is a nice addition to a salad that is otherwise composed of ingredients with fairly similar textures. To me, this dish would be a perfect summer grilling side dish, and I intend to make it again, just as soon as deck season arrives.

Melon Sorbet

A fresh melon sorbet is the second recipe in this episode, and it is super easy to throw together.

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Sorbet ingredients: watermelon, lemon juice, vodka, and sugar.

Puree a pound plus five ounces of watermelon in a food processor.

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Pureed watermelon.

To the pureed melon, add 3 T fresh lemon juice, 2 T vodka, and 9 ounces of sugar. The vodka serves to lower the freezing point of the sorbet, making the texture softer and less icy.

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Lemon juice, vodka, and sugar added to watermelon puree.

Refrigerate the melon mixture for at least two hours before churning in an ice cream maker.

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Churning sorbet after chilling.

Once churned, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 3-4 hours before eating.

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Watermelon sorbet.

The amounts of watermelon flavor and aroma in this sorbet are amazing, especially considering that I could not get great fruit. The color of the sorbet also seemed more vibrant than the color of the melon itself. As for texture, this sorbet stayed pretty soft and scoopable, and had very few large ice crystals. This sorbet truly is a taste of summer. It is quite sweet, so I have to wonder if a slight decrease in sugar could make this even better, though I suppose that could also alter the final texture of the sorbet. Perhaps I will just have to make two batches of sorbet once melon is in season – one with the original sugar concentration and one with a slightly lower concentration. I also intend to try this with some other types of melon, though I would imagine the sugar would have to be adjusted accordingly for the sugar contents of different melons. This sorbet is super refreshing, easy, and can brighten up even the coldest of winter days.

I was not overly stoked for an entire episode of pudding recipes. I mean, pudding is fine, but it’s not exactly exciting. I did, however, get very happy when I was a kid and my mom would leave pudding in the refrigerator for an after-school snack; chocolate pudding was my brother’s favorite, while I always preferred butterscotch. Speaking of butterscotch pudding, if you have not tried the butterscotch pudding in Alton’s latest book, it is a must-make. Here is my rundown of Alton’s pudding recipes, and I must say that two out of three wowed me.

Indian Rice Pudding

Indian rice pudding is the first recipe in this episode. The ingredients in this recipe are 1 C cooked rice, 1 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, 3/4 C coconut milk, 2 ounces sugar, 1/4 t ground cardamom, 1 1/2 ounces golden raisins, and 1 1/2 ounces chopped unsalted pistachios.

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Rice pudding ingredients: cooked rice, milk, heavy cream, coconut milk, sugar, cardamom, golden raisins, and pistachios.

For the pudding, put the milk and rice in a large skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring.

Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer the milk/rice until it has thickened slightly, which should take about five minutes; if you run a spatula along the bottom of the pan, the liquid should be thick enough to part and stay parted.

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Rice and milk after coming to a boil and simmering.

When you have achieved this desired consistency, increase the heat to medium and add the cream and coconut milk, followed by the sugar and cardamom (use a whisk to incorporate the cardamom).

When the mixture has reached a boil again, decrease the heat to low and cook for five more minutes.

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Pudding cooked for 5 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins and nuts.

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Raisins and pistachios added to pudding off the heat.

Transfer the pudding to your desired serving vessel(s) and enjoy immediately, or you can chill the pudding overnight, which is how Alton prefers it. If you do opt to chill the pudding, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent formation of a skin.

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Alton’s rice pudding.

I tasted the rice pudding when it was warm, but chose to refrigerate it overnight before eating a full serving. This rice pudding is delicious. The pudding is thick, rich, creamy, and indulgent. The subtle flavor of coconut milk is in the background, while pistachio flavor is predominant. The raisins add little punches of fruit flavor, while the nuts add a little crunch. This is great for dessert or for breakfast, or for both! I fully intend to make this again soon. In fact, I am really wishing I had some right now! Excellent recipe.

Tapioca Pudding

I do not recall ever having tapioca pudding prior to making this recipe. I asked my parents about tapioca pudding the other day and my mom said she remembers her mother making it, while my dad did not think he had ever had tapioca pudding. Tapioca, by the way, is a starch from the cassava plant. Tapioca is sold in several forms, but this recipe calls for large pearl tapioca. The recipe begins by soaking 3 1/2 ounces of tapioca in a pint of cold water overnight; you can do this at room temperature.

After the soak, drain the pearls and put them in a crock pot, along with 2 1/2 C milk, 1/2 C heavy cream, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir the pudding, put the lid on the cooker, and let the pudding cook on high for two hours.

After the two hour cook time, beat one egg yolk with 1/3 sugar in a bowl – this will form a paste.

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Tapioca after cooking for two hours.

Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly whisking 1 – 1 1/2 C of the warm tapioca into the eggs.

Once tempered, add the egg mixture back to the crock pot of tapioca and whisk to combine. Add the zest of a lemon to the cooker, place the lid back on, and let the pudding cook for 15 more minutes.

Transfer the tapioca to an airtight container, pressing plastic wrap directly onto its surface. Let the pudding cool to room temperature before refrigerating until it is thoroughly chilled.

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Pudding after cooking for 15 more minutes.

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Chilled tapioca pudding.

This pudding was good, but not amazing like the rice pudding. Since I am not a tapioca pudding expert I cannot say for sure, but I felt like the texture of this pudding was maybe a little thinner than it should be. I liked the added texture from the slightly chewy tapioca pearls, but the base was a little on the soupy side. As for flavor, it was just sort of creamy with subtle lemon overtones. I may make this again, simply because I have half a bag of tapioca pearls remaining, but I won’t add this one to the permanent recipe vault.

Chocolate Pudding

What pudding episode would be complete without a recipe for chocolate pudding? This is a two-step recipe, in which you first make a dry pudding mix, and then use the mix to make the pudding. To make the dry mix, in a lidded container combine 1 1/2 ounces non-fat dry milk, 2 ounces cornstarch, 1 t salt, 3 ounces Dutch cocoa powder, and 6 ounces powdered sugar. Shake the container to combine the ingredients.

To make the pudding, put 1 3/4 C of the dry pudding mix in a saucier. Whisk 2 C milk and 2 C heavy cream into the dry pudding mix.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and simmer for four minutes, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 t vanilla.

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Adding vanilla off the heat.

Pour the pudding through a sieve and into a serving bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent the formation of a skin, and refrigerate the pudding for at least four hours before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate pudding.

This is the best chocolate pudding I have ever eaten. The pudding is super rich and creamy in both texture and flavor. It is smooth and chock full of chocolate flavor, and a little goes a long way. I am going to whip up another batch of this pudding shortly. It is super good.

Just like that, the hectic holiday season is behind us and we are into 2019. We spent our Christmas at my brother’s house, so we did not host either Thanksgiving or Christmas in 2018. It always feels odd to me when I do not end up cooking much at the holidays, and my only real contribution to Christmas dinner was a batch of roasted Brussels sprouts. We had great food, though, including a salty Wayco ham.

I always have a long list of things I want to cook/bake that are unrelated to this blog project. I plan to actually sit down and make a list of the top things I want to make this year, so I can physically cross them off as I complete them. I had planned to make my list yesterday since it was the first day of the year, but I spent the day with a fever on the couch instead. Boo.

Savory Polenta

The 115th episode of Good Eats is one that Alton chose to remake in his new show Good Eats:  Reloaded. Savory polenta is the first recipe in this one. So, what is the difference between grits and polenta? According to Alton, grits and polenta are different preparations of the same main ingredient:  cornmeal. Grits are often made from ground hominy, which is white, while polenta is made from ground yellow corn. Either way, when purchasing cornmeal to use in either grits or polenta, always look for stone ground cornmeal; the terms “polenta” and “grits” are often featured together on the label of stone ground cornmeal. To make polenta, place 2 T olive oil in a saucier over medium heat. Add 3/4 C chopped red onion and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and cook the onion until it has softened.

Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for two minutes.

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Garlic added to onion.

Next, add a quart of chicken broth and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.

When the broth is boiling, gradually add 1 C coarse cornmeal, whisking it in. Once all of the cornmeal has been added, place a lid on the pan and place it in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring the polenta every 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir in 3 T butter, 2 ounces grated Parmesan, and 1/4 t pepper.

You can now eat the polenta as it is or you can pour the warm polenta into a parchment-lined 9×13″ pan. Let the polenta cool to room temperature in the pan, and then place it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

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Polenta poured into 9×13 pan.

After chilling, flip the polenta out onto a cutting board and use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds.

Toss the polenta circles in olive oil and you can fry, saute, or grill them; I opted for sautéing. I served my polenta with a homemade tomato sauce and some grated Parmesan.

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Polenta rounds with tomato sauce and Parmesan.

This polenta is easy and delicious. We tasted the polenta after adding the butter, cheese, and pepper, and I would have been content to eat a bowl just like that. I also liked the sautéed version, as there was a slight golden crust on the outside, while the polenta remained tender and buttery on the inside. The garlic and onion flavors were obvious and made the polenta savory with a little kick. This would also be a great vegetarian dinner option if you substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and this seems like a very kid-friendly dinner option too. Don’t bother with that tube of polenta at the grocery store when you can make this version at home!

Cheese Grits

I first remember having grits when I was in the Florida Keys for my cousin’s wedding. We stopped for breakfast at an oceanfront restaurant and grits were one of the side dish options. I instantly became a grits fan. For Alton’s grits, combine 2 C milk, 2 C water, and 1 1/2 t Kosher salt in a saucier and bring the mixture to a boil.

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Milk, water, and Kosher salt in a saucier.

Once boiling, slowly whisk 1 C coarse cornmeal into the liquid.

Place a lid on the pan and cook the grits for 20-25 minutes, stirring every two or three minutes, and keeping the heat as low as possible. I found that my grits were still too thin after 25 minutes, so I cooked them for about 35 minutes.

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Grits after stirring/cooking for ~35 minutes.

Stir in 4 T butter and season with Kosher salt, if needed.

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4 T butter.

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Butter added to grits.

Lastly, slowly stir in 4 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese.

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Cheddar, slowly added to grits.

We ate these grits for a pre-run breakfast, alongside purple barley bread and they kept me fueled for 8.5 miles.

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A bowl of cheese grits.

These grits are cheese, rich, and creamy. Due to their richness, I could only eat a small bowl before I felt pretty full. Alton’s grits are definitely heavier than his version of polenta, but equally tasty.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Lastly, Alton finishes this episode with a sweet pineapple upside-down cake. Although this cake has been around forever, this was my first time making a pineapple upside-down cake. To begin the cake, place 3/4 C whole milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave the milk until it is boiling. Sprinkle 1 C coarse cornmeal over the milk and let it sit.

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Topping ingredients: butter, dark brown sugar, canned pineapple rings, toasted pecans, and maraschino cherries.

Next, place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat and melt 4 ounces of unsalted butter in the pan. When the butter has melted, use a pastry brush to brush some of the butter up the sides of the pan. The butter will brown slightly.

Add 1 C dark brown sugar to the pan and stir until melted, which will take about five minutes; watch the sugar carefully, as it can easily burn.

Once the sugar has melted, remove the pan from the heat and place canned pineapple slices around the perimeter of the pan, and one additional ring in the center.

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Pineapple rings added to caramel.

Put a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice and sprinkle 1/3 C of toasted/chopped pecans over the pineapple.

Drizzle on 3 T of the juice from the canned pineapple and set the skillet aside to cool slightly.

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Pineapple juice drizzled over topping.

While the skillet cools, combine 4 3/4 ounces flour, 2 t baking powder, and 1/2 t salt in a large bowl.

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Flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C canola oil, and the milk-soaked cornmeal from earlier.

When the wet ingredients are combined, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk for a count of six. The final batter will be a little lumpy, but that is okay. Do not over mix.

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Wet mixture added to dry ingredients.

Pour the cornmeal batter over the pineapple in the skillet and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Let the cake cool for 30 minutes before flipping the cake out of the skillet. Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

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Cooled cake flipped onto cake stand.

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Alton’s pineapple upside-down cake.

This cake is fun to make because it looks pretty when you invert it out of the pan. The topping is a delicious mix of dark caramel, crunchy pecans, and juicy pineapple; the best part, in my opinion, is the part by the edges of the pan, as the caramel is thick and slightly chewy there. The batter of this cake has the slight grittiness of cornmeal, and is only slightly sweet. I like the fact that the cake itself is not overly sweet, as the topping is sweet enough. This cake is great for breakfast, dessert, or both!

This chocolate episode came at a good time, allowing me to share some of Alton’s chocolate goodness with friends and relatives at the holidays. There is really no way we could have eaten all of this chocolate without help! It’s really too bad that my mom doesn’t live closer to me because, though she is tiny, she can pretty much eat her weight in chocolate. Somehow, we persevered and the recipes from this episode have been devoured. All of the recipes in this episode are ganache-based, meaning they are composed of a mixture of chocolate and cream. First up is Alton’s:

Ganache Frosting

This ganache is composed of only two ingredients:  chocolate and cream.

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Only two ingredients for this frosting: bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream.

The recipe starts with heating a pint of heavy cream (which is also a pound) in a microwave for 3-4 minutes, or until simmering. Note:  when heating milk products in the microwave, use a vessel twice the original volume of dairy to prevent overflow. While the cream heats, chop a pound of bittersweet chocolate with a serrated knife.

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A chopped pound of chocolate.

Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and pour the warm cream over the chocolate. Let the cream/chocolate sit for two minutes.

When the two minutes are up, pulse the chocolate and cream three times, or until smooth.

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Chocolate and cream after pulsing 3x.

Transfer the ganache to a bowl. You can use the ganache immediately as a pourable cake glaze.

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Ganache transferred to a bowl.

Or, you can let the ganache cool for an hour and whip it in a stand mixer to make a cake frosting.

This ganache will keep for two weeks if kept tightly covered and refrigerated. For later use, bring the ganache to room temperature before whipping with a stand mixer. I first used this ganache frosting to frost a simple sheet cake, which we ate for multiple days.

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A slice of sheet cake with Alton’s ganache frosting.

I actually prefer this frosting cold because I like the dense mouthfeel of the cold chocolate in contrast with soft, light cake. After frosting a 9×13″ sheet cake, I still had enough frosting for two dozen cupcakes, which I frosted for my in-laws’ Christmas party. I will say that the frosting is best aesthetically when used after the first whipping. This frosting is quite rich, so you only need a thin layer of frosting for a good punch of chocolate. This is about the easiest chocolate frosting you could ever make, and it is so much better than anything you could buy in the store.

Chocolate Truffles

When we headed to my sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving, I decided to bring Alton’s truffles to share. I made the truffles two days before turkey day. To make Alton’s truffles, place 10 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and add 3 T of unsalted butter.

Set the chocolate aside while you bring 1/2 C cream and 1 T light corn syrup to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.

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Heavy cream and light corn syrup.

While the cream heats, place the chocolate/butter in the microwave for 30 seconds; stir the mixture and put it in the microwave for another 30 seconds or until the chocolate starts to melt.

Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes.

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Cream poured over chocolate/butter.

After two minutes, stir 1/4 C brandy into the chocolate, stirring until smooth.

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Brandy being stirred into chocolate mixture.

Pour the chocolate mixture into an 8×8″ baking dish and place it, uncovered, in the refrigerator for one hour.

After an hour of chill time, use a melon baller to portion the ganache into rough balls, transferring them to a parchment-lined sheet pan; do not worry about shaping the truffles at this time. When all of the truffles have been portioned, place them back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

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Portioned ganache.

This is the point of the recipe where things get a little more technical, as Alton used a heating pad to melt eight ounces of bittersweet chocolate, keeping the chocolate between 90 and 94 degrees; it is critical not to go above 94 degrees, as this will change the crystalline structure of the chocolate. I found that I had very uneven heating with my heating pad, so I gradually melted my chocolate in the microwave, stirring and checking the temperature after every 15-20 seconds.

Once your chocolate is melted and between 90 and 94 degrees, roll your truffles into smooth balls with gloved hands. Dip an ice cream scoop into the melted chocolate and place a truffle ball into the scoop, using your gloved fingers to coat the center with melted chocolate.

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Coating a truffle center in melted bittersweet chocolate.

Once coated in chocolate, place the coated truffle into a topping of your choice:  chopped pistachios, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or toasted coconut. It is ideal to let each truffle sit in the topping until the next truffle is done being coated with chocolate.

Transfer the finished truffles to a wax paper-lined airtight container. Store the truffles in the refrigerator, but serve them at room temperature.

I ended up with 32 truffles, and I used toppings of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and chopped pistachios.

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Truffles.

Oh my, these truffles are super rich. If you are able to keep your coating chocolate in the ideal temperature range, your truffles will have a crispy chocolate shell surrounding their dense, rich filling. The filling is creamy, rich, slightly bitter, and intensely full of chocolate. These are absolutely worth the time and effort of making, as well as the calories. They pair fantastically with bourbon or with coffee, depending on the time of day. This is a wonderful recipe.

Good Eats Fudgepops

This episode finishes up with Alton’s version of a fudgecicle.

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Ingredients for fudgepops: bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, heavy cream, and whole milk.

Start by putting 2 T cocoa powder into a medium saucepan, and add 12 ounces of heavy cream and eight ounces of whole milk.

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Cocoa powder combined with milk and cream.

Bring the milk and cocoa to a simmer over medium heat, whisking to combine.

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Cocoa powder combined with milk and cream, and brought to a simmer.

When the dairy is simmering, pour it over eight ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate, letting it sit for two-three minutes.

Whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth and add 2 t vanilla extract.

Using a turkey baster, equally distribute the chocolate mixture among popsicle molds.

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Chocolate distributed among popsicle molds.

Place the fudgepops in the freezer for four hours, or until set.

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Alton’s fudgepop.

Conversely, if you are craving hot chocolate, Alton says you can melt one of his fudgepops in the microwave. I chose to halve this recipe since I was just making the fudgepops for two of us, and I ended up with four fudgepops. These fudgepops are full of rich chocolate flavor and they are pretty creamy. They did have a very slight icy texture, but I thought these were pretty good. They were very hard to get out of the molds, but that may have been more of a function of my popsicle molds than due to the recipe itself. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to make these again, but I’ve also never been the biggest fudgepop fan.