Posts Tagged ‘sweet’

My back has been bothering me for the last six days, so I haven’t been able to be as active as I like to be. Though it is a nice, albeit smoky, summer day, I find myself rather confined because of my darn back. Seems like a good time to write a blog post.

Banana Ice Cream

I can honestly say that I like all fruit I have tried. That being said, bananas are definitely lower on my favorite fruits list. Alton, of course, came up with some recipes to showcase bananas, starting with his banana ice cream. You will need 2 1/4 pounds of bananas for this recipe, and you will need to place them in the freezer (still in their peels) overnight.

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2 1/4 pounds of bananas

The online recipe tells you to remove the bananas from the freezer and let them thaw for about an hour. In the episode, however, Alton instructed to let the bananas thaw completely, which took five hours for my bananas.

You freeze and thaw the bananas to get a mushy texture, which is desirable for making this ice cream; basically, the bananas will replace the eggs that are in a custard-based ice cream. Once the bananas are thawed, peel them and place them in a food processor. Add 1 T fresh lemon juice to the bananas and process them; the lemon juice will prevent browning.

Add 3/4 C light corn syrup to the processor, along with either 1/2 t vanilla extract or, preferably, the scrapings from one vanilla bean.

With the machine running, drizzle in 1 1/2 C heavy cream.

Chill the ice cream base in the refrigerator until it reaches 40 degrees.

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Banana ice cream base, ready to be chilled.

Once chilled, process the banana base in an ice cream maker.

Freeze the ice cream, airtight, for 3-6 hours before eating.

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Churned ice cream, heading to the freezer for several hours.

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Alton’s banana ice cream.

This is one of the easiest ice creams you will ever make, as there is no cooking of custard, etc. The texture of this ice cream really does seem similar to that of a custard-based ice cream, as the bananas give quite a smooth, rich mouthfeel. And, if you want banana flavor, this is loaded with it. Being kind of “meh” about bananas, we enjoyed this, but I think true banana lovers would find this amazing. This is a cold and easy summer treat.

Bananas Foster

I remember going to some fancy restaurant as a kid, and my brother and I ordered bananas foster for dessert. Prepared table-side with lots of flair, we were awed by the flames enveloping our dessert. I don’t think I had eaten bananas foster since that time, and Ted had never had it, so it seemed like it would be fun to give it a go at home. I don’t have the greatest track record with flames, such as when my fish and chips caught on fire in episode 22, but I figured I’d give it a whirl. For this recipe, you will need two bananas, 2 T unsalted butter, 1/4 C dark brown sugar, 1/4 t ground allspice, 1/2 t ground nutmeg, 1 T banana liqueur (I got a miniature), 1/2 t orange zest, and 1/4-1/3 C dark rum.

Alton prepared his bananas foster on a table-side burner, but I opted to make mine on the stove. Either way, place a large, heavy skillet on the burner over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, slice two bananas lengthwise in half, leaving their peels on to prevent browning. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the brown sugar and spices.

Stir this mixture into a syrup and add the banana liqueur.

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Banana liqueur added to syrup.

Remove the bananas’ peels and place them, cut side down, in the pan for one minute.

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Bananas added to the pan.

Flip the bananas and cook them for another minute. Some of the bananas may break, but they will still taste great.

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Bananas flipped after one minute.

Using two forks, transfer the bananas to a plate.

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Bananas, transferred to a plate.

Allow the sauce to return to a simmer and then turn off the heat.

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Sauce returning to a simmer.

Add the rum to the pan, swirl it around, and ignite it with a long-handled lighter.

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Rum added to pan and ignited with burner OFF.

Continue to swirl the pan until the flames extinguish.

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Swirling the pan until the flames go out.

Cook the sauce for 30 more seconds and stir in the orange zest.

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Orange zest added to sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the bananas and add some vanilla ice cream. Or, you can serve your bananas foster over waffles

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Alton’s bananas foster with vanilla ice cream.

. I have to admit that this was a really fun one to make, as my flames were at least a foot high! If you were bold enough to try this around kids, they would be super impressed, as I was when I saw it years ago. Yes, there is some alcohol in this dessert, but most of it cooks out (hello, flames!). In addition to the fun flair (or should I say flare?) of this dessert, it is also super tasty. The bananas get tender and caramelized with spices and brown sugar, and then you pour over the warm, buttery, rum-flavored sauce. Add in some cold vanilla ice cream and it’s a pretty fantastic combo.

Fried Plantains

The only plantains I’ve really had have been in chip form from a grocery store, so I was eager to cook with this ingredient for the first time. Our chain grocery store did not have plantains, but a local, smaller market did.

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Two plantains.

To make Alton’s fried plantains, you will need the following items:

  1. a rack over a sheet pan

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    Rack over sheet pan.

  2. a wide skillet with 1 1/2 C vegetable or canola oil at 325 degrees

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    Oil heated to 325.

  3. an inverted sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper on it
  4. a wooden/plastic spatula

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    Inverted sheet pan with parchment, and a spatula.

  5. a medium bowl with 2 C water, 1 t Kosher salt, and 3 crushed cloves of garlic

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    Bowl of water with Kosher salt and garlic.

  6. a tea towel or a pad of paper towels for blotting
  7. 2 plantains, peeled (you may need to score the peels with a knife) and cut into 1-inch medallions

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    Plantains, peeled and cut into medallions.

The first step is to place the plantain medallions into the oil for 1 1/2 minutes. Flip the plantains and cook them for 1 1/2 minutes more. You want the plantains to be golden on both sides.

Decrease the heat under the oil and transfer the plantains to the parchment paper on the inverted sheet pan.

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Plantains transferred to parchment.

Use your spatula to smash each plantain medallion to about half of it’s original height.

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Smashed plantains.

Next, place the smashed plantains in the bowl of water with the garlic and salt for at least a minute. Alton never really specified why you place the plantains in the water, but I’m assuming it is to remove starch and impart flavor.

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Smashed plantains, placed in water.

After their soak, move the plantains to towels to dry.

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Soaked plantains drying on paper towels.

While the plantains dry, increase the heat under the oil, bringing it back up to ~325 degrees. Once at temperature, fry the plantains again for 2-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

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Plantains back in hot oil for second frying.

Transfer the fried plantains to the rack over a sheet pan and season them liberally with Kosher salt while they are still hot.

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Fried plantains on rack. Seasoned with Kosher salt.

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Fried plantains

We ate these for lunch one day and they were great. They are reminiscent of french fries, yet with slightly sweeter flavor. They are golden and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. You could really pair them with any condiment you like. I ate mine with some hot sauce, which I thought was great with the subtle sweetness of the plantains. I really liked how Alton had you prep everything in advance for this recipe, as it made the frying process super easy. I highly recommend making these, and they’d make a great side for any burger or sandwich.

Although I have made pies in the past, meringue pie was a new venture for me with this episode. I don’t have anything against meringue pies, though I suppose I probably prefer a good double-crusted fruit pie. Having made Alton’s pecan pie last Thanksgiving, I was pretty confident that Alton’s lemon meringue pie would be spectacular. He broke his pie recipe into two parts, the first being the crust.

Pie Crust

Alton’s pie crust calls for both butter and lard, with the butter primarily providing flavor and the lard ensuring a flaky texture. The recipe starts with placing 3 oz of cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes, along with 1 oz of cubed lard. Also, at this time, place two pie plates in the freezer.

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Lard and butter, cubed and headed to the freezer.

While the fat chills, put some ice in a squirt bottle with 1/4 C water. Next, in a food processor pulse together 6 ounces of flour with 1/2 t salt.

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Flour and salt in the food processor.

Add the chilled butter, pulsing the mixture five or six times.

Add the cubed lard and pulse three more times.

Use the squirt bottle to thoroughly spritz the surface of the flour mixture and pulse the dough five times.

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Spritzing dough surface with ice water.

The dough should hold together when squeezed, which should take approximately 2 T of ice water. Continue spritzing the dough with more water until it holds together easily without crumbling. I found that I needed to spritz the dough several times.

Once the dough holds together, move the dough to a large ziplock bag, squeezing the dough into a ball, and then flattening it into a disc. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and cut off the two sides of the ziplock bag, leaving the zipper top and the sealed bottom intact. Open the bag and flour both sides of the dough.

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Edges of sides of ziplock cut off, and dough floured.

Close the bag again and use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it barely reaches beyond the open edges of the bag. I love Alton’s method of rolling pie dough in a bag because it keeps my counter and rolling pin clean!

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Floured dough, rolled out inside of ziplock bag.

Peel back the plastic and re-flour the top of the dough.

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Ziplock opened and top surface re-floured.

Place one of your chilled pie pans on top of the floured dough and flip the dough onto the back of the pan.

Remove the plastic from the dough and place the second cold pie plate upside down on the dough, so the dough is between the two pie plates (the dough will be lining the second plate).

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Second cold pie plate placed on top of dough upside down, so dough is lining second pie plate.

Flip the pie plates again and remove the top plate (the first one), and your second pie plate will be perfectly lined with your dough; just be sure to press the dough down into the edges of the pan.

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Pie plates flipped over with dough between them. Dough is lining second pie plate.

Cut away any excess dough hanging over the edges. There is no need to make the dough edges fancy, as they will be covered with meringue. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust and place the dough in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. This helps to form fat layers in the dough, which will yield a flaky crust.

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Docked dough. Excess dough removed.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 425. When the oven is ready, place the pie crust on a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper, and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

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Crust lined with parchment and beans, and placed in oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the parchment and beans/weights, and bake the crust for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Let the crust cool completely before using. You could use this pie crust for any type of pie, but I had to continue on and make a lemon meringue filling, as that was what Alton did in the episode. This pie crust recipe is super easy and I love Alton’s tips/tricks for rolling the dough and lining the pie plate.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I ended up making Alton’s lemon meringue pie twice in two days. Why? My first lemon meringue pie was lemon soup. I had followed Alton’s directions exactly as he made the pie in the episode, which resulted in a filling that was not nearly thick enough. For my second pie, I cooked my filling much longer than Alton recommended and ended up with a perfect pie. Here, I’ll go through the steps as Alton did them, giving my recommended changes along the way. The lemon meringue pie begins with making the meringue. Place 4 egg whites (save the yolks for the lemon filling) in the bowl of a mixer and add a pinch of cream of tartar (helps to denature proteins).

Whip the whites by hand until they are frothy.

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Egg whites beaten to a froth by hand.

Then, beat with the mixer on medium-high. When you have a light foam in the bowl, begin slowly adding 2 T sugar with the mixer running.

Beat the whites until you have stiff peaks. You can check for stiff peaks by quickly dipping/withdrawing your beater – if a peak forms and remains, you have stiff peaks. If a peak forms, but falls, you need to keep beating. Once you have stiff peaks, place a pan lid on the bowl and set it aside in a cool place.

Oh, and preheat your oven to 375. To make the lemon filling, whisk 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl and set them aside.

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Beaten egg yolks.

In a saucier whisk together 1/3 C cornstarch and 1 1/2 C water, placing it over medium heat.

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Cornstarch and water in saucier.

Whisk 1 1/3 C sugar and 1/4 t salt into the starch mixture. Stir this mixture often, bringing it to a boil.

Once boiling, simmer the mixture for an additional minute.

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Simmering starch mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly beat about half of the hot mixture into the bowl of beaten egg yolks, adding only a whisk-full at a time.

When half of the hot mixture has been added to the yolks, whisk the egg mixture back into the pan.

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Egg mixture whisked back into saucier.

Alton tells you to return the pan to the heat, simmering it for one minute; I did this with my first pie and the mixture was very runny, but I assumed it would thicken later. Nope. Instead, for my second pie, I cooked the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it was bubbling and quite thick. Keep in mind that the mixture will not thicken much later, so you want it to resemble your desired pie filling texture now.

Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in 3 T butter.

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Butter whisked in.

When the butter has melted, add 1 T lemon zest and 1/2 C fresh lemon juice.

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Finished lemon filling.

Pour the filling into the baked/cooled crust.

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Finished lemon filling poured into cooled crust.

Working quickly, beat your meringue again for about 30 seconds to plump it up.

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Refreshed meringue.

Dump the meringue on the hot lemon filling, spreading it with a spatula to seal it against the crust edges. Smooth the top.

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Meringue, spread onto hot lemon filling.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake it at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

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Meringue after baking.

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A slice of lemon meringue pie.

This pie was great… the second time around. Alton’s crust recipe is fool-proof, flaky, and buttery. His lemon filling has a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, and is bursting with lemon flavor. And, his meringue came out perfectly both times I made it. If you are interested in making a lemon meringue pie, do this one, but be sure to cook your lemon filling until it is thick.

While I breeze through some episodes, this episode was one that took a little while for me to complete. Not only were there five recipes in this episode, but they also all contained nuts; this made for some pretty rich food, so I had to space the recipes out a little bit. First was Alton’s cashew sauce.

Cashew Sauce

This recipe is really two recipes in one:  one for cashew butter, and another for the cashew sauce that is made WITH the cashew butter. To make the cashew butter, combine 10 ounces of roasted/unsalted cashews with two heavy pinches of Kosher salt in a food processor.

Place 2 T honey in the microwave for ~15 seconds to loosen it up, and combine the honey with 1/3 C walnut oil.

With the food processor running, slowly add the oil/honey until the mixture is smooth.

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Honey/oil drizzling into cashews.

If you just want cashew butter, you can stop here.

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Cashew butter.

To continue on and make Alton’s cashew sauce, whisk 1/2 C of your cashew butter with 3/4 C coconut milk and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a saucier over medium heat. Once smooth, use the sauce as desired.

Alton recommended serving the cashew sauce over chicken or rice. I chose to serve my cashew sauce over some sweet potato “noodles” and meatballs, along with a little bit of cilantro.

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Cashew sauce served over sweet potato noodles and meatballs.

IMG_7353First off, Alton’s cashew butter is super delicious; it’s sort of like a richer, sweeter, better peanut butter, and it is great on pretty much anything. We were also fans of the cashew sauce, which was rich, nutty, and had a perfect punch of heat from the cayenne pepper. And, if you are too lazy to make your own nut butter (it is worth it, though), you could always use purchased nut butter to make the sauce. This sauce is also super versatile, as you could use it over meat, pasta, or vegetables.

Pistachio Mixed Herb Pesto

I love pesto and it is something I make every summer. I typically make basil pesto, so I can use up the last of my fresh basil, freeze the pesto in batches, and continue to dream of summer as the weather gets colder. Sage pesto is nice to make in the fall too! Alton’s pesto recipe in this episode was a little different from the other pestos I have made in the past, as parsley was the primary herb and toasted pistachios were the nut of choice (I toasted my pistachios in a 400 degree oven for ~5 minutes).

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Ingredients for pesto: garlic, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, olive oil, Parmesan, parsley, and toasted pistachios.

To make Alton’s pesto, drop 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic into the lid of a running blender, chopping the garlic finely (I opted for a full clove since I like garlic). When the garlic is chopped, turn off the blender and add 2 T fresh lemon thyme (I could not find lemon thyme, so used regular thyme), 2 T fresh tarragon, 1 T fresh sage, 1 T fresh oregano, 2 C packed flat leaf parsley, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, and 3/4 C toasted pistachios.

With the blender running, drizzle in 2/3 C olive oil until emulsified.

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Pesto, after drizzling in olive oil.

Alton recommends serving his pesto on pesto or toast. I served the pesto over zucchini “noodles” with fresh Parmesan.

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Pesto over zucchini noodles.

This pesto is super flavorful, tastes like a variety of herbs, and has great color. Since everyone always thinks of basil and pine nuts/walnuts for pesto, this version really mixes things up. And, if you happen to have fresh herbs in your garden, this can also be a relatively inexpensive pesto recipe. Give this one a try for a tasty twist on pesto.

Pistachio Fruit Balls

For a sweet treat using nuts, Alton made these pistachio fruit balls.

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Ingredients for pistachio fruit balls: roasted pistachios, dates, dried apricots, orange juice, golden raisins, creme de cassis, and dried cherries.

Begin this recipe by grinding 1 C roasted pistachios in a food processor. Set the pistachios aside.

Next, in a large bowl combine 1/2 C pitted dates, 1/2 C dried apricots, 1/2 C golden raisins, and 1 C dried cherries.

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Combined dried fruit.

Run the dried fruit mixture through a meat grinder with a medium die, catching the ground fruit in a bowl.

Add half of the ground pistachios to the ground fruit, along with 1 T fresh orange juice and 2 T creme de cassis. Note:  creme de cassis is a black currant liqueur.

Using your hands, work the mixture together until thoroughly combined. Once combined, use a melon baller to form individual balls of the fruit mixture, and roll the balls in the remaining ground pistachios.

If you find that the mixture is too sticky, you can put some vegetable oil on your hands. Store the fruit balls in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Pistachio fruit balls.

The online reviews of this recipe are mixed, which I find surprising. We thought these were a really great, healthy, sweet snack. Some reviewers complained of this being a messy or difficult recipe, but I found neither to be the case at all. You could always substitute a different liqueur if you did not have creme de cassis, but I wanted to test the recipe as written. These fruit balls had just the perfect amount of sweetness, held together perfectly, and had great crunch from the pistachios. We ate these as a snack every day for a week. I liked this recipe!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

When Alton made this recipe in the episode, he used mahi mahi, but I could not find mahi mahi where I live. Instead, Ted splurged and picked up a couple halibut fillets. This recipe makes enough for four servings, so I halved the recipe for us. To make the recipe for four servings, coarsely crush 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts; you can do this in the food processor or you can put them in a tea towel and whack it on the counter.

Put the macadamias in a bowl and add 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted. Stir the mixture to combine and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 425, placing a rack in the center of the oven. While the oven preheats, line a sheet pan with foil and brush it liberally with vegetable oil. Place fish fillets (6-8 ounces each) on the foil and season them with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Fish fillets placed on lubed foil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Stick the fish in the preheated oven for five minutes to par cook.

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Par cooking the fish.

Remove the fish from the oven and brush it with coconut milk; it should take about 2 T.

Pat the nut mixture lightly onto the fish, crumpling the foil up around the edges of the fish to keep the nut crust from sliding off.

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Nut crust patted onto fish, and foil propped up.

Stick the fish back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes, or until golden brown. My crust took the full 10 minutes to be golden.

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Fish after cooking.

Let the fish rest at room temperature for ~10 minutes before eating. Honestly, I was worried that the time needed to make my nut crust golden would render my fish overcooked, but the fish turned out to be perfectly cooked. We enjoyed this on a warm evening, with a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon.

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Alton’s macadamia nut crusted fish.

This is a rich fish dish that would be worthy of serving for a special occasion. The fish was moist and the nut crust was rich, crunchy, buttery, and nutty. Great recipe. Oh, and if you don’t know, keep the macadamia nuts away from your dogs, as they are toxic.

Macadamia Nut Crust

It turns out that the macadamia nut crust above can also be used as a pie crust. So, again, to make the crust, chop 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts (you can roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees).

Combine the chopped macadamia nuts with 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted.

Pat the crust mixture into a pie plate and use with any pie filling recipe. If you need to blind bake the crust for your pie recipe, bake it at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Well, I ended up making this pie crust twice. I needed to blind bake my crust because I was making a no-bake key lime pie, but it turns out that 20 minutes is way too long to blind bake this crust. Yep, my first crust was scorched.

When I made the crust the second time, I began checking it at 10 minutes and it was done in about 15.

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A slice of key lime pie with macadamia crust.

This crust added a great crunch and nutty flavor to my pie, and it was very easy to prep with no rolling/chilling of dough. The downside of this crust was that it was super crumbly, so it didn’t make for pretty slices of pie. Other than that, though, this was a buttery, nutty, crispy pie crust.

The 96th episode of Good Eats originally aired in December, hence the Christmas cookie theme. I say, however, that Christmas cookies deserve to be eaten at any time of the year, and March seemed like a perfect time to crank some cookies out of my kitchen. First up?

Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe that I actually made years ago (maybe in 2005?) for Christmas at my parents’ house. It was the first Christmas Ted spent with my family and I remember decorating the cookies on Christmas Eve prior to Ted’s arrival. My brother and I were going to head to Christmas Eve mass with our parents, and we somehow ended up with two martinis in our systems prior to church. Let me just say that mass was a little more entertaining than usual, and I ended up with very brightly (and abstractly) decorated cookies. The cookies were a hit then, so I knew they would be good when I made them this time around. This recipe begins by sifting together 3 C flour, 1/4 t salt, and 3/4 t baking powder.

Also, in a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 T milk.

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Wet ingredients – egg and milk.

Oh, and place a sheet pan in the freezer. Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1 C butter and 1 C sugar until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the mixer until mixed in.

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Wet ingredients added to mixing bowl.

Then, slowly add the sifted dry ingredients on low, mixing until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, patting each half into a flat slab. Wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and place it in the refrigerator for two hours.

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Dough, divided into two equal slabs, and ready to head into refrigerator.

When you are ready to cut out your cookies, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar (Alton prefers sugar to flour because flour causes the dough to develop more gluten). Roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, lifting the dough every so often to be sure it isn’t sticking; I found that I needed quite a lot of powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to my counter.

Remember that frozen sheet pan from earlier? Place it on your rolled dough for 10 minutes to re-chill the dough before cutting.

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Cold sheet pan placed on top of rolled dough.

Use cookie cutters (FYI Alton likes plastic ones) to cut cookies from your dough, transferring them to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for four minutes at 375, rotate the pans, and bake them for four to five more minutes. I found that my cookies needed a little more time than this. Let them cool completely on racks before frosting.

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Cookies, after baking.

This sugar cookie recipe is fantastic. The dough comes together super quickly and is very easy to work with. The resulting cookies are crispy on the outside and slightly tender on the inside, and they have a rich, buttery flavor. I highly recommend this one! Oh, and how should you decorate said cookies? With Alton’s recipe for royal icing, of course! See below.

Royal Icing

If you are looking for a way to decorate your sugar cookies, look no further than Alton’s royal icing recipe. To make his icing, beat four egg whites or three ounces of pasteurized egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites) with 1 t vanilla, using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer.

Gradually add 4 C of sifted powdered sugar until you have a smooth, lump-free icing.

Divide the icing among small bowls, adding coloring as you desire. As far as coloring goes, Alton prefers powdered food coloring because it lasts the longest and has no additives. I only had liquid food coloring, so that is what I went with.

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Royal icing, divided and colored.

Frost your cookies and let them sit until the frosting has set up. Oh, and if you end up with a bad color, Alton recommends adding cocoa powder until you have covered it up.

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My decorated sugar cookies.

This icing could not be easier to make and it sets up beautifully. Since royal icing is thin, it can be a bit messy to deal with, but it looks and tastes great. This is a fool-proof royal icing recipe that pairs perfectly with Alton’s sugar cookies. I threw a bunch of my frosted cookies in the freezer for later enjoyment, so you can always make these ahead.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

Last in this episode was Alton’s recipe for chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies. I actually made this recipe years ago also, but for a cookie exchange when I was in graduate school. I remembered liking these cookies then. These cookies start with a batch of Alton’s sugar cookies.

Divide the sugar cookie dough in half (it is best to do this by weight), and place the dough in two bowls.

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Dividing sugar cookie dough in half by weight.

One half of the dough will become peppermint dough, while the other half will become chocolate dough. Add 1 t vanilla to one of the bowls of dough, and add 1 t peppermint extract to the other.

To the peppermint dough, add 1/2 C crushed candy cane (or peppermint candy).

To the dough with vanilla extract, add 3 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate (you can melt it in the microwave, stirring until melted).

Use gloved hands to mix the peppermint and chocolate into the two doughs. Additionally, add 1 egg yolk to the peppermint dough, mixing it in by hand.

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Crushed peppermint and egg yolk added to dough with peppermint extract.

Chill the two doughs for five minutes. Roll out the two doughs to 1/3-1/4″ thick rectangles, using powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. You want your chocolate rectangle to be slightly longer and thinner than your peppermint rectangle. Place the chocolate dough on a non-stick mat or a pliable cutting board (I rolled my dough out on a non-stick mat, so I wouldn’t have to transfer it).

Place the peppermint dough on top of the chocolate dough, pressing the doughs together.

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Peppermint dough placed on top of chocolate dough and the two are pressed together.

Use the edge of the non-stick mat or cutting board to roll the doughs into a log. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, slice the log into 1/2″ slices, placing them on parchment-lined sheets.

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Dough sliced into rounds.

Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes at 375-degrees, rotating the pans once during baking. Cool the cookies for two minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to racks.

These cookies are chewy and dense, and have little pockets of crunchy peppermint. They are pretty and fun to make, and they definitely have a seasonal feeling to them. That being said, though, why is peppermint only popular at the holidays? Peppermint ice cream is one of my very favorite flavors, but you can only find it for a couple months each year. Anyway, these cookies are worth a bake, and, yes, you can freeze these too!

 

As someone who likes to cook regularly, my dad came up with a great Christmas gift for me in December. He and I do not live in the same town anymore, but he called a gentleman where I live and arranged to have all of our kitchen knives sharpened. I dropped the knives off at the knife sharpener’s house one morning and had them back a few hours later. He sharpened 13 items, including our serrated knives and two pairs of kitchen shears. Our knives are just like new again! If you know someone who cooks a lot, keep the knife sharpening idea in mind as a gift! FYI:  The knife sharpener told me to never try to sharpen my knives at home, nor to hone them with a steel. Instead, he told me to use a strop to hone our knives prior to each use; a strop is a piece of leather that was traditionally used to sharpen straight-edge razors in barber shops. Now, onto the 94th episode of Good Eats, which was all about candy.

Peanut Brittle

I have made some candy in the past, such as fudge, divinity, and caramels. Peanut brittle was the first type of candy Alton made in this episode. For this recipe, you will need a heavy saucier with a lid, a wooden spoon, and two half-sheet pans; line one pan with a silicone mat, and lube the back side of the other pan liberally with vegetable oil.

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Two half-sheet pans, one with its back oiled and the other lined with a silicone mat.

Begin by rubbing the sides of your saucier with a vegetable oil-coated paper towel, as this will help with crystal formation on the sides of the pan.

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Saucier with its sides oiled.

Next, put 3 C of sugar and 1 1/2 C water in the saucier.

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Sugar and water placed in saucier.

Place the pan over high heat. Note:  If you are worried about your stove producing uneven heat, Alton suggests placing a cast iron skillet between your saucier and your burner to diffuse heat. Stir the sugar/water mixture occasionally, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for three minutes. This will allow the steam in the pan to wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan.

After three minutes, remove the lid and decrease the heat to medium. Meanwhile, toss 1 1/2 C lightly salted peanuts with 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t cayenne pepper.

Continue cooking the syrup until it reaches a light amber color and has slow bubble formation, which Alton says is at 350 degrees; Alton says you really do not need a thermometer to make this brittle, as you can just eyeball it. I decided to use the thermometer, as “light amber” seems subjective to me. Yeah, so Alton’s temperature of 350 degrees is COMPLETELY WRONG, and will result in scorched syrup. I had to discard my syrup and begin again.

This time, I decided to eyeball the light amber color.

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Second attempt at syrup – this is what I determined to be light amber.

Once you have reached light amber, turn off the heat and dump in the peanuts, stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared silicone mat, distributing the nuts evenly with a spatula. Press the mixture down with the lubed backside of the second prepared pan. Set the brittle aside to cool completely. Once the brittle has hardened, place the second half-sheet pan, this time inverted, on top of the brittle pan. By shaking the brittle between the two pans, you can easily break it into pieces. So, my verdict of this recipe is not that favorable. I have no idea how Alton recommended 350 degrees for the syrup, as it was just way too high. The second time I made my syrup, I think I probably pulled it off the heat too early, as my brittle did this weird foaming thing when I poured it onto the mat.

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Brittle poured onto mat and beginning to foam.

My resulting brittle was opaque, somewhat gritty, and had an odd white hue. The candy tasted fine, but it wasn’t what I think of as brittle, which is normally caramel-colored, shiny, and clear.

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Even my dog thought my brittle looked weird.

I think this recipe would have been much more successful if Alton had provided the correct temperature for the syrup, which a Google search says is around 300 degrees. In theory, the eyeballing technique could work for someone who makes candy often, but candy making requires more precision than eyeballing. I’d follow a different peanut brittle recipe next time for sure.

Acid Jellies

When we were kids, our parents would give us each a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I preferred nut-free candy (still do), so my box was typically a mix of caramels, creams, and jellies. It had been years since I had last had a jelly, so I was pretty stoked to see jellies appear in this episode.

To make Alton’s version of jellies, combine in a saucepan 1/2 C fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C fresh lime juice, 1/2 C water, and 8 packages of gelatin. Set this saucepan aside with no heat.

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Gelatin, lemon juice, lime juice, and water combined in a saucepan off of heat.

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Gelatin mixture after sitting.

In a second small saucepan, place 1 C sugar and 3/4 C water, and place the pan over high heat. Again, you can use a cast iron skillet as a diffuser, if you wish.

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Sugar and water placed in small saucepan over high heat.

Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and set a timer for 3 minutes. As with the recipe for brittle above, the steam in the pan will serve to wash crystals down that may have formed on the sides of the pan. After 3 minutes, remove the lid from the pan and attach a candy thermometer. Cook the syrup until it reaches 300 degrees.

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Sugar syrup cooking to 300 degrees.

Once at 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly.

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Sugar syrup being poured into gelatin mixture.

Place the mixture over low heat, continuing to stir until the gelatin dissolves. I had some difficulty with this phase of the process, as a solid mass of sugar seemed to form in the bottom of my pan. I am guessing this was because my sugar syrup cooled too much too quickly. I opted to increase the heat under my pan, allowing the sugar to dissolve again, which worked.

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Gelatin mixture placed over low heat to dissolve.

Once you have a smooth, clear mixture, add 2 T lemon zest and 2 T lime zest, and pour the mixture into an oiled 8-inch square pan.

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Completed jellies, poured into greased pan.

Let the jellies sit at room temperature for four hours. Once set, turn the jellies out and cut them into 1-inch squares with a pizza cutter.

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Jellies, cut into cubes.

Transfer the cubes to a bowl and toss them with the remaining 1/4 C sugar until coated.

Move the cubes to a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and allow them to dry for 24 hours at room temperature before eating.

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Alton’s jellies.

Alton’s jellies had intense citrus flavor and a great balance of sweetness and tartness. I did find them to be a bit more rubbery than I would have liked, but that could have perhaps been due to my difficulties with combining my two mixtures. I am tempted to try these again to see if I can get a better result, as they were pretty and their flavor was great. My only other complaint with these candies was that they remained very sticky and damp on the outside, and they never really dried out as Alton said they would; I found that this was a common complaint in the online recipe reviews, and I am not sure how to fix that issue.

Chocolate Taffy

I suppose you couldn’t really have a candy episode without including something chocolate, so that’s where chocolate taffy comes in. This recipe requires only a few ingredients, beginning with combining 1/2 t salt, 2/3 C Dutch cocoa, and 2 C sugar in a large saucepan.

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Salt, sugar, and cocoa.

Stir this mixture with a whisk to combine, and add 1 C light corn syrup, 1 t white vinegar, and 1/4 C + 1 T water. Stir the pot over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, and then increase the heat to bring the chocolate to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and attach a candy thermometer.

Cook the chocolate until it reaches 260 degrees, and then stir in 1 1/2 T butter.

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Chocolate cooking to 260 degrees.

Pour the taffy onto a silicone mat-lined pan, smoothing it with a spatula, and set it aside to cool for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, don latex gloves and lube them with butter. It is time to pull the taffy. First, use the mat to fold the taffy into thirds.

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Taffy, folded in thirds.

Next, fold the taffy in thirds again, but in the opposite direction. Knead the taffy with your hands, as if working with dough. The chocolate will still be quite warm.

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Taffy, folded in thirds the other direction.

Pull the taffy from both ends, folding them back into the middle.

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Pulling ends of taffy back to the middle.

Then, pick the taffy up and continue to twist and pull the taffy until it has striations in the middle and is very hard to pull.

Roll the taffy into a log on the silicone mat and cut it into four pieces with kitchen shears.

Roll each piece of taffy into a snake, cutting each log into 1-inch pieces. If the candy becomes too hard to cut, you can place it in the microwave for about five seconds to soften it. Keep the taffy pieces separate while you work, or they will stick to each other.

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Taffy cut into individual pieces.

Roll each piece of taffy in a piece of wax paper and place them in an air-tight container. This one was disappointing for me because my taffy came out rock hard, while Alton described something like a Tootsie Roll. I am guessing that my taffy was not pulled enough to reach the desired texture, but I did pull it until it felt like it was solidifying. Maybe I needed to soften my taffy again, and pull it more? Or, maybe the “T-Rex” nickname my brother gave me as a teenager was more justified than I realized? Either way, I don’t think I will do this one again. All-in-all, this episode was pretty “meh” for me.