Tuesday 28 June 2011

Very Berry Frozen Yoghurt

Wow has it been HOT these past few days. You know the feeling when you open the oven door after its been on high, only to be blasted by a wall of hot air, well its felt a bit like that at times these past few days. I’m not complaining through as I love warm weather, plus its perfect ice cream eating conditions!

Sunday was particularly hot and I fancied something cool and refreshing. Ice cream is all well and good but it can be a little rich and over creamy when you’re melting in the heat. Something fresher and lighter was required and as I’d been meaning to try making frozen yoghurt, I decided now would be the ideal time to try it out.

This recipe couldn’t be simpler. It takes a matter of moments to put together and no heating or custard making is required, plus it uses only 3 simple ingredients (I also added a little blackcurrant liqueur, but this is optional). I had a bag of mixed frozen berries in the freezer which I allowed to thaw a little before using. I wanted to keep them partially frozen so they wouldn’t get completely broken down during churning, but I wanted them to defrost just enough to release some of their gorgeously vibrant juices.

A little sugar to sweeten and a tub of natural yoghurt and you’re all set. The softer blackberries broke down quite a lot, while the little blackcurrants remained relatively whole. This made them taste like little balls of sorbet suspended in the frozen yoghurt, giving an intense burst of flavour when one was bit into. They were quite sharp, but against the sweeter, creamier yoghurt base this was highly refreshing and perfect for a hot day.

The yoghurt itself was soft and creamy, yet a lot lighter and more refreshing than an ice cream. All the berry juice made it a sort of cross between an ice cream and a sorbet. Delicious, and I adore its moody purple colour. The crème de cassis wasn’t obvious (I only added a smidgen) but it seemed to give a depth of flavour to the fruitiness of the berries and meant it didn’t set quite so solid, great for scooping out ‘just one more spoonful’

Very Berry Frozen Yoghurt
400g mixed frozen berries (mine was a mixed bag of strawberries, blackberries, red & black currants)
500g thick natural yoghurt (not low fat or sweetened)
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur – optional)

Place the frozen berries in a large bowl and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Leave to stand for 1 hour to allow the berries to thaw slightly, releasing their juices and mixing with the sugar. Give them a stir ever so often. Don’t allow them to defrost completely, as you want them to remain some structure during freezing.
When the berries are slightly thawed, stir in the yoghurt and liqueur, if using.
Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker until thick and almost frozen, about 30 minutes.
The partially thawed berries should break down slightly, releasing their fabulous purple juices, while still allowing some berry texture to remain.
Scoop out and enjoy straight away or transfer to a tupperware box and freeze until required.
Makes about 1 litre frozen yoghurt

Thursday 23 June 2011

Carrot Cake Inspired Ice Cream

I adore carrot cake, it’s possibly my favourite cake. I just love its spicy flavour, chewy raisins, little chunks of nut and how it’s all topped off with a creamy frosting – yum. I was dreaming about carrot cake and decided to see if I could make carrot cake ice cream!

“Hmmm carrot cake ice cream, I bet she crumbled up some carrot cake into her ice cream…” NOPE! I actually added all the major flavour components, separately into the ice cream base. Cinnamon, mixed spice, sultanas, pecans, lemon zest, date syrup for sweetness and… 200g of freshly grated carrot! I lightly blanched the grated carrot first to soften it and release some of its natural sweetness, no one wants to be chewing on raw carrot in their ice cream.

Now before you think I’ve gone do-lally, trust me it works. It works really well. I was so excited creating this ice cream and then seeing into come together. That first softly set spoonful was amazing. OMG best ice cream ever!

The ice cream base was just sweet enough while still retaining some of its creamy freshness which emulated the cool creamy frosting often found on carrot cake. The nuts added the occasional crunch while the sultanas went fantastically chewy and sweet, like little chips of toffee hiding in the ice cream.

The spices came through well without being overpowering and the date syrup helped give that characteristic spicy orangey-brown colour to the ice cream as well as a lovely naturally fruity sweetness. The strands of carrot themselves were soft enough not to cause a problem yet still whole enough to be detectable. They weren’t crunchy in any way, but they had retained their shape which I loved.

I just couldn’t get over how much it tasted like real carrot cake. It completely satisfied my carrot cake craving and I’m now plotting even more concoctions. Move over Ben & Jerry’s!

Carrot Cake Inspired Ice Cream
250g sweetened custard base (homemade or shop bought)
200ml double cream
200g carrot, peeled and grated
50g sultanas
40g pecans
75ml date syrup
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
Zest of ½ lemon

Start by peeling and roughly grating your carrots. Place them in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water, cover the top with clingfilm and cook in the microwave for 1½ minutes. Leave the clingfilm on the bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge until cold.
When reading to start, mix your custard base, double cream, date syrup, lemon zest and spices together in a bowl. Whisk gently until combined.
Roughly chop the pecans and add to the bowl along with the sultanas and blanched and chilled carrot. Add any carrot liquid to the mix too as this will contain lots of intense carrot flavour.
Stir until well incorporated before churning in your ice cream machine until thick and softly set.
Scoop out and enjoy straight away or transfer to a Tupperware box and freeze until required.
Makes about 700ml ice cream

Monday 20 June 2011

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Keeping to the ice cream theme, I’m excited to say that the Gelateria ice cream maker on loan for a few weeks from Gaggia (after their coffee & ice cream event) arrived last week! I have been having so much fun and eating far too much ice cream! It’s almost become one of my new foods groups – protein, carbs, fruit & veg and ice cream!

I was longing to get creating wacky flavours straight away but in a moment of clarity decided it was probably wise to start at the beginning with a simple vanilla ice cream. Vanilla ice cream is apparently the nations favourite ice cream flavour, which seems a little boring in my view, but then I suppose it all comes down to the quality of the ice cream. You can get really good vanilla ice creams made with eggs, cream and real vanilla or really bad vanilla ice cream.

This vanilla ice cream is firmly in the ‘good’ category – it’s so smooth and creamy and absolutely bursting with real vanilla flavour. Just look at all those little black speckles – that’s not dirt – its vanilla!

When I came to use my vanilla pods I discovered I didn’t have any fresh squishy ones and only the brittle dry pieces that I store in my sugar. I had a brain wave and blitzed the vanilla, seeds, pod and all, in a spice grinder along with a little sugar. This transformed the dry vanilla into the most amazing vanilla pod powder. Still packed full of flavour and no wastage – hurrah.

The thing I am most impressed about with this ice cream maker is that you can lift off the entire lid covering the bowl where the ice cream is churned, even during freezing. This means you can easily pour in your ice cream mix, throw in some add-ins or sauces without having to try and drizzle it through a small spout at the top like other ice cream machines I’ve seen. This makes it far easier to check how your ice cream is progressing and actually get the mix in there in the first place without pouring it down the sides.

The resulting ice cream was amazing. Using the ground up whole vanilla pod really gave an intense vanilla flavour and I love how the little seeds were noticeably speckled throughout. It was rich, smooth and creamy thanks to the fast freeze and churn action which prevents large ice crystals from forming. Yum!

There is going to be a whole series of ice creams creations appearing shortly. I’ve already made another ice cream this weekend, inspired by one of my favourite cake flavours. Check back later in the week to see which one!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)
150g caster sugar
350ml milk
3 egg yolks
200ml double cream
½ vanilla pod (fresh or dry – see note below)

Cut the vanilla in half and scrape out the seeds. Combine the seeds and pod to the milk and cream and heat together in a small saucepan until very hot but not bubbling.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Pour a little of the hot milk over the egg yolks and quickly whisk to temper the mixture and prevent it from scrambling. Add more of the milk to the egg yolks whisking all the time.
Then pour the eggy milky mixture back into the saucepan and place over a low heat. Use a silicone spatula to gently stir the mixture until it begins to thicken. This may take up to 5 minutes. Do not allow it to bubble or boil or else it will split.
The ice cream mix is ready once it coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.
Allow to cool slightly before refrigerating for at least 2 hours or until chilled.
Pour the chilled ice cream into your ice cream maker (remove the vanilla pod first) and blend until frozen to the desired consistency, around 20-30minutes.
Eat straight away or transfer to a container and keep for later.

Note: After making your ice cream base, it can be poured into a Tupperware container and frozen in a regular freezer. Just remove it from the freezer every 1-2hours and give it a whisk, to ensure it freezes evenly.

Note: I found all my vanilla pods were very dry and hard as I’d stored them in some sugar. I simply broke a piece off and blitzed it in a spice grinder with a little of the sugar to create my own vanilla bean powder. This was really intense and gave a wonderful speckled vanilla appearance to the finished ice cream.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Hotel Chocolat: Knickerbocker Glory Mint Choc Chip Truffles Review

I was recently asked if I would like to try something from Hotel Chocolat’s new birthday range. I love their chocolates and so was more than happy to accept. I was sent the Mint Choc Chip Truffles from their new Knickerbocker Glory range. A set of 10 creamy mint filled chocolates, encased in a thick dark chocolate shell and topped with the cutest mini chocolate chips I’ve ever seen!

The truffles come presented in a paper cone decorated with fun candy striped colours. On first appearance they may look a bit child orientated compared to some of Hotel Chocolat’s sleek dark boxes, and I’m sure children would love them, but that’s not to say they won’t be thoroughly enjoyed by adults too!

There are a few truffles assortments in the Knickerbocker Glory range, each one designed to bring back memories of childhood ice creams. Mint choc chip ice cream always makes me think of holidays and eating ice creams on the beach. I used to love mint Cornettos or mint Feasts you could get, so the truffles brought back quite nostalgic memories for me.

I loved the contrast between the soft and creamy minty filling and the thick dark chocolate shell. The filling was tinted the palest of mint greens, a nod towards its childhood ice cream flavour without being too artificial. A lovely fun gift to take to a friends for a dinner party or BBQ although I’m sure they’d appeal to all ages, they certainly did in my house.

Thursday 9 June 2011

GF Soda Bread

I realised this morning that I was out of bread and wanted some in time to enjoy with lunch. I have been meaning for some months to try making a gluten free soda bread, as I reasoned that the lack of proofing time and not having to reply on yeast for rising might produce a better gluten free loaf than I have so far managed. Being short of time I decided that today was the right time to give it a shot.

I used an assortment of different flours in my loaf, using up what I had on hand, but I’m sure using a flour blend or just one or two different flours would work just as well. A combination of different flours seem to produce the best gluten free results as they all have slightly different textures, flavours, thickness capabilities so combining them usually gives better results. Some are slightly coarse, other soft and powdery etc.

My mix came together in a matter of moments, almost too quick for the oven to heat up. As soon as I added the milk I could see the bicarbonate of soda starting to get to work and producing little air pockets in the soft spongy dough.

The dough was quite soft and sticky, but this is again preferable for a gluten free dough as the lighter texture allows it to rise more easily as there is no gluten to add elasticity.

I placed it in the oven and hoped for the best. The resulting loaf was fantastic! The best looking loaf of gluten free bread I have so far produced. It rose well and developed a lovely rustic crack along the top. The crust was wonderfully thick while the interior crumb had a close texture but was deliciously light and moist. It had a definite grainy, savoury note thanks to the buckwheat and chickpea flour, which I loved.

I think soda bread, like scones, is best enjoyed when still slightly warm from the oven. My favourite way to eat it is topped with some strong cheese which goes a little soft and melty on the still warm bread, or topped with some sour cherry jam for a sweet treat. Delicious!

I’m still going to continue my experiments with gluten free yeasted bread, but I might try adding a little bicarb in the mix too, just to give it a bit of head start.

GF Soda Bread
150g brown rice flour
100g buckwheat flour
100g gram/chickpea flour
50g brown teff flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
325ml milk
2 tsp honey

Preheat the oven to 220C. Grease a deep 11x20cm loaf tin and line the base and up two sides with a long strip of greaseproof paper. (I didn’t do this and my bread stuck to the base, so I will next time!)
Weigh out all the flours and place into a large bowl along with the xanthan gum, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Mix all the dry ingredients together until combined.
Drizzle over the honey and then pour in the milk. Use a round bladed butter knife to mix the milk into the flour. Fold it gently and don’t over mix. It doesn’t want to be smooth and a few little lumps here and there are fine. It should be quite soft and sticky.
Spread the bread mix into the loaf tin and bake for 5 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 200C and bake for 30-35 minutes longer, until risen, crusty and golden.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge and removing from the pan. Use the greaseproof strip to help you.
Allow to cool almost to room temperature before cutting in thick slices and serving. Great with a savoury assortment of cheese, pickles and soups or sweet with jam, cream cheese or nutella.
Makes 1 loaf.

Note: You can also bake this loaf free-form on a flat baking tray. Just shape it into a large round blob and bake!

Monday 6 June 2011

An Evening of Coffee & Ice Cream

I have spoken recently of my longing for an automatic ice cream maker and it seems as though the ice cream gods have been listening as last week I was invited to attend an evening of coffee and ice cream run by Gaggia – an Italian company who make great coffee machines and also…a professional automatic ice cream maker!

Feeling very excited I turned up at a secret location in London (La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School) where I met up with two other bloggers – Dom from Chocoblog and Kevay from Kevay Eats, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before.

We were introduced to a top barrister, Paul, who took us through the finer points of coffee growing, the importance of grinding and how to make the perfect cup of coffee. This was really interesting and I picked up lots of hints and tips. What Paul doesn’t know about coffee isn’t worth knowing!

Did you know that despite popular belief that keeping coffee in the fridge will keep it better this is actually not true – not in terms of brewing the perfect coffee anyway. It’s the oils in the coffee that contain the flavour and so keeping them in a cold place will make them harden and not release their flavour so effectively when used – imagine what would happen if you tried to keep your olive oil in the fridge. Also, taking the coffee in and out of the fridge every time you use it will keep altering the humidity and temperature within the bag, creating moisture, which will probably actually speed up the rate of deterioration. It’s best to just squeeze the air out of your bag of coffee and keep it in a cool dark cupboard instead.

Paul also explained how when using freshly ground coffee its important to only use the first shot, around 30ml to get the best purest flavour. An espresso shot amount. If you want a larger or weaker cup of coffee than an espresso, don’t simply leave the water running through the machine for longer, as this draws the bitterness out of the coffee resulting in a poor tasting coffee. Instead, just dilute your espresso shot with clean hot water or milk. To prove this to us he made an espresso shot of coffee, which produced a rich darkly coloured liquid with a thick crème head that smelt rich, slightly sweet and smoky. He then took another shotfull, which turned out much weaker in colour, with no crème head and smelt strongly like stale ashtrays – not pleasant. If you had used a large cup and left the water running you would ruin your first run of fabulous coffee by adding the stale ashtray into it. Try making a cup yourself both ways and you’ll see what I mean (sorry the photos a bit blurry).
We then got to experiment with the machines ourselves making espresso’s and cappuccinos.

Buzzing with caffeine we then moved onto ice cream. This was run by Jo Pratt who is a food stylist, writer and presenter. She was lovely and very easy to talk to. She showed us how to make two different batches of ice cream using the new automatic Gaggia Gelateria which doesn’t need any pre-freezing. One was a divine salted caramel ice cream and the other a delicious fresh strawberry and marshmallow ice cream.

The salted caramel one was divine – unbelievably smooth and so creamy. Just like the gelato I remember eating in Italy a few years ago. I’m not normally a caramel fan, as it often tastes just of sugar, but this one had such a depth of caramel flavour, sweet yet with a salty note. Jo also showed us how to make some cinnamon roasted pecans to accompany the ice cream. These were divine and I couldn’t stop munching them, were fabulous with the ice cream.

The strawberry ice cream was made with fresh pureed strawberries. This resulted in a pale, yet naturally pink tinted ice cream and the flavour…WOW! It was so fresh and summery and obviously strawberry flavoured. Goodness knows what shops put into their strawberry ice cream, but they never taste like this.

Then oh joy of joys, we were presented with an ice cream machine and a table of ingredients from which to create our own ice cream flavour – eeeeeeee!

I created a cinnamon (obviously) ice cream with fresh blueberries and crumbled pecan nuts. It was so much fun watching it churn in the ice cream machine and as I hadn’t added any additional liquid ingredients to the ice cream base, my ice cream was ready in about 20 minutes! You can’t beat that for speed. It ended up wonderfully thick and creamy. The cinnamon flavour was really pronounced, but I think next time I would cook the blueberries a bit of sugar as they stayed restively whole and went a bit hard. My ice cream was also lacking a bit of sweetness, I’ve learnt you have to over sweetened the mix as the sweetness flavour lessens after it’s frozen. I’ll know for next time.

Kevay created a delicious, yet incredibly alcoholic ice cream using chocolate liqueur, kahula coffee liqueur, chocolate chunks & toasted pecans. Whoa! This tasted almost of pure alcohol, but would be fantastic served in shot glasses with a dessert at a dinner party. Not one for children or the afternoons though.

Dom made a caramel ice cream with chocolate chunks, pecans and Grand Marnier liqueur. I really liked the combination of the chocolate and orange liqueur.

Everyone gabbed spoons and went round tasting all the different ice creams. Ooff I ate so much! I couldn’t decide which was my favourite and kept having ‘just one more spoonful’ of each just to check. I think in the end Jo’s strawberry ice cream (minus the marshmallows) was my favourite. It was so fresh and fruity.

The evening ended with Paul making some coffee cocktails and some amazing coffee art on the tops of some frothy coffees. Much more impressive than the usual cocoa dusting.

It was a fabulous evening and I went home buzzing thanks to a concoction of coffee, alcohol and copious amounts of ice cream. I was so overly stimulated, and different ice cream flavours kept floating into my head, that I didn’t sleep a wink that night but it was so worth it! I am longing to have my own ice cream maker even more now. The extra exciting news, that had me jumping up and down in delight, is that Gaggia are going to loan me the Gelateria for a couple of weeks to see if I can create some new ice cream flavours!!! How cool is that?!

Below are the recipes for Jo’s caramel and strawberry ice creams, with (hopefully) some of my own to follow shortly.

Strawberry Mallow Ice Cream
150ml milk
2 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g caster sugar
150ml double cream
250g fresh ripe strawberries
75g mini marshmallows, or larger ones, chopped

Pour the milk into a saucepan gently bring to the boil.
Beat together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and roughly half of the sugar until they are pale and creamy. Stir in the hot milk, return the liquid to the saucepan and stir continuously over a low heat until it thickens and just starts to coat the back of your spoon (it should be the consistency of double cream). Make sure you don’t boil the custard because it may separate and curdle. If you feel it is getting too hot, remove from the heat and just continue stirring until it thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cream and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, place the strawberries and remaining half of caster sugar in a food processor or liquidiser and blend until smooth. Push through a sieve to remove any seeds. Stir into the cooled custard along with the marshmallows.
Place in the ice-cream machine and churn for 30 minutes, until thick and frozen.
Note: If you don’t have time to make your own custard, then simply use 250ml of bought ready-made custard and stir in 200ml double cream before adding the pureed strawberries and marshmallows.

Caramel Ice Cream with Cinnamon Pecans
The pecans are a delicious serving suggestion, but are equally good eaten on their own.
Caramel Ice Cream
150g caster sugar
200ml milk
4 large egg yolks
200ml double cream
large pinch of salt

200g pecans
½ egg white
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
75g caster sugar

To make the ice-cream, place half of the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, and gently heat until the sugar dissolves and turns to a deep golden colour. To ensure even colouring, swirl the pan a couple of times throughout. Once the sugar has caramelised, leave to cool for about 5 minutes before adding the milk. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the caramel dissolves into the milk.
Meanwhile, beat together the egg yolks, salt and remaining half of sugar until pale in colour. Stir in the caramel milk, then add the cream. Leave to cool completely before pouring into the ice-cream machine and churning for 30 minutes, until thick and frozen.

To make the pecans, pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 6.
Lightly whisk the egg white until it is frothy. Add the pecans, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Mix until the nuts are evenly coated before transferring to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread into a single layer, and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are crunchy. Cool for a few minutes before breaking any that have stuck together.
The pecans are now ready to scatter over the top of the finished ice-cream.