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Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category

Mmmmmmm. Peace ice cream.

This summer we’ve toyed with triple-digit temperatures repeatedly, something that is increasingly becoming the new norm.  When the thermometer on our north-facing, shady porch says it’s 100 degrees F, it’s time for ice cream!  It’s peach season in Arkansas, so I can’t resist finding ways to use peaches. Why not ice cream?  Today’s recipe is for a peach ice cream that’s not too sweet, letting the natural goodness of the peaches shine.

Making ice cream at home is easy, as long as you have lots of ice, a little bit of patience, and an ice cream maker.  No, I’m not talking about Mr. Homesteader.  I’m talking about an electric machine.  I remember fondly the days that my family and friends took turns on a hand-crank ice cream maker.  I also remember when we bought our electric machine.  It’s the same one I use today, decades later.  Still, if you’ve got the muscles and time, go for a hand cranker, and burn off the ice cream before you ever eat it!

Now, let’s talk about two crucial ingredients that don’t go in the ice cream.  You need lots of cubed or crushed ice, at least one large bag if you need to buy it.  You’ll also need rock salt, also known as ice cream salt.  Some stores keep ice cream salt in the seasonal section, while others keep it with spices, salts, and baking staples.  We’ll use about a cup of rock salt today.

Peach Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quart

Ice Cream Ingredients

As always, you should be able to find everything listed here in organic form, so buy organic if you can.

  • 4 egg yolks (Save the whites!  Use them for an egg white omelet with seasonal vegetables, and you’ll have a light, fluffy, flavorful summer breakfast.  Ask me if you want a recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional:  1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 2 cups half and half (or whipping cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 1%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ripe peaches

Method

Using a whisk, stir together the egg yolks, the sugar, and at least one cup of the cream in a heavy-bottomed pot.  (Whisk in the nonfat dried milk too if you are using it.)  Heat over medium heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is too hot to stick your finger in and hold but not boiling.  Adjust heat to hold it there as necessary.  If you have a candy thermometer, we’re looking for about 140 degrees F, held for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk more as the temperature rises.  The mixture should thicken a little as the egg cooks, but don’t let the milk curdle!  Now take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the half and half, milk, and vanilla.

Next peel and pit the peaches and dice them.  You can do this step in the early stages of cooking the egg mixture if you’d like.  Add the diced peaches and any liquid they’ve given off to the mixture.  Chill it well, even to the point of putting it in the freezer if you’re planning on making the ice cream in a few hours.

Is your mixture good and cold?  Break out that ice cream machine.  Using the method that comes with your ice cream maker, put the ice cream mixture in the cylinder, add the paddles, secure the top, and pour in the ice and salt, alternating as you add them.  We let our ice cream mix inside, in the air conditioning.  At 100 degrees F outside, the ice cream may never properly freeze.  Inside at about 80 degrees F, it freezes easily.  You’ll know your ice cream is ready when the paddles slow down and the machine starts to sound labored.  Hand-cranked machines will get harder to turn as the ice cream freezes, so save your best muscle at the party for last!

Quickly scoop the finished ice cream into a freezer container, being sure to share the paddles with your favorite people before the ice cream melts.  Avoid letting the ice cream thaw and re-freeze, as without commercial emulsifiers the ice cream can become hard.  You can dish up the ice cream immediately soft serve, or let it freeze a bit harder for those perfect round scoops!

Our next dessert will be rich chocolate ice cream, but before that I’ll post a tasty ratatouille Provençal recipe, to help you use up your bounty of summer garden and market vegetables.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2011, including photographs.

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One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is making offerings from kitchen and heart for friends and family.  A consistent favorite among recipients not just for gifts but also gatherings is my cashew bark, a confection of chocolate, salty nuts, butter, and sugar.  Heat transforms the butter and sugar into a crisp toffee.  The chocolate and nuts encapsulate everything.  The combination is genuinely addictive.  Thank goodness the recipe is simple!

Before you get started, make sure that you have a heavy-bottomed pot (stainless steel is good), a candy thermometer, and a jelly roll pan.  You can do without the latter, but the first two are absolute necessities.

Ingredients

I was able to get every ingredient listed in organic form.

  • 3 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks (dark chocolate or semi-sweet; milk chocolate is too sweet for me for this recipe)
  • 3 cups roasted, salted cashews (option:  try other nuts, like almonds, for a toffee more like those candy bars that shall not be named)
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) real butter (no, you may not use margarine; it will not work)
  • 2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chop chocolate chips or chunks in a food processor, pulsing on and off to avoid the chocolate melting, until they are just bits of chocolate.  (You may, of course, do this step by hand.)  Transfer the chocolate bits into a big bowl and then chop the cashews roughly, pulsing again.  They should retain some characteristics of cashews, not be pulverized into nut butter.  Mix the chopped cashews with the chocolate bits and set aside.

Now put the butter and brown sugar in a heavy-bottomed, high-sided pot. (Electric burner users:  you may want to use a wire diffuser to avoid burning.) Let the butter and sugar melt together at first over medium heat, stirring to combine.  As the mixture combines, hook the candy thermometer over the side of the pot, making sure to keep the tip submerged but well away from the bottom of the pot.  Make sure that all of the sugar crystals are melting, and then increase the heat a bit, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, grease the jelly roll pan (about 17×11 inches) and use half of the cashew-chocolate mixture to coat the bottom lightly but evenly.  Just gently sprinkle it on. Now go back and stir the butter and sugar, which should be starting to resemble rising, molten lava.  Add the vanilla.  Be very careful, as the mixture will feel like molten lava if it gets on your hand!

Keep stirring while you watch the thermometer edge toward 300 degrees F, also known in candy making as the hard-crack stage.   Increase the heat if you must, but watch that temperature!  As soon as it hits 300 degrees, pick up the pot and quickly drizzle the butter-sugar lava over your cashew-chocolate mixture, leaving gaps that the lava will mostly fill in for you.  If any sections are left uncovered, smooth out the lava with the back of a metal serving spoon.  You need to move fast, as the mixture will start to harden almost immediately.  (No, sadly I do not have pictures, as I never have time for photographing  at this stage.)  Now quickly sprinkle on the rest of the cashew-chocolate mixture, making sure to get to the edges.  Press the cashew-chocolate mixture into the pan with the back of the same metal serving spoon you used above.  The chocolate will start to melt and hold everything together.  

Let the pan sit for a couple of minutes and then put it in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how much time you have.  Be sure that it is relatively flat or the cashew bark will be thicker on one side than the other.

After a couple of hours in the freezer or a few more in the refrigerator, the cashew bark should be thoroughly chilled and ready to break into pieces.  Lift one edge and start breaking!

Ultimately, you want pieces that one could eat in one to three bites, since the toffee is incredibly rich.  Any smaller bits will make a wonderful topping for ice cream!

Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or the freezer for a bit longer.  You can package the cashew bark for gift-giving too, as you long as you forewarn the recipient to keep it cold, or simply set it out as your offering for the next potluck or party.  Just be sure to save some for home, or you’ll find your family protesting!

This cashew bark has become a holiday favorite among my friends, family, and co-workers since I started making it almost two decades ago.  Do you have a favorite sweet treat you share for the holidays?  What’s the dish or treat you look forward to at holiday gatherings and in gift baskets?

You may also be interested in last year’s chocolate gift recipe, chocolate chip gingerbread.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I’m going to keep this simple.  It’s dessert time.  This recipe makes a small pan of lower-fat brownies.  We’re starting with cocoa powder in lieu of chocolate.  Instead of butter, we’re using peanut butter and yogurt.  How about some whole-grain oat flour?  Put them together and you have an easy sweet treat that’s much healthier than a traditional brownie–but the kids will never know it.  You can also get all of these ingredients in organic form.

Pan:  I used a 3-cup rectangular Pyrex to create 6 servings, each about 2 inches square.  You could double this recipe and bake it in an 8×8 pan.  If you double the recipe, you’ll need to increase baking time by 5-10 minutes.  (Thanks to Shoopee for reminding me about the increased time!)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup whole-grain oat flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  handful of dark chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter, softened and mixed with
  • 1/4 cup plan nonfat yogurt
  • 1 egg (or 2–see variation*)
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, and grease (or use spray oil on) your baking pan.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients.  In another bowl, stir together the softened peanut butter, yogurt, and sugar.  Mix in the egg and vanilla.  Add in the dry ingredients.  Spread into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.

This brownie is extremely rich and dense, so I like to serve it with a small glass of milk.  Do you want a brownie with a bit less density?  Try using two eggs instead of one egg.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts are welcome with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Spring is in the air, and the chickens know it.  Small-scale chicken farmers across the country are finding themselves with an overabundance of eggs.  Let’s use them!  If you don’t raise your own chickens, now is a great time to buy eggs grown on a small farm.  Today we’re going to use the egg whites to make meringue cookies.

Meringue cookies are exceptionally light, crispy clouds that dissolve in your mouth as you bite into them.  Vanilla meringue cookies are fat free (about 19 cals per cookie!), but adding almond meal or miniscule gratings of dark chocolate scarcely change the fat ratio while adding to the nutrition, making them still a healthy choice for a sweet bite.  They are also cholesterol free, wheat free and gluten free.  We’re going to make all three kinds (vanilla, chocolate, and almond meringue cookies) today.  These cookies are easy enough to make for kids to join in the fun, and they could become as much of your spring family tradition as Easter eggs or Passover* favorites.

Meringue cookies are made with egg whites (fat free:  hooray!), cream of tartar, sugar, and flavoring, like vanilla.  You’ll also need parchment paper.  That’s it.  And meringue is super easy to make as long as you remember one basic principle:  egg whites will not whip into fluffy masses unless you keep them absolutely free of any fat, including residual fat on prep equipment or tiny bits of egg yolks from improperly separating the eggs. (Don’t worry about wasting the egg yolks; we’ll be using the yolks from this project to make custard, a.k.a. American pudding, later this week.)

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (use a whole teaspoon if you are not making variations)
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar  (I have seen recipes for these cookies with half the egg whites and 150% the sugar I’m recommending here.  I guess you could go to 3/4 cup sugar if you’re transitioning to a healthier diet but aren’t quite there yet.)

Optional ingredients:

  • 1/2 ounce dark chocolate, grated
  • 2 tablespoons almond meal
  • 2 tablespoon sliced almonds and bits
  • drop of almond extract or orange extract

Method

Begin by lining a large cookie sheet with ungreased parchment.  Remember:  fat is the downfall of meringue.  We’re going to peel the parchment off the cookies at the end, because peeling the cookies off an unlined, ungreased cookie sheet is not an option.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles! Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

Now separate your egg whites from the yolks.  I recommend the 3-bowl method.  Each time you crack an egg, let the white fall into a small bowl (the little white one here).  Then put the yolk in a small yolk gathering bowl (the measuring cup here).  After you’ve checked the white for any signs of yolk, put it in your mixing bowl (the medium-sized peach-cased bowl here).  Now crack the next egg, letting the white fall into the small whites bowl, and so on.  That way, if you do mess up the separation, you’ll mess up one egg, not the whole batch.

Now mix the whites on low speed until they get frothy.

Add the cream of tartar.  Up the speed and whip until the whites form stiff peaks.  Now add the vanilla and sugar, a little bit at a time.  Whip to stiff peaks.  Do you see the stiff peaks?Are your kids home for spring break?  Are they going stir-crazy?  Are they driving you crazy?  Let them whip the egg whites using an old-fashioned, hand egg beater.  They’ll have much less energy when they’re done.

Now, drop about one third of the meringue onto the parchment-covered cookie sheet as is.  If you want, you can do what I did here and make a few meringue shells, pretty receptacles for things like fruit and dark chocolate pudding.

Now separate out about another third (half of what’s left, that is).  Grate extra-dark chocolate into one of the remaining thirds, pausing in between to scoop spoonfuls onto the parchment.

For the record, I used a portion–about half–of a square of 88% cacao Endangered Species chocolate. I ate the rest.  It’s okay; it’ll lower my blood pressure.

Now add two tablespoons almond meal and two tablespoons sliced almonds to the remaining third.  If you want to, add a drop (no more!) or almond extract or orange extract.  Fold gently to combine.  You know the drill:  spoon out the rest in dollops on the parchment, wherever you can find room.  I like to push a slice of almond into the top of these cookies to let people know how they are flavored.

Now put the cookies in the oven at 225 degrees F for at least two hours.  Why such a low temperature?  We’re not really baking the meringue; we’re drying it.  Take out the cookies.  Let them cool a bit and then peel them off the parchment and store them in an airtight container (that is, those that don’t get eaten right away).

You can also use meringue to pipe baskets to fill with other confections, and you can make freeform meringue bowls to hold ice cream, macerated fresh fruit–like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries–, or even pudding, which we’ll make in a later post, to use up the leftover egg yolks.  Just be sure to wait to fill meringues until you are ready to serve them, because they’ll start to collapse almost immediately when they are touched with anything damp.

Now that you’ve had your meringue primer, we’ll make a chocolate or key lime or lemon meringue pie in the near future.  I think was a key lime meringue pie I made when my father was visiting earlier this year.  Or maybe it was a chocolate pie.  Either way, yum!

*I’m not Jewish and no expert on kosher cooking, but it’s my understanding that meringue cookies are kosher (or, rather neutral:  pareve or parve) for Passover, as long as your vanilla and chocolate pass.

Let me know if you have questions about separating eggs or making these cookies.  And if you make them, let me know what you think!  Are they really crispy clouds?  What are your favorite spring holiday dishes and desserts?

Summer baking note:  If you live in an area of the country that gets humid, I would not even attempt to make these meringue cookies, any peanut brittle, or any crisp toffee during the humid times of the year.  You will get soft, sticky meringues and chewy, sticky brittle that’s not and toffee that’s just annoyingly gooey.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full url and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Contact me via the comment section for permission to use photographs.

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I generally avoid talking about food I eat off the homestead, but since I’ve been out of town since Wednesday, I can’t share any new recipes easily.  Instead, I’d like to talk tonight about the dinner I had at a Portland restaurant called Veritable Quandary.  I truly was in a quandary about what to order but finally settled on the Wild Sturgeon with Horseradish Creme Fraiche, served on a bed of Beets, Parsnips, Sunchokes & Spinach. The sturgeon lured me, but it was the vegetables that reeled me in.  The beets and parsnips were tastefully sweet and swimming in the horseradish cream sauce.  They made me remember that I’ve got parsnip seed that I need to get in the ground soon if I want them for fall.  I hope our beets are growing faster too, now that the sun  has returned.  I have to admit that I was not aware when I ate the sunchoke, also known as Jerusalem artichoke, another root vegetable; I missed it in the melange of veggies.  The plate was garnished with chervil, a wonderful cool-season herb that I use at home to replace warmer season herbs like parsley and basil.  Chervil has a faint taste of licorice like anise, fennel, and tarragon, but it so much milder than all three of those.  It’s definitely time to plant that soon!  I topped off my meal with a walnut-sized chocolate chile truffle, perfect to end the meal.  My only disappointment–given that Veritable Quandary is famous for its seasonal, local food–was that the restaurant did not have organic milk.  I was really craving some as I tried the truffle.

I was not in Portland to relish the food, but I did get some good ideas for future homestead recipes.  I’m thinking, even though I know we don’t need chocolate truffles, that I need to try making some soon.  After all, with dark chocolate and chile, they’re healthy, right?  And having had a beet salad two nights ago and these delicious beets tonight, I’m hoping mine at home grow faster!

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When I started this blog, I knew I was going to have to share family secrets to keep it worthwhile for you, my wonderful readers.  Tonight I’m going to share my “recipe” for the quickest but still marvelously creamy and delicious chocolate sauce, perfect for Valentine’s Day.  This chocolate sauce is a ganache you can make without heavy cream and without chopped chocolate. It’s fast enough and inexpensive enough that it could be a regular treat (if there is such a thing!).  It’s kind of Ozark ganache:  simpler, more down to earth than French granache.

Begin with a glass (Pyrex-type) measuring cup.  Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably organic) in the bottom.  Pour in milk to cover 2/3 of the chips.  In other words, if you poured in 1/2 cup of chips, pour in the milk to the 1/3 cup line.  Note:  this is not 1/3 cup milk, since the milk is being displaced by the chocolate chips.  It’s more like 1/4 cup. Microwave the chip-milk mixture for 45 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how much milk and chips you used.  Let the measuring cup rest briefly (perhaps while you’re getting out ice cream!), and then stir the mixture until it becomes creamy and all of the chocolate chips are melted.  Too thick for you?  You can add a splash more of milk and then stir again.  Pour over delicious ice cream, brownies, or cake.  Eat.  Savor.  Moan in ecstasy.  Eat some more.

Variations:

Do you want a creamy, thick dipping sauce–fondue–for strawberries and other fruit?  Don’t add the extra splash of milk.

All adult gathering?  Substitute butterscotch schnapps for 1/2 (or more) of the milk.

Want an extra rich flavor?  Pour in a splash of good vanilla extract on top of the milk before you microwave.

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Two smells from exotic places make me think of the holidays:  ginger and chocolate.  Neither product is local, and wars were fought over both of them as the world learned of their culinary power.  Nonetheless, if I use all other local, organic ingredients, I’m happy to use ginger and chocolate in moderation, just as my grandparents did.  This recipe for Chocolate Chip Gingerbread uses both flavors, and it’s easy enough for a grade schooler to bake.  Enjoy!
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1/4-1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses  Grease your measuring cup to get all of the molasses out.  If any linger, swirl the hot water (below) in it to finish the job.
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 + 1/3 cups whole-grain oat flower
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of ginger  Yes, this is a lot of ginger. If you don’t like it, use less.
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon
  • sprinkle of allspice  If you don’t have allspice, you can use a really, really tiny sprinkle of ground cloves.
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease 2 bread pans, each about 4″ x 8″.  In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, being sure not to cook the egg with the hot water.  Now toss all the floury dry ingredients and spices on top, taking care to sprinkle the baking soda across the top.  Stir everything together thoroughly to make a thick, dark batter.  No, don’t add the chips yet! Now pour about an inch of the batter into the bottom of each greased pan.  Now mix the chocolate chips into the remaining batter and pour it, split evenly, on top of the inch of chip-free batter in each bread pan.  Bake at 325 degrees F for about 50 minutes.  Cool well before you remove it from the pan.

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