Dill Parsley Walnut Pesto

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

As we get closer to our closing date on our condo and our subsequent move, I find myself returning again and again to my reliable quick meal repertoire.

I have begun to pack up the kitchen. Some of it is easy to set aside for a while. The waffle maker, the cookie cutters, the cake rings, the chinois, the Bundt pans, the brioche molds, the rectangular tart pan, the coffee urn, the ramekins, the pots de creme jars, and about two-thirds of the barware have all gone into boxes. And despite my affection for those things, I have yet to find myself reaching for them in my ordinary day-to-day routine.

DSC_3560Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But those are special occasion kinds of equipment. They are not the skillets and saucepans and spatulas and mixing bowls and knives and cutting boards that I seem to dirty and wash for nearly every meal.

DSC_3577Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDSC_3583

I’ve had to prioritize as I’ve tried to pack a box or two each day while keeping them liftable and the apartment livable (and showable…anyone in Chicago looking for a two bedroom apartment in Andersonville available November 1?). I debated over the pressure cooker and decided to pack it. When it came to the food processor, I decided to keep it out a while longer.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

A big reason for needing access to the food processor was this pesto. When most people think of pesto, they usually think basil. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I have made and eaten plenty of basil pesto and will undoubtedly continue to do so. But plenty of other herbs can shine when crushed and mixed with nuts and cheese and olive oil. Lately, I’ve been enamored with a pesto made with dill and flat leaf parsley.

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It tastes incredibly bright and green. All that herbaceousness is tempered with toasted walnuts, a smattering of pecorino romano, and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been slathering this stuff on usual suspects like pasta, but I’ve also been tossing roasted potatoes in it, topping frittatas with it, and spreading it on toast.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It would be a great sauce for fish or seafood or spread for a tomato sandwich. I’m also convinced it would, with the addition of some tomatoes and perhaps some cucumbers, make a great topping for quinoa cakes.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It comes together in minutes and keeps for a couple of weeks. I’ve been keeping a jar of this around in the refrigerator so that I have an easy solution to the question of how to get some kind of fresh and delicious meal together when I’m more concerned keeping the kitchen easy to clean before a potential tenant comes over than I am in spending a leisurely hour puttering around the stove.

Maybe now that I have another batch of it, I can pack that food processor tomorrow.

Dill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netDill Parsley Pesto. Bright and lovely on pasta, roasted potatoes, tomato sandwiches, fish... From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Dill, Parsley and Walnut Pesto

Rather than relying on the usual basil, this pesto uses dill and flat leaf parsley for its bright green color and herby flavor. It uses toasted walnuts and pecorino romano instead of the traditional pine nuts and parmigiano reggiano. It comes together in the food processor in a few minutes. I find the dill and parsley are less prone to oxidation than basil pesto, which tends to turn funny dark colors in a few days of storage. This keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least two weeks. I love this as a sauce for pasta, but it’s also great on roasted potatoes, fish or seafood, eggs, toast and plenty of other vegetables, starches or proteins. I like it best when the final dish includes an acidic note from tomatoes or a squeeze of lemon juice. I find that grinding the walnuts first and then adding them back in the end improves the final texture of the pesto. If you’re feeling especially lazy (and there’s no shame in that), you can throw them in with garlic and herbs and still have a respectable pesto.

5 ounces (140 grams, 1 1/2 cups) walnuts, toasted
1 large bunch dill (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups packed)
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups packed)
1 clove garlic
3/4 ounce (21 grams, 3/4 cup) finely grated pecorino romano
1/2 cup (118 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until they are ground into fine crumbs. Transfer them to a bowl.

Wash the dill and parsley in cold water and shake dry (or pat dry on paper towels). Trim off the thick stems below the leafy part of the herbs. Don’t worry about the thinner stems–they’ll be fine after a whirl in the food processor.

Add the garlic to the food processor, pulse until it’s in small bits. Add the dill and parsley and pulse until the leaves are minced. Add the ground walnuts, the pecorino romano, and salt, and pulse a few times to mix. Add the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until blended.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 2 cups.

Tomato, Roquefort and Red Onion Salad

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We’ve been getting ready for a move. I have yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys the process of moving. I can’t wait to have more space, another bathroom, a walk-in closet, a big deck, a washer and dryer, and a bigger nicer kitchen, but, oof, getting from here to there involves so much tiring, tedious packing and sorting, so much interruption from routine, so much evaluating of the stuff we carry with us from place to place.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

Our office is piled high with boxes. Our bookshelves are nearly bare. I’ve carried more than a dozen bags of donations to The Brown Elephant. We’ve thrown out and recycled stacks of magazines, shoes with holes worn clear through the soles, old towels, permanently unmatched socks, bits and bobs of ephemera and detritus. We’ve discovered that we have two crates filled with CDs that we haven’t touched in the entire time we’ve lived here.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

Dismantling a home is work. We still have a month until the movers come, and we’re only moving a few blocks away, and still, I find myself exhausted when I think about how much we have left to do before we leave this apartment behind.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We’ve had to maintain the illusion of a well-ordered home while we’ve shown the apartment to prospective renters who can take over our lease. It’s been lots of vacuuming and dusting and wiping away the toothpaste stains and vigilance about making sure the dirty dishes are out of sight in the dishwasher or cleaned and dried and put away. It’s been making sure the counters are clear and the kitchen sink is gleaming and the stove top is scrubbed free of stains.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

We only showed it for about a week (fingers-crossed that the renters who applied for the apartment are approved) and it makes me wonder how people whose homes are on the market for months put up with it.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

It makes it hard to do much cooking, especially anything complicated or time consuming. We’ve done more ordering takeout than usual. But I hate to miss out on the late summer produce that’s so plentiful this time of year. Which is why I’ve increasingly relied on simple meals like this tomato salad.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

It comes from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which is one of my favorite cookbooks for seasonal cooking with an easy elegance.

It’s a salad without lettuce or field greens, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Goin says it is based on a classic steakhouse salad, but I’ll admit I’ve spent little time in steakhouses and had never seen this on a menu that I can recall. I think of it as caprese salad’s brash cousin. The tomatoes and the basil are the same, but instead of mozzarella there’s bold blue Roquefort cheese and slices of red onions that have been soaked in ice water to amplify their crunch and remove their sting. It’s all tossed in a vinaigrette made from bashed up garlic and oregano with both red wine and balsamic vinegar and some high quality olive oil.

It packs a wallop. I can see how it would stand up to steak or any big flavored protein, but we had it for a meal all by itself.

Tomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.netTomato, Roquefort, and Red Onion Salad. A kicky, big-flavored salad to celebrate tomato season. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious http://www.blossomtostem.net

 

Tomato, Roquefort and Red Onion Salad

Adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques

This is a bold flavored salad for people who love both tomatoes and blue cheese. I’ve simplified the method here so that the salad is tossed rather than carefully arranged on a plate. Goin uses Early Girl tomatoes, but I’ve opted for a mix of cherry tomatoes, which only need to be halved and can stand up to tossing better than big tomato slices can. The red onion here provides a wonderful crunch, and after soaking in ice water and getting squeezed with lemon, it gets noticeably mellower than a typical raw onion. The vinaigrette gets its flavor from both red wine and balsamic vinegars, garlic and fresh oregano, and olive oil. It’s worth it to spring for a good quality olive oil here. If you have another favorite blue cheese, you can use that instead of Roquefort.

 1 tablespoon oregano leaves
1/2 clove garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion or 1/2 a medium red onion (I used a sweet tropea onion)
1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1/2 lemon
2 1/2 ounces Roquefort blue cheese
small handful fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Peel the onion and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Soak the rings in a bowl of ice water for about 10 minutes. This will keep the crisp while mellowing the harsh raw onion flavor.

In a mortar, pound the oregano, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until they form a paste. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in the red wine and balsamic vinegars and whisk in the olive oil.

Drain the onions, add them to a large mixing bowl and squeeze the lemon over them and sprinkle them with salt and teaspoon of vinaigrette. Sprinkle the halved cherry tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper and add them to the bowl. Cut the cheese into rough 1/4- to 1/2-inch chunks. Add the vinaigrette and toss until the salad is coated. Tear the basil into pieces and sprinkle it over the salad. Serve immediately.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When our friend Traci commissioned a surprise birthday cake for her significant other, Dan, she requested something chocolate.

So I started flipping through my cookbook collection looking for inspiration for chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This was no time for restraint.

Special occasions call for special cakes. And this would be a special cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I knew I wanted to take an expansive, maximalist approach. This was going to have many layers and textures and chocolate varieties. So I turned to some of my favorite baking books in search of components to build the cake that was forming in my head.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I started with a cake called the Dame Chocolat from Karen Krasne’s book Extraordinary Cakes which involved chocolate cake and semisweet ganache and a bittersweet chocolate mousse. But as it appeared in the book, it wasn’t quite big enough of tall enough or complex enough for what I was going for.

So I started to reimagine it. I swapped out Krasne’s genoise for a flourless chocolate souffle cake I’ve made before from Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I had read about caramelized white chocolate on Food 52 and on David Lebovitz’s blog a while back. It had been rolling around my head for months, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it in some way. At first I thought I’d go with a mousse, but the more I thought about it, I decided I didn’t want to mask the flavor of the caramelized white chocolate with eggs. I recalled one of Alice Medrich’s cake components from her book Bittersweet (since updated and reprinted as Seriously Bitter Sweet), a whipped ganache that I had previously used in a chocolate roulade.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Like most classic ganaches, it is made of chocolate and cream. I thought the cream would carry the caramelized white chocolate flavor nicely without overpowering it. But I was afraid that it might be too sweet.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Caramelized white chocolate has a much deeper flavor than the white chocolate we all know. It’s more like dulce de leche or caramel than white sugar, but still, this was a party for grown ups and I wanted to keep the flavor profile in balance, so I stole an idea from another one of Krasne’s cakes, one she calls the Bonaparte, which has a layer of mousse with salted bittersweet chocolate bits in it.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I thought the salt and the bittersweet chocolate would cut the sweetness of the caramelized white chocolate nicely. So I melted some bittersweet chocolate, spread it out thinly, and sprinkled it with big flakes of Maldon sea salt, which I rolled into the soft chocolate, and then chilled until it was firm enough to break into shards. I kept those shards chilled until the ganache was whipped and they could be folded in to create little dark salty flecks in the caramelized white chocolate.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I then had a cake that consisted of four layers of flourless chocolate souffle cake, a chocolate soak for the cake layers, a light and airy whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache with salty chocolate shards, four layers of bittersweet chocolate ganache, two layers plus and outer coating of bittersweet chocolate mousse, all topped with a shiny chocolate mirror glaze.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It no longer felt like the Dame Chocolat, or even the first working title I had for it, the Nouveau Grande Dame Chocolat, it had evolved and expanded to thirteen layers. As an inveterate book nerd, I am unable to think of the number thirteen without thinking of Wallace Stevens’ blackbird. And so this became, perhaps predictably, my Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This is, if you’re counting, a takes-3-or-4-days-to-make cake, depending on how much time you’re willing to spend each day. Caramelizing the white chocolate is a simple but slow process. It needs to spend time in a low oven and get stirred frequently. It can be made several days in advance and should be incorporated into the whipped ganache base at least a day before assembling the cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net 13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The chocolate soufflé cake requires melting chocolate and separating eggs and whipping them and combining everything together with a delicate hand.

It can be made a day before assembling the cake.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The salted chocolate shards can be made several days in advance as long as they are kept chilled. The chocolate soaking syrup can be made in advance as well.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But the bittersweet chocolate mousse and the dark chocolate ganache (it can be bitter- or semisweet) should be made on the day you assemble the cake. Which should be a day before you want to serve the cake, because after it is assembled, the whole thing needs to go into the freezer overnight and then get topped with a final layer of ganache and mirror glaze and thaw for a few hours so it isn’t a frozen rock.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Did I mention that this probably isn’t a cake for beginning bakers?

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s also a cake that requires some essential equipment: two half sheet pans, an 8-inch cake ring, a 9-inch cake ring, parchment paper, acetate sheets, large and small offset spatulas, a kitchen scale, a whisk, at least one silicone spatula, and a stand mixer. And having a chinois would be nice too. These are all baking workhorses.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

And you need to make sure there’s a good flat landing spot cleared in your freezer and one in your fridge so that you don’t smush everything you spent that last several days working on.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Can it all be worth it?

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It can.

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake. A showstopping cake for a special occasion. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

13 Ways of Looking at a Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Cakes, Joanne Chang’s Flour, Too, Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, with inspiration from David Lebovitz and Food52

This cake is a big project and not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth it. It’s a rich, dark chocolatey stunner of a cake with layers of flourless chocolate soufflé cake, whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache with salty chocolate shards, and sturdy dark chocolate ganache, all covered in bittersweet chocolate mousse and topped with a shiny mirror glaze. It involves chocolate components rendered in different hues and textures and levels of sweetness which make it perhaps the most complex chocolate dessert I’ve ever made. When you take on a project like this, it helps to have a game plan. I’d suggest making the caramelized white chocolate three days before you want to serve the cake, making the flourless chocolate soufflé cake, the caramelized white chocolate ganache base and salted chocolate shards two days before you want to serve the cake, and making the soaking syrup, bittersweet chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache and assembling the cake the day before you want to serve it. The assembly day places the biggest demands on your time. The day of, all you need to do is top the cake with the final layer of dark chocolate ganache and make the mirror glaze and spread it over the cake. Finally, you can unmold it and garnish with fresh flowers.

For the whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache:

170 grams (6 ounces) white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream

For the salty chocolate shards:

57 grams (2 ounces) 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

For the flourless chocolate souffle cake:

10 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup (60 ml)
280 grams (10 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
250 grams (1 1/4 cups) sugar

For the cocoa soaking syrup:

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 cup (118 ml) water
4 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted (either natural or Dutch-processed is fine)

For the bittersweet chocolate mousse:

3 1/2 cups (828 ml) heavy cream
255 grams (9 ounces) 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
128 grams (4 1/2 ounces) 64% bittersweet chocolate, chopped
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
3 large eggs
9 large egg yolks

For the dark chocolate ganache:

510 grams (18 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (preferably no higher than 64%), chopped
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

For the mirror glaze:

50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted (either natural or Dutch-processed is fine)
1 gelatin sheet
1 tablespoon glucose or light corn syrup

At least 3 days before you plan to serve the cake:

Caramelize the white chocolate. Heat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat mat and scatter the chopped white chocolate in a single layer over it. Bake, stirring and spreading the chocolate around every 10 minutes, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the white chocolate has turned a deep golden brown. Don’t worry if the chocolate looks grainy, lumpy, or even chalky at times during the process, eventually it will smooth out (and the last lumpy bits will be smoothed out when making the ganache). If not using right away, transfer to a jar or other airtight container and store at room temperature (will keep for at least a week).

At least 2 days before you plan to serve the cake:

Make the caramelized white chocolate ganache. Transfer the caramelized white chocolate to a medium heat safe bowl. Heat the cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it comes just to a simmer. Immediately pour the cream over the caramelized white chocolate. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let the hot cream melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 8 hours) until very cold.

At least 1 day before you plan to serve the cake:

Make the salty chocolate shards. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Place a 12×16-inch piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate in a thin even layer over the parchment paper. Sprinkle the sea salt over the chocolate and lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the parchment paper to press the salt into the chocolate. Transfer to the refrigerator or freezer and let it chill until it has hardened, at least a half hour. When the chocolate has hardened, chop into very small irregular pieces and store (immediately) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. These will melt immediately on contact with your warm hands, so use the back of a chef’s knife or a bench scraper to transfer the chocolate from the parchment to the container to keep your hands and the rest of the kitchen from being covered in melted chocolate.

Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place one rack in the center and one in the top third of the oven. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick baking spray (if you’re making this gluten free, don’t use the baking spray that has flour mixed into it).

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, coffee, melted chocolate and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes until soft peaks form. The tines of the whisk should leave a trail in the whites and when you lift the head of the mixer the whites should should peak and droop. With the mixer on medium, add the sugar slooowly, about a tablespoon at a time, until it’s all added. This process should take about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites are glossy and smooth and hold their peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the whites into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the rest of the whites until no white streaks remain. Do this carefully. Egg whites are easy to deflate.

Divide the batter between the two prepared sheet pans. Starting at the corners, spread the batter evenly over the pan with an offset spatula. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but you want the corners and edges filled in. The batter should be about a 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep.

Bake the cakes, rotating the pans from front to back and switching between the racks about halfway through, about 16-18 minutes. The cakes should look dry on top and when you touch it with a finger, the top should feel dry and delicate and almost shatter and the cake below should feel moist. Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. At this point you can assemble the cake or wrap the cakes (still in their pans) with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for one day.

Make the cocoa soaking syrup. Combine the sugar, water and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool at room temperature. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)

Make the dark chocolate ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a large heat safe bowl. Heat the cream in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan until it comes just to a simmer. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for about 10-15 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk together until the the mixture is smooth.

Make the bittersweet chocolate mousse. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks. This should take about 2 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate. Wash out the bowl of the stand mixer and the whisk attachment and dry them thoroughly. You’ll need them again soon.

Place both kinds of chocolate in a large heat safe mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted.

Combine the sugar with a 1/4 cup of water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until it reaches 230-240°F on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, combine the eggs and yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer, again, fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at medium-high speed for about 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture looks thick and pale.

With the mixer running, carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the eggs, taking care to avoid pouring it directly on the whisk. Increase the speed to high and whip until the mixture has tripled in volume. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. (Again, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment.)

Pour half of the melted chocolate into the egg and sugar mixture, and whisk together until well combined. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate-egg-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula, taking care to avoid deflating it too much. Repeat with the remaining chocolate and whipped cream. It’s best to assemble the cake soon after making the mousse.

Whip the caramelized white chocolate ganache. Pour the chilled caramelized white chocolate ganache base into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at medium-high speed until it holds soft peaks and is a spreadable consistency. With a rubber spatula, fold in the salty chocolate shards.

Assemble the cake. Line a 9-inch cake ring with acetate (and tape the sides) to extend the height so that you have a cylinder that’s at least 7 inches tall. Place a 9-inch cardboard cake board in the bottom of the cake ring and tape to secure.

Using an 8-inch cake ring, cut out 4 8-inch circles from the chocolate soufflé cake. The cake is fragile, so leave it in place after cutting it. Using kitchen shears, cut the parchment paper around the edge of each circle so you have a base to help transfer the cake. Very carefully, take one circle of cake and transfer it to the cake board at the bottom of the cylinder. Don’t worry if it breaks a little in the process, just patch it back together as well as you can. Center the circle of cake as best as you can on the cake board. There should be an even border around the edge of the cake. Using a pastry brush, moisten the cake with 1/4 of the cocoa soaking syrup.

Using a small offset spatula, spread half of the whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache over the cake, taking care not to push it beyond the edge of the cake.

Carefully transfer another circle of cake over the whipped ganache. Again, moisten with 1/4 of the soaking syrup. Spread about 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache over this cake layer, taking care not to let it fall over the side. Spread about half of the bittersweet chocolate mousse over the cake layer and down the sides (the mousse on the sides becomes the outer layer on the sides). Use your small offset spatula to push and spread the mousse down the side between the cake and the pan.

Carefully transfer another circle of cake over the mousse. Again, moisten with 1/4 of the soaking syrup and spread with 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache. Spread the remaining whipped caramelized white chocolate ganache in an even layer over the top, taking care not to let it extend beyond the edges of the cake.

Carefully transfer the final circle of cake over the whipped ganache. Moisten with the remaining soaking syrup. Spread with 1/4 of the dark chocolate ganache. Top with the remaining bittersweet chocolate mousse, again, pushing it down the sides of the cake. You want a smooth layer of mousse on the outside of the cake.

Make sure you have an even landing spot cleared in your freezer. Transfer the cake to the freezer and freeze overnight.

On the day you want to serve the cake, gently reheat the remaining dark chocolate ganache until soft and spreadable. Remove the cake from the freezer and spread the ganache over the top in an even layer. Return the freezer while you make the mirror glaze.

Make the mirror glaze. In a small heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from heat. Bloom the gelatin sheet and add to the the hot sugar mixture. Add the glucose (or corn syrup) and mix to combine.

Remove the cake from the freezer. Pour about half of the mirror glaze over the top of the cake and spread in an even layer with a long offset spatula. Return the cake to the freezer to set for ten minutes. Then remove the cake from the freezer and repeat with the rest of the mirror glaze. Return to the freezer to set for another 10 minutes.

Remove the cake from the freezer and carefully unmold the cake from the cake ring and remove the acetate. If there are any gaps in the bittersweet chocolate mousse coating on the sides of the cake, don’t panic, carefully warm a long metal spatula and spread the mousse over the gaps to cover.

Place on a larger cake board or serving plate and garnish with fresh flowers. Thaw in the refrigerator for 6 hours. Remove from the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving to soften.

Whew! You’re done!

Slice with a chef’s knife dipped in hot water.

Yield: Serves 16-18 people.

 

Sichuan “Fish Fragrant” Eggplant with Bacon

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Eggplant is a fickle fruit. It is technically a fruit and not a vegetable, despite its savory leanings. Its flavor can be unpleasantly bitter. Its texture can be too chewy or too mushy if it is over or under cooked. It can act like a sponge when it’s in a pan with oil, becoming heavy and sodden.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

And yet its popularity persists.

Probably because when eggplant is done well, like in this Sichuan dish, it can be tremendously good.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In general, I like to cook with the long skinny Chinese and Japanese varieties of eggplants rather than the fat and round Italian varieties. In my experience, they tend not to be bitter and have a firmer, denser texture. (But you can still use Italian eggplants here if you have them.)

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Despite its name, fish fragrant eggplant contains no fish or fish sauce. Instead, it uses the same pungent mix of hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors that are traditionally used for cooking fish and seafood in Sichuan cuisine.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This dish is traditionally deep fried, and I have little doubt that it is delicious when prepared that way, but I don’t deep fry anything on a weeknight, and this dish is too good to save for the rare occasions I’m willing to deal with disposing of a vat of hot oil. Instead, I soak the eggplant in water for about 20 minutes and then rub it with cornstarch before sautéing it in a small amount of oil in a hot wok until it’s browned on the outsides and tender in the middle (a technique I learned from Maggie at Omnivore’s Cookbook).

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This recipe is adapted from Fuchsia Donlop’s Every Grain of Rice, a great book for anyone looking to get started with approachable Chinese home cooking. I’ve made vegetarian versions of this dish, sans bacon and with water subbed in for the chicken broth, and it’s pretty great that way. But it turns out I like it even better when it’s got some smoky bacon added.

And Dan emphatically concurs.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bacon, as far as I can tell, is not a traditional Sichuanese ingredient, but pork certainly is, and I’ve seen many versions of this dish that use ground pork for meaty oomph. One day I had some extra strips of smoky, thick-cut Nueske’s bacon in the refrigerator that I didn’t want to go to waste and decided to cut it into little pieces and toss it in the wok and then cook the eggplant in the bacon fat. After that, I haven’t made it any other way.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This is some of the best Chinese food that I’ve ever produced at home. It’s become one of my favorite things to make during eggplant season. Somehow, the combination of Sichuan chili bean paste, Chinkiang (black rice) vinegar, ginger, garlic, and scallions (oh, yeah, and bacon) turn the humble, fickle eggplant into something deeply savory and addictive.

Sichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSichuan "Fish Fragrant" Eggplant with Bacon from Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Sichuan “Fish Fragrant” Eggplant with Bacon

Adapted from Fuchsia Donlop’s Every Grain of Rice

Despite its name, this dish contains no fish or seafood products (hence the scare quotes). The name refers to the preparation, which is typically used for fish in Sichuan cooking. I prefer to use long skinny Chinese or Japanese eggplants here, but it will work with Italian varieties if that’s what you have. Dunlop recommends deep frying the eggplant, but in my version I lightly sauté it, which I find easier. The Sichuan chili bean paste can be tricky to track down. The most widely available brand of chili bean paste, Lee Kum Kee, is Cantonese rather than Sichuanese and not quite right for this. If you can’t find any of the Sichuan stuff locally, it’s available onlineThe other ingredient that’s probably less familiar to western cooks is Chinkiang vinegar, which is also called black vinegar or black rice vinegar. I found mine at Golden Pacific, a Thai grocery store in Chicago, but of course it’s also available online. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can omit the bacon and substitute water for the chicken stock. I like to serve this with jasmine rice.

1 1/4 pounds (600 grams) eggplant, cut into large bite-sized pieces (about 2-inch cubes or slices)
3 thick-cut slices of applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch bits
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuanese chili bean paste
2/3 cup chicken stock (or water)
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
neutral oil (such as peanut, canola, or grapeseed)

Place the chopped eggplant in a saucepan or bowl and cover with water. Place a tight fitting lid or plate over the saucepan or bowl to keep the eggplant submerged (the eggplant tend to float up to the top, so do this over the sink to avoid spills). Let sit for 20 minutes. Drain the eggplant in a strainer and toss with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, rub in to coat. In a small bowl mix the remaining teaspoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of cold water to make a slurry and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the bacon in a single layer and cook until crisp at the edges, this should only take a few minutes. Remove the bacon from the wok with a slotted spoon or spider and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the wok (if you’re skipping the bacon, add some oil to the pan). Return the wok to the stove over high heat and add the eggplant. Sauté until the eggplant is browned on all sides and softened in the middle. Remove the eggplant from the wok and set aside on a plate.

Return the wok to the stove over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil and the chili bean paste and stir-fry until the paste is fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until they are fragrant, another 30 seconds to a minute or so. Add the chicken stock (or water) and sugar and give everything a stir. Add the eggplant and bacon and bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and simmer for another minute or two to thicken the sauce. Stir in the Chinkiang vinegar and scallions. Serve.

This is great warm, but leftovers hold up well, either cold or reheated.

Yield: About 4 servings

 

Peach-Apricot Brown Butter Buttermilk Buckle

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In the summer, I love rustic fruit-filled baked goods. I’ve eaten my share of crisps and crumbles and cobblers, but until recently, I was unfamiliar with the buckle.

Buckles are crisps’ and crumbles’ cakier cousin. A buckle is similar to a torte or a coffee cake that’s been loaded up with fresh seasonal fruit. The center is so dense with fruit that it stays moist almost like a bread pudding while the edges get crisp and golden.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I wanted to make a dessert to take to one last dinner with our dear friends Maria and Tracy before they packed up and moved across the country to Seattle. If the world is divided into cake people and pie people, they are definitely pie people. But while a buckle is a cake, I think it’s a cake for pie people.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I had some apricots and peaches from the farmers market. I find fresh apricots to be inconsistent, and in their raw form these were only average, but when baked, even mediocre apricots become something special, sweet-tart and perfumey. I also had a couple of spectacular peaches that had gone a little too soft to eat out of hand. I didn’t want them to go to waste. I knew they would be just the thing to toss into a buckle.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I like to peel peaches before baking with them, but apricot skins are delicate enough that they practically disappear in the buckle so I don’t bother peeling them. In this buckle, the apricots and peeled peaches get sliced and go into a thick batter enriched with brown butter and tenderized with tangy buttermilk.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The whole thing goes into a parchment lined springform pan and is sprinkled with a cinnamon scented pecan streusel before it goes into the oven and makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This buckle is incredibly flexible. You could use all apricots or all peaches or combine them with other fruit. It would work with just about any stone fruit or berries. I think it would be lovely with the plums that have been coming into season.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

You could use walnuts or almonds or hazelnuts in the streusel or omit the nuts altogether if you prefer. You could skip browning the butter if you’re pressed for time. And while I haven’t tested it, I’m pretty sure it would work with a any standard all-purpose blend of gluten-free flour. But whatever you do, add this buckle to your homey summer baking repertoire. It’s becoming a staple in mine.

Peach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPeach-Apricot Buttermilk Buckle. A homey comforting dessert perfect for low key gatherings. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Peach-Apricot Brown Butter Buttermilk Buckle

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking website

This buckle is a rustic fruit-laden cake. It would work with just about any combination of stone fruit or berries. The buttermilk helps to tenderized the crumb and adds a tangy note to balance the sweetness of the cake. You can skip browning the butter if you’re in a hurry, but if you do have the time, I suggest giving it a try. It adds some nice depth of flavor. Peaches should be peeled before going into this–the easiest way to peel very ripe peaches is to blanch them in boiling water for about a minute and then run them under cold water–the skins should just slip off. The skins of most other stone fruits are thin and tender enough that they don’t need peeling. I like to use turbinado (raw) sugar in the streusel topping, but any granulated sugar is fine.

For the streusel topping:

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the cake:

3 cups total of a combination of sliced peaches and apricots (or any berries or stone fruit)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, browned
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.

Make the streusel topping. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour and butter. With a fork or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the cinnamon and pecans.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the brown butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and mix until combined. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the fruit.

Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel over the top.

Bake for about 55-60 minutes, or until the buckle is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: One 9-inch round buckle. About 8 servings.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo #frozenfridays

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s been #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ve been posting about a frozen treat. So far, I’ve featured Thai iced tea popsicleslime popsiclespassion fruit-pineapple popsicles, and mint chocolate sorbet. For the final Friday of August: cocoa nib semifreddo! 

This cocoa nib semifreddo might be the easiest fancy dessert I’ve ever made. It has three ingredients (well, four if you count the pinch of salt), it requires about 10 minutes of active work, and it doesn’t require any special equipment like an ice cream maker–you just need some kind of mixing apparatus (anything from a stand mixer to a hand held mixer to a whisk) and a standard loaf pan.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

You also need a little bit of patience. This is incredibly easy (if you’ve ever whipped cream you can definitely handle this), but it isn’t quick. It needs to chill in the refrigerator overnight and then freeze for another five or six hours at least. I’ve discovered there are many recipes including no-knead bread and 36-hour chocolate chip cookies that let time do the heavy lifting for you. These slow and easy recipes are some of my favorites. They require a little bit of planning ahead, but the payoff for the work involved is tremendous.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Semifreddo comes from the Italian for “partially frozen” (I am reminded of ordering many a cappucino freddo at the snack bar on campus when I was studying abroad in Italy and Rinaldo, the owner, chiding me for my American pronunciation…”Ah, ah, ah, Maria. Non e ‘fray-doe.’ Fred-do.”) It’s a rich, creamy dessert that’s similar to ice cream but with a softer and lighter texture. It’s tough to admit this, but I might even like it better than ice cream.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This semifreddo uses cream infused with cocoa nibs (also called cacao nibs), which are bits of dried and roasted cocoa beans, and is sweetened and stiffened with white chocolate. The resulting flavor is a delicate whisper of chocolate that reminds me a little bit of a classed-up frosty.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

White chocolate gets chopped up and placed in a heat safe bowl. The cocoa nibs and a pinch of salt get added to the cream in a sauce pan and brought just to a boil. Then the saucepan is removed from the heat, and the bowl of white chocolate is set over it to melt the chocolate while the cocoa nibs steep in the cream for about 20 minutes.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then the cocoa nibs are strained out and the warm infused cream is poured over the melted white chocolate. The whole thing is whisked together until it’s smooth, and then it goes into the refrigerator to chill overnight. The next day, the mixture gets whipped into a fluffy mass and poured into a wax paper lined loaf pan which goes into the freezer until it’s firm enough to slice without losing its shape (which takes at least five hours and it’s probably safer to allow for at least eight hours or overnight).

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then just before serving, the whole thing comes out of the loaf pan and is ready to be sliced and plated. This is the sort of dessert that would be perfect for a dinner party, because it can be made ahead of time and hang out in the freezer until you’re ready for it. If you want to make it extra fancy, you could add some raspberries or a drizzle of chocolate sauce to the plate, but I don’t think it needs any of that.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This is one of those desserts that’s pretty much perfect as it is.

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netCocoa Nib Semifreddo. An easy and elegant dessert. Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Cocoa Nib Semifreddo

This semifreddo is made from just three ingredients: cocoa nibs, white chocolate, and heavy cream (plus a pinch of salt). I think of the combination of the cocoa nibs and the white chocolate and cream as a sort of deconstructed-reconstructed milk chocolate. This semifreddo is my own creation, but I credit Alice Medrich’s excellent chocolate book Bittersweet with inspiring me to play around with ingredients like cocoa nibs in the first place. Medrich got me thinking about using the nibs to infuse whipped cream and got me thinking about a new approach to chocolate in general. (Medrich is my chocolate guru, and I’d recommend any of her books, including Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts for anyone looking for new dessert ideas.) Cocoa nibs, sometimes called cacao nibs, are available at higher end grocery stores like Whole Foods. They’re also available online. Semifreddo is a sort of frozen mousse, like ice cream with a lighter texture. Unlike ice cream, it’s whipped before it is frozen, and it doesn’t require any churning in an ice cream maker. I used a stand mixer to make this, but a hand mixer will definitely work here. You could even whip it by hand with a whisk for a little upper body work out. Just be sure to transfer it into a large bowl before whipping to allow for the increase in volume.

12 ounces (340 grams) white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces, 55 grams) cocoa nibs
3 cups (700 grams) heavy cream
pinch of salt

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat safe bowl. Place the cocoa nibs, heavy cream, and salt in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Place the bowl of white chocolate over the sauce pan (it should rest about the cream, like a double boiler–if you don’t have a bowl the right size to sit on your sauce pan, you can cover the sauce pan with a lid, and melt the white chocolate in 30 second bursts in the microwave). Let the cream and cocoa nibs steep for 20 minutes while the white chocolate melts. Pour the cream mixture through a fine strainer over the white chocolate. Discard the cocoa nibs and whisk the white chocolate and cream together until smooth. Let cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, remove the mixture from the refrigerator. Transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or to a large bowl and use a hand mixer). Mix on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. Line a standard loaf pan with wax paper and pour the whipped mixture into it, smoothing out the top with a spatula.

Freeze until firm enough to slice. At least five hours, preferably eight or more.

When ready to serve, remove the semifreddo, wax paper and all, from the loaf pan and place on a cutting board. Slice with a sharp knife. Serve.

Yield: One 9″x5″ loaf pan. About 12 servings, depending on how you slice it.

 

 

Mint Chocolate Sorbet #frozenfridays

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ll be posting about a frozen treat. So far, I’ve featured Thai iced tea popsicleslime popsicles, and passion fruit-pineapple popsicles. This week: mint chocolate sorbet!

I have a confession to make. I’m not really into the whole mint and chocolate combination. I’ve never disliked it, exactly, but it’s never been one of those things I crave. Mint chocolate chip has always been my father’s favorite flavor of ice cream, but ever since I was a kid, I could take it or leave it. I’m lukewarm on York Peppermint Patties, too. And while, I, like just about everyone else I know can inhale a sleeve of Thin Mints, I was always more likely to break into a box of Tagalongs or Samoas or even the less popular but addictively salty Do-Si-Dos.

I feel like that makes me sound incredibly unfun.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But wait! Don’t give up on me yet.

I’ve found a place where I don’t just tolerate the combination, but where I actively seek it out. In fact, it’s one of my favorite sorbets ever.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I used to think sorbets should stick to fruit flavors and that flavors like chocolate were merely pale imitations of ice cream intended to appease the low-fat crowd. But this mint chocolate sorbet, which is my spin on David Lebovitz’s chocolate sorbet from his excellent ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, feels every bit as satisfying as a chocolate ice cream. In fact, it feels deeper and more intensely chocolatey, because there’s no dairy to blunt the chocolate flavor.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It gets its intensity from both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate and, I think this is key, it gets its mint flavor from real fresh mint leaves. There’s no artificial mint extract to be found here. The flavor is natural and light and refreshing.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The mint leaves go into a pot with some water and sugar and glucose syrup (optional, but helps the texture) which is brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar and then covered and removed from the heat to steep for 20 minutes.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then the mint gets strained out, the cocoa powder gets whisked in, and it goes back to a boil to bloom the cocoa powder to bring out it’s flavor. Then that all gets poured over chopped bittersweet chocolate, which gets all melty and then gets stirred in.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then the whole thing goes into the refrigerator to chill down overnight. The next day it gets processed in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could pour the chilled mixture over ice for a fantastic cold chocolate drink (like hot chocolate, but for the summertime).

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

After it’s processed, the sorbet gets packed into containers and goes into the freezer. And then, well, then, it gets eaten.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netmintchocolatesorbet20

Mint Chocolate Sorbet

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (one of my all-time favorite ice cream books)

This mint chocolate sorbet made me come around on the mint chocolate flavor pairing. It’s dark and intensely chocolatey. The fresh mint keeps the flavor natural. You can use either semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. I usually use bittersweet, which is the darker of the two. If you like things on the sweeter side, go with semisweet chocolate here. I like to use glucose syrup in my sorbets to help keep them a bit softer and more scoopable. You can substitute corn syrup (I don’t think it’s evil when used in moderation in the occasional homemade dessert) or you can replace it with the same amount of sugar. Be sure to chill the mixture down until it’s very cold (it won’t freeze properly in the ice cream maker if it isn’t at or below 40ºF). If you don’t want to wait till the next day to have your sorbet, you can speed up the chilling process by pouring the mixture into a zip top bag and submerging it in an ice bath. It should be cold enough to process after about 30 minutes.

2 1/4 cups (555 ml) water
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 cup (80 g) glucose syrup or corn syrup
1 cup packed mint leaves (approximate)
3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process), sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (170 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan add the sugar and the mint leaves. Gently press the mint leaves into the sugar to help extract the oils. Add 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the water and all of the glucose or corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for about 20 minutes. Strain out the mint leaves and discard.

Return the mint syrup mixture to the saucepan, add the cocoa powder, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it reaches a boil, keep it boiling for about 1 minute, stirring all the while. Remove from heat.

Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl. Pour the mint and cocoa mixture over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate, then whisk until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and mixed in.

Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) water and the vanilla extract. Chill the mixture overnight (or pour the mixture into a zip top bag and submerge in an ice bath for 30 minutes), until it reaches 40°F or below. Sometimes the mixture develops a thick layer on the top as it chills overnight–just whisk it in before you add it to the ice cream maker. Process in an ice cream maker.

Eat.

Yield: About 1 quart

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bacon. Cheddar. Scones. Those three little words tell you all you really need to know about this savory breakfast pastry.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

During my many years as a vegetarian, I heard many many meat-eaters wax on about the wonders of bacon and claim that they could never endure life without it. To be honest, it was one of those refrains that was so common it became tedious.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But, there’s a reason that sentiment is so oft repeated. Bacon is delicious. I could endure (and indeed have endured) plenty of years without it, but now that it’s back in my life I realize it brings just the right hit of salt, smoke, fat, and umami to certain dishes that nothing else can quite replace.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In these scones, bacon, along with cheddar cheese and chives, get added to a rich buttery batter that’s tenderized with buttermilk.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

They get patted into a square, wrapped up tightly, and go into the refrigerator for a rest for a couple of hours. Then they get cut into rectangles, placed on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet, rewrapped, and go into the freezer for an overnight slumber.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

These resting periods allow the flour to hydrate and the flavors to develop. They also make the scones much easier to shape. If you’ve ever fought with a soft sticky scone batter and ended up with more of it on your hands than in the pan (ahem) the chilling and freezing technique is revelatory. Yes, it takes some planning ahead, but it’s not actually extra work and it saves plenty of frustration.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

They come from Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook, which is a book that often reads more like a pastry instruction manual than a book for home bakers, which is probably a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. It has precise, detailed instructions along with tips for professionals sprinkled throughout. It’s a great book for home bakers looking to further develop their technique, but may not be the best book for someone who’s just starting out.

I’d had my eye on these for a few months, but I didn’t want to make them because I suspected that having a dozen of them around would be dangerous (I was right). So I brought them with me to a brunch at my friend Kelly’s place where I got to hang out with her adorable still-very-new son, Stuart, and a bunch of fun ladies.

I recommend making these when you can share them, unless you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like bacon… or cheese… or fun…

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery

These scones make a great savory addition to the breakfast or brunch table. They’d be great along side (or sandwiched around) some eggs. Keller and Rouxel say this is the most popular scone at Bouchon, and I’m not surprised. I like to use Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, which I’ve found at Urban Orchard and Gene’s Sausage Shop in Chicago, but I’m pretty sure any bacon you like will be just fine. These do need to be started a day ahead of time, but the great thing is that in the morning the only work you need to do is pull these out of the freezer and put them into the oven, which makes them perfect for brunch with company.

300 g (2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
27 g (2 tablespoons pluse 3/4 teaspoon) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
132 g (4.7 ounces, about 1 stick plus a generous tablespoon) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes
71 g (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops
89 g (1/3 cup) buttermilk
340 g (12 ounces) applewood-smoked bacon, cooked, drained and cut into 1/8-1/4 inch pieces (the weight is for the bacon before it’s cooked)
180 g (2 1/2 cups) grated white cheddar cheese, divided
10 g (1/4 cup) chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

The day before you want to have the scones, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on very low speed until combined, about 30 seconds (if your mixer doesn’t handle low speeds well and tends to send dry flour flying, you can whisk these together by hand, then add to the mixer). Add the butter and mix on the lowest speed to begin incorporating the butter into the flour mixture, about 30 seconds. Bump the speed up to low and mix for about 3 minutes, or until the butter is in large-crumb to small-pea sized bits and is just incorporated into the flour mixture.

With the mixer running on low speed, pour in the cream and buttermilk, and mix until the dry ingredients look moistened and the mixture starts to form a ball. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the bacon, 144 grams (2 cups) of the grated cheddar, and the chives and mix on low speed until well distributed, about 1 minute.

Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Cover it with plastic wrap and, using your hands or a dough scraper, press it into a 7 x 9 inch square.  Wrap the baking sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator, unwrap the pan, and peel the dough away from the Silpat or parchment and place on a cutting board (return the Silpat/parchment to the baking sheet). Cut the block of dough in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into 6 rectangles. Place each rectangle on the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between them. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the scones from the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. Brush the tops of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle on the remaining 36 grams (1/2 cup) of cheese. Crack some black pepper over the tops. Bake until the scones are golden and the cheese on top is melted and browned, about 35 minutes.

They’re best the day they are made.

Yield: 12 scones

Passion Fruit-Pineapple Popsicles #frozenfridays

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ll be posting about a frozen treat. So far, I’ve featured Thai iced tea popsicles and lime popsicles. This week: Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles.

For a long time, I didn’t know what passion fruit tasted like. I associated it vaguely with tropical juice blends and  artificial fragrances in things like air fresheners and girly shampoos.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For some reason, I assumed it was syrupy sweet and generally unappealing.

Man was I wrong.

Real passion fruit is tart and fragrant, almost lemony, but somehow fuller and rounder, hitting more complex notes.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

There’s a reason it’s a perennial favorite of pastry chefs.

Its potent acidity makes it a great ingredient for balancing sweeter ingredients. It plays beautifully with things like white chocolate and caramel that can be tooth achingly sweet on their own.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s become one of my favorite flavors to play around with. Especially when I discovered that I could buy high quality frozen puree on the cheap at my neighborhood Latin grocery store. It’s a shortcut that means I don’t have to track down fresh passion fruit and pulp them to get that intoxicating flavor.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When I saw a recipe for passion fruit-pineapple sorbet in Claudia Fleming’s excellent (and distressingly out-of-print) dessert cookbook The Last Course, I knew that the flavor combination would be a winner.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I love pineapple, but it can cross the line to too sweet pretty easily. Passion fruit’s tartness works here to keep that sweetness in check, while the pineapple rounds out passion fruit’s pucker.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

These are some of the best popsicles I’ve made. They are so tropical and bright and refreshing.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I’m sure I’ll be returning to this flavor combination again.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Passion Fruit-Pineapple Popsicles

Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course (out of print)

These popsicles are tropical with a great balance of sweetness and tartness. Look for unsweetened frozen passion fruit puree in Latin grocery stores. You can use pre-cut pineapple if you want to make this even easier. If you have an ice cream maker, you can chill this mixture and spin it into a sorbet like Fleming does. I went the easier route and made them into popsicles in these moldsIf your mold doesn’t have a lid to hold the popsicle stick in place, wait for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the popsicles are partially frozen to add the sticks.

1 cup (about 210 g) pineapple, peeled and cut into cubes
1 1/3 cups (about 200 g) frozen passion fruit puree
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup water

Add the pineapple and 1/4 cup of sugar into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Let rest for one hour.

While the pineapple mixture is resting, add the remaining sugar, water, and frozen passion fruit puree to a small heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and stir until the passion fruit puree is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Strain the pineapple mixture through a strainer (really pressing on the solids to get as much smooth puree as possible) and whisk it together with the cooled passion fruit syrup in a mixing bowl (ideally one with a spout).

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid, about 4-5 hours depending on your molds.

Yield: varies depending on your molds, but I get 6 with these molds.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When I see baskets of squash blossoms at the farmers market I am instantly entranced. They are so lovely and delicate. I want to make a bouquet of them and use it as a centerpiece for some elegant but relaxed outdoor summer dinner party.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Except I’ve never actually hosted a dinner party like that. And I don’t have much need for vegetables that are strictly decorative.

And when I think about what to actually cook with squash blossoms I tend to run out of ideas quickly. Most preparations I’ve seen involve stuffing them and dipping them in batter and deep frying them.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

And as much as I love taking on insane cooking projects, I have my limits. I’m just not going to deep fry anything for a weeknight meal.

Usually when I bring home a basket of squash blossoms, I have good intentions about figuring out some other way of using them, and a week later, I find them shriveled and sad and toss them out.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But this time I had a plan. I had seen these quesadillas from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food featured on Leite’s Culinaria and I had a squash blossom epiphany.

Here was a way to get a squash blossom with all the wonderful melty gooey cheese wrapped in a crisp outer layer without needing a vat of hot oil or hours of assembly.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Half of a petite corn tortilla gets sprinkled with some shredded cheese and bits of jalapeño and a pair of squash blossoms are placed on top. Then the whole thing goes into a hot skillet with a little oil, the unadorned half of tortilla gets folded over and pressed against the melty cheese while the tortilla gets wonderfully crisp and browned in spots. Topped with a bit of salsa and avocado, these are an incredibly easy little dish with a great balance of textures and flavors, and some pretty squash blossoms peaking out of the top.

I’m pretty sure squash blossoms were born to be in quesadillas. Or at least that’s what’s happening with them in my kitchen.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Adapted from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food (via Leite’s Culinaria)

For anyone asking for an easy way to use squash blossoms, here’s your answer. I usually make quesadillas with flour tortillas, but the small corn tortillas are just great here. The corn flavor pairs well with the delicate squash blossoms and the diameter is perfect for encasing the blossoms without swallowing them whole. I wouldn’t make these with large tortillas. Hasselbrink uses pepper jack cheese in these, but I used a blend of pre-shredded jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and queso asadero because I had a bag of that on hand and added my own jalapeño pepper for little pops of heat. You can use any mild melting cheese you like and as much jalapeño as you like. I think these need salsa for some acid and I like them with avocado or guacamole, but I’d view that as an optional topping.

12 squash blossoms
6 small corn tortillas (6-inch is ideal)
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese (or your preferred Mexican melting cheese)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

For topping: salsa
avocado or guacamole (optional)

Carefully examine your squash blossoms and brush away any dirt or insects, but don’t rinse them (they’re delicate!).

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Warm the tortillas in the dry skillet for about 30 seconds or until they are a bit pliable. Remove from skillet.

Sprinkle half of each tortilla with a few tablespoons of shredded cheese and divide the jalapeño pepper between the tortillas and sprinkle it over the cheese. Arrange two squash blossoms over the cheese so that the edge of the flower is peaking out over the edge of the tortilla.

Add about a tablespoon of neutral oil to the skillet. Carefully transfer one of the prepared tortillas to the skillet, fold the tortilla in half and press with a spatula so that the cheese can hold the whole thing together. Cook for about a minute on each side, until crisp. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Top with salsa and avocado (if using). Eat while warm.

Yield: 6 quesadillas, which serve 2-3 depending on what else you’re having.