Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frozen Yogurt Adventure/Experiment: Lemon Ginger Fro Yo

When I was a kid, I was in love with Dannon's Lemon flavor yogurt. There was something about its tangy, yet sweet, flavor that drove me wild. My mom would buy tons of it because I'd go through it so quick. She would jokingly say that there was something unnatural about a kid liking yogurt this much, and that she'd soon have to hook me up to a yogurt IV drip. Which come to think of it...sounds kind of gross.

Damn, Mom.

Anyway, they stopped making it at some point during my grammar school years, and I was all sorts of heartbroken. Fast forward to the present....

I'm a baker for a very lovely cupcake company, and sometimes we have by-products of things left in the kitchen. We were making Hot Toddy cupcakes, and those are topped with our hand-candied lemon peels. We had a ton of lemon syrup leftover from the peels we'd candied, and I volunteered to give it a home. But what the hell would I do with it??

Then, across the sands of time, my 7 year old self reached forth, and her little hands tugged at my apron...she turned her big brown eyes up and me and said:

"Lemon yogurt, please?"

How could anyone say no to a 7 year old version of themselves?

I remembered that Alton Brown had a tasty looking recipe for Lemon Ginger Frozen Yogurt from the Good Eats episode "Good Milk Gone Bad", which was all about yogurt making and yogurt recipes. It didn't use lemon syrup....but I thought I could maybe change that. I planned to stick to the recipe, but make some changes along the way.

My cast of characters:

That brown bottle right there? That's Ginger Syrup, made by a delightful little company called Morris Kitchen. They're from Brooklyn, and their syrups are made in small batches. I was lucky enough to pick up a bottle of their Ginger Syrup and their Boiled Apple Cider Syrup at a market. I honestly haven't used them much, aside from making some kick ass ginger ale, and a really good bourbon apple cocktail. I really wanted to see what the Ginger Syrup could do for this recipe.

Instead of using regular yogurt and straining it overnight, I decided to use my favorite Greek yogurt. It's already strained! Use 32 oz of it and put it in a large bowl.

Next, zest and squeeze two lemons to get 2 tsp of zest and 3 tbsp of juice. My lemons were pretty large, so I think I got a little more than that, which was fine with me. I wanted the yogurt to be bright and full of lemony goodness. Instead of the 3/4th cup of granulated sugar, I substituted the same amount of lemon sugar syrup.

I know it looks curdle-y now...but just whisk it it, and it'll look fine and homogenized.

I started adding the ginger syrup a tablespoonful at a time. After two, I was pretty satisfied with the taste. Always taste when you're cooking or baking! It helps to develop your palate, and it lets you know if you have to add more or less of something.

Whisk it in, and then grate in your fresh ginger. The recipe also calls for crystallized ginger, but 1. I didn't have any in the house, and I didn't feel like candying my own and 2. I wanted the ginger to add a slight fresh bite, but keep the lemon as the star.

After more whisking and tasting, it was exactly where I wanted it. I put it into a clean container, covered it, and let the flavors marry overnight.

Before throwing it in the ice cream machine the next day, I gave it one more stir and taste. Mmm, yes, I was ready to roll.

I turned on my ice cream maker, and poured the yogurt mixture in.

I let it churn away for about 25 minutes. When the yogurt is thick, frozen and smooth, you're done!

Now, you're supposed to let this freeze up solid...but, we're all friends here. You know I have no patience whatsoever. So, I dished up a pretty little parfait glass for myself.

I know it's melting...but it's still lovely. I even drizzled a wee bit of ginger syrup on tops just for kicks. And the taste, oh the taste! Tart, sweet, a warm bit of heat from the ginger, but still distinctly lemony. I think my 7 year old self would be quite pleased.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Food Therapy

The first time Tana and I ever cooked together, we were huddled together in her small, hot as Hades, Brooklyn apartment at 3 in the morning, making the biggest batches of mac and cheese and spinach artichoke dip we'd ever seen in person. Sweaty, tired from working at our day jobs, we toiled over her demonic stove top that only had two working burners and an oven that was over-enthusiastic in its heating capabilities.  Little did we know that in between me falling asleep at the stove and her wilting into the dip, that we were fostering an even deeper level to our friendship.

We rarely have days off in tandem, so when we do, we try to fill them with as much food as possible. Tana had suggested two yummy recipes from the website Smitten Kitchen for us to make: Roasted Tomato Soup and Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Cream. Oh yes, this was happening. 

We started by slicing up some lovely Roma tomatoes for the soup. A little olive oil, salt/pepper, and crushed dried rosemary for good measure, all tossed around on a baking sheet.  We set it in the oven for about an hour at 400. 

Tana had also nestled a little aluminum foil packed of olive oil drizzled garlic cloves in the middle of the red melee so it could also roast and get delicious. 

I made sure to scrape the seeds from the tomatoes lest they get bitter on their roasty-toasty journey..but instead of throwing them away, I drained them of their clinging liquid, and reduced it in a small saucepan over a low flame. I stirred it constantly so it wouldn't burn. I let it reduce it by half, and it got thicker, and its smell got more...tomato-y and rich.

After an hour, look at these ruby beauts:

I will neither confirm nor deny that I sneaked a few bites. 

Take the tomatoes, the garlic (after you've separated and peeled the cloves of course) and your tomato juice reduction, and plop it in a food processor. Pulse until you get a mix of chunky and smooth (or you can make it all the way smooth if you like). 

Combine the puree with 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (we used water and half a veggie bullion cube - yay for substitutions) and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then drop the heat to a nice simmer, and let it cook for 25 minutes. Of course, add salt and pepper to your liking.  

Now, in the recipe, a little cap of delicious bread and cheddar cheese is placed on top of the soup (which is in an oven safe mug), and broiled almost like a french onion soup. Tana chose to do hers up that way. 

But hell, I wanted a full sandwich! And I love savory and sweet, so I made a cheddar grilled sandwich on sourdough...with this spread on it. 

Caramelized apple preserves from Maiden Preserves. Apples and cheddar cheese are a really classic combo, and the tart, caramel sweetness from the apples go great with the sharp salty cheddar. This was bliss. 

And for dessert, a simple, but creative cake made with red wine and cocoa powder. It's just flour, brown/white sugar, cinnamon, salt, cocoa powder and some other requisite cake essentials...with the boozy, tannin-rich hit of red wine. I love that you can use which ever kind you have on hand (except for cooking wine of course...yuck) because it makes the dish super flexible. 

The batter goes into a lined & greased 9 inch round cake pan and bakes at 325 for 25-30 minutes.  To make it pretty, it got a dusting of powder sugar and a dollop of mascarpone cream. Mascarpone, vanilla, heavy cream and sugar...that's it! I really love simple recipes that come out this stunning. 

Tana and I cook together to experiment with new recipes, to play with our food, and to comfort each other. Is there a more tangible way to show your love for your friends than with a fine meal? I think not.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Guest Post, M'dears....

Seeing as that I've been VERY busy making my transition from wage slave to baker (I work for these fine folks right here), I've not been paying my attention to you guys...FEAR NOT. I will soon get some posts up here. But in the meantime, enjoy this pumpkin-centric guest post that I did for Shawn over at eat!drink!snack! 

Enjoy, kids!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NYC Honey Festival Part 2 - The Dinner

Even though the honey festival itself had ended, the main event was just beginning.

Motorboat and the Big Banana, Sharon Is Karen, and Caracas Arepas Rockaway (three vendors on the Rockaway boardwalk) came together to offer a delicious honey themed dinner at the sweet price of 20 bucks a plate.  Kira and I stuck around to take part in this pretty righteous bounty.

There was fried chicken with spicy honey butter sauce (the chicken was soaking in a big buttermilk bath and was fried fresh), collard greens with bacon, honey baked beans, and blue cornbread. I'd never eaten baked beans made with white beans before, but they still tasted delicious. The cornbread? Well...I can be rather picky with cornbread, and this was a little dry. So, I just slathered it in the Mike's Hot Honey I had bought earlier. Kira did the same, and soon it was all gone.

And for dessert, a beautiful honey tres leches cake, with raspberry coulis and walnuts:

Perfectly moist and sweet. The raspberry coulis added some lovely tartness and the walnuts lent their toasty crunch. I think this was all 20 smackers well spent, don't you?

And best of all, we got to eat with this beautiful view:

Friday, September 23, 2011

NYC Honey Festival 2011 - Part 1

An incredibly sweet way to spend the day, yes? The Rockaway Beach Boardwalk in Queens played host to the first New York City Honey Festival (hosted by the Queens based Brooklyn Grange) this past weekend, and two of my friends and I decided to check it out.There was no better way to celebrate the first year of legal NYC beekeeping.

It was a gorgeous fall morning/afternoon....really glad that the weather was behaving itself.

This tempting delight was our first stop:

Why hello there, Mike's Hot Honey! This spicy blend of honey, vinegar, and chilies has long been on my wish list. Mike's assistant was slicing up chunks of Manchengo cheese and crusty bread for samples, and of course we pounced upon it like hungry mice.

The burn of the honey is warm and complex, rather than astringent. Sweet, but ends with a tingly bite.

Commerce! And a happy customer.

As we walked through the tables we spotted:

And silk-screening, courtesey of the Bushwick Print Lab:


I was this close to getting a little bee painted on my cheek, but I held off because I thought I'd look silly.

We then ran into the Backwards Beekeepers NYC table:

which was covered in:

Nothing to fear though, for they were all under glass. It was crazy how busy they looked.

Behind the boardwalk concessions, local beekeepers were demonstrating how they extracted honey from their hives throughout the day.. Tim O'Neal of Borough Bees talked about his hives and explained how the bees made the honey.

After the hives were uncapped (the bees seal the combs with wax when they're full) , they were ready to be spun in a honey centrifuge (the hand crank kind was in attendance, so you had to use some elbow grease to spin it):

And there's the honey coming out of the spout. From there it can be strained to get out stray pieces of wax, or just bottled as is.

I also bought a wee bear of Summer honey from Seward Trail Honey, which has liquid gold from various parts of the year.

Sixpoint Brewery was also on hand to quench our thirst with some honey brewed beers. I chose the pale ale, Little Buzz. It was smooth drinking with just a kiss of sweetness. There was another brew, I think it was called Medium Dark? But I think Little Buzz won my vote.

Kira and I, all smiles.

John, taking a sip. 
But, I think the COOLEST part of the day, was helping beekeeper Ralph Gaeta of Buck and Billie's Honey get some honey out of some particularly stubborn combs. Kira and I really got our hands dirty; She held down the centrifuge, and I used my very long arm to scrape every drop of honey towards the spout. Nary a drop was wasted!!!

Let it begin!

Teamwork! On the left, Kira. On the right, Ralph.

Straining the liquid gold. The wax bits left over, Ralph will use to make candles.
And here are some humorous photos of me not wasting any of the honey that had stuck to my arm:

You really can't take me anywhere.
Since we were so helpful, Ralph reserved two jars of his amazing honey for us before he sold out and it was definitely money well spent.

Here is a little bee enjoying some honey from the Honey Tasting, where Ralph got second place!

Please don't sting me.

After all of this carousing, it was time to take a relaxing walk on the beach, and catch a bit of the sunset.

But after all of this honey and other treats from the Rockaway Boardwalk, we were still hungry. Thank goodness there was a honey themed dinner in store for us.....stay tuned for the thrilling and belly filling conclusion in my next post!