Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Backyard Mint Ice Cream

I'm one of those people who loves the feeling of minty freshness.  I love minty chewing gums, mojitos, candies, and I even brush my teeth a few extra times a day just to get a minty fresh feeling at a moment's notice.  My minty obsession is a little strange though, because it's very situational.  I love mint when it's adding a little brightness to a dish or drink, and I love it when it makes me feel fresh and bright, but when it's paired with chocolate in the form of Andes chocolate bar, I get a little hesitant.  It doesn't make very much sense, because I love just about anything paired with chocolate, but for some reason, the mint-chocolate combination has never been a favorite of mine.  I'll eat it, but it just doesn't do very much for me.  This includes classic mint-chocolate chip ice cream, which is also strange, because I love just about everything about ice cream in general. 

I think my main problem with mint-flavored treats is that they come off as artificial, and you can really taste the difference.  The fact that most minty treats come in bright shades of green also bothers me, because that's just not a natural color by any means.  I have issues with eating foods that have been dyed in really bright, outlandish colors that aren't natural (I'll make exceptions for some frostings and red velvet cake), and I really prefer when foods are the colors that reflect the ingredients that make them up.  I'm going to blame the bright green color and really artificial taste for my dislike of most mint treats.  Regardless, I was willing to give mint ice cream one more shot. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Blackberry Crumb Muffins

I've always considered muffins my ideal baked good.  I'm not a fan of things that are overly sweet, and while I love cake, I don't have the best relationship with frostings and glazes (aka, I could almost always do without them). Muffins are the solution to my baked good dilemma.  They don't need to be cloyingly sweet (although unfortunately, they often are), and they don't require frosting or glaze to be considered finished.  I love all kinds of muffins, from healthy bran muffins to less healthy chocolate chip muffins because I get the opportunity to eat cake in the mornings and call it breakfast, and few things are better than that. 

While every now and again I'll get a weird, inexplicable craving for an unnecessarily sweet muffin, like a double chocolate chocolate chip muffin, my favorite go-to muffin is the simple kind that comes loaded with fruit and is topped off with a sweet crumble.  I may not like frostings and glazes, but I could never pass up on a crumble or streusel topping.  I mean, could you?  Probably not.  Crumb-topped muffins are the perfect balance between sweet cakes and acceptable breakfast treats.  The presence of a crumb topping means that you can have a barely sweetened muffin base to go along with the sweet, buttery, crumbly mess on top. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Coconut Sheet Cake

Over the weekend, I had a sudden desire for something fluffy and light and pretty.  I think it may have had something to do with my craving for an intense chocolate ice cream, a craving that I finally managed to satisfy more than I thought possible.  I knew that the answer to my fluffy dilemma could be easily resolved with cake, the only other thing that can even come close to matching my infatuation with ice cream.  

And when I say cake, you should know that I mean cakes of the simple kind, the kind that I can whip up, bake, and be eating as soon as it's cooled down.  I mean, I love assembling and attempting to beautifully frost a giant layer cake as much as the next person, but I'm typically much too impatient for that kind of behavior.  I like immediate rewards when it comes to baking, which is why I love a good, simple cake.  Easy yogurt cakes, bundt cakes, loaf cakes, snack cakes, cakes with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar- those are the cakes I crave.  So this past weekend, I figured it was high time to make another simple, easy cake.  As for flavor, I decided to borrow elements from a not-simple-layer-layer cake that I've been meaning to make for a long time but always end up choosing to make something a little less involved.  


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World

The title of this post says it all- this ice cream right here, is the darkest, chocolat-iest, richest ice cream in the world...or at least that I've tried.  It's no secret that I find chocolate to be one of the most addicting substances that I've ever encountered, and I'm always on the hunt for treats that are richer and more chocolate-intense than their predecessors.  I'm obsessed, and I've been this way for as long as I can remember.  For the past few months, I've been on the prowl for chocolate ice cream.  Not just any chocolate ice cream, either.  I didn't want chocolate ice creams with chocolate flavor that was masked with the addition of all kinds of mix-ins- those ice creams are easy to come by.  What I was searching for was simple.  I wanted a pure, rich, chocolate-only ice cream, that really tasted like chocolate.  It had to be intense, not too sweet, yet clearly and utterly full of deep chocolate flavor.

I tried to find this ice cream in all sorts of places.  I searched the premium ice cream section of my supermarket, but none of the chocolate ice creams met my expectations.  I went to several ice cream shops to sample ice creams, and while I thought their classic chocolate ice creams were good, for sure, they weren't as remarkable as the other non-chocolate ice creams I sampled before ultimately deciding to pass on a chocolate ice cream cone. I even tried chocolate soft serve from the Mister Softee truck, thinking that perhaps I was confused, and what I was really searching for was my beloved chocolate ice cream from my childhood.  While the first licks of the chocolate soft serve were certainly satisfying, when I got halfway through the cone I realized that I wasn't confused, and that as good as my soft serve may have been, it was not the chocolate experience I was searching for. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lemony Dutch Baby with Mixed Berry Sauce

We did it, we did it! We made it all the way to Friday.  The weekend is here and it's time to have some fun, do nothing, bake some treats, and sleep in.  Sleeping in...HA!  As if I do that on the weekends.  I mean, I guess waking up at 8 in the morning on weekends instead of 6:30 is slightly better, but I really just long for a lazy, lazy, lazy Saturday or Sunday where I wake up at 11 am, that critical hour where it's too late to really eat breakfast but too early to eat lunch.  The only obvious solution to such a critical dilemma is to simply make something delicious and special for breakfast, and pretend it's a substantial lunch meal anyway.

That's exactly what I chose to do last weekend (minus the waking up at 11 am part).  I woke up at my normal weekend hour, and just wasn't in the mood for breakfast.  I'm not sure why, because I've grown to really like having breakfast every morning, but this past Sunday I was just not feeling it. Maybe I was lazy, maybe I wanted to change up my routine, maybe a bit of both.  Whatever my reasons for not having breakfast that day were, I found myself at the critical 11 am hour hungry and in need of food.  I hadn't had breakfast, and it was too early for lunch, so I did the only reasonable thing and made myself a Dutch Baby for lunch.  I wouldn't call it brunch, because there was no lunch element to this meal, aside from the time it was consumed.  This was pure breakfast for lunch.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Upside-Down Nectarine & Corn Skillet Cake

Upside-down cakes are one of the most classic cakes you could possibly make/enjoy.  Everyone knows and loves the classic pineapple upside down cake- it's a celebrated simple cake made better with the addition of sweetened pineapple rings and super red maraschino cherries.  Baked in a round cast iron skillet, it's a cake that needs no introduction, because when it's mentioned, you know exactly what to expect.  But then again, you might be like me and never have actually eaten a piece of upside-down pineapple-marschino cherry-geometric pattern cake.  I know, I'm probably missing out, but for some reason, it's never been a cake that I've felt like I truly needed to experience.  It's a simple cake, sure, and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually kinda like maraschino cherries (in all their unnatural red, fake glory), but I don't know.  Something about this classic cake has just always seemed a little bit...off.

While I've never actually had the classic pineapple upside down cake, I have always loved the look of them.  Not so much the pineapple-maraschino version, specifically, but any other cake or dessert with beautifully arranged fruit appearing after a quick inversion of the baking dish has always captivated me.  It's such a lovely surprise, and a beautifully simple way to present a finished dessert.  Upside-down treats like tarte tatin, and simple fruit tarts with perfectly arranged fruits are some of my favorite things to look at, and I needed to make one before the summer and its bounty of amazing produce ended.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cherry Breakfast Bars

Here is cherry treat number two!  I never thought I'd be posting two recipes containing cherries back to back, but here I am.  While I loved both cherry treats I made over the weekend, I'm back to enjoying cherries fresh off the stem.  I don't need to go back and explain my love affair with fresh cherries all over again, so let's move on to these Cherry Breakfast Bars, shall we?

The name of these bars might be a little misleading- they're not really breakfasty.  I mean, they can definitely be enjoyed for breakfast, and I'm not going to deny that I ate a bar one morning alongside a glass of orange juice and called it a meal, but I think they're best enjoyed later in the afternoon, or ideally, as a midnight snack.  I suppose they're called "breakfast" bars because they have oats in them...which is reason enough.  Sounds good to me! These breakfast bars are from one of my favorite cookbooks ever, written by the wonderful Matt and Renato over at Baked in Red Hook (I still haven't been there, but it has become my mission to make it over to Red Hook one weekend before summer is over to have pupusas for lunch at the ball fields and then a giant brownie at Baked for dessert, because that just sounds like the most splendid day ever).  I've become a much bigger fan of bar cookies in recent weeks; it wasn't so much that I didn't like them as much as the fact that they just didn't occur to me as naturally as regular cookies did.  Bar cookies are perfect for summertime baking because they're always easy to assemble, yield a ton, and can last a decent amount of time, making them a great option for summer picnics and barbecues.  When your cookie bars are filled with delicious and fresh summer fruit, they're even more perfect! The breakfast bars from the Baked cookbook use fresh raspberries, but I thought that making a cherry version would be a fun twist on an already delicious recipe.  

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