Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Strawberry Balsamic Ice CreamBerry Different
When you ask most kids what their favorite ice cream flavor is, more often than not it will involve chocolate, and/or caramel, and some sort of add-in like marshmallows or Oreo cookies. My son always had a different answer. Don’t get me wrong, he would never refuse a scoop or three of something gooey and chocolatey. But, if you ask him was his favorite is, he will tell you it’s strawberry.

I like to do as much as possible with the summer produce that’s available. This includes making ice cream out of the best peak-of-ripeness fruits I can find. I am a peach lover. So, it goes without saying that I make peach ice cream at least once during the warm months. Sometimes I whip up a quart of cinnamon ice cream because it’s ridiculous melted on a warm slab peach pie.

Strawberry is the flavor I make most because I like to have it readily available in the freezer for craving emergencies. A “Rescue Ice Cream”, if you will. For the record, I use the phrase “rescue” a lot. I have a stash of “rescue” chocolate in my pantry for those times when nothing but chocolate will do. Alas, I have to constantly move my stash because others in my household freely “rescue’ themselves and they are like bloodhounds on the scent.

Most people think of strawberry ice cream as the sad, artificially-flavored third of the Neapolitan carton that only gets eaten because there are no other options. In fact, strawberry ice cream can be amazing if you use really good and ripe strawberries. Anything less will produce a lackluster finished product. This recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream is one of my favorites.

And, don’t be scared off by the addition of balsamic vinegar. You don’t really taste it in the ice cream. It’s purpose is to intensify the flavor of the strawberries for a fantastic summer treat.

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream Recipe
Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Bi-Rite Creamery
Yields 1 Quart

This is one strawberry ice cream recipe that you can use even if you have slightly out-of-season berries. The addition of the balsamic vinegar adds both complexity and some of the acidity that was lost from freezing the strawberries.

If you want a smoother ice cream, you can also strain the seeds out of the purée—or enjoy the crunch of the tiny seeds. Read more…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Arroz Con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)

Pudding it out there
You don’t see a lot of pudding anymore. True, there are the pudding cups calling your name from the dairy aisle. But, actual pudding is not to be found. Growing up it was everywhere. If you were one of the cool kids who got the Jello Pudding cup in your lunch, it was a very good day. Then there was the pudding pop in the frozen section. Jello was trying to take over the world in the 80s…

My grandmother was a big fan of tapioca pudding. It’s one of my absolute favorites as well. If we were lucky, she would make some when we visited her house. She had these cool, stemmed glass cups that she used specifically for the pudding. I still have them—only now I’ve upped the game a bit.

I think it’s because of my love for tapioca that I fell head-over-heels for the Mexican version, Arroz con Leche. Truth be told, they are not exactly the same. Tapioca tends to be a bit thicker and has more of a custard consistency.

It’s the cinnamon in the Arroz that does it for me. And sometimes I add a little lime zest for some zing if I’m feeling sassy. Many traditional recipes add raisins to the pudding. Personally I am not a fan. The soft rice with the raisins is a textural problem for me. Plus, my kids hate raisins.

You can top the pudding with lots of fun stuff from pineapple to mango and some grated coconut. As the days get hotter, this simple chilled dessert option can be a nice change from the usual ice cream. And, it a fantastic ending to you taco Tuesday!

Arroz Con Leche Recipe
Yields 4 servings
Adapted from Lil Luna

This pudding is delicious as directed in the recipe, and also takes well to the addition of toppings. Some suggested toppings are grated coconut, diced fruit (such as fresh mango, banana, and pineapple), toasted slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, and brown sugar for extra sweetness. Read more…

Amy’s Almost Battenburg Cake

Amy’s Almost Battenburg CakeBattenburg Bunny
When I think of Easter baking two things come to mind: Hot Cross Buns and Carrot Cake. They are two undisputed staples of the Easter celebration. But, as much as I enjoy a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes you just want to do something different. Be a rebel. Take a walk on the wild side. (Okay, wild might be a bit strong.)

My issue is while I know I want to something different, I’m just not sure what that might be. My strawberries are starting to bear fruit—but not nearly in the quantities I need for a dessert for a crowd. There are enough for a nice little snack while watering the garden, though.

Something lemony is always a good idea. The bright yellow color and bright lemony flavor are perfect for a Spring /Easter brunch or dinner. But, finding something new was challenging until I remembered a cake from one of my favorite TV show binges from this past year.

My mother-in-law had been telling us to watch the Durrells in Corfu on PBS for the past couple of years…well before lockdown. So, my husband and I decided to take the plunge out of a desperate need for entertainment. And, we were very glad we did. It’s hilarious, and made even more so because it was way too similar to how my husband was brought up.

Battenburg cake has a reoccurring part in the show. So, of course I was intrigued. I have never made one nor have I ever tasted one. But, there’s no time like the present…right? I found a recipe on Food 52 and have adapted it with lemon rather than marzipan and a buttercream frosting. So, while it may not actually be a Battenburg cake, it will still look like one!   Read more…