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Asheville Wine & Food Festival

August 29, 2013

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, you probably know by now that I attended the Asheville Wine & Food Festival last weekend. I’ve waxed poetic about my love for Asheville, NC and it’s burgeoning food scene before. When the opportunity to attend the festival presented itself, you better believe I jumped on it in a heartbeat!

Asheville Wine & Food Festival

(If you don’t really care about my festival shenanigans, skip to the bottom to find out about the giveaway!)

The festival was three separate events held over the course of three days, and boy am I glad they were spread out. I’m pretty good at eating but even I was overwhelmed! Read on for a description of the events and eats. Just don’t judge too harshly for the terrible photos. I took them all with my phone because using a dSLR would have meant one less hand available for eating / drinking.

ELIXIR

The festival’s first event was ELIXIR, a new event this year, showcasing the region’s spirits and mixologists (aka bartenders). There were abundant samples of everything from vodka to moonshine, and let’s not forget about the food. While the feature of this event was the cocktails, I was immediately smitten with the hors d’oeuvres. I’m not even kidding when I say I could have eaten all of the petite buttermilk biscuits with proscuitto, red onion jam, and Lusty Monk mustard. The sous vide pork belly with carrot ginger emulsion and petite pea wild mushroom ragout was so tender it practically melted in my mouth.

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIRAsheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIR

My favorite spirit of the night was Troy & Sons’ whiskey. Actually, they were my favorite of the whole weekend. Every single cocktail they put together was delicious and their whiskey is very smooth. I also really enjoyed a little drink made with Carolina rum, Barritt’s Ginger Beer.. and some other stuff. I’m not going to lie, after the first 30 mins and dozen samples, everything started to blur together a little bit. The event was sponsored by Angry Orchard hard cider, and I do distinctly remember trying their new seasonal fall cider, Cinnful Apple. I was already a fan of their hard ciders, but I’m really hoping they keep the Cinnful Apple around for a long time because it is hands-down this cinnamon lover’s favorite flavor.

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIRAsheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIR

The main attraction at ELIXIR was the mixologist competition. Asheville’s best bartenders put their skills to the test. The challenge: make a fantastic cocktail using at least one local spirit and Angry Orchard hard cider. We sampled a few of the creations (ok, maybe more than a few) but the 100 Proof Heartache from MG Road stood out the most. The unique combination of mescal (a smokey agave liquor), Carriage House apple brandy, Angry Orchard reduction with ginger & chili, lime, and cinnamon yielded an unforgettable beverage. Sweet, smokey, spicy and savory, it hit every part of my palette. The only way to describe it is to say it was like drinking a pulled pork BBQ sandwich… but in a really good way. MG Road took home the win with that cocktail!

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIRAsheville Wine & Food Festival - ELIXIR

SWEET

This should come as no surprise – SWEET was the event I was most looking forward to. All-I-Can-Eat desserts? Dreams do come true. Asheville’s finest pastry chefs, chocolatiers and ice cream makers filled the historic Grove Arcade building. We floated from table to table, sampling everything while sipping on champagne from the Biltmore and local Nobel Cider.

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEETAsheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEET

My first stop was the True Confections table. Those mini eclairs were just calling my name! And they were perfect in every way. I was excited to finally get to try frozen treats from The Hop, Asheville’s favorite ice cream shop. With flavors like salted caramel, marscapone peppercorn swirl, and blueberry kale, what’s not to love? I sampled with peach prosecco sorbet (so light and refreshing!) while my husband tried the graham cracker porter (he gave it two thumbs up).

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEETAsheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEET

Those who know me will not be surprised that my very next stop was French Broad Chocolates, where I finally met Dan and Jael, the two lovely people responsible for creating my favorite place anywhere on earth – The French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It was a little bit like meeting celebrities for me. I got a little fan-girly and I think I might have scared them with my excited enthusiasm, but I just couldn’t help myself!

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEETAsheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEET

Other highlights of the evening included Well-Bred Bakery‘s raspberry champagne cake, which had FOUR bottles of champagne in it. I loved the bright burst of raspberry flavor, and you could definitely taste the champagne. I also loved their packaging, which read “I’m well-bred and worth the calories!” Indeed. I was also wowed by the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake with espresso ganache from Strada.

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEETAsheville Wine & Food Festival - SWEET

And it was soon after that that we hit the wall. I didn’t think it existed, but it turns out there is a limit to how much dessert I can eat. We nibbled a little bit more, but I left disappointed that I physically could not eat every single thing offered. Maybe if I start practicing now I can be ready for next year?

The Grand Tasting

The Grand Tasting is the festival’s biggest and final event. The US Cellular Center was packed to the gills with beer brewers, winemakers, distillers, restaurants, farmers and artisan food producers. I have literally never seen so much food and drink in one place. As if that weren’t enough, the event also played host to an Iron Chef-like cooking competition between chefs from local restaurants Tomato Jam Cafe and Strada.

IMG_7497Asheville Wine & Food Festival - Grand Tasting

Due to a bit of poor scheduling on our part, we had to leave to Grand Tasting for a bit in the middle of the event (to tour the French Broad Chocolates factory – worth it!). Even with our early VIP admission, that only gave us about 3 hours total to see, smell and taste everything. It was not enough time!

Highlights included Pork Belly BLTs and Figs Two Ways (including the worlds smallest and cutest fig newton!) from the Biltmore, fresh sliced jamón ibérico (cured spanish ham) from Cúrate, lavender chicken salad from The Corner Kitchen, fresh cheese curds, and two more delicious cocktails from Troy & Sons. (What? I like whiskey.) I also discovered all natural, handmade Firewalker Hot Sauce and fell in love with it, which is saying a lot for this girl who doesn’t really even like hot sauce. Its citrus-y, habanero kick tastes great on just about everything, which is exactly what I’ve been putting it on. Bonus: it’s made with no preservatives or funky ingredients – just real foods like vinegar, citrus, peppers and spices. I love food I can feel good about eating!

Asheville Wine & Food Festival - Grand TastingAsheville Wine & Food Festival - Grand Tasting

The whole thing went by so fast, and there was so much to see and taste that we didn’t get to everything. I hardly even took any photos!

The Giveaway!

We have a winner!

Ashevillewinner

Congratulations ReneeDF – who said, “I would have loved to try the marscapone and peppercorn ice cream! Hope I win, I need chocolate in my life (and mouth)!”. Well Renee, I think I can help with that. Check your email!

Congratulations! You made it through the whole post! Or you cheated and just skipped to the bottom. Either way, I’ve put together a little gift for you as a thank you for reading The Craving Chronicles.

One very lucky reader will win a gift box from Asheville Goods full of my personal favorite Asheville treats. This is a one-of-a-kind gift box that I put together just for you! I selected all of the items in the box and the kind and wonderful ladies at Asheville Goods will be assembling it and shipping it straight to your door. The gift box includes:

For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post telling me what you would have liked to try at the food festival, what you’re most hoping to try in the gift box, or just tell me what you love about The Craving Chronicles! You have until Wednesday, September 4th 2013 at 5:00pm EST to enter – one entry per person, please.

And now for the fine print…

US residents only. ONE entry per person. Anyone violating the rules will be disqualified at my sole discretion. The giveaway ends Wednesday, September 4th 2013 at 5:00pm EST. Winner will be selected at random using a random number generator. Winner will be emailed, posted here on the blog, and announced on Twitter. In the event that the winner does not respond within two days, a new winner will be selected. Disclaimer: This giveaway is not sponsored and I have not been compensated in any way. None of the brands mentioned (aside from Asheville Goods, who are assembling the gift box) even know I’m doing this. This is literally just a gift from me to you!

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

August 13, 2013

I’ve been gorging on blueberries this summer. I just cannot get enough of them. I mostly just eat them plain or mixed in with some yogurt, but when I found myself craving some comfort food recently my mind went immediately to blueberry muffins.

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

There’s just something so warm and home-y about a good blueberry muffin, right? I remember my mom and I would bake these blueberry crumb muffins that I loooooved when I was a kid. They were a boxed mix. You know, the kind that came with the tiny wild blueberries in a little tin? I could not get enough of them.

Fact: the best part of blueberry crumb muffins are the crumby tops.

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

So that’s what I made. Blueberry crumb muffin cookies that are just like the best part of blueberry crumb muffins.

The cookies are soft and moist just like a muffin, with fresh blueberries (not from a can!) bursting in each bite. Since the crumbs are the best part, I folded some into the batter in addition to sprinkling them on top of the cookies. The extra crumbs in the batter add a nice little crunch to these soft cookies. More crumbs are always better!

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

Here’s the deal.

These are muffins that are just in cookie shape.

They have fresh fruit in them.

What I’m trying to say here is that I totally give you permission to eat these cookies for breakfast. I mean, they’re practically muffins and muffins are a legitimate breakfast food, so there. I’ve done all the rationalizing for you. Go ahead and bake these up and serve them to someone in bed with a nice strong cup of coffee. Best. Morning. Ever.

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

Blueberry Crumb Muffin Cookies

Adapted from How Sweet Eats and Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 18-20 cookies

Make the crumb topping first so it has a little time to cool before you fold it into the cookie batter.

Crumb Topping Ingredients

2 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons brown sugar
heaping 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
3/4 cup cake flour

Cookie Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
prepared & cooled Crumb Topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

To make the crumb topping: Whisk together sugars, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in melted butter. Fold in cake flour until combined and thick dough forms. Form into a ball. Cool in fridge for about 10 minutes. Using 3/4 of the dough (reserve 1/4 for cookies), break dough into large crumbs and spread evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 10-13 mins or until golden brown, stirring once about halfway through. Cool for at least 30 minutes. (Crumbs should harden as they cool.)

To make the cookies: In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beat for 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Beat in milk. Using a spatula, gently fold in blueberries and cooked & cooled crumb topping.

Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoon cookies onto prepared baking sheet. Break reserved un-baked crumb topping into small crumbs. Sprinkle cookies with reserved crumb mix. Bake cookies 12 at a time at 375°F for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack.

Store loosely covered at room temperature. (Tighly covered might leave them soggy.) Best enjoyed within 3 days.

S’Mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

July 24, 2013

I’m going to be honest with you. I haven’t felt much like cooking or baking lately.

I don’t know if it’s the heat of the summer or if I’m just too caught up in summer-time fun and stuffing my face in other places, but I’ve just haven’t found myself motivated to make and blog new recipes lately.

I did throw these ice cream sammies together for some friends on the 4th of July though, and they were so good I think you really need to know about them.

S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

Who wants to stand over a fire roasting s’mores when it’s 100°F outside? Not this girl. So I made the ice cream version. The recipe is simple.

Toasted marshmallow ice cream + a fudge ripple, sandwiched between some almost-stale graham crackers.

S'Mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

That’s right. Stale graham crackers. Here’s the thing: I don’t like crunchy-crisp graham crackers with cold ice cream. Something about that contrast in textures sends shivers up my spine. But soft cookies are delightful with ice cream, so I let my graham crackers sit out and soften for a day or two. Try it. You can thank me later.

In the process of making these ice cream sandwiches, I also learned that toasting marshmallows in your oven on parchment paper is a terrible idea. Unless you enjoy scraping melty sticky marshmallow off of paper only to end up with everything in your kitchen covered in marshmallow goo, in which case you’ll love it. Fortunately the ice cream is worth the mess. It will blow your mind how much this ice cream tastes like actual toasted marshmallows!

S'Mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

I had very short notice to make these treats (2 days, literally) so I rushed things a bit. With ice cream it’s always best to give it lots of chill time both before and after churning, but since I was in a hurry I cut the chill time short. It was also nearly 80°F in my kitchen. As a result, my ice cream sandwiches were a little bit messy. And by a little bit, I mean a LOT. Like, my fudge ripple was kind of oozing out the sides. But hey, they’re s’mores, right? They’re supposed to be messy.

Eat them with your hands, eat them with a fork. However you eat them, you’ll want s’more.

S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

S’Mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

Makes 15 full-sized sandwiches, and 5 half-sized sandwiches

To make stale-ish graham crackers, open the packages and leave them sitting on your counter for a day or two. Alternately, you can just make these with fresh graham crackers because I’m weird. I wrapped the sandwiches in 6-inch wax paper squares.

Ingredients

1 cup Fudge Ripple, chilled (recipe below)
4 cups Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream base, ready to churn (recipe below)
20 whole graham crackers, stale-ish (plus extras in case of breakage)

Directions

Whisk ice cream base vigorously until pourable (marshmallows may settle and create a spongy texture when you first take it out of the fridge). Churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

While your ice cream is churning, line an 8×13 baking pan with waxed paper, leaving a few inches of overhang. Break graham crackers in half. Place one layer of graham cracker halves in the bottom of the pan, leaving as little space between them as possible. (You’ll have to play around with the spacing a bit. I used individual crackers to fill in the spaces along one edge.) Set aside remaining graham cracker halves (soon to be sandwich tops).

Once ice cream is done churning, gently dollop a thin layer onto graham cracker layer. Working quickly, spoon or drizzle chilled fudge ripped on top, alternating with dollops of ice cream, until you’ve used it all. Top with reserved graham cracker halves (try to match them up with the bottoms). Gently push tops into ice cream, just enough to secure them. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 24 hours.

Lift ice cream sandwiches out of the pan with the waxed paper overhang. Cut between graham cracker halves with a bench scraper or sharp knife to make individual sandwiches. Wrap and freeze, or serve immediately.


Fudge Ripple

Adapted from The Pefect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Add all ingredients except vanilla extract to a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches a low boil. Continue whisking and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before using.


Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures
Makes about 5 cups

This recipe calls for toasting an entire bag of marshmallows. The more toasty and charred they are, the more your ice cream will taste like toasted marshmallows. If you’re patient and have a good kitchen torch, I would recommend that method. Alternately, you can spread the marshmallows on parchment paper and brown them under your broiler for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them! Warning: This method is a sticky mess. The marshmallows will stick to the parchment once they melt. I used a greased bench scraper to free them from the paper, but it was a huge mess. Safety tip: Silpats are NOT approved for use under a broiler.

You’ll notice this recipe makes about 5 cups, but I only used 4 to make the sandwiches. My ice cream maker can only hold 4 cups so I reserved one cup of the ice cream base for another time.

Ingredients

10-ounce bag marshmallows, toasted
5 large egg yolks
scant 1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Whisk egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a large, heat-proof bowl. Set aside.

Place milk in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds with the back of a knife. Add seeds and whole pod to milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Slowly pour 1/4 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Repeat two more times. Pour egg yolk mixture back into pan and whisk to combine with any remaining milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon (around 170°F). Pour custard through a fine mesh sieve into a heat-proof 4-cup measuring cup or bowl. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Add toasted marshmallows to blender or large (at least 7-cup, preferably larger) food processor. Add custard and blend until smooth. Pour back into measuring cup or bowl. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla extract. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 12 hours, up to 24.

Follow instructions above for churning and sandwich assembly.

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

July 2, 2013

I like to play with my food. Experimenting with new techniques and flavor combinations and exploring new challenges is all part of the fun for me. Of course it can be frustrating at times when things don’t work out, but there’s always a valuable lesson to be learned in the process.

When Father’s Day rolled around this year, I wanted to make something special to celebrate my wonderful coffee- and chocolate-loving Father-in-Law. That man lives on coffee. Honestly. I’ve never seen him drink anything else, except maybe a beer once or twice. He even orders coffee with his dinner! Old army habits die hard, it seems.

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

It just so happens that my Brother-in-Law and his wife have been experimenting with the Paleo diet lately. I knew they would be joining us for dinner, so I decided to challenge myself to make a dessert that was both delicious and mostly Paleo-friendly. (The Paleo diet centers around eating like our ancestors did, and therefore excludes all grains, dairy, and refined sugar.)

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

I think I came pretty darn close with this Chocolate Espresso Tart. It’s rich, decadent, but not too sweet and it will definitely make chocolate lovers happy with 3/4 pound of chocolate in it!

I used Divine chocolate because I love that they’re fairtrade and farmer-owned, but also because I love their incredibly smooth chocolate. I think the coffee flavor in the tart could have maybe been a little stronger, but I didn’t want to go overboard with the espresso and have us all jittery after dinner. The crust was also a little on the chewy side rather than crisp like I was expecting, but that may have been due to the refrigeration and/or high humidity. The cocoa nibs in the crust did give it a nice bit of texture though!

This Chocolate Espresso Tart is grain-free (and therefore gluten-free), dairy-free, and almost refined sugar free. There is some sugar in the chocolate, and I just couldn’t resist putting a tiny bit of powdered sugar in the whipped (coconut) cream topping!

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Perhaps best of all, it’s pretty easy to put together. Like, easy enough that you could make it while drunk after consuming a ‘regular’ margarita that just happened to be the size of your head.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

How did my in-laws feel about the final product? Well, they didn’t say much with their mouths full but I think the nearly empty pie plate speaks for itself. Lesson learned: There’s room for chocolate in almost every diet!

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Chocolate Espresso Tart (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

Adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen
Makes one 9-inch tart

Almond flour and coconut oil can be found in the health food section of most stores, or in natural foods stores. Coconut milk can be found in cans in the ethnic foods aisle of many grocery stores. I found espresso powder at Target. Use *real* maple syrup (the expensive stuff), not pancake syrup. Use the highest quality chocolate you can find!

The coconut whipped cream can be tricky. You *must* make it with full-fat (not lite) coconut milk, and it *must* be refrigerated until the point that it separates into a white solid (coconut cream) and an almost clear liquid (coconut water). If your coconut milk does not separate it will not whip. I always buy 2 cans just in case! I usually buy Native Forest brand.

NOTE: If you are making this to be dairy-free and gluten-free for people with food sensitivities, please be sure to check EVERY ingredient carefully. Gluten and dairy can be hidden in products you wouldn’t expect, like chocolate (dairy) and coconut milk (gluten).

Ingredients

2 cups (8.8 ounces) almond flour or almond meal
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)

1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder
12 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate (I use Divine), finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least 12 hours
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1-2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Directions

To make the tart shell:
Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pulse almond flour and salt in food processor. In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat coconut oil just until liquid (20-30 seconds on High. Do not overheat!). Stir maple syrup into melted coconut oil. With the food processor running, pour in oil mixture. Add cocoa nibs (if using) and continue to pulse until a wet dough forms. Turn dough out into prepared pan and press down firmly with fingers and/or a measuring cup. Prick all over with a fork. Chill dough for 20 minutes in the fridge. Bake at 350°F for 15-18 mins, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

To make the filling:
Place chopped chocolate in a heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk and espresso powder. Bring to a boil. Pour hot coconut milk over chopped chocolate. Wait 2-3 minutes. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Pour ganache into pre-cooked and cooled tart shell. Chill for at least one hour, or until set.

To make the espresso whipped cream:
Refrigerate an unopened can of full-fat coconut milk for at least 12 hours.

Remove can from the fridge gently, shaking it as little as possible. Remove the lid with a can opener. Using a spoon, gently scoop the solidified coconut cream off the top and into the bowl of a stand mixer, taking care to avoid as much of the liquid coconut water on the bottom as possible. (Discard or store coconut water for another use.)

Using the whisk attachment, whip coconut cream with a stand mixer until stiff peaks form – about 3-5 minutes. Add espresso powder and powdered sugar, whip to incorporate. Pipe or dollop onto tart in any decorative manner you like!

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

June 19, 2013

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you because it’s so simple, but so full of summer-y goodness. And because I got to use my adorable teeny cast iron skillets again! They’re so cute I want to pinch them.

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

I have been getting the best strawberries at the market lately. I couldn’t bear the thought of hiding them in a strawberry flavored something-or-other, cooking or mashing them beyond recognition. So I made these strawberry cornmeal cakes to show off the strawberries in all of their natural sweet goodness.

Think of it as a spin on strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

It all starts with a sweet little lemon cornmeal cake base. The cornmeal adds a nice savory element and a little extra texture, but the natural sweetness of corn keeps it firmly in dessert territory. I used coconut oil and coconut milk which doesn’t add coconut flavor exactly, but does give it that certain little something that will keep people guessing. (Don’t worry coconut-haters, it doesn’t taste like coconut!)

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

Pile some barely-sweetened fresh berries on top and you’re 2/3rds of the way to heaven.

But it’s not strawberry shortcake without whipped cream, right? Here’s where the magic happens. I made whipped cream… without cream. That feeling? That was me blowing your mind. It turns out that you can make non-dairy whipped “cream” with full-fat coconut milk. Who knew? (Apparently half the internet. Once again, I’m late to the party.) It’s maybe a bit thicker than whipped cream, but it’s just as creamy and delightful. Even my husband likes it!

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

Now I know just looking at it, this dessert seems pretty predictable. But something strange happens when you take a bite. The sweet strawberries and coconut cream almost melt in your mouth, giving way to the bright lemon of the cornmeal cake. It’s both sweet and tart, creamy and crumbly. Next thing you know, you’re going back for bite after bite after bite until it’s gone.

What I’m trying to say is that I ate 3 of these by myself. I’m not sorry.

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

Strawberry Skillet Cornmeal Cakes

Serves 4

I made this recipe into 4 individual portions, but I believe it could be stretched to 6 if desired. If you make 6 servings, your cooking time may be slightly shorter. If you use tall, narrow ramekins your cook time may be longer. Cakes and strawberries can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Ingredients

1 quart fresh strawberries
1 Tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest

Dairy-free coconut milk whipped cream (recipe below)

Directions

Hull and quarter 1 quart of fresh strawberries. Toss with 1 tablespoon of sugar (or more, if your berries aren’t sweet). Set aside to macerate for at least 2 hours at room temperature, or in the fridge up to 2 days ahead.

Grease four or six 5-inch cast iron skillets or 7-ounce size ramekins with coconut oil. Set on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat coconut oil just until liquid (20-30 seconds on High). Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, briskly whisk together egg, sugar until pale yellow, about 1 minutes. Add lemon juice, coconut milk, and cooled coconut oil, whisking to combine. Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Whisk just until incorporated. Stir in zest.

Divide batter evenly among prepared skillets/ramekins. Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. (Baking time will vary based on size & depth of your ramekins. Don’t be afraid to check for doneness early and often!) Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Cakes can be baked up to 2 days ahead, covered and stored at room temperature.

Top cakes with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.


Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Whipped Cream

You *must* make this with full-fat (not lite) coconut milk, and it *must* be refrigerated until the point that it separates into a white solid (coconut cream) and an almost clear liquid (coconut water). Whipped coconut cream holds up well in the fridge for several days, but it will harden and need re-whipping.

Ingredients

14 ounce can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least 12 hours
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Tablespoon powdered sugar

Directions

Refrigerate an unopened can of full-fat coconut milk for at least 12 hours.

Remove can from the fridge gently, shaking it as little as possible. Remove the lid with a can opener. Using a spoon, gently scoop the solidified coconut cream off the top and into the bowl of a stand mixer, taking care to avoid as much of the liquid coconut water on the bottom as possible. (Discard or store coconut water for another use.)

Using the whisk attachment, whip coconut cream with a stand mixer until stiff peaks form – about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, whip to incorporate.

Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge. May need to be re-whipped after chilling.

Spicy Sweet Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

June 10, 2013

The last couple of weeks have been a doozy. I found out some company took one of my photos and was selling it in gift shops without my permission. I nearly cut my finger off while chopping some swiss chard. I came down with a cold. I battled insomnia. I burned my thumb on my lunch.

And now I’m throwing myself a fabulous pity party! Don’t worry, you’re totally invited.

Spicy Sweet Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

The first (and only) dish at my pity party are these Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches. The idea for these has been brewing in my head for a little while. Something about the combination of spicy ginger and creamy mango ice cream was just calling to me.

First, I made mango ice cream. I’m into altulfo mangoes (the little yellow ones) for their creamy sweetness and I’m into coconut milk in a big way lately, so that’s what I used. It’s a creamy, tangy dairy-free, egg-free tropical delight. You do need an ice cream maker to churn it, but it’s not custard based so there’s no cooking required. It literally comes together in minutes in your food processor or blender.

Pro tip: If you’re OCD like me, store your ice cream in a baking pan so that you can use a cookie cutter for perfectly round ice cream sandwiches. Ahhhh symmetry.

Spicy Sweet Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

While the mango ice cream is good, the cookies were definitely my favorite part. I used a twist on my favorite chewy sugar cookies. I was looking for a good amount of spice so I used 3 kinds of ginger: fresh minced, ground and candied. There’s no molasses in these cookies because I wanted to taste the ginger, not molasses. The cookies are soft, chewy and pleasantly gingery. They’re not as spicy as I had hoped, but they got rave reviews from everyone who tried them! I’ll definitely be making them again.

Spicy Sweet Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

The next obvious step was to sandwich them together. Creamy mango ice cream between two spicy sweet ginger cookies. I find them very cool and refreshing on a hot day. To appease my yearning for spiciness, I rolled the outside of my ice cream sandwiches in more chopped candied ginger. That added the zing I was hoping for!

Years ago, one of my readers pointed out that I make a LOT of chocolate recipes (naturally) and inquired if I ever made anything with mangoes. Dear reader, this one is for you!

Spicy Sweet Mango & Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches

Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Mango Ice Cream

Makes 3-4 cups

This ice cream comes together so fast, it’s almost too easy. The hardest part is cutting the mangoes, which isn’t really hard if you know how to do it. I like to cut mine like an avocado – score the insides, then scoop out with a spoon. Chef Allen Susser demonstrates how to cut a mango in this video.

Ingredients

2 large ripe altulfo mangos (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups full-fat coconut milk
juice from 1 lime
pinch of salt

Directions

Puree mangoes in food processor or blender until smooth. Add sugar and puree for 30 seconds to 1 minute. With the processor / blender running, add coconut milk, lime juice, and salt. Blend until combined. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.

Spicy Chewy Ginger Cookies

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 24 cookies

As written, this recipe yields a pleasantly gingery cookie that will make people say, “What was in that?” (in a good way). Next time I think I will double the fresh ginger to get even more of a spicy bite to them.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar , plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature and cut into 8 small pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped candied ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Combine milk & ginger in a small glass. Heat in microwave for about 20 seconds. Set aside to steep.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cream cheese. Whisk in warm melted butter. Add oil, egg, milk steeped with ginger, and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined. Fold in flour mixture with rubber spatula until incorporated and a soft dough forms. Fold in chopped candied ginger.

(If dough is too soft at this point, refrigerate it for 15-30 minutes until it firms enough to roll into balls.)

Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl. Using a 1 1/2 Tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out 12 dough balls per baking sheet. Roll each dough ball in your hands, then roll in sugar to coat. Space about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake 1 sheet at time at 350°F for 11-13 minutes, until set and just beginning to brown on the bottom. (They might not look done, but don’t over bake!) Cool on the baking sheet for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Lemon Blackberry Cream Puffs with Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

May 23, 2013

Sometimes food blogging is hard, guys. I don’t mean hard as in, “Oh no, well I guess *someone* has to eat these cream puffs, wink wink” – although it is that too. I mean hard as in sometimes it takes 3 weekends of baking to develop the recipe you’re after and then your photos turn out kind of lackluster and you still haven’t even written up the post and recipe to go with them yet.

Thank goodness there are cream puffs or I would quit this job ASAP.

Lemon Blackberry Cream Puffs with Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

(Fun fact: Food blogging is not actually my job! I have a day job that involves me doing computer-y things at a computer all day long. I don’t actually get paid for blogging… except in baked goods. I think we can all agree that’s almost as good as money.)

It’s been one of those months where keep this little blog going has been a challenge. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to invent the next Most Awesome RecipeTM, take the most gorgeous food photos, do something incredible in the kitchen that has never been done before. But eventually I come to my senses and just make some cream puffs instead, because who doesn’t like cream puffs? They might not be the prettiest or the coolest or the best ever, but they are pretty darn good.

There are three separate components to this recipe, but don’t freak out. Each is individually easy to make and two of the three can be made ahead of time. First is the blackberry curd. It’s packed with jammy fruit flavor and, well, just look at that gorgeous color.

Blackberry Curd

Next comes the lemon pastry cream. I made it with coconut milk this time. It doesn’t taste like coconut, but it is dairy-free! The pastry cream has a good amount of lemon flavor without being LEMON. Getting the lemon and blackberry balance just right was important because bright, tart lemon can easily overwhelm the subtle blackberry. Last but not least, my favorite pate a choux to hold all of the lemon blackberry goodness.

Lemon Blackberry Cream Puffs with Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

There are two ways to assemble these cream puffs. If you’re serving them right away and don’t have to take them anywhere (which I recommend), slice the puffs in half, stuff a few fresh blackberries in the bottom, then cover them with the lemon pastry cream and a generous dollop of blackberry curd. Get ready to swoon.

If you do need to travel with your puffs, poke a hole in the bottom, use a squeeze bottle or pastry bag to fill the insides with curd and pastry cream, then plug up the hole with a fresh blackberry. You get a little less filling this way, but they’re less messy and they kinda taste like cream-filled donuts, which is never a bad thing.

Lemon Blackberry Cream Puffs with Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

Lemon Blackberry Cream Puffs with Dairy-Free Pastry Cream

Makes 10-12 large cream puffs

Ingredients

1 batch of Blackberry Curd, below
1 batch of Dairy-Free Lemon Pastry Cream, below
1 batch of Pate a Choux Puffs, below

Directions

Prepare blackberry curd and pastry cream at least 4 hours ahead, up to 2 days ahead.

Pate a choux puffs can be prepared several hours before serving, or prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. If using immediately, let the puffs sit at room temperature. If frozen, thaw puffs at room temperature, then rewarm in a 350°F oven until warm and crisped.

There are two ways to assemble these cream puffs. If you’re serving them right away and don’t have to take them anywhere (which I recommend), slice the puffs in half, stuff a few fresh blackberries in the bottom, spoon or pipe lemon pastry cream over berries and add generous dollop of blackberry curd.

OR

If you need to travel with your puffs, use the steam-release hole on the bottom to fill the puffs. Place pastry cream and curd in separate squeeze bottles or pastry bags. Fill puffs with curd first, then pastry cream. Plug up the hole by *gently* pressing a fresh blackberry into it.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Serve within a few hours of assembly, or if necessary refrigerate overnight.


Blackberry Curd

Adapted from Phemomenon
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

8 ounces fresh blackberries
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions

In a food processor or blender, puree blackberries until mostly smooth. Pour blackberry puree into a medium saucepan. Add sugar, egg, and salt. In a small glass, stir cornstrach into lemon juice. Add to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until curd thickens enough to leave whisk tracks while stirring. Remove from heat. Pour through a mesh strainer into a heat proof container, using a spoon to push curd through if necessary. Discard solids. Refrigerate curd for at least 4 hours.


Dairy-Free Lemon Pastry Cream

Adapted from BraveTart
Makes about 3 cups

I realize most coconut milk comes in 13.5 or 14-ounce cans, so you’ll need 2 to make this recipe. You can use the leftover coconut milk to make smoothies, curries, your morning coffee or just about anything else that calls for dairy milk.

Ingredients

3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
5 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
pinch kosher salt
15 1/2 ounces full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
lemon zest from 1 lemon

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until combined and free of lumps.

Bring coconut milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly pour 2/3 cup hot coconut milk into the egg mixture, whisking briskly and constantly, to temper the eggs. Add tempered egg mixture back to coconut milk on the stove, whisking constantly. Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking, until mixture becomes very thick, like pudding. (Mixture may seem over-thick; it will thin with the addition of lemon juice at the end.) Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Pour pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, pushing the wrap onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.


Pate A Choux Puffs

Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz
Makes about 10-12 large puffs

Ingredients

1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.

Bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture boils, using a spatula, stir in the flour all at once until a thick paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Cool for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Briskly beat the eggs in one at a time with a spatula, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next, until dough is smooth and shiny.

Using a large scoop (4 tablespoon size, normally used for muffins), scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet leaving at least 1 inch of space between each. You should get 10-12 puffs.

Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 375°F. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, or until puffs are golden brown on top and sides. Turn off oven and let puffs sit in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and poke each puff on the bottom with a paring knife to release steam. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Puffs are best used the same day they are baked, or you can freeze them in a zip-top freezer bag for up to a month.

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