Friday, February 11, 2011
I don't mean to shock you, but we're not going to talk about bad weather. We're not going to rant about ice and snow. Nope, we're going to pretend it's a pleasant 80 degrees. You know the phrase "willing suspension of disbelief," right? Well, that's what will be required of us. So put on those rose-colored glasses. Try to think warm thoughts.
Mentally meander back to the last time you tasted something that was the absolute antithesis of winter. I'll bet it was gloriously sunny outside, you were wearing something light and airy, and though it was around 7pm sunset was still at least two hours away. Does that scenario ring a distant bell? It does for me. We're going to recreate that moment, if only in our imaginations. To nudge the dream along, I recommend this incredibly simple but flavor-packed sorbet.
You can concoct this with the strained pulp of fresh strawberries, of course, and if it's actually summer in your corner of the world and you have access to local berries, then by all means go for it. But if imported strawberries are your only option you may need an alternative. Let's face it, after the bumpy journey across a couple of international borders, how could any tender berry not be tuckered out? Those winter strawberries may be pretty, but their luster is often superficial, their joie de vivre a thing of the past. Are they even slightly sweet? Don't lay odds on it. Only way to tell is to buy 'em and try 'em, and that's a calculated risk.
If you don't want to chance it with imported berries, use frozen pure-fruit pulp (don't scoff, pastry purists!). It's the neatest thing to pluck from your freezer, on a whim in the dead of winter, a couple packages of this stuff and use it to create something so delectable. If, however, you had the foresight last summer to freeze bags of your own strawberry puree, prepared from super-fresh fruit that you picked yourself, please pat yourself on the back because, frankly, you are a genius. Not all of us are that prescient though, which is why I used two 14 oz. packages (only about $2.00 per pack) of strawberry pulp that I'd purchased last fall from a wonderful Detroit market specializing in Central American foods. Called The Honey Bee La Colmena, this store's slogan is, "Wake up and smell the chorizo." Next time we visit The Honey Bee, I'm going to stock up and try the mango and passion fruit purees, too. It's good stuff.
This sorbet recipe, adapted from the book Professional Baking, by Wayne Gisslen, is so easy it's hardly a recipe at all. Sugar and water are cooked to a syrup, then mixed with the strained fruit puree/pulp (frozen or fresh). I decided to add in a teaspoon of Chambord, a sweet French liqueur made from red and black raspberries, to improve the texture of the final product (the tiny bit of alcohol helps keep it from freezing rock hard). The liquid mix is chilled for a few hours, churned in an ice cream maker, and then plunked into the freezer until firm.
I adapted the cookie recipe from Classic Stars Desserts, by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. Her original formula called for sesame seeds, sliced almonds, and sweetened shredded coconut. That all sounded fine, but in this case I thought it might make for an overcrowded cookie, so I omitted all of those, switching in the lime, a smidgen of almond extract, and using the dried unsweetened coconut as described above. I also rolled the chilled dough in sanding sugar before slicing and baking (these are basically refrigerator cookies).
You can make this dough well before you need to bake it since it needs time to chill. In terms of scheduling your real life, these cookies dovetail cooperatively with the sorbet; they're both desserts that conform to your schedule versus the other way around. Not sure that's ever happened to us before!
(For a printable version of these recipes, click here!)
28 oz. fresh or frozen strained and pureed strawberry pulp
12 oz. granulated sugar
8 oz. water
1 tsp. Chambord, or a similar fruit based liqueur
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar and water over a medium flame until the sugar has completely dissolved, stirring now and then. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool. Stir in the fruit puree and the Chambord.
Chill in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container for at least several hours. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Pour the churned sorbet into a clean container, seal it, and freeze until firm.
Thin and Crispy Coconut-Lime Cookies
7 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature (That's 2 sticks minus 2 Tbsp.)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (I used cane sugar.)
1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose flour
3/4 cups finely shredded dried coconut, unsweetened (I buy this from Whole Foods or from a health food store; I don't think I've ever seen it for sale in a traditional grocery store.)
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
zest from 2 limes
In the bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth (should be less than one minute). On low speed, add in the flour, coconut, almond extract, juice, and zest. Mix just until well combined.
On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into an 18" log.
Wrap the parchment snugly around it, maintaining its shape as you go. If you like, preserve its shape by sliding the wrapped dough into an empty paper towel tube.
Place the dough into the fridge or freezer to chill until it's quite firm (at least half an hour in the freezer, or an hour or more in the fridge).
About 20 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line a couple of cookie sheets with clean parchment. Unwrap the dough, roll it in sanding sugar (medium-sized coarse sugar) if you like, pressing gently so the sugar adheres.
Slice the dough into 1/4" to 1/3" thick pieces using a very sharp knife. Place the pieces on the lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2" between each one; the cookies will spread out.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for at least 5 minutes before attempting to remove them to the cooling rack. They'll be floppy at first, but will firm up and get crispy as they cool.
Store the cookies well covered.
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