"Flower" seems to be the operative word lately. The signs are everywhere. Daffodils rushing toward readiness, dusky tulips shooting up against all odds, giant stalks of allium gaining height at a spectacular pace, tiny crocuses about to burst open in the grass. Not a thing is in bloom yet, but they're all working on it.
Today's recipes are in honor of those early spring flowers--the ones that make the effort to come back year after year. They let us know for certain, amidst lingering cold, that winter is truly behind us. And so, what better honey to employ in homemade ice cream than that borrowed from bees who consort with wildflowers? What better crunchy, salty item to blend into shortbread than roasted sunflower seeds?
About these recipes . . .
If you often make homemade ice cream, you'll be unsurprised to see that this honey ice cream recipe is from David Lebovitz's spectacular book, The Perfect Scoop. I adapted it slightly from his formula for honey lavender ice cream. Though I do have culinary lavender on hand, and love it, I specifically wanted to use wildflower honey, and this honey's delicate flavor had to be unimpeded. Lavender's flavor is distinctive and it might have stolen the show. I was pretty pleased when I tasted this ice cream. One bite confirmed that omitting the lavender was the proper tactic. Wildflower honey is at the forefront here, no doubt about it.
The lemon coriander shortbread is based on Nancy Baggett's basic lemon shortbread recipe ("Iced Lemon Shortbread Fingers") from her indispensable classic, The All American Cookie Book. I adjusted Nancy's cookie by including ground coriander, salted sunflower seeds, and I opted not to use her lovely lemon icing. I also decided not to pat the dough into a 9"x9" pan as she suggests, but to roll it out to about a 1/4" thickness between parchment sheets. Then I chilled it in the freezer on a cookie sheet before cutting it, while still very firm, with cookie cutters. (That's my preferred method for dealing with cut-out cookies. It has saved my sanity time and again.)
Oh yes, about the coriander . . . At school, in the baking and pastry arts classes I've taken, we've often used herbs in non-savory recipes, so I already knew that ground coriander would blend seamlessly with the lemon. It sort of stands in the shadow of the citrus, giving that tanginess an interesting, though subtle, boost. It's really not a weird combo at all.
Wildflower Honey Ice Cream and Lemon Coriander Shortbread with Sunflower Seeds
Wildflower Honey Ice Cream
Yield: About one quart of ice cream, or slightly less.
1/2 cup wildflower honey
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk (I had no whole milk on hand so I used 1 and 1/4 cups 2 percent along with 1/4 cup of half-and-half.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used pure cane sugar.)
One pinch of salt
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
Yolks from 5 large eggs
In a medium saucepan, stir together and warm up the milk, sugar, and salt.
Into a medium size bowl, pour the heavy cream. Mix the honey into the cream, stirring until it's completely blended. (If the honey is cold or too thick, you can warm it slightly in your microwave.) Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
In another medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Pour the warmed milk from the pan very slowly into the yolks, whisking constantly. Then, pour this whole mixture back into the saucepan.
Keep the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly (and I mean constantly!), scraping the bottom and sides of the pan repeatedly. Cook only until the mixture starts to thicken. You'll know it's ready when you can dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and, when you pull it out, it's lightly coated. (If you cook too long, you'll end up with something as thick as pudding. Not good.)
Pour the mixture into the strainer that's sitting above the bowl of heavy cream. You can help push it through the strainer with your spoon. Stir together until completely blended.
Place the bowl over an ice bath (a larger bowl partially filled with ice and a little cold water) and let it cool, stirring periodically.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
Process it in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. (I use the KitchenAid ice cream attachment that goes on my mixer, and whatever I'm making--ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt-- usually takes about 20 minutes to thicken, using only the first speed.)
Scrape the soft ice cream into a clean container, cover it securely, and freeze it for at least several hours until firm or, better yet, for at least one day.
* * * * Lemon Coriander Shortbread Cookies with Sunflower Seeds
Yield: About 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size.
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 and 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Grated zest from one large lemon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into big chunks
1/4 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher.)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
3 Tbsp. roasted and salted sunflower seeds
Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Have another sheet of parchment of the same size ready.
In a medium size mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and coriander.
In the large bowl of your food processor, process the powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and lemon zest for approximately three minutes.
Stop to scrape the bowl periodically. Add in the butter, salt, lemon juice, and lemon extract.
Process until fluffy and fully blended.
Add in the flour mixture and pulse until smooth and well combined. Stop to scrape the bowl as needed.
Put the dough into the bowl that held the flour, and using a flexible spatula, mix in the sunflower seeds.
Place the dough on top of one of the parchment sheets. Pat it into a rough rectangle and then cover it with the other sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out between the sheets to a thickness of approximately 1/4". Slide the dough, still between the sheets, onto a cookie sheet and place it in your freezer for about twenty minutes.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
When the dough is very firm but not rock hard, take it out of the freezer and take it off the cookie sheet. Peel off the top piece of parchment and place that parchment sheet onto the cookie sheet.
Leave the bottom sheet beneath the dough, and cut the dough into the desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place the cut-outs onto the parchment covered cookie sheet. The cookies will spread very little so they can be baked fairly close together. Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, until just slightly golden brown.
Let them cool on the pan or on a rack.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
If you'd like to know a bit about me please click here, or look for the tiny photo of a pink cupcake topped by a strawberry, further down, in the "About me"section. You can also reach me by email at email@example.com . . .
Saveur featured Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal . . .
. . . in their Daily Fare section. We're honored to be on their "Best of the Web" list!
Visit the PBS site to reminisce about 2013's best food trends. They've assembled an entertaining look at what we foodies focused on--what we ate, cooked, read, watched, and blogged about--throughout the year. Click here!
Interesting article in the Los Angeles Timeson the resurgence in demand for the skills of professional pastry chefs. (It seems we still need them after all . . .but you and I have always known that, haven't we?)
The IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) announced winners of its 2013 IACP Food Writing Awards. Have a look at the list. (No surprise that the gorgeous Bouchon Bakery cookbook won for photography and styling; took about a dream of a book! It's gorgeous.)
Food journalist and cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, writing for Publisher's Weekly, shared her thoughts in the article "10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know." Chang clarifies, in a nutshell, what differentiates a great cookbook from an awful dud. I found myself nodding in agreement with every point she made.
An interesting variation on cherries jubilee . . .
. . . made with Grand Marnier, sweet black cherries, pomegranate juice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.
Dutch apple cake . . .
. . . it's divine!
What We Talk About . . .
. . . When We Talk About Banana Cake!
JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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