Category Archives: Desserts

Basil Ice Cream with Strawberry Ripple


This dessert tastes like summer vacation to me.  Ice cream is the quintessential warm-weather indulgence, and the tart strawberry ripple undulating through this recipe’s sweet basil cream makes it the perfect poolside snack.

The inspiration for this sweet treat came from my sister in-law, Fatima. When I was visiting her last Christmas, she taught me to make mint chocolate chip ice cream from scratch using bunches of fresh spearmint to flavor the ice cream custard.  I used Fatima’s technique along with fresh basil from Pure Luck in Dripping Springs, Texas, to create this not-too-sweet basil ice cream.

When I was testing this recipe, I discovered that the earthy flavor of basil creates a very full-bodied ice cream. To punctuate and balance that richness I used some homemade strawberry jam to create a ripple: a thin layer of sauce that’s distributed throughout the ice cream.

Creating a fruit ripple in home-churned ice cream is easy, and all you need is some jam, pie filling or sweetened fruit purée. As soon as the churned ice cream has been poured into a storage container, gently spread an even layer of jam or fruit purée across the top of the ice cream. Cover and freeze as usual, and when you serve the ice cream later a perfect ripple will appear automatically in each scoop.

If you’re out of fresh strawberry jam, peaches from Caskey Orchards in San Marcos or blackberries  would pair just as well with basil, and they’re in season now. To create a blackberry or peach ripple, you can macerate chopped fruit or whole berries in sugar and purée them, or you can use your favorite recipe for pie filling or freezer jam and purée the finished product. Whatever fruit, jam or pie filling you use, it’s important that the ripple be completely smooth since the high water content of whole berries or peach chunks turn them into ice cubes when they freeze, ruining the creamy texture of the ice cream.

Basil Ice Cream with Strawberry Ripple (yields 1.5 quarts)

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 pinch salt
1 bunch fresh basil
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup strawberry jam

Before you begin, you’ll need some specific equipment for this recipe: a mesh strainer, a saucepan, a whisk, a few spoons, a 1.5 quart ice cream maker, and a few bowls: one large metal mixing bowl which will sit in an ice bath (use a bigger bowl or the sink for this) and a small mixing bowl. A kitchen thermometer isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is useful.

1. Wash and dry basil and tear it into several handfuls of loose leaves and stems. In a medium pan, warm milk, sugar, one cup heavy cream, salt, and basil. Stir occasionally. Once mixture is hot, about 150 degrees, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes to infuse basil flavor.

2. Set a large metal bowl over an ice bath (a bunch of ice in your sink or in a larger bowl.) Pour the reserved cup of heavy cream into the bowl and set the mesh strainer on top. If you haven’t already separated your egg yolks, do that now, and set them aside until step 4.

3. Once 30 minutes has passed, remove the basil leaves and stems from the infused cream by pouring the mixture through a mesh strainer into a small bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to press down on the basil leaves, squeezing out any remaining liquid, then discard the basil.*  Return the infused cream mixture to the pan.

4.  Rewarm the infused cream mixture over medium low heat. In a separate bowl (the one you strained the cream into before is fine) whisk together the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by ladling the warm, infused cream into the egg yolks a little bit at a time, whisking constantly, until the egg yolks are warm.  Pour the warmed egg yolks into the pan with the rest of the infused cream.

5. Cook the custard, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon, or at about 170 degrees.

6. Immediately strain the custard into the big mixing bowl with the reserved cream. Stir together over the ice bath until cool. Transfer cooled custard to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.

7. Freeze the ice cream according to the directions that came with your ice cream maker.  When ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, transfer it to an airtight container and gently spread strawberry jam in an even layer over the top of the ice cream. Freeze for at least three hours before serving.

*I saved the basil leaves in a Tupperware in the fridge and used them to sweeten tea throughout the week. This was a real treat and much less indulgent than the ice cream!

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

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Strawberry Lemonade

When life hands you strawberry preserves, make lemonade! At least, that was my solution to use up the six cups (!!) of homemade strawberry preserves I had on hand after a berry binge at the farmer’s market last week.

In this easy recipe, the sweet flavor of strawberry jam is brightened with fresh lemon juice and ice water. It’s perfect for sipping on a warm spring night! If you’re looking for a shortcut, I recommend substituting Confituras’ strawberry vanilla bean jam for homemade and using an electric juicer for the lemons, if you have one.

Strawberry Lemonade (makes about 2 quarts)
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 cup lemon juice, from 8-10 small lemons
Lemon slices for garnishes
4-5 cups ice

Method: Juice lemons and strain juice for seeds. Set aside.

Next, puree strawberry preserves and sugar in a blender until mixture is completely combined and smooth. If you’re put off by strawberry seeds in your lemonade now is the time to strain the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I skip this step since I like the rustic look of the lemonade with strawberry seeds.

Microwave two cups of water in a microwave-safe container for two minutes. Carefully pour sweetened strawberry preserves and hot water into a two-quart pitcher and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Next, fill the pitcher 2/3 of the way full of ice, add the strained lemon juice, and stir to mix the lemonade together. Pour lemonade into ice-filled glasses and garnish with a slice of lemon.

If you’re not planning to serve this drink immediately, it keeps beautifully in a pitcher in the fridge for several hours. You should stir it before serving since the the strawberry part of the lemonade will settle a bit.

Strawberry Preserves & Hand Pies

I think it’s nearly impossible to walk past fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market without buying a pint. (Or four.) So between our Greenling Local Box and two trips to the farmer’s market last week, I had six pints of local strawberries in the fridge on Saturday morning. Two pints were from Gundermann Acres in Wharton, two were from Naegelin Farms in Lytle, and two pints were from Two Happy Children Farm in Taylor, Texas.

So many strawberries won’t keep more than a few days, so I decided to make some jam to use up my haul of berries. I am an inexperienced canner, so Michael Chiarello’s recipe for strawberry preserves seemed like a great place to start: not-to-sweet, and no added pectin. His recipe calls for a lot of berries, some citrus, and a pinch of rosemary and black pepper. I made it my own by substituting oranges for the lemon, omitting the salt, increasing the rosemary and pepper, and cutting the sugar down a bit. The rosemary I used is from Pure Luck in Dripping Springs, and the oranges are from G&S Groves down in McAllen, Texas.

Here’s my version of the recipe, scaled down for just one pint of strawberries.

Strawberry Preserves (Each pint of strawberries will yield about 1 cup of jam)
Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s recipe for strawberry preserves
1 pint strawberries, cleaned, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
pinch black pepper
juice of 1/2 an orange, about 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

In a saucepan with high sides, mix all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Keep close watch on the pan with a spoon at the ready– strawberries will foam up if you’re not careful! Once the mixture comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until jam is thick and syrupy. Around the half-hour mark, the consistency of the jam will be thick and the mixture will look glossy. You can test the consistency of the finished jam by spooning a blob onto a very cold plate. Wait a minute, then draw your finger through the jam. If the jam stays separated on the plate, it’s ready! If the jam runs back together, keep cooking. Once the jam is set to your standards, transfer it to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and use it up within the week.

My six pints of berries made a huge batch of the jam, and while it’s not as good as Confituras‘ I am really pleased with my first-ever attempt at strawberry preserves.

You can see that the preserves have a lovely texture: soft, chopped pieces of berries are suspended in a thick syrup. Homemade jam usually has a softer set than store-bought, and this is wonderful to spread on muffins, toast, or swirled atop oatmeal. Next time I make it I am going to experiment with increasing the sugar and using lemon juice to try to get a brighter flavor from the berries.

Tonight I used some leftover pie crust and 1/4 cup of the preserves to make these pretty hand pies. They’re kind of like strawberry Pop-Tarts, only they taste like real strawberries and there’s no red food coloring.

The finished hand pies were lovely, except for one that I overfilled. A whole chunk of strawberry spurted out of the side of the pie while it was in the oven.

I giggled when I saw it because it looked like it was blowing me a big raspberry! Er, strawberry!

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Butter Bars with Chameleon Coffee Frosting

I’m sharing this recipe in support of Austin Bakes for Japan, happening Saturday, April 2nd!! Please join us at one of the five bake sale locations in Austin on Saturday starting at 10 AM. If you’re not in Austin, you can follow our progress that day via Twitter or our online giving page.

Butter bars with Chameleon Coffee Frosting

So remember when my mom and I threw a book-themed baby shower for my sister Beth? One of the things we had to make for Beth were butter bars with coffee frosting. This cookie recipe is her very favorite. It is a pretty straightforward icebox cookie, named for the butter in the dough, and the shape of the bar of the dough before the raw cookies are sliced.

This recipe is one of my favorite family heirlooms, and I love it more than any china or jewelry I’ve inherited. My Grandma Hakes (mom’s mom) gets credit for the recipe, and for three generations, women in my family have been making butter bars. Make that four generations! Beth had her baby in January, and Ella was in tow in the Snugli when we were making these cookies on Saturday.

My mom’s Butter Bar recipe card is a little tattered at the edges, and it lists ingredients in her usual way. She always writes in impeccable print the measurements and ingredients, in the order that they should be used. Mom’s instructions for recipes are always spare; here she writes “shape into bar, wrap in foil, chill. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.”

The notes on the bottom right of the recipe are in my Grandmother Hakes’ hand. She was on hand for the cookie making at Christmas 1996. I don’t remember the specifics of that visit very well, but  I always smile when I see Grandma’s notes on my mother’s recipe cards.

I’m not sure whether Grandma iced her butter bars when she first started making them. My mom developed this coffee frosting recipe, and our family has perfected it over many years of practice and testing.

I’ve given Mom’s frosting an Austin twist by using Austin-brewed Chameleon Cold-Brew coffee in place of the instant that she uses. I think the cold brewed coffee has a stronger, sweeter flavor than regular coffee that pairs perfectly with the toasty crunch of the cookie. In fact, the first time I tasted Chameleon Coffee at TECHMunch, I knew I had to use it in this recipe. Disclosure: the bottle of coffee that I used for this batch of cookies was a gift from Chameleon Coffee to all TECHmunch participants, so I didn’t buy it with my own money. Thanks, Chameleon Coffee!

I’ll be joining hundreds of other bloggers, bakers and local businesses this Saturday for Austin Bakes for Japan, a city-wide bake sale benefitting AmeriCares work in Japan. We have five locations in town, and there will be 24 packages of butter bar cookies at the East and Central locations. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that each package of cookie will pull in $5 or so, and my contribution to Saturday’s $10,000 goal will be over $100! Don’t the cookies look pretty on the plate?
Items at the bake sale have to be wrapped and ready to sell, so we packaged six cookies each on rectangular appetizer plates that Mom found at Party City. The plates of cookies fit perfectly into Ziploc freezer sandwich-sized bags (about an inch longer than regular sandwich bags).
Here’s what the cookies will look like on the tables Saturday.
Brown Sugar Butter Bars with Chameleon Coffee frosting (yields 4 dozen frosted cookies)
Cookies:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Cream butter, brown sugar and vanilla using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add flour and keep mixing until it is completely incorporated into the dough. It will be thick and very crumbly. Divide the dough and shape each half into a log 1-3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap each bar in foil and chill for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 350. Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices and bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Here’s a step by step of the rolling, wrapping and cutting process:

These cookies will not spread much on the cookie sheet, so it’s good to put them close together:

Frosting:
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons shortening
4 tablespoons Chameleon Cold-Brew coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 4-1/4 cups powdered sugar
Cream butter, shortening, coffee and vanilla using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Spread frosting on completely cooled cookies. Top each cookie with a chocolate covered espresso bean, a few cocoa nibs, or (my mom’s favorite) a coffee flavored jelly bean.

Thanks to my mom and dad who bought the ingredients for these cookies, my mom and sister who made all the cookies and packaged them for the bake sale. Mom and Dad also gave $50 to AmeriCares through the bake sale’s online giving page. My sister Beth is going to be helping with the sale on Saturday. Rah, rah, rah Hutchisons, Decks, El-Farrahs!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Cherry Pies

What it is about mini cherry pies that makes them so much tastier than the regular sized ones? Perhaps they are easier to eat. Or the tiny crust-to-cherry filling ratio is better. Maybe it’s the cute factor.

For whatever reason, these mini pies were one of the most popular dishes at my sister’s book-themed baby shower last month.  I made them using my standby pie crust recipe (seen here and here) and a jar of wild cherry preserves homemade by my aunt in Carlisle, Iowa.

The process for making mini pies is pretty simple as long as you have some biscuit cutters and a mini muffin tin. Here’s what I did:

  1. After rolling the pie crust to 1/4 inch thickness, I used a 2-5/8 inch biscuit cutter to cut the top and bottom crusts.
  2. Then I placed a bottom crust into each well of a mini-muffin tin, using my fingers to press the crust flat down into the tin.
  3. I put a 1/2 teaspoon of cherry preserves in each pie and brushed the edges of the bottom crusts with egg wash.
  4. I placed the top crusts on the filled pies, pinching the crust edges together with my fingers.
  5. Finally, I used the tip of a paring knife to cut four vent holes in the top of each finished pie before giving them a final brush with egg wash.
  6. I baked the pies for 35 minutes at 350, until the crust was golden brown.

A full recipe of double crust and 1 cup of cherry jam yielded 32 tiny pies.

This assembly method was effective, but next time I’d like to experiment to get a prettier finished product. Although the pies stayed sealed, I wasn’t happy with the fluting effect I got with my bare fingers and the muffin tin, plus the tops of the pies were lumpier than I wanted.

None of the guests at the baby shower complained about the fluting, so I’m not sweating the cosmetics here too much.  Still, I’m eager for the next time I have occasion to make these so that can figure out a better way to attach the top crust. Any advice, fellow pastry-obsessives?

Masala Chai Ice Cream

This was Rami’s and my first married New Year’s Eve, and we spent most of it apart.  He had a gig playing Beatles tunes with the Austin Symphony. I stayed home in my PJs and rediscovered PhotoShop. (We just got the newest version. It rocks.) By the time he got home around 11:00 we both kinda wanted to go to sleep.  But that didn’t feel quite right, with it being our first married New Year’s Eve and all, so we made some small talk about resolutions. As midnight approached, we decided to make a toast. We don’t keep champagne on hand, so I pulled out the fanciest thing we had  in our kitchen: this Masala Chai ice cream.  We dished it up clinked our spoons together as the ball dropped.

The first bite of ice cream was like hot snow, and we both moaned when we tasted it.  Sweet cream brushed up against spicy chai as the ice cream swept our tongues.  Each spoonful had a velvet finish, with hints of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and black pepper.  By the time we lapped up the last bit, New Year’s Eve finally felt like something special.

I can’t take credit for the magnetism of this dish. The chai is from Austin’ own Zhi Tea Gallery, and the recipe belongs to my sister-in-law, Fatima.  Her cream steeping technique imbues the ice cream with deep flavor using fresh or dried herbs, and the final product is infinitely better tasting than an ice cream flavored artificially.  The best part is, you can adapt this recipe for any kind of tea or fresh herb by adjusting the amount of herb and steeping time according to taste.

Finally, a happy coincidence: I just saw that today’s Austin Groupon is $20 for $40 worth of merchandise at Zhi Tea!  Since Masala Chai from Zhi Tea is the standout ingredient here, I couldn’t resist.  And with almost 100 different flavors available from Zhi, just imagine the crazy ice creams you could make!! Just the idea of Honeybush Rooibos and Vanilla Rose ice creams has my mouth watering.

Masala Chai Ice Cream (yields 1.5 quarts)

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup loose tea, Zhi Tea Masala Chai flavor
5 large egg yolks

Before you begin, you’ll need some specific equipment for this recipe: a mesh strainer, a saucepan, a whisk, a few spoons, a 1.5 quart ice cream maker, and a few bowls: one large metal mixing bowl which will sit in an ice bath (use a bigger bowl or the sink for this) and a small mixing bowl. A kitchen thermometer isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is useful.

1. In a medium pan, warm milk, sugar, one cup heavy cream, salt, and tea leaves. Stir occasionally. Once mixture is hot, about 150 degrees, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes to infuse chai flavor.

2. Set a large metal bowl over an ice bath (a bunch of ice in your sink or in a larger bowl.) Pour the reserved cup of heavy cream into the bowl and set the mesh strainer on top. If you haven’t already separated your egg yolks, do that now, and set them aside until step 4.

3. Once 30 minutes has passed, remove the tea leaves from the infused cream by pouring the mixture through a mesh strainer into a small bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to press down on the tea leaves, squeezing out any remaining liquid, then discard the tea leaves.  Return the infused cream mixture to the pan.

4.  Rewarm the infused cream mixture over medium low heat. In a separate bowl (the one you strained the cream into before is fine) whisk together the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by ladling the warm, infused cream into the egg yolks a little bit at a time, whisking constantly, until the egg yolks are warm.  Pour the warmed egg yolks into the pan with the rest of the infused cream.

5. Cook the custard, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon, or at about 170 degrees.

6. Immediately strain the custard into the big mixing bowl with the reserved cream. Stir together over the ice bath until cool. Transfer cooled custard to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.

7. Freeze the ice cream according to the directions that came with your ice cream maker.  When ice cream has reached soft serve consistency, transfer it to an airtight container and freeze for a few hours before serving.  I sampled this recipe at both the soft serve and completely frozen stage (just doing my duty here!) and the flavor is better developed after a few hours in the freezer.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Tangerine Shortbread

In a pinch for a last-minute hostess gift or holiday bake sale offering?  These zesty shortbread cookies come together in less than 40 minutes and have just four ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and the Oasis Gardens tangerines from this week’s local box.

Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you; these Christmas cookies taste fancier than the recipe lets on.  They have the golden color and tender texture of traditional shortbread cookies, but the tangerine zest in the dough gives the finished cookies a fresh flavor. You can use the zest of any citrus fruits you have on hand, though I prefer the mild sweetness of tangerine.

Tangerine Shortbread (makes about 30, 1×3 inch cookies)
2 tablespoons tangerine zest
1 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Making these cookies is a cinch.  The first step is to use the fine side of a box grater or microplane to zest the tangerines.  The chef in this video is demonstrating with a lemon, but the zesting process is the same for all citrus:

After you finish zesting the tangerines, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Next, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the tangerine zest in the food processor. Pulse until the zest and sugar are combined.  If you have a stand mixer, use it to mix the zesty sugar and butter until creamy.  Then add two cups all-purpose flour and mix at low speed until just combined. The dough will be very thick and crumbly.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in the food processor. Then, move the mixture to a separate mixing bowl and work in the flour by hand. (I did this both ways and needed to add about a tablespoon of water along with the flour to hold the dough together when I was working it by hand. The cookies turned out about the same both ways.)

Once dough is combined, pat it or roll it into an even, half-inch thick rectangle. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into whatever shape you like. (N.B. Go for easy shapes like diamonds, rectangles, or squares with this recipe. Since the dough is crumbly, it will not cooperate with foo foo snowflakes or round shapes. You also want to avoid re-rolling it since that will result in tough cookies.)

Gently move the cookies to your cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bottom edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before eating.  These cookies keep for up to ten days at room temperature in an airtight container, and they freeze well, too.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery, and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”