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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Desserts Category

Who can resist a frosty glass filled with a thick, creamy, drinkable dessert? The milkshake, whether it be paired alongside a diner burger or used as an alternative for French fries to dip into (if you haven’t tried this technique, do so immediately), is iconic, nostalgic, and most of all delicious. A basic vanilla or chocolate version is perfect in its simplicity but additions can add some pizzazz and, well, shake things up a bit!

Colorful and patterned straws, fun-shaped vessels like curvy mason jars, and edible garnishes like our incredibly easy doughnuts are a few things you can use to take your frosty treat to picture-perfect heights.

Flavor additions are totally up to you and you can go anywhere from freeze-dried strawberries and made-from-scratch fruit syrups to pantry basics like sprinkles and crushed cookies. As far as the actual shake goes, we prefer an ice cream base. The fat content, flavor, and churning method will be different from one brand to another, so the addition of milk to thin it out just enough to make drinkable through a straw will vary.

Here are some basics we follow to make a standard shake:

– Place a glass in the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes.

– Start with about 2 cups of slightly softened ice cream of your choice and 1/3 cup whole milk, then pulse in a blender to combine. If you’re adding runny ingredients like chocolate syrup, include them here as they will affect the drink’s thickness. Add more ice cream or milk a small amount at a time, pulsing between additions, until the desired texture is achieved. You can incorporate solids like cookie bits, chocolate pieces, or brownie chunks now, pulsing really briefly to just distribute them. You can stir them in, too.

– Pour your shake into the prepared glass and drink immediately.

– To make a multi-color, multi-layered drink all you need is a little patience and a clear, flat space in your freezer. If there’s room for a baking sheet or a cutting board in there, great!  You can cut down on prep time by purchasing a few different flavors of fruit sorbets, softening them a bit, and pulsing them with a splash of water until pourable. You can also purée frozen fruits of your choice in blender to make your own smoothie bases – think cherries, raspberries, mangos, and pineapple bits. Feel free to add fruit juices and even banana slices or yogurt (if you don’t mind a creamier look) to your blends.

– Start with ½ cup of one flavor and 2 tablespoons water, blend, and pour into a glass. You might need to decrease or increase the amount depending on the volume capacity of your glass and how thick you want your layers to be. Place the glass in the freezer and allow this first layer to set; the goal is to have it be firm enough that it won’t get all mixed up with the next flavor when you pour it in. Repeat the blending, pouring, and freezing steps until your glass is full and ready to drink.

– Don’t make this too far in advance because liquids expand when they freeze and the last thing you want is for your glass to shatter!

– To decorate the interiors and rims of your glasses: For the swirly looking pink splatter, you’ll need a chilled glass and a few tablespoons of homemade fruit syrup, chocolate or caramel syrups, or a diluted berry jam. Tilt the chilled glass, add a spoonful of the syrup, and swirl to coat the interior. Return the glass to the freezer for 15 minutes to set your design.

– For sprinkles in the interior or the rim of a glass, use a clean pastry brush (don’t use the same one you use for basting your BBQ ribs on the grill!) to coat the glass with corn syrup or very light honey. If you’re feeling extra crafty, use a thinner, flat-headed paint brush to create a pattern like a swirl inside the glass. Add sprinkles of your choice, cover the glass, and shake to distribute. Pour out the excess sprinkles and save for topping the shake or for another use. Chill the glass in the freezer for 15 minutes to set before pouring in your shake.

Note: Depending on the color and type of the sprinkles, the design is likely to streak and blend into the drink as it sets.

Happy sipping!

To be fair, our New York City winters are relatively mild, but the overall slate gray hue of the sky drags spirits down, no matter what the temperature. We are just beginning to spy cotton candy blossoms on trees and the clouds popping against a more emphatic blue. With that in mind, we turned to more vivid palettes in these special treats that are ridiculously easy to make and ideal to serve during Easter or at birthday celebrations for young and old.

EASY AS PIE DOUGHNUTS

Makes 8 small doughnuts or 10 large doughnuts *See notes at end of post

1 roll biscuits
8 cups vegetable oil

– Line a large plate or baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels.

– Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat until temperature registers 350°F on a candy or deep-fry thermometer — or just keep an eye on it and wait for the surface to shimmer. (Oil should be 1- to 1 ½ inches deep).

– Add half of the doughnuts and half of the doughnut holes and fry until the bottoms turn golden brown, 1 to 1 ½ minutes small doughnuts and 2 to 2 ½ minutes for large doughnuts. Using chopsticks or tongs, turn the doughnuts and holes and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer them to the prepared plate. See below for topping ideas!

FOR THE TOPPINGS

2 tubs store-bought vanilla icing
Food coloring of your choice
Sprinkles, gummy candies, or crushed cookies of your choice

– Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Transfer the icing to a medium microwave-save bowl. Heat the icing for 30 seconds, stir, and heat in 15 second increments until it is runny. Stir in food coloring of your choice. Dip the doughnuts in (you should dip the doughnut about half-way) and place, icing side-up, on the cooling rack. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and top with sprinkles. You can, of course, pour small amounts of icing into multiple bowls and add different food colors to each one for a more colorful array of doughnuts. You can also try the Plain Jane Glaze below for simpler doughnuts. We also like to make to toss them in granulated sugar and cinnamon for a quick breakfast or dinner party dessert.

 

PLAIN JANE GLAZE

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

– Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in medium bowl. Whisk in melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately. 

 

Notes: We use Pillsbury® biscuits for this recipe:

One roll of “Buttermilk” biscuits yields ten small (about 2 1/2-inch inches in diameter) doughnuts and ten tiny doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1/2-inch round cutter to punch out the holes (you can also use a bottle cap!).

One roll of “Grands Homestyle Buttermilk” biscuits yields 8 large (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter) doughnuts and eight doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1-inch round cutter to punch out the holes.

 

Dessert

Peaches and other produce are available year round at many of our grocery stores. Sure, they may be in season in other parts of the world and shipped here so we can have asparagus even in the dead of winter, but as much as possible, we should buy produce that’s ripe and ready to eat in our own latitude and longitude. Better yet, if you can skip the impersonal chill of the supermarket and opt for a leisurely stroll through a local fruit farm, do it and take in the colors and smells of summer produce. The peaches featured here are from Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, one of Tara’s frequent pit stops in the North Fork of Long Island.

Fresh fruit is one of our favorite ingredients to start summer desserts because it requires very little preparation and needs only minimal coaxing to release its juices. For these peach shortcakes, slices of ripe yellow peaches are sprinkled with coarse sugar and lemon juice. This combination macerates the fruit, creating a light, natural syrup with a balancing tartness.

You can pile the peaches onto shortcakes and slather them with vanilla-flavored whipped cream or add a generous spoonful of homemade bourbon and ginger peach jam. The recipe for the jam follows—one of Tara’s go to-s every summer when farmer’s market and fruit stand purchases are delicious freshly picked and promise to be just as good months down the road.

About the shortcakes: I’m obsessed with biscuits and scones and have been baking them since I was little. I have my preferences for how to fold in butter and how to arrange them on the baking sheet, and by now I think they’re easy to make. But, I know that even these quick breads can be daunting for non-bakers, and also, that they can be made even quicker! This recipe cheats with self-raising  flour and instead of carefully cut up chilled butter, whipped cream. Sugar and (optional) orange zest are also in the mix, and just like that, dessert is ready.

EASIER THAN EVER BISCUITS

Makes 6

*If you don’t have self-raising flour, substitute it with 2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder + 1 teaspoon salt

2 cups self-raising flour*, plus additional for work surface
2 tablespoons coarse granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and orange zest. In a second bowl (chilled if possible), whisk the cream until it holds soft peaks. With a rubber spatula, stir the cream into the flour mixture.

– Lightly dust a clean and dry work surface with flour and turn the dough out. Gather the dough together and knead it just until it comes together, 3 to 5 times. Press the dough into a ¾-inch thick disk and punch out the biscuits with a 2.4-inch cutter (you can use a glass of similar size). You may have to shape the last biscuit from the leftover scraps of dough.

– Arrange the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Transfer tray to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

 

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt

–  Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl (chilled if possible – it helps in holding the peaks) until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until needed, up to 6 hours. If it wilts a bit, re-whisk before serving.

 

FOR THE PEACHES

6 to 8 ripe peaches, sliced
Coarse granulated sugar to taste
Lemon juice

– Toss the peach slices with 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a medium bowl. Taste and add more sugar and lemon juice until you like it.

 

FOR THE BOURBON AND GINGER PEACH JAM

Recipe adapted from The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss

Makes about 4 half pint jars

3 pounds peeled and cored peaches
2 – 3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-½ teaspoon dry ginger
1-2 tablespoons Bourbon

– Toss the fruit and 2 cups of sugar in a large bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

– Add the fruit and all of the juices to a large nonreactive pan. Bring the jam to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. When the fruit has softened, add the lemon juice and ginger.

– You can break the fruit down more at this point with a potato masher if you prefer a smoother texture for your jam. This is also a great time to taste the jam. You can add more sugar if you feel it’s needed, up to 1 cup.

– Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the jam is glossy, a bit darker, and thickened. When it reaches 220°F (at sea level) it’s done. It should sheet off the spoon.

– Reduce the heat to low and add 1 tablespoon of bourbon. Stir well and taste. Add additional bourbon if desired.

– Ladle the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving ¼ headspace. Remove any air bubbles and wipe the jar rims down. You can use a chopstick to help remove the bubbles by running it along the inside of the jar. Place the lids on the jars according to the manufacturer’s directions.

– Process the jam in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. (Use the water bath canning method, processing for 10 minutes. This is a great resource http://www.nwedible.com)

– Once the jars have cooled fully, check to make sure they have sealed. If any have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and use within a month.

– Sealed jars should be labeled and stored in a cool dark place. They’ll be good for about a year.

*A great link for a complete how to on hot water bath canning: http://foodinjars.com/2013/07/new-to-canning-start-here-boiling-water-bath-canning/