Cherry Clafoutis (meh)

Cherries are in season! They’re one of my favorite fruits, but sadly we have discovered that my daughter has an allergy to raw stone fruit– pretty common, apparently– so I feel bad eating them in front of her. I decided to try using them in a baked recipe, and since no one else in my family seems to like pie, I tried my hand at clafoutis.

Cherry clafoutis is a classic french dessert– basically an eggy pancake batter poured over cherries and baked. Traditionally the cherries are unpitted, supposedly because the pits will infuse an almond flavor into the dessert. While I’m doubtful about this rationale, I gave it a shot (and added almond extract in case it didn’t work).

The finished dessert was tasty, with a nice almond flavor that worked well with the cherries, but I couldn’t really get behind the texture– it was kind of a cross between creamy and rubbery, and not my favorite. I do wonder if it would have been better when fresh out of the oven– I let it cool completely to make it easier to slice, but that may have been an error. It’s definitely better warm than at room temperature, and like I said the flavor was good, but I think in the future I’ll just eat the cherries plain and hide them from the kid.

That being said, I’m glad I tried it, if only to say that I did! Maybe you’ll have better luck!

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Fruitcake Mooncakes

Growing up, a staple of my family’s holiday season was a fruitcake from the Collins Street Bakery. At the time, my mother was the only one who really liked it– for some reason the combination of sticky candied fruit and masses of pecans just didn’t do it for the rest of us– but as an adult I’ve actually grown to enjoy it. We don’t buy them anymore (they’ve gotten so expensive, particularly with shipping), but this past Christmas, inspired by a fruit-and-nut-heavy mooncake recipe, I decided to make a reasonable approximation in individually-sized servings.

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Cherry-Bourbon-Chocolate Ice Cream

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It’s summer, which means that it’s time to make ice cream! I haven’t made ice cream in ages, but I had my annual Ice Cream Social coming up, which meant I needed to get going again!

The first recipe that really caught my eye this season was Alton Brown’s Serious Vanilla Ice Cream. What intrigued me was the addition of peach preserves to the mix, which supposedly don’t affect the vanilla flavor but instead add a unique texture to the ice cream. I was eager to give it a try myself, but was mindful of the fact that plain vanilla wouldn’t necessarily tempt my guests when compared with the more exotic flavors that were sure to be on hand. So I gave the matter some thought and settled on the addition of bourbon-soaked cherries. And then chocolate, because why not?

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Reader’s Digest(ibles): Pink Molded Salad for Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

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When I was a little girl I greatly enjoyed reading the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, which featured chapter after chapter of misbehaving children and their hapless mothers who turned to good old Mrs. Piggle Wiggle for help. The cures ranged from “let the kids stay up late as long as they want until they’re too tired to do anything fun, so they’ll stop complaining about bedtime,” to “I’ll let you borrow my pig with lovely table manners to act as a model/shame your child into eating politely,” to “here are some magic pills that will turn your child invisible whenever he’s showing off.” The books were hopelessly dated even back when I read them– they all involved happy housewives and mostly absent husbands, and everyone wore gloves and attended luncheons and ate ridiculous 1950’s food. Which is what brings me to this, um… masterpiece.

Because really, the 1950’s produced some seriously awful stuff, and while I think that the foods mentioned in the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books were deliberately exaggerated (prune, noodle, and sardine surprise, anyone?), this one was just too bizarre-yet-plausible to pass up.

The table was decorated with pink tulips, a pink tablecloth, pink candles, pink napkins, and pink nut dishes. The main course was a maraschino cherry, walnut, marshmallow, pineapple, strawberry, cream cheese and cabbage molded salad, accompanied by pink biscuits. There were also pink mints and pink gumdrops. And luckiest of all, Mrs. Harroway just happened to be dressed entirely in pink with even pink gloves and pink roses on her hat. All through lunch she was so happy and gay everybody said, “You look adorable, Helen dear, I wish I’d worn pink.”

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Chocolate Cherry “Cream” Pie

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(Don’t let the quotation marks in “cream” pie scare you– I promise that this recipe is creamy, rich, and delicious, despite being dairy-free!)

Did you know, before I heard of this recipe I’d never made a chocolate cream pie before? It wasn’t that I didn’t like the idea– I love chocolate and I love creamy, pudding-y desserts– but I just never got around to making one. I think it was partially because the recipes I saw fell into one of two camps– overly complicated, involving separating eggs and slaving over a hot stove to make custard; or extremely processed, relying on instant pudding and Cool Whip. Not that I have anything against instant pudding or Cool Whip– both are staples of my quick dessert repertoire– but “chocolate cream pie” seemed to call for something a bit more involved to live up to the decadence of its name.

Anyway, that all flew out the window when I heard of a chocolate cream pie recipe that called for only a few ingredients, one of which seemed so preposterous I had to try it. I’m always a sucker for a “secret ingredient,” and this was too good to pass up. What was it?

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Chocolate Cherry Mooncakes

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I love my mini mooncake molds. Seriously love them. They’re probably my favorite decorative kitchen gadget, beating out the letter stamps for shortbread, the nori punch that makes tiny faces to put on food, and all the cookie cutters. Lately I’ve been using them to cover petit fours in molded fondant, but before that I actually used them to make mooncakes, and I’ll be doing a variation on that in this post. After all, the Autumn Moon Festival is coming up, so everyone else is making mooncakes too, right? Right???

Anyway, I never much liked traditional mooncake filling– bean paste, nuts, salted egg yolks– so I spent some time trying to figure out what to use instead. It had to be firm and hold its shape while baking, so cake batter and most cookie doughs were right out. Same with fresh fruit and any creamy centers. Finally, I hit upon the idea of using cake pops– not the kind you bake into shape, but the original kind, where you mix crumbled cake with something liquid or gooey and form it into a ball. I figured the moisture from the liquid would prevent overbaking, and the structure of the cake would hold its shape well enough to keep the molded outside from collapsing or exploding.

And what do you know, it worked! Since then I’ve made a few different types, my favorite being yellow cake and cream cheese with candied pineapple, coconut, and maraschino cherries, all wrapped up in a shortbread crust. However, for this version I wanted to try something different– chocolate. Chocolate crust, chocolate filling, chocolate EVERYTHING. I decided to use my small (35g) round mold to make these as bonbon-like as possible.

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Faux Fried Ice Cream Cake

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At the outset, I feel compelled to note that everything but the cake in this Faux Fried Ice Cream Cake is “faux”– there’s no real frying (sauteeing at the most), and there’s no ice cream. But there is cake, and it’s a decadent, delicious cake at that, I promise. It’s inspired by an actual ice cream cake from Sprinkle Bakes, one of my favorite baking blogs.

I was first introduced to fried ice cream as a teenager when I went to a Mexican restaurant with my high school Spanish Club. It was, of course, ice cream that had been rolled in a crumb coating and deep-fried just until the outside got crunchy, leaving the inside frozen. Really tasty (what’s not to like?), but a lot of trouble to make without a deep-freezer and a fryer.

However, if you take crushed cornflakes and sauté them in a little butter and brown sugar, they take on an amazing caramelly-buttery flavor that’s reminiscent of the fried ice cream coating from days of yore. It’s incredible served over actual ice cream, but since ice cream desserts don’t travel well I decided to incorporate it into a 9×13″ cake, perfect for those end-of-summer barbecues where you won’t necessarily have a freezer handy.

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