I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.
Clotted cream. Is there anything more quintessentially British-sounding than clotted cream? You never hear of it being eaten anywhere but with scones at tea time, and it sounds sinfully rich and somehow snooty at the same time. I had it for the very first time at a tea party, where it came out of a tiny jar (which did nothing to change my idea that it was a rare luxury), and blew my tastebuds away.
Seriously, this stuff is like a cross between butter and whipped cream. Rich enough that fills your mouth with decadence, but light enough that it’s not like you’re eating a mouthful of fat. You can pile it onto a scone in a way you could never do with butter, but it’s got more heft than whipped cream so it doesn’t just melt away on your tongue. It is also NOT SWEET, so anyone who claims that sweetened whipped cream is “basically the same” is lying…
I could sing its praises all day, but instead let’s make some!
This is a story about a delicious butterscotch sauce– but in order to fully appreciate it, you need some background on the culinary exploits leading up to it…
Our story began when I came into work this week to find a large bag of peaches on the counter, up for grabs. Unfortunately these were not exactly prime peaches– they were a bit mushy, some were bruised, and they were clearly on the verge of being good only for jam (not that jam is a bad thing). I informed the office that if there were any left at the end of the day I would take them home and make something delicious out of them, and apparently people took my words to heart, because I ended up with almost the entire bag!
I decided to make a cobbler, figuring that it would easily feed a crowd, but was somewhat stymied to realize upon cutting into the peaches that they were white peaches, rather than yellow as I’d assumed. White peaches are much milder and sweeter than their yellow cousins, and I’d never actually baked with them before, usually preferring to eat them straight out of hand. Since this was definitely not an option with these particular peaches, I decided that I’d add lemon juice and go light on the sugar, and hope for the best.
As I expect will happen often this summer, last weekend I found myself with a barbecue to attend and no ideas as to what dessert to bring. And as I often do, I turned to Smitten Kitchen for inspiration. This time it was an icebox cake– but not just any icebox cake, a cheesecake-inspired, graham-layered, strawberry-studded icebox cake.
I was tempted to take a shortcut and use storebought graham crackers rather than making my own round cracker layers, but in the end I went with the recipe as written, and was really glad I did. The dough rolled out incredibly easily, and baked up into the most deliciously crisp, flavorful cookie ever– I found myself nibbling away at the scraps all afternoon.
The filling was simple and tasty– the cream cheese and lemon zest worked together nicely to make a tangy, creamy counterpoint to the sweet graham layers, and when I dipped some extra strawberry pieces into it and added a cookie scrap to the mix, the combination was fantastic.
The other day, my husband (by way of gloating) mentioned an amazing treat he’d had at a lunch out that he had– so sad– failed to save any of for me. It was apparently a fresh croissant, split and filled with Nutella and chocolate pastry cream. He gleefully described how he’d tried to save half, but then couldn’t resist eating just one more bite, and then another, and then another… until it was gone. I think he enjoys torturing me like this.
Not one to admit defeat, I promptly decided that I would make my own– so there! Croissants, of course, are easy to come by, and our pantry always has Nutella in it, but pastry cream isn’t something I generally just whip up. It’s so fussy, what with using only egg yolks, whisking constantly, etc., that I rarely make it.
Then it occurred to me that I had already solved this problem with regard to lemon curd– and my whole-egg microwaved lemon curd recipe is one of my favorites. Why not try the same thing with pastry cream? I found a basic whole-egg recipe online and used the same technique I’d applied to the lemon curd (though going to a higher heat due to ingredients), stirring in melted semisweet chocolate at the end. And what do you know? It was reasonably good. The texture was just a bit grainy– I think I overcooked the eggs just a tiny bit– and it wasn’t quite as rich as I’d hoped. Next time I might add an extra yolk to the eggs, or use half-and-half instead of milk. Or I guess I could just cook it on the stovetop where I’d have more control over the heat distribution.
But in any case, it’s a perfectly serviceable chocolate pastry cream if you’re short on time and want to make a point about sharing desserts. 😉
Did you know that heavy cream lasts basically forever in the refrigerator? I know there’s an expiration date on there, but in my experience it almost never actually goes bad– rather, it just thickens up. And if you’re like me and accidentally leave a pint of cream in the back of the fridge for *way* too long, it keeps thickening and basically turns into clotted cream. Really. It does. At least, that’s what I discovered last night when I got out the cream to make Penne with Vodka Sauce and found lush billows of thick, decadent cream instead of my expected liquid.
I promise I’ll do a post on how to make clotted cream intentionally at some point, but for now let’s stick to the story of what I did with the unexpected bounty in my refrigerator. What goes best with clotted cream? Scones, of course.
Since my husband is a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, I always try to make him a peanut butter and chocolate cake for his birthday. So when I saw this one on Smitten Kitchen, especially once I realized it used my favorite chocolate cookie recipe as a base, I had to make it.
I really followed Deb’s recipe almost exactly (I increased the peanut butter cream recipe to use a whole pint of cream instead of 1 1/2 cups), so I’m not going to bother reproducing it here– just follow this link! But here are some photos of the process so you can see how it works!
The finished cake is wonderful– light and creamy, yet still rich and decadent. And there’s something particularly indulgent about sliding your fork down through each distinct layer and feeling just the slightest resistance before the softened wafers give way, one by one. The peanut butter works nicely with the dark chocolate, though I still think this would be amazing using whipped cream spiked with Kahlua. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.