Monday, September 24, 2012

Transition to Fall

Salted Caramel Pecan Crunch Ice Cream

Yes, I know the summer is over and it's now fall but you wouldn't know it in Southern California.  It is still warm enough to have an excuse to make ice cream!  Salted caramel has become popular but it also is considered a fall flavor.  Salted caramel ice cream?  Now that's a California kind of fall.

This ice cream hits all notes with the sweetness of the caramel and a touch of fleur de sel.  The perfect crunchiness of the candied pecans add the right amount of texture.  Serve it in a homemade ice cream cone and you just can't get enough.

Therapeutic topic of the week:
Can TV make you fat?  It obvious that if you're sitting around all day watching television that you're not getting exercise and using energy.  But did you ever think that certain commercials make you eat unconsciously?   John Bargh, an expert in priming behaviors recently studied the effects of junk food commercials.   One study observed the effects of children watching a cartoon and adults watching a comedy.  They either saw commercials with junk food or non-food products.  The adults rated various foods after watching the show while the children had various snack foods available to eat while they watched.

The results showed that both children and adults ate more if they watched the junk food commercials.  Fascinatingly, they did not eat the food advertised in the commercial!  The advertisements primed eating, not necessarily what food was being advertised.  When the adults asked why they were eating, they simply report it was because they were hungry.  They didn't know that they had just been primed to eat.  The scary part is people were eating without knowing that the advertisements were causing them to eat.  Yikes!

So what does this mean?  Turn off your TV!  Or at least record it so you can forward the commercials.

Salted Caramel Pecan Crunch Ice Cream Recipe

Ice cream custard:
2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ cups cane sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pecan praline:
1 egg white
1 Tbsp water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz pecans - about 2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.) Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn.

Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup of the milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Make the pecans.   Preheat oven to 300°F. Put sugar, cinnamon, salt, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg in a plastic bag, shake to mix. Put egg, water, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat until slightly foamy, add pecans and coat well. Lift pecans out of bowl with a slotted spoon and put into the bag of sugar and spices. Shake pecans in bag making sure they are well coated.  Bake 30 minutes on a baking pan lined with silpat or lightly greased aluminum foil. 15 minutes into the baking, stir up the pecans with a fork. Let cool completely.

While the ice cream is churning, chop pecans into small pieces.  Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the pecans, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Ice cream slightly adapted from David Lebovitz
Pecan praline from Simply Recipes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clouds of Pomegranate

Pomegranate Meringue Rose Tart

A Middle Eastern inspired tart begins with a buttery pistachio crust and is filled with a orange and rose scented chocolate ganache.  The entire tart is covered in a light pomegranate meringue which you have the option to brown with a blow torch for a beautiful presentation.

Theraputic topic for the week:
Ever wonder why we love to eat?  More specifically why do fatty foods taste so good?  That creamy, smooth chocolate or the buttery, flaky crust.  It almost seems like our tongues know this is supposed to taste good.  We all know of  our ability to taste sour, salty, sweet, bitter and, rather recently, umami (which is the taste produce by the additive MSG).  But can our tongues taste fat? A recent study published in the Journal of Lipid Research by Pepino et al., claims that humans, and other animals, exhibit a protein on their tongue that can sense the presence of fat.  This would help explain why some people are more aware of fat in their food than others.  Perhaps even why we crave fatty foods and why fat tastes so darn good.

Pomegranate Meringue Rose Tart Recipe

For the crust:
3/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup cold water

For the ganache:
12 oz. high-quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 tsp. rose water

For the meringue:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
4 egg whites
20 drops red food coloring

1. Make the crust: Combine pistachios and sugar in food processor and process until finely chopped. Add flour and process to combine. Add butter and pulse until no large chunks remain. Add egg yolk and water and mix just until combined. Transfer to counter and knead into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. On a floured counter, roll dough to 1/8" thick. Line a 9" tart pan with dough. Prick with fork over the bottom and refrigerate for 1 hour. Heat oven to 375°. Bake for 20 minutes and then let cool to room temperature.

2. Make the Ganache: Place chocolate in a medium bowl and set a fine strainer over bowl. Heat juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and pour through strainer into bowl with chocolate; let sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir rose water into mixture until smooth. Pour ganache into cooled crust and let cool completely.

3. Make the meringue: Place the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and place on a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer bowl to a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks.  Add cornstarch and cream of tartar.  Slowly stream in molasses and add enough red food coloring to make it pink. Continue beating until glossy, stiff peaks form. Immediately pipe or cover the pie with the meringue. Chill until meringue is firm.

Optional:  Use a blowtorch or the broiler to brown the meringue.

Slightly adapted from Saveur Magazine

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