Friday, May 29, 2015

homemade ice cream cake.

One of the most notable birthday cakes I ever had was the BEHEMOTH of an ice cream cake my Mom made me for one of my teenage birthdays.  This cake was a triple layer monstrosity that I dream about almost every year (it was also so big that I am pretty sure we ate it for about a year).  There was ice cream, and actual cake and I vaguely remember some kind of almond toffee deliciousness between each of the layers.   It was the kind of birthday cake that begs to be the centerpiece at a party.   

As I find myself creeping towards 30 at an even quicker pace than I ever imagined possible, I've started to think about what a birthday celebration means to me and how I wish to celebrate my own milestone.  I told Tyler I didn't want a present - that I wanted him to plan something - to take me away for a weekend or a night.  I realize now, on the cusp of 30, that having the person I love plan something for me and having an adventure with him is more important than any physical object he could ever give to me (this sentiment may not hold true forever...).   It takes being almost 30 to finally realize that.  This isn't to say I'm not buying myself something to celebrate - I couldn't imagine celebrating such a milestone and not commemorating it with something I've wanted for a while. But I'm happy to be buying it for myself - I feel like it says I've made it even if I don't always feel as if I've made it.

So my birthday will be a leisurely walk with the boy, a couple of beers, a really good burger, and of course a cake.  Preferably multiple cakes because if there is anything I love in this world its cake. Ideally ice cream cake and regular cake and while I would love the original ice cream cake made by the mama, I will happily take this substitute because this is an ode to the Carvel ice cream cake that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) loves. But, this one is better - oh so much better.  A brownie base is topped with homemade fudge and an extra generous layer of cookie crumbs. There are two types of ice cream and more fudge and cookie crumbs.  It's a cake made for celebrating and sharing with friends and feeling like a little kid again.   

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

So many notes!

-The length of this recipe makes it look absurdly difficult.  Do not be deterred, this is WAY easier than it looks.  I promise.

-I made a 6 inch cake because a 9 inch cake would be WAY too much for to have in the freezer when it's     usually just the 2 of us around (and I have yet to figure out how to transport ice cream cake on a subway and a mile long walk to work without melting).  You can halve the below to make a 6 inch cake.  

-Splurge on good ice cream.  If you are making everything else homemade the ice cream should be the good stuff (or make your own if you are fortunate enough to own an ice cream maker).  I got ours from Ample Hills in Brooklyn - there ice cream is absurdly good.  I went with a vanilla and a peppermint ice cream since I liked the idea of mint with the fudge and brownie.  An excellent choice I might add.   

-You will have extra fudge and cookie crumbs.  This is not a bad thing.  If you think this is a bad thing, I'm not sure we can be friends.

-This cake is epic.  Enough said.     

Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Cake

4 pints of ice cream (2 pints of each flavor)
Brownie Base (recipe below)
Fudge (recipe below)
Cookie Crumbs (recipe below)

Remove the 2 pints (or 1 quart) of ice cream for layer one of the cake and the brownie (in the cake pan) from the freezer about 15 minutes before you are ready to assemble.  Remove the fudge from the fridge (if it was being stored there).   

Cover the brownie with a thin layer of fudge (microwave the fudge for a few seconds if you need to get it to spreadable consistency) and spread with an offset spatula to ensure all edges are covered with fudge.  Sprinkle a generous layer of cookie crumbs over the fudge and ever so slightly press the crumbs into the fudge with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Return the cake pan to the freezer until the ice cream is softened and ready for spreading.

When the ice cream is at a softened state, remove the cake pan from the freezer and dump the ice cream over the brownie/fudge/crumb base.  Carefully spread the ice cream over the brownie layer.  Don't spread too firmly or the cookie crumbs can shift under the ice cream.  Return the cake pan to the freezer until the ice cream layer is firm, about an hour.   

When ice cream layer one is firm, remove the other 2 pints of ice cream from the freezer and set aside.   Pour some fudge over the ice cream and spread to create an even layer of fudge.  Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the fudge to the edges of the cake.  Sprinkle a generous layer of cookie crumbs over the fudge and once again, ever so slightly press the crumbs into the fudge with the offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Return the cake to the freezer until you are ready to create the second ice cream layer.  

When the pints of ice cream are properly softened, remove the cake pan from the freezer and dump the ice cream over the fudge/crumb base.  Carefully spread the ice cream evenly over the fudge/cookie crumbs.  Don't spread too firmly or else the cookie crumbs can shift under the ice cream.  Cover the top of the cake with another generous layer of cookie crumbs and gently press the crumbs into the ice cream with the back of a spoon.  Place the cake pan back into the freezer until the ice cream layer is firm, about an hour.   

Remove the cake from the freezer about 10 - 15 minutes before serving (this will make it easier to cut). Slice and serve the cake with additional fudge and extra cookie crumbs.   

Brownie Cake Base
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1.5 ounces (43 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup (43 grams) all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter one 9 inch spring-form cake pan with 2 3/4 - 3 inch tall sides or spray them with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until about 3/4 of the way melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar until fully combined, then the egg, and vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour, until it just disappears.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free. Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes (but can be left in the freezer for longer).

Hot Fudge Sauce
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 2 cups

2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup or golden syrup (honey should work as well, but I didn’t test it this time)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ideally Dutch-processed
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or level 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or, about 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips), divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 1 1/2 to 2-quart heavy saucepan, bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt (if you’d like the salt to remain slightly textured, add it with the butter and extract at the end) and half the chocolate to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate, butter and extract and stir until smooth. Cool the sauce to lukewarm (or place in the fridge) before assembling it so that it can thicken up.

Chocolate Cookies for Cookie Crumbs
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks), cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Blend flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter chunks and blend until the mixture is powdery. Add egg and run machine until dough starts to clump and ball, about 30 seconds. Scoop cookies out onto baking sheets, giving them space as they will spread a lot (not that merged cookies will matter once you grind them up). Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Cookies will absolutely look underbaked, but don’t fret. Transfer baking sheets onto cooling racks and within two minutes, they will be firm enough to transfer to cooling racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Grind about half of your cookies in a food processor or blender until they’re just crumbs. You will want a total of 2 3/4 cups of them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

kitchen dreams.

Leave me here until the day I die because this is everything.   

Image via Pinterest.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

vietnamese steak.

While Tyler and I continue to stare longingly at our neighbors backyard (which he never ever uses except to sit on his door step and smoke cigarettes), I continue to dream up ways that make us feel as if we are eating al-fresco even if all we are really doing is sitting in our kitchen. This means relying heavily on my cast-iron skillet which is the closest thing I have to a grill.

A good well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is the work-horse of the kitchen.  I cook hamburgers and asparagus in it and have made many cakes and cornbreads it as well.  It works brilliantly in many applications but when it comes to searing steaks, that's where it really shines.   It gives the steak a perfectly crusty exterior and that crusty exterior is what makes a steak worth eating.  

This Vietnamese version is absurdly perfect as we head into summer. It's tart and a little spicy and it manages to work with just about any vegetable you pair it with - lettuce (for hand-held wraps) radishes, shaved asparagus, the list goes on. It's also just as happy with rice as it is with noodles which means you can make it and then choose your own dinner adventure which is my favorite kind of dinner.  

Vietnamese Steak with Cucumber Salad
Recipe from the NYTimes

My reading skills are apparently lacking as I dumped all of the marinade over the steak.  Only after re-reading the instructions did I realize my mistake.  I couldn't bring myself to let the marinade go to waste, so when the steak was done marinating I dumped the marinade in a pot and boiled it for about 60 seconds.  I actually think the mistake was to my benefit as the marinade thickened up ever so slightly which helped to coat the steak and the rice.   The choice is yours.  

Serves 4 -6

½ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon packed lime zest
⅓ cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, minced (or 1 tablespoon of Sriracha)
1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 small seedless English cucumber, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
1 large bunch of radishes, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vegetable, peanut or olive oil (optional)
Cooked rice noodles or rice, for serving (optional)
Sesame seeds or crushed roasted peanuts, for serving (optional)
Fresh mint leaves or cilantro, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic and jalapeño. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the flank steak and let marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Let meat come to room temperature before cooking if necessary. 

Combine the cucumber, radishes and scallions. Pour in just enough of the marinade sauce to coat.
Light the grill or heat the broiler to high. Pat steak dry with paper towels.

If grilling, cook until done to taste, about 3 minutes per side for rare. If broiling, heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Add oil to pan and sear the meat for 2 minutes. Flip meat and immediately transfer pan directly to top shelf of oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes for rare, or longer for more well-done meat. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes covered in foil.

Thinly slice steak and serve over cooked rice noodles or rice if desired, and top with the cucumber salad. Garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts and plenty of herbs if using and serve with remaining marinade as a sauce.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

hummus with white miso.

This past weekend, in between the hours of driving Tyler and I did through New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Pennsylvania, we stopped for dinner in Philadelphia at High Street on Market (home of the greatest potato bread that has ever existed).   While I did not get to bring home a new loaf of potato bread (let's not talk about it), I did get to stuff my face with an incredible spring hummus that reminded me of how much I love hummus and variations of hummus and basically any and all chickpea dips.   

I wasn't seeking to unearth a new favorite hummus dip, but with Memorial Day right around the corner, I've had mezze on the brain. Summer eating means less meals and more of an "assortment of things that are in season and easy to make".  Extra points if they are portable, can be consumed via chips, bread, or pita, and pair well with an ice-cold white wine or a grapefruit beer.  

And this dip does all that and more.  The inclusion of miso is rather genius - it provides that salty-rich-umami bomb that I seem to crave all of the time (who knew miso and tahini were a match made in food heaven?).  It also pairs brilliantly with any kind of spring/summer salad (current version involves asparagus, beans, feta, and lemon) you can dream up which means it will be on heavy rotation all summer long.  

Hummus with White Miso
Recipe from the Seven Spoons Cookbook

Makes about 2 ½ cups (600 g)

1/4 cup (60 g) blanched almonds
2 cups (450 g) cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce/425 g) can
1/4 cup (60 g) well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup (60 g) white (shiro) miso
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Juice from 1/2 lemon, approximately 2 tablespoons, plus more as needed
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) ice water
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

Optional Toppings

Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Coriander seeds or cumin seeds, roasted and cracked
Ground sumac or za’atar
Toasted sesame seeds, white or black, or pine nuts
Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley and chives
Assorted sprouts (such as mung bean, broccoli, alfalfa)
Fried shallots

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds into a fine meal. Add the chickpeas and run the machine again, stopping and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the beans are crumbly and light. Pour in the tahini, miso, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. Blend again for 2 minutes or so, then scrape down the sides of the machine. Switch on the motor and start drizzling in enough water so that the hummus billows up, aerated and fluffy. Depending on the beans, you may not use all the water, or you might need more. Let the machine go for 2 to 3 minutes after the consistency seems right. Taste and check for seasoning. For a roasted accent, drip in some toasted sesame oil.

Let the hummus sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving, or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 days. Serve with the garnishes of your choosing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

our wedding.

When I hear Beyonce's "XO" I am at our wedding.  I am standing arm in arm with my father.  I am nervous (heart beating out of my chest kind of nervous) and I am watching my best friends get ready to walk down the aisle.  As they get ready to walk out they smile, they give me a thumb's up, they remind me to breathe, and they tell me I've got this.

That feeling of happiness, of being surrounded by a blanket of comfort and security, of being loved, will sit with me for the rest of my life. There is nothing I remember more vividly then the 2 minutes before I walked down the aisle.   I wouldn't trade anything for that.

After what felt in some ways like an eternity - in other ways like the blink of an eye - we got back our wedding pictures.  When I saw them for the first time I wept like a baby, seeing those once in a lifetime moments before me again is incredibly beautiful. Needless to say, I feel protective over the pictures - the visual reminders of that day. They show a glace, and a look, and the fact that I've never looked happier than I did on our wedding day. When word spread to the extended family that the pictures were in I found myself not willing to reveal the whole album. I liked the idea of having some remain a secret between Tyler and I - there were some moments that I couldn't imagine sharing with the world.

But there were plenty of moments that are beautiful and worth sharing.  Moments that remind me that hard work is worth it.  That the blood, sweat, money (hard earned money), and (many) tears that I/we invested in that day weren't for nothing, that baking 100 cookies the morning before your wedding isn't entirely crazy (just a little crazy) - so here is a glimpse at all of that on our 6 month anniversary.

I was (and still am in someways) apprehensive of sharing these images.  People judge, they critique, they can be mean, and I don't want people thinking mean things about something that is so deeply personal to me, to us. But Tyler and I worked hard to turn our big day into something people would remember and feel happy they were part of and I couldn't be more proud of the work that we did (and our awesome team of people did) - it was beautiful and romantic and very us.

So enjoy! And our wedding advice - Do your own thing whatever that thing may be.  Serve Fireball.  And dance. Dance a lot.  

The Team of Awesome who helped make this all possible...

-Photos by the incredibly talented (and fun!) Sarah and Daniel at Chellise Michael.  
-Flowers, overall look, and incredible day of coordinator was Paige at Gilded Lily Events.  
-The dress (which is really a bustier and 2 skirts because I had a dream I wore I tea-length tulle skirt at my wedding) is curtosey of the incredibly talented team at Carol Hannah Bridal.
-The venue is actually a photo/video studio called Parlay Studios in Downtown Jersey City.
-Catering was done by the team at Orange and Olive.    
-Napkins were designed by the Mama Bear. 
-Cake is Momofuku and One Girl Cookies.  
-Doughnuts are by Dough (the best).  
-Cookies were made with love by me and the Mama.  
-Cake topper by AdoraWools.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

naan bread

It's safe to say that even with the number of paleo, gluten-free, and all around bread-a-phobics in this world, that I am doing my part to ensure that bread consumption remains at an all time high. Because bread is good. Really freaking good. I don't need some fad diet to encourage me otherwise.  

The reason why I think so many people adopt a gluten free diet is because a lot of the bread in this world is bad (I will go as far as to say awful).  It lacks flavor and texture and all of the things that I deem necessary to make a slice worth eating.  The problem lies with the fact that people buy all of their bread at the supermarkets and such loaves are filled with things that do nothing for their taste but everything for their shelf life.  Even I would go gluten free if I was forced to eat only bread that came plastic wrapped from the supermarket.   

Homemade bread on the other hand, warm from the oven, is an incredibly beautiful thing. Homemade naan is even more beautiful with its charred outside and tender flaky inside.  I like naan for a number of reasons - it's excellent vehicle for wiping your plate clean (Clean Plate Club woo!) and it's incredibly adaptable.  Sure it's an awesome accouterments to saag paneer but it also makes for one incredibly flatbread base (with ground lamb, a dollop of yogurt and a shmear of harissa).  Bread that tastes good and is adaptable to any number of food situations is a good thing to have in your repertoire (especially because grilling season is upon us and grilled naan is insane).   

Naan Bread
Recipe via the NYTimes

1 envelope (2 ½ teaspoons) dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting and rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk (or buttermilk)
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more for the bowl
3 tablespoons ghee (Indian-style clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees). Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place 4 1/2 cups flour, the salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade or in mixer with a dough hook. Mix to blend. Add yeast mixture, milk, yogurt, egg, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes in a processor, 5 to 8 minutes in a mixer, 8 to 10 minutes by hand. Dough should be soft but not too sticky. Add flour as needed.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll them into balls, place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.

If using a tandoor, heat it to about 450 degrees. If using the oven, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack and heat oven to 450 degrees. If using a barbecue grill, set it up for direct grilling and heat to medium-high.

Roll out a dough ball on a lightly floured work surface into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Roll and stretch one end to make a teardrop shape. Brush off any excess flour. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using a tandoor, drape one piece of dough over the round cloth pillow called a gadhi. Press the bread onto the hot clay wall. Cook the naan until the top is puffed, blistered and browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a skewer, gently pry the bread off the tandoor wall, taking care not to scratch the clay. Brush the top of the bread with ghee or melted butter, then place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using an oven, turn on the broiler. Lay 1 or 2 pieces of dough on the pizza stone. Cook until the bottoms are browned and the tops blister, puff and are lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven, brush tops with ghee or melted butter, and place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using the grill, brush and oil the grate. Lightly brush top of dough with butter and place butter-side down on grate a few at a time (do not crowd the grate). Grill until the bottoms are browned and the tops start to puff and blister, 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush the tops with a little butter. Invert bread, and grill the other side until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cloth-lined basket, brushing tops of each with any remaining butter.