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Soft Ginger Cookies

November 26, 2011

Perhaps it is illogical to bake the day after Thanksgiving.  Perhaps I should be following up a long run in the rain with salad and a nap.  But on the other hand, it may be best to let oneself down easy after a big feast.  No use going cold turkey (pun intended) on the rich food when the air is cool, and everyone is still lounging around the house enjoying the long weekend.  Why not break out the butter that did not make its way in the mashed potatoes make up some delicious treats?  When you really think about it, cookies seem to be an appropriate coda to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Soft Ginger Cookies are tender, buttery, intensely ginger flavored treats.  Roll the chilled dough in balls and then spin through a dish of sugar to give each cookie a sparkly look.  Slices of candied ginger add a decorative touch, as well a strong gingery spice.

This recipe makes a generous number of cookies, which provides a good excuse to drop in on your neighbors and friends.  You can also form the cookies and  freeze them to bake up later.

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Perfect Peach Cake

July 17, 2011

It is hard to beat a fresh summer peach.  At their peak, taking a bite of a perfectly ripe juicy peach is a transcendent experience.  I find that farmers’ markets are the best place to buy peaches.  The smaller farmers are much more likely to have a sense of the true maturity of the fruit they grow and allow it to fully develop.  They also often give samples so you can judge for yourself the quality of the fruit.  It was with these magical fruits in mind that I set out to make Perfect Peach Cake.

This recipe is slightly adapted from one in the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Once I saw it, I could not get it out of my mind.  I began searching for a reason to make it, which luckily was not too difficult.  The recipe involves some unusual steps such as roasting half of the peaches before adding them to the batter and sprinkling them with panko to absorb the excess juices that threaten to make a soggy cake.

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Raspberry Lime Popsicles

July 11, 2011

Nothing beats a great popsicle on a steaming hot summer day. Unfortunately, most of the popsicles sold in stores may be cold, but they are full of chemistry kit ingredients.  It is hard to find a popsicle made of the real fruit whose taste they claim to bear.  Luckily it is very easy to make your own.  Popsicles molds make this easier, but they are not essential.  You can make popsicles in small yogurt cups, ice-cube trays, or even small mason jars as Local Kitchen did recently.

Raspberry Lime Popsicles are loaded with raspberries and just enough sugar to bring out their flavor, without being overly sweet. The lime zest and juice adds a bright tang. Mmmm. Oh, and the color.  The color is so vibrant and real.    Simply whirl up the ingredients, strain out the seeds, and you are ready pour this raspberry goodness into a mold.

When the popsicles are solid, slip them from the mold for a truly refreshing treat. If you are serving them to kids, you may want to make this an outdoor dessert or at least have a wet rag on hand.  We had some very red faces at our house after the kiddos eagerly chomped these down. This is a dessert that grownups and kids alike will love. They are very, very good.

Update: Here is another popsicle recipe that has won over our hearts and appetites!  Red, White, and Blue Popsicles

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Three Berry Jam

July 6, 2011

My family and I just returned from a delightful escape from reality in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Without the modern distractions of cars, phones, and computers, our days were peacefully filled with banana slug hunts, star gazing,  and swimming until we pruned.  It was a much needed pause in an otherwise busy life, a centering of sorts.  But alas, there are other responsibilities to which we must tend.  Some are grudgingly attended- bill paying, laundry folding, car repairing. Other responsibilities are the important rituals of life that help to make meaning and define some of the rhythms of our family life.  At the top of the list during this time of year is preserving the glorious bounty of summer.

Berry season is short, so we rely on the craft of jam making to preserve these flavors for the dark days.  On our way home, we stopped into Gizdich Ranch and picked up a flat each of raspberries and ollalie berries. I combined these two berries with some strawberries I froze last month to create a mixed berry jam.

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Our ice cream maker does not get much attention in the winter.  It sits lonely in the pantry, waiting to be remembered.  It is not that ice cream is not just as good in the wintertime, but I seem to be busy making other desserts and rarely break it out.  So the other day when our first hot days  coincided with my son’s case of strep throat, I knew it was time to make some ice cream.

The process of making homemade ice cream is simple.  Cream, milk, sugar and eggs cook into a custard.  The custard cools and then is poured into the ice cream maker to freeze.  The difficult part is making an ice cream that does not have an icy taste.  For a long time my go-to recipe was from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It is a great recipe and as usual his descriptions of the process and what can go wrong are extremely helpful.  After reading a glowing review on food52 though, I decided to try a new recipe this time.  I was not disappointed.

This Vanilla Ice Cream is rich and smooth with beautiful bits of vanilla seeds flecked throughout.  It did not have the iciness that plagues so many homemade ice creams.  Do not be tempted to reduce the fat here.  Yes, this is a rich treat, but really you only need a small scoop.  Enjoy yourself in moderation.  If you really can not find a vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but it will not be as good.  If you are new to vanilla beans and have questions about how to scrape the seeds, check out Marissa’s great video on Food in Jars.

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