Easiest ever chocolate gelato recipe

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If you want a wowzer dessert for the holidays, you've found one here. It's homemade! It's super chocolately! It's easy! AND you can make it a few days ahead of time. 

This dark chocolate gelato has the characteristic, no-holds-barred chocolate intensity of gelato. Milk, not cream, is the differentiating factor between ice cream and its Italian cousin. Because there is less butterfat to coat the tongue, the flavor pops. Another ingredient, corn syrup, behaves like invert sugar and helps reduce the chance of crystallization when freezing. A gelato or ice cream machine churns the mixture slowly and cuts the amount of air to keep the mixture dense and creamy, so it is less fluffy than ice cream. It also melts a lot faster than ice cream.

But enough science.  The best part of this gelato is that you can make it without a machine. Make the mix, which does not contain eggs, freeze until firm (overnight is best), and then cut the frozen slab into pieces. Whirl the frozen slices in a food processor. Pack the creamy mixture into a container and let it firm in the freezer for a few hours. Ecco la! You now have a frozen dessert to wow the senses.

Dark Chocolate Gelato
Makes about 1 quart

1 quart whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup dark, unsweetened, Dutch process cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chopped roasted almonds (for garnish)

1. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk and the cornstarch together until smooth.

2. In a large (6-quart) saucepan, whisk the cocoa powder and sugar together until blended. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir in the remaining milk, corn syrup, salt, and cornstarch slurry.

3. Stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 45 seconds to cook the cornstarch, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the mixture from boiling over. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until completely smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Cool to warm room temperature.

4. Line a 9-inch square pan (preferably metal) with plastic wrap. Pour the gelato mixture into the pan and freeze 6 hours or overnight, until firm.

5. Remove from the freezer. Transfer the frozen slab to a cutting board and let soften for about 10 minutes. With a large knife, cut the slab into 1-inch wide strips, and cut each strip into 1/2-inch slices

6. One-third at a time, process the frozen chunks in a food processor until the gelato looks creamy and no frozen chunks remain. Pack into a container, and continue until all the gelato is used. Press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for several hours, or until ready to serve. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer. If the gelato has frozen until hard, let it soften for a few minutes before scooping. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.

Posted on December 9, 2017 .

Cranberry French 75

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The French 75, popularized in the 1920’s, was the very first cocktail I tried when I reached drinking age, sipped in a posh New York bar. It was at the Hotel Carlyle bar (downstairs) Boy, did I feel grown up in my high heels and cocktail dress, even though I was all of 18 (the drinking age during the stone age.) Bobby Short was playing and singing--look it up guys--he was a legend.

The memory of this cocktail resurfaced recently when I was coming up with drinks for The Cranberry Cookbook.  I usually stick to wine, so I've been out of the cocktail loop for a while. But this cocktail is too good not to make for a special occasion. I love the tart cranberries (instead of the usual plain sugar syrup) with the lemon and gin. Just a little sweet, but not too much, and full of fizz.

We started off our Thanksgiving with a punch bowl of this cocktail, and I can tell you, even the gin haters were impressed. It's not too alcoholic, but it will give you a pleasant buzz, just right for a holiday party. We more or less multiplied the still ingredients to make punch and poured in a magnum of Prosecco just before we served it, floating some lemon slices and cranberries on top.  Fun and sparkle in a bowl! 

Cranberry French 75
Serves 1
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) gin
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) cranberry syrup (see below)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) chilled champagne
Lemon twist
1 In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake the gin, lemon juice, and cranberry syrup.
2 Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with the champagne, and garnish it with a lemon twist.

Cranberry Syrup
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

1 In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cranberries and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the cranberries soften and pop. Cool to warm room temperature.

2 Set a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl and strain. Discard the cranberries. Transfer the syrup to a jar and store in the refrigerator. Cranberry syrup should keep for about 3 weeks in the refrigerator. But truth be told, I kept mine for way longer and it was still very good.

Posted on December 7, 2017 .

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe

If you read this blog, which admittedly is spotty, you are already familiar with my rant about shopping for gifts for the holidays. I won't repeat it now. The recap is: I hate it. 

For one thing, I have gift anxiety. Will she like it? Is it good enough? Is it the right gift for him? Time wasted on worrying is, well, time wasted. So I put my energy into creating home made gifts, and it's a safe bet that most people fall for chocolate.

And these are almost healthy. Really. I guarantee the bars will measure up to store-bought energy bars and surpass them by a mile in taste.

All you have to do is melt some chocolate and top it with toasted nuts and dried fruit. You can handle that, right?

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended. If you have nuts, dried fruit and chocolate around the house, you won’t even have to make a special trip to shop for ingredients. The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget to add a smidgen of salt to the nuts.

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars Recipe
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars
8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line the bottom and 2 sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 long sides.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

Posted on December 7, 2017 .

Thanksgiving 2017 Recipes! Ideas!

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Yes, there's still time to finalize everything! Don't give in to anxiety. We're here to help. Start by looking over these 10 easy recipes from the Boston Globe. Heed these words of wisdom from Sheryl Julian in Wednesday's Boston Globe Food Section where you will find some terrific recipes to drool over.

"Thanksgiving is so hard on the hosts, some of it self-imposed. You want to set out a grand feast and give everyone an afternoon to remember. But that doesn’t mean pulling out every recipe your mother ever made for the holiday and generally overdoing it. Prepare a nice dinner and don’t worry about sending guests home with doggie bags."

So give yourself a break. Enjoy your holiday. If there's something special someone wants, maybe, just maybe they can make it and contribute it to the family table. 

Despite, and perhaps because of, these chaotic times we're living in now, we should all take more than a moment to count our blessings. Thank you for reading. And Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

Whole roasted cauliflower 

Whole roasted cauliflower 

Skillet apple pie with press in crust. Easiest ever apple pie for sure.

Skillet apple pie with press in crust. Easiest ever apple pie for sure.

Pecan pie bars! Just like the pie, but make 12 in a baking dish, press-in dough. 

Pecan pie bars! Just like the pie, but make 12 in a baking dish, press-in dough. 

But wait, there's more.

Here are a few that I've published on the blog:

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Posted on November 18, 2017 .

Pecan Pie Bars Recipe

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Do you have pie anxiety? I used to. Working as the dessert queen/pastry maven in a restaurant cured me. I don't exaggerate when I say I've made thousands of pies (that's right at least two thousand, anyway) in my lifetime. Phew. I still love rolling dough, and feel an uncommon satisfaction in the small pleasure a well-made pie brings.  But I concede, it is not for everyone.

No shame. Rolling the dough is the big bugaboo for most people. That's why, dear readers, I give you this: a press-in pie dough that is easy to make and as buttery as shortbread, the absolute best foil for pecan pie. To make the dough, you literally throw the crust ingredients into a food processor and whir it for a minute or two until you have fat crumbs. Then into the baking  pan they go.

All that butter also means that the bars (akin to slices of pie) will keep at least a day or two without losing quality. I've already made my pie bars for Thanksgiving (at least a week away), wrapped them snugly in foil, and put them to bed in the freezer until T-day. The filling is just like pecan pie, made with corn syrup that is not high fructose corn syrup (I like dark Karo.) A benefit to making the bars is that you end up with twelve servings, a generous amount to grace any holiday table. So go ahead, have your pie, and eat it, too.

Note: you can bake these bars ahead and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. Defrost at room temperature, or heat gently in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, if you like. This recipe was published in The Boston Globe  Want more? check it out! Ten easy recipes to get you through the holidays.

Pecan Pie Bars Recipe
Serves 12

Butter (for the baking pan)
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water

1 Preheat  the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line the bottom and 2 sides with of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 long sides.

2 In the bowl of a food processor, process the flour, brown sugar, salt, butter, egg yolk, vanilla and water until medium clumps form and the dough does not look dry. Pulse the machine toward the end of mixing to stop short of allowing the mixture to form a ball. (Alternatively, mix together with your fingers.)

3 Spread the crumbs loosely and evenly over the bottom of the pan. With your fingertips, press the dough into the sides of the pan to make a 1 1/4-inch-high border. Press the remaining crumbs evenly over the bottom. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and use a dry 1-cup measuring cup to smooth it all around.  Press the dough into the corners so it is not too thick. Remove the plastic. If you like, use the tines of a fork to make a pattern all along the edges.

4 Bake for 20 minutes, or until light golden. If the dough puffs in places, flatten it with the back of a fork.

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4 eggs
1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cups dark corn syrup (Karo)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecan halves
Lightly sweetened whipped cream (for serving)

1 In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla until combined. Stir in the pecans.

2 Pour the filling over the baked crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is set. Cool completely in the pan.

3 When the bars are completely cool and set, run a knife along the edges to loosen the crust from the pan. Grasp the overhanging parchment and carefully lift the whole piece out of the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. With the long edge parallel to the cutting board, make a vertical cut with a sharp knife to divide it into two 9 by 6 1/2-inch pieces.

4 Cut each half into bars: Make 2 horizontal cuts and 1 vertical cut to make 6 bars. Repeat with the second piece. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

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Check out this gift idea: The Cranberry Cookbook, not just for the holidays





Posted on November 16, 2017 .