Project Baklava

by Caroline

Quick: name a Turkish food.

If you said falafel, go read my post about the falafel in Paris and then come back. We did eat falafel in Turkey occasionally, always part of a meze platter; we never saw it offered on its own in a sandwich.

We prepared for our trip to Turkey by eating at Turkish restaurants and cooking from a Turkish cookbook, including baking two different kinds of bread: simit and pide.

We did not prepare for Turkey by seeking out, making, or eating any baklava, because we figured it would be a) an easy sell for the kids and b) ubiquitous in Turkey.

So of course, somehow we didn’t eat any. And then when we came home, the kids complained. So we made it at home.

They continue to complain because we didn’t make the phyllo by hand, but until someone buys me a bigger kitchen and a pastry sheeter, I’ll continue to buy phyllo from the grocery store. Because with store-bought phyllo, making baklava is easy enough for the kids to do while I just hang out snapping pictures:

I read many different recipes for baklava, from Joy of Cooking to Gourmet to my Turkish cookbook, and it can get rather complicated if you let it, but really all you need is phyllo, melted butter, nuts, and simple syrup and/or honey. We made one with some rosewater for flavoring, which tasted too much like potpourri, and another with a little cinnamon and orange zest, which we liked much better. Explore recipes, play with ingredients, and chop, brush and layer your way to a tasty dessert.

Homemade Nutella or, Because it’s there

by Caroline

I guess I feel about recipes the way some people feel about mountains. It’s there in front of you, so why not give it a shot? There is really no pressing need to make nutella (you could push it and say there’s no pressing need to eat nutella, but I won’t go so far), but when you find a recipe that looks so easy, and promises a result so delicious, why not? Besides, it’s summer. And in summer, we say yes.

1 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-11 minutes, or until fragrant. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skin; use your fingers as they cool and do the best you can — it won’t all come off. Let the nuts cool.

Grind the nuts in the food processor until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue blending until smooth and spreadable.

This keeps at room temperature for three days, apparently, or in the fridge for two months, but we wouldn’t know.

Mint Stracciatella

by Caroline

It’s not summer without the ice cream machine in steady use.

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

Beat together the eggs and sugar until thickened and pale yellow.

Meanwhile, bring the half and half to a simmer over low heat in a large, heavyweight pan. Slowly beat the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar, then pour back into the saucepan and heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Don’t let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble (yuck). Remove from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, the add the cream and peppermint, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Once you’re reading to make ice cream, stir the custard and freeze in your ice cream machine. While that’s churning, melt the chocolate, and then when the ice cream is very nearly done, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the ice cream while the machine is running. Keep the machine running a minute or two longer to spread the chocolate threads throughout the ice cream. Eat immediately, or pack into a freezer container to harden.

Cheesecake Ice Cream

by Caroline

I think it was the summer that Star Wars came out, 1970-something, when my oldest brother and sister had summer hotel jobs up in Ogunquit, Maine. Our parents drove my other brother and me up for a weekend visit and we ate a forgettable meal in the big, quiet hotel dining room followed by an unforgettable cheesecake. It was a fruit cheesecake, but instead of a shiny, syrupy layer of fruit on top of the cheesecake, the fruit was fresh, and it had been incorporated into the batter, leaving light, delicate streaks of berry throughout the cake.

This ice cream reminds me of that cheesecake, just a little bit.

1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 graham crackers, crumbled

Beat the sugar and the cream cheese together until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Bring the milk to a boil in a medium-sized pan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the cream cheese mixture. Now pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the custard thickens slightly. Don’t let the mixture boil or the egg will scramble!

Remove the custard from the heat and pour it through a strainer into a large bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the lemon zest and cream. Cover and refrigerate until cold (or overnight).

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine
according to its directions. Add the crumbled graham crackers when the ice cream is semifrozen, and let the machine mix them in well. Eat right away, or decant into a container and freeze until hard.