First Honey Ice Cream, then Chocolate Cake

by Caroline

After making the honey ice cream the other day, I had 6 egg whites left over. I could have made an egg white omelette, I suppose, but that’s not really my style.

This is more my style:

This recipe is similar — in look and execution — to Lisa’s chocolate roulade, though her cake is quite a bit richer. The recipe I followed is for a simple chocolate angel food sheet cake, straight from The Joy of Cooking:

Grease an 11″x17″ jelly-roll pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift together three times:
1/4 c cake flour
1/4 c cocoa
1/4 c plus 2 T granulated sugar
1/4 t salt

Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat on low speed for one minute:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 t water
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 t vanilla

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture increases in volume 4-5 times and resembles a bowl of soft, almost translucent foam composed of tiny bubbles (this takes 2-3 minutes). The foam will hold a very moist shape when the beaters are lifted. Beat in very gradually (on medium speed), one tablespoon at a time:

1/4 c plus 2 T granulated sugar

When all the sugar has been added, the foam will be creamy white and hold soft, moist, glossy peaks that bend over at the points; do not beat until stiff.

Sift a fine layer of the flour mixture evenly over the surface of the egg mixture and fold gently with a rubber spatula only until the flour is almost incorporated. Do not stir or mix. Repeat 7 or 8 more times, until the flour mixture is all incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed, about 15 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.

Invert the cooled cake onto a sheet of wax paper and remove the baking pan and peel off the parchment paper. Now lift the wax paper and turn the cake right side up on to a sheet of aluminum foil. Peel off the wax paper (a thin top layer of cake may come off; that’s fine).

Now make the filling; I used lightly-sweetened whipped cream, beat stiffer than usual: 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, beaten until stiff. Spread over the cooled cake and then roll up the cake starting at one end: fold and press an inch or so of the cake firmly up over the filling at one end to get started. Even if the cake cracks at first, keep your first turns especially tight; the cracking will diminish as the roll gets bigger (also, you can cover cracks later with whipped cream, frosting or a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar; also, no one will care what the cake looks like). Once the cake is rolled, wrap tightly with foil and refrigerate to firm the cake before serving.

Serve with honey ice cream, extra whipped cream, and/or berries.

Honey Ice Cream

by Caroline

I am learning — slowly — that while San Francisco doesn’t offer the summer weather I grew up with (and long for) when school lets out each year, there are ways to compensate for that. Here at home it may be 60 degrees, with fog swirling in the street and a wind so strong it picks up our deck umbrella and tosses it into the neighbor’s yard (we only open the umbrella a couple days in the spring and then again not until our real summer in October, so I hardly know why we bother.) But we can drive half an hour north to the swimming pool or half an hour south for a sunny oceanside hike and that gets me in the mood to make summer in the kitchen, too. So when school let out last week and we faced another foggy day, I summoned my sunniest mood and said to the boys, “It’s summertime! What kind of ice cream should we make?” Ben was first to answer: “Honey ice cream!” And Eli was the one to help. Happy summer.

The recipe is from my go-to ice cream book (everyone should have one): Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Ice Cream Book.

1/2 c mild honey
6 large egg yolks*
1 1/2 c milk
1 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the honey with the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the egg and honey mixture. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and heat slowly, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble. Take off the heat and pour through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to its directions.

*Tune in next time for a way to use those 6 egg whites.

Chocolate Brownie Frosting

by Caroline

party supplies

I don’t do elaborate kid birthday parties. Knowing that most children are happy with a treat and the chance to play with their friends, I don’t see any reason to knock myself out. I am lucky that my sons both have spring birthdays, so we can keep everybody in the backyard, and for the last few years we’ve hosted parties for both boys that involve the kids building objects out of scrap wood and sending them flying down a fishing line strung from our back deck into the yard. The boys call the game “crazy contraptions,” and so far we have proven that kids from four to ten will play it for hours.

When it’s time for a break, we let the kids put their creative impulses toward cupcakes, and here’s where I suppose I do put in some effort, but I like to bake and homemade cupcakes are quick and cheap, so I make a lot. Typically I make crazy cake chocolate cupcakes and a vanilla cupcake and let the kids choose one or the other; this year Eli requested chocolate vanilla swirl, so I followed this incredibly simple (and delicious) recipe. Then I make a double batch of cream cheese frosting, divide it and color it, plus I make one batch of chocolate frosting. I set out the frostings in ziploc bags with one corner trimmed off (ie, instant homemade piping bags), set out some sprinkles, and let the kids go to town.

This recipe came from my friend Liz, and it is not only the best chocolate frosting I know, it happens to be super easy:

Beat until well-combined and a bit fluffy:
3 T room temperature butter
3 T cocoa powder
1 T light corn syrup or mild honey
1/2 t vanilla

Add 1 c confectioner’s sugar and mix well.

Stir in
1-2 T milk, just enough to make the frosting spreadable.

Makes about a cup — perfect for a dozen cupcakes, but you’ll want to double the recipe to frost an entire cake.

The Only Brownie Recipe You Will Ever Need

by Caroline

Last summer, to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, Tony and I arranged back to back sleepovers for our kids with two different families, and thus managed our first two-night getaway together since Ben was born. We’d each been away longer on our own (or with friends and family), both for work and for pleasure, but never just the two of us. So we drove to Calistoga with a pile of books and magazines and spent our time away sleeping, eating, and reading.

One of the books I read that weekend was Kate Moses’ richly-detailed, quietly moving memoir with recipes, Cakewalk. I read it very slowly, savoring her writing, not wanting it to end, and when it did end, I cried.

Cakewalk was in ways not the happiest choice for my anniversary reading. None of the many marriages she describes in the book are easy, whether she’s writing about her own parents or those of her teenage boyfriend, whose father mutters under his breath to Kate, in his wife’s presence, “Twenty-five years of that woman is enough to choke a horse.” It is in that chapter that Moses offers her brownie recipe, which, with its two versions, is perhaps a good example of how to thrive in a long relationship: stay flexible and always offer options.

One version of the recipe (the one that I prefer) was reprinted in the New York Times and I offer it here; you’ll have to buy the book to get the frosting-covered creamy brownie recipe.

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 1/2 cups walnut halves (optional)

9 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 3/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking pan. If using walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and cover pan until chocolate is melted, about 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla just until thick, creamy and beginning to lighten in color.

3. Whisk the butter and chocolate until smooth, then mix into the sugar-egg mixture just until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the flour, using as few strokes as possible, until it disappears. Fold in the walnuts, if using. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan.

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 22 minutes to avoid over-baking. When the tip of a knife inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not liquid, remove brownies from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and leave in the pan for several hours or overnight before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Maple Easter Candy

by Caroline

Every year, I hope that maybe our Easter trip to my parents’ home in Connecticut will line up with sugar season, that window every New England spring when the temperatures sink below freezing at night but rise into the 40s during the day, with enough sun to warm the trees and encourage the maple sap to flow. Even though I don’t really like that kind of weather, I want my boys to experience what I did as a kid, tramping along in the mud and snow in my grandfather’s booted footsteps as he gathered maple sap and boiled it down into syrup. It takes 40 gallons to make a single gallon of syrup, so a couple energetic helpers would be useful, I know, but so far we’ve missed all the work, instead always getting to enjoy the sweet results of my dad’s labors.

At Christmas time, we make sugar on snow; now that the snow is gone, we made maple candy inside, with nothing but syrup, some simple kitchen equipment, and — because after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village we were feeling old-fashioned — a great deal of arm strength. You can make this, too, with any maple syrup and even an electric mixer.

Pour 2 cups maple syrup into a large pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil gently until it comes to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage: test it by letting some of the boiled syrup drop off the end of a spoon into a glass of water; if it forms a ball, it’s done). Pour it out into a large mixing bowl (or two) and start stirring:

Here’s a close-up action shot of the stirring:

Stir the syrup until it lightens and thickens to the consistency of peanut butter, about five minutes. You can use a hand mixer if your arm gets tired (or your children refuse to stir anymore). If you want to add some toasted walnuts or pecans (a fine idea) stir them in now.

If you have candy molds, by all means use them. We just spread some waxed paper on the counter and experimented with different dollops. Let the candy set at room temperature for about ten minutes. For long-term storage, you’d want to keep it in the refrigerator, but it likely won’t last that long.