Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Banana and Almond Ice Cream

Back when I was living in Sunderland, whenever I went to the cinema I like treating myself to a scoop or two of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. My favourite has got to be the Chunky Monkey which is banana ice cream with fudge chunks and walnuts. Hmmm... doesn't that sound delicious?! I just love its nursery sweetness.  

And for some inexplicable reason, I would only have this ice cream exclusively at the cinema; even though the ice cream is widely available in supermarkets.

The other day I went to see the new X-Men movie (such a great movie and I love Jennifer Lawrence) at my local cinema here in Medan. I went to the concession stands to check out what snacks they have... you know, the usual popcorn, nachos, sweets, etc... and sadly, no ice cream :( So I thought, why not try making it at home... and this banana and almond ice cream is what I came up with. 

I was going to use walnuts in this ice cream, sticking to its original inspiration; but when I went to the shop, surprise surprise, walnuts were not available (story of my life...). So, I opted for almonds instead. Use any nuts you like... I suspect cashews or pecans will be nice as well.  Or if you're not a fan of nuts, simply omit them.

I must say I am very happy with this ice cream.  It's creamy, rich and comforting.  And most importantly, it's easy to make. Though you do need to make a custard, but it's not at all difficult.

Question of the day, what's your favourite snack to have at the cinema?

This banana and almond ice cream is also my second entry for this month's BSFIC Challenge hosted by the brilliant Kavey.  The theme this month is fruity ice cream, so if you plan to make a fruit base ice-cream in the next few days, be sure to join in.  My first entry was strawberry and rosewater ice cream.

Banana and Almond Ice Cream

500 ml full fat milk
500 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
170 gr caster sugar
300 gr bananas, from 3 or 4 bananas depending on size
50 ml milk
75 gr whole almonds or walnuts

Start by making the custard base.  Pour the milk and double cream into a saucepan along with a vanilla pod that's been split down in the middle lengthwise to expose the seeds.  Bring this mixture almost to a boil, then take it off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 to 20 minutes.  Then take out the vanilla pod.  You can let it dry and add it to your sugar pot to make vanilla sugar.

Bring the milk and cream again to a simmer. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture turns thick and pale yellow.  Slowly and gradually pour and whisk in the warm vanilla cream to the yolks. Return this mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over low heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon until it thickens. When it's done, take it off the heat and pour into a bowl to cool slightly. Give it a stir every now and then so that no skin will form on top of the custard.

Make the banana puree by simply blending the bananas with 50 ml of milk so that the mixture isn't too thick. Fold this peanut butter like puree into the slightly cooled custard. If using an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer's instruction. If you don't have one, just put the ice cream base into a covered container and stick it in the freezer. Take it out after an hour and give it a good beating with a whisk. This will prevent ice crystals from forming and you'll end up with smooth and silky ice cream.   

Lightly toast the nuts of your choice in the oven or I just do it on the stove.  Heat a frying pan on the stove and add a single layer of nuts. Do not add any oil. The nuts contain enough oils of their own to cook. Stir frequently until the nuts turn golden brown and you can really smell their aroma.  Remove from heat and let the cool before giving them a rough chop.

After the second hour in the freezer, take the ice cream out for another 'beating' and fold in the nuts. Making sure they're dispersed throughout. Put the ice cream back in the freezer and do this again in an hour for the last time before putting it back in the freezer to chill completely. After a few hours, I think you know what to do next... :)

Monday, 16 June 2014

Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires

It's not a surprise that I love visiting bakeries and pastry shops. Being surrounded by the aroma of freshly baked breads is my idea of heaven (and eating loads of them too); and I love looking (again, also eating) at the beautiful assortment of delicate and often intricate French pastries in their display case... it's my idea of window shopping.  

Not only I admire the craftsmanship but also it gives me an inspiration to try baking them at home. An example is this Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires, a classic French pear and almond tart.  I saw this tart on a display window at a patisserie one day, and after reading the description, I thought what a delicious combination of poached pears in vanilla, with almond cream and sweet pastry.  And I want to try making it at home, so this is what I came up with.

It's a pretty simple tart to make... It takes a bit of time but it'll be worth it.  Think of all the compliments you're gonna get later :)  There are three part to this tart, the first one is poires pochées or the poached pears.  This can be done a day ahead, and actually it's best to do this ahead of time to allow the flavours to intensify.  In addition to the vanilla, I added the juice of one lime (or use lemon) because however strange, I feel adding a little acidity actually brings out more of the sweetness from the pears.  And to that, a star anise which perfumes the pears with sweet licorice aroma.  If you want to go all out, you can also add a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves.  Do not throw away the syrupy poaching liquid.  Keep it in the fridge and it's so delicious to add to your ice tea, just saying...

Find me on Instagram @michael_toa
The second part to the recipe is the pastry.  You can make (or even buy) the usual sweet shortcrust pastry, but since this is a classic recipe, I opted for pate sucrée or French sweet pastry. It has a higher sugar content and also uses egg(s) for richness. This should be a straightforward task but... *sigh... it's so hot the past couple of days here and if you've made your own pastry before, you know that working with pastry in hot, humid weather is not very nice to say the very least. Note to self: when I have my dream home one day, I wanna make sure that I have air-conditioner in the kitchen no matter where I live. Anyway, if you have the same problem like myself, make my pastry late in the evening when the temperature is relatively cooler and letting it chill overnight in the fridge. Then early the next day, roll the pastry per usual, working quickly, and if it gets too soft too quickly, just put it back in the fridge for ten minutes or so. 

The last part of the tart is the crème d'amandes or the almond cream.  This is very easy to make... mix all the ingredients and voila!

Tarte Bourdaloue aux poires

For the poached pears:
3 pears
250 gr sugar
500 ml water
Juice of 1 lime (or lemon), save the zest for the pastry
Half a vanilla pod
1 star anise

For the pate sucrée:
100 gr soft butter
75 gr caster sugar
Zest of 1 lime (or lemon)
Half a vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
2 egg yolks
225 gr plain flour

For the frangipane:
80 gr icing sugar
80 gr butter
1 egg
80 gr ground almonds
10 gr plain flour
1 tsp almond extract

To sprinkle:
20 gr ground almonds

If possible poach the pears the day before. This will give them time to cool down and allow the flavours to intensify.  To do this, in a saucepan bring all the ingredients except the pears to a boil, until the sugar dissolve. Peel and cut the pears in half and add to the boiling liquid.  Let them simmer and poach until fork tender. Depending on the ripeness of your pear, this might take from 25 to 40 minutes. I would suggest you don't use over-ripe pears, as they'll be too soft and mushy.  Let the pears cool in the syrup and put in the fridge until when  you're ready for them.

To make the pate sucrée, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla seeds in a bowl until well combined. Then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time until it's fully incorporated into the mixture.  Add in the flour and mix until it comes together as a ball of dough.  Tip the pastry onto a floured work surface and very lightly and gently knead until smooth.  Wrap with cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour or two or even overnight.

The next day, take the pastry out from the fridge and roll to about 5 mm thickness.  In my, hot and humid case, I find it easier to do this between a couple of non stick parchment and place into a greased loose bottom tart tin.  Take a little piece of the dough and using this instead of your fingers, press the pastry into the sides. Prick the base with a fork and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  This will ensure the pastry won't shrink during baking.

Preheat your oven to 180 C.  After 30 minutes, take the pastry out from the fridge and cut off the overhanging dough.  You can use a knife, but I prefer a gentle press with a rolling pin.  Cover the tart with non-stick baking parchment and top with ceramic beans or dried beans or rice.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  Then remove the parchment and the beans and put the pastry back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the sides begin to colour.  Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.

Whilst waiting, make the frangipane by simply mixing the soft butter with sugar.  Then add the flour and a tablespoon of the ground almonds before mixing in the egg.  I find this will prevent the mixture from splitting. Mix to combine and add the rest of the ground almonds.

You can spread the almond cream to the cooled pastry case and leveling it with a spoon; or you can pipe it.  The choice is yours.  

Strain the pears and remove the seeds (I use a melon-baller) and the hard bits.  Slice each pear halves thinly across its width. Arrange over the almond cream and you can fan out the pears a bit, for aesthetic purpose. I then sprinkle the almond cream that's not covered with the pears with ground almonds... but that's optional. Place back in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

Sprinkle the sides with icing sugar and it's especially useful if you've got burnt bits :) and to make the pears shiny, brush them with warmed apricot jam.  When I made this, I ran out of apricot jam, so I use the pear poaching liquid instead.  

Now, go get the kettle on, cut the tart into slices and you know what to do next... 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Strawberry and Rosewater Ice Cream

I know, I know... Strawberry ice cream does sound ordinary, but the addition of rosewater here makes it really special... The inspiration for this comes from a cheesecake recipe I made few years ago.  It's a lemon and poppyseed cheesecake and it is served with raspberry and rosewater syrup.  The cheesecake itself is delicious, but the syrup... oh, the syrup... I could drink it from the jug (perhaps with a touch of vodka and soda water). Anyway, I thought this berry and rosewater combination would be delicious in an ice cream and it is!

Rosewater, with its perfumey pungent floral taste and aroma, I think is a bit like Marmite... people either love it or hate it.  I happen to love it and it's a must-have ingredient in my pantry.  A little drop of it goes a long way; too much and it will overpower and ruin the dish... I mean it'll be like eating a bowl of potpourri.

For the ice cream I suggest you start with a couple of teaspoons and taste from there.  I did use a tad more because the rosewater brand that I use (The English Provender Co.) isn't too strong.  But just a note, you do want the rosewater flavour to be stronger when it's still in custard form.  As the ice cream base chills in the freezer, the flavour will mellow.  So, if it's weak from the start, you might lose the flavour later.

The grenadine syrup, a popular ingredient in cocktail making with its deep red colour is entirely optional.  No need to rush to get it if you haven't got some at home.  I just want to intensify the colour in both the strawberries and the ice cream.

Anyway, this is a very easy ice cream to make and really refreshing and you don't need an ice cream maker to make it.  Simply follow the method below.

This ice-cream is also my entry for this months' BSFIC challenge.  The theme for the month of June is delicious fruit, so if you're planning to make a fruit based ice-cream, be sure to join in!

Strawberry and Rosewater Ice Cream

250 gr strawberries
1 to 2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp rosewater, or to taste
2 tsp grenadine syrup
250 ml double cream
250 ml full fat milk
1/2 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks
100 gr caster sugar

Hull and chop the strawberries into little pieces... don't worry about chopping them too neatly, most of them is going to the blender anyway.  Put the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle over the caster sugar.  If your strawberries are already sweet, a tablespoon will do.  Then add the rosewater and the grenadine syrup. Give them a good mix and leave to steep whilst you make the custard base.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and add the vanilla pod, split down the middle lengthwise to expose the seeds.  Bring the mixture almost to a boil, then take it off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 to 20 minutes.  When the time is up, take out the vanilla pod, but don't throw it away... Let it dry and add it to your sugar pot and you'll end up with beautiful vanilla sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until thick and pale yellow.  Slowly and gradually whisk in the warm vanilla cream to the yolks.  Then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook again over low heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon until it thickens.  This might take 10 minutes or so. Then take it off the heat and pour in a bowl to cool slightly.

Puree most of the strawberries, leaving about 2 tablespoons worth, in a blender.  Fold in the strawberry puree and the reserved chopped strawberries to the custard.  Now... if you're lucky and have an ice cream maker, use it according to the manufacturer's instruction.  I don't have one, and if you're like me, what you need to do is put the ice cream base into a covered container and stick it in the freezer.  Take it out after an hour and give it a good beating with a whisk.  This will prevent the ice-crystals from forming, so that you'll end up with smooth and silky ice-cream.  Do this at least three times then let it freeze completely and you know what to do when it's done... :)