Cherry and Thyme Hand Pies with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

Cherry and Thyme Hand Pies with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream

  It’s officially cherry season in the state of Virginia. My first thought at the beginning of any fruit season is to bake a pie with the fruit I’ve obtained from the farms in my area. And that’s precisely what I did when I discovered my usual grocery store of choice was selling fresh, local sweet cherries from one of my favorite orchards. Such a find can be a rarity in my small town, there’s a slim selection of local vegetables in the summer if any; in the fall there might be apples. But, when it comes to common fruits such as strawberries, peaches, or blueberries, you can only find them at the farmers market once a week. Many times I’ll drive up to an hour to pick fruit from the local u-pick farms in my area, as I love going out and about to visit beautiful places.

  Each pie is filled with a delicious cherry jam, subtly flavored with fresh thyme. Accompanying these hand pies is a creamy, no-churn vanilla bourbon ice cream. There are many no-churn ice creams out there that commonly call for heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk- a canned milk with the water removed and a copious amount of sugar added to make a sweet, sticky dairy product. The condensed milk is usually folded into the whipped cream and the flavoring(s) of your choice is added. Once frozen, the result is a rich and creamy ice cream. To avoid so much sugar, I simply made my own sweetened condensed milk that doesn’t use any canned dairy product, but instead raw cashews and maple syrup. Just blend until smooth and creamy and fold into the fresh, whipped cream along with a good quality bourbon and vanilla.

CHERRY AND THYME HAND PIES WITH BOURBON VANILLA ICE CREAM


   bourbon vanilla ice cream

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight then drained

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

  cherry + thyme jam

1-pounds sweet cherries, pitted and stems removed

2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 1/2 cups raw sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  pie dough

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon raw sugar

12 tablespoons salted butter, cold

5-6 tablespoons water, ice-cold

   method

  1. In a high-powered blender, add the maple syrup, vanilla, bourbon and the cashews; blend until smooth and creamy. This may take a few minutes depending on your blender. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks, then gently fold in the cashew mixture with a spatula until combined. Place the mixture in an air-tight container and freeze for 2 hours until firm, or overnight.
  2. In a saucepan, add the cherries and lemon juice and mash them slightly, then add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then add the sugar. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often until the cherries are very soft and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the thyme. Cool the jam completely before using. 
  3. In a bowl, lightly whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. Pour into a food processor and add the cold butter, cut into cubes. Pulse until small, pea-sized pieces form(it’s okay if there are larger chunks, too). Pour back into the bowl and add three tablespoons of ice cold water to one side of the bowl; then gently work the flour into the water with a fork. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, when needed. You should be able to gently work it into a ball. Split the dough into four, golf ball sized pieces and gently press them into disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to use.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. 
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough disks, one at a time, until they’re about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Move them onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the freezer for about 2 minutes to quickly become firm again. Add the jam to the center of each disk, leaving an inch of space from the edge. Fold one side of the dough over the jam and crimp the two sides together until sealed. Gently press a fork around the sealed edges. Brush the tops with egg wash (1 egg, beaten) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. Cool until just warm, then serve with the ice cream.
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Vegan Blueberry Chocolate Cashew Mousse with Ganache

Vegan Blueberry Chocolate Cashew Mousse with Ganache

 Chocolate is oftentimes my go-to when I’m short on ideas. A quick scroll through my blog and you’ll notice that it’s the most common ingredient in many of my recipes. But, can one really come up with too many chocolate things? I think not. This will make the third chocolate mousse to appear on my site. One of the goals I had for my blog this year was to be more inclusive in different ways of eating and preparing sweets.

And for those who are vegan (or have an intolerance to lactose), you’ll quickly discover traditional mousse recipes call for a lot of egg and dairy products. Although this is far from your traditional mousse, it’s still deliciously smooth, airy, and chocolatey with fresh, local blueberries speckled about giving a subtle flavor of summer with each bite. It’s then topped with chocolate ganache, made with coconut milk in place of the cream that is initially used. 

In my previous recipe, I would use a combination of egg whites and heavy cream whipped to stiff peaks in order to get a smooth, yet light and airy texture. In place of the egg whites, I used aquafaba. The thick, sticky liquid from cooked legumes such as chickpeas. To make things easier, I simply used a can of organic chickpeas. Just drain the liquid into a bowl and whip like you would egg whites until stiff peaks form.


VEGAN BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE CASHEW MOUSSE WITH GANACHE

    for the mousse:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in water then drained

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/3 cup organic coconut milk, hot

4 tablespoons coconut palm sugar

2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

6 ounces vegan dark chocolate (80% cacao)

2 tablespoon coconut oil

15-ounce can organic chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained, but liquid reserved

  for the ganache

4-ounces vegan dark chocolate (80% cacao)

5-ounces organic coconut milk (full-fat)

 method

ganache

  1. Chop the 4-ounces of chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium-sized bowl. In a saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium heat until it begins to simmer; remove from heat and pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate and give it a slight stir. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Use when ready.

mousse

  1. In a bowl, heat the coconut milk until hot. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and stir until combined; set aside until ready to use. In a separate bowl, completely melt the chocolate with the coconut oil (this can be done in the microwave).  Place the soaked cashews in a blender with the blueberries, cocoa mixture, and melted chocolate and blend until smooth and creamy; this may take a few minutes depending on your blender. To test if it’s the right consistency, rub some of it between your fingers. If it’s smooth feeling it’s good, but if it feels gritty, blend it a bit more.
  2. Drain the chickpeas in a strainer over a medium sized bowl to catch the liquid. This liquid is known as aquafaba and it’s a great substitute for egg whites. Beat the aquafaba with an electric hand mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  3. With a spatula, carefully fold the beaten aquafaba into the chocolate-cashew mixture until fully combined. Spoon the mousse into small cups(I used small, glass cups that measure to about 1/2 cup) and fill them 3/4 of the way full. 
  4. Gently pour the ganache over the tops of the mousse. Cover each cup and place in the refrigerator until firm. About 2-3 hours. Top with sea salt or fresh blueberries, then serve.
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Strawberry Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream Cake

Strawberry Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream Cake

  If I could define the month of May with only a word, “fresh” is the one that continually comes to my mind. Fresh new scenery brought to life after spending the months of March and April waking up. There’s a breeze blowing about today, carrying with it all the clean, floral scents May brings, specifically one fragrant tree native to my area is Robinia pseudoacacia- from which I could sniff the flowers all day! There’s so much to love about this month it would be endless babbling on about it.

 I tend to get excited about the month of May because that’s when things begin to ‘start’, so to speak. much of April is waiting for things to sprout up from the ground. Now that it’s May, strawberry season has finally begun and I was able to visit one of my favorite local orchards to do some picking. The orchard has one acre dedicated to strawberry picking in the springtime. The patch is situated at the foot of a mountain, and looking behind you there’s another lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I would have posted a few photographs from my visit, but the sun was extremely bright and the heat intense, so they didn’t turn out so well. 

  During my visit to the strawberry patch, I picked four pounds of strawberries, all of which were used to make this delicious strawberry vanilla coconut ice cream cake. I’ve been aching to try my hand at strawberry ice cream, and to my dismay, I happened to pick one of the more difficult ice creams to make. It’s a creamy custard based ice cream, but it still has a bit of an iciness to it since I used fresh strawberries. The bottom made of crushed chocolate chip cookies molded together with a small amount of melted butter. Before cutting this cake, it is best to let it sit a few minutes to soften, then cut with a hot knife. The more difficult place to cut through is the cookie layer.

STRAWBERRY  VANILLA  COCONUT  ICE CREAM CAKE


 ice – cream

1/2 cup organic (canned) coconut milk

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup raw sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla 

4 fresh egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

1 pound fresh strawberries, chopped

1/2 cup raw sugar

 cookie – crust

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cup raw sugar

3/4 cups coconut oil

2 large eggs

4- ounces dark chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons butter, melted

  method:

  for the cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla and beat with an electric hand mixer/standing mixer until light in color. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add the flour and mix until just combined, then stir in the chopped chocolate with a wooden spoon or spatula. Scoop out onto prepared pan, spacing each scoop about 2 inches apart. Bake for 11 minutes until the edges of the cookies are slightly golden. Cool the cookies on the pan for three minutes, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. While the cookies are cooling, prepare a 7-inch by 3-inch cake pan by cutting out a round piece of parchment paper and placing it the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled completely, mash them/pulse in a blender until they’re crumbs. Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and add 3 1/2 cups of the cookie crumbs. Stir with a wooden spoon until they’re all coated with the butter, it should be moist enough for them to mold together, if not, add a little bit more of melted butter. Place the crumbs into the prepared cake pan and press with your fingers until firmly in place. cover and place the pan in the refrigerator until ready to use.

  for the ice cream:

  Before you begin with the ice cream base, chop the strawberries into pieces, then place in a strainer over a bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir. Cover and place the strawberries in the refrigerator to drain most their juices. Use the strawberries when ready.

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the coconut milk, whole milk, and vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl halfway with cold water and ice, then place another bowl on top of the ice water(make sure you don’t get water inside the second bowl). Add the heavy cream to the second bowl, then place a fine-mesh sieve over the cream. 

2. Once the milk begins to simmer, turn off the heat. Begin whisking the egg yolks lightly, then pour a little of the hot milk into the yolks. Now, add the yolks into the saucepan with the remaining milk and return to medium-low heat. Continue to whisk the custard and all around the bottom of the pan(so it doesn’t burn) until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and immediately pour the custard into the sieve over the cream. Whisk the cream and egg mixture (making sure not to get the cold water inside) until it’s cool to the touch. Cover a chill in the refrigerator for thirty minutes or overnight. Once chilled, churn according to your ice cream machine instructions.

3. Once churned, gently stir in the chilled strawberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan with the cookies. Cover tightly and freeze until firm.

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Classic Carrot Cake with Vanilla Bean Rum Frosting

classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting

  For many, carrot cake is a must-have on the dessert table after enjoying a fattening dinner on Easter Sunday. In my own family, it was actually quite rare. My Grandmother always made a banana pudding trifle or a layered coconut cake for Easter. I only recall eating carrot cake as a spring dessert served at church events or family get-togethers; but though it was scarcely served in my home, it has always been a family favorite when we had the pleasure of eating it.

  This recipe wasn’t specifically meant for Easter, though. I’ve been meaning to post a cake for the past week but they just haven’t worked out, so I decided on this classic carrot cake with vanilla bean rum frosting and well, it happens Easter is this weekend. The recipe for this cake was given to my mother by my Grandmother which she acquired from a friend (my, what a mouthful!) twenty-something years ago. It has always been a family favorite. Of course, I did adapt it slightly. Typically, walnuts or pecans are used, but instead, I used almonds.

 It’s a delicious, dense, and very moist cake. It uses a total four cups of carrots! The frosting has a very light and fluffy mouthfeel, with a slight rum flavor and vanilla bean speckled all about.

 

CLASSIC CARROT CAKE WITH VANILLA BEAN RUM FROSTING


 cake:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups raw cane sugar

4 large eggs, room temp.

seeds from (1) vanilla bean pod

1 1/4 cup organic canola oil

1/3 cup buttermilk, room temp.

4 cups grated carrots

3/4 cups coarsely chopped almonds

   frosting:

seeds from (2) vanilla bean pods

1/4 cup dark rum

8 ounces cream cheese, room temp.

8 ounces butter, room temp.

4 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of sea salt

 method:

Before starting anything, split open two vanilla pods, scrape out the seeds and place the seeds and the pods in a small jar with a lid. Add the 1/4 cup of dark rum and close the jar. Let the ingredients sit for an hour or more. When ready to use, scrape remaining seeds from the bean and discard the pieces. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three, 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices- set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla bean seeds. Beat the ingredients with an electric hand mixer until pale and fluffy; once they reach this stage, begin streaming in the oil. Add the buttermilk and then the flour in three batches, beating each addition until just combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the grated carrots and chopped almonds until combined. Divide the batter amongst the three prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. They’re done when the cake springs back up after being touched lightly, or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from around the edges of the pans. Invert onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

 for the frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and cream cheese. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula and add the powdered sugar and vanilla-infused rum. Beat on medium-high until the mixture is smooth and fluffy about3 minutes.

 assemble the cake:

 Place the first cake layer on a cake board/plate/stand and spoon about 3/4 cups of frosting on and spread around with an offset spatula. Repeat this with the second and then the third. Use any remaining frosting to frost around the edges. Or, you can use all the frosting on the first, second, and top layers and leave the sides naked. Decorate with fresh or edible flowers.

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Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon Sugar

Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon Sugar 

  Spring has always been a favorite season of mine.  It gives me a great amount of inspiration to see things sprout from the loneliness of winter and flourish into something beautiful and vibrant.  It’s like painting with an entirely new set of colors.  “What will I paint this month?”, is a metaphorical question I ask myself at the beginning of each month, as each new month brings its own palette of colors in various form. In the baking and photography sense, these forms are the vegetables, fruit, and flora that each month has to offer.   

  Now, here we are, stepping into the month of April. To be completely honest, it never felt as if I was in March all this time. It was so warm most of the month, with a few cold days here and there, even a bit of snow.  Many flowering trees that normally bloom in April have lost most their petals and have begun the next step unfurling their green leaves.  The crabapple trees are on the verge of blossoming, this I’m particularly excited about as they’re breathtaking in full bloom. I often enjoy this view in mid-April, but I’ll be seeing it a little earlier this year. 

Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon Sugar

  I’m excited to start combining the different flavors and scenes April has to offer. Much of my recipes these past couple weeks have focused mainly on citrus with some sort of herb or spice to accompany it. The last thing I baked was this Pull-Apart Cinnamon Grapefruit Bread with Earl Grey Lavender Glaze, and this week I bring to you these soft and feather-light Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon sugar. 

  Beignets are rather easy to make, especially if you are familiar with homemade doughnuts.  Both are processed in a similar manner, though, beignet dough is left to rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight, giving the end product a pleasant yeast flavor. Once they’ve been taken out of hot oil, they are rolled around in sugar which is given a subtle lemon flavor by rubbing the sugar granules in lemon zest. Lastly, they’re filled with a luscious pastry cream flavored using fresh lemon zest and rosemary leaves. They are, in a sense, an adieu to the citrus season for me.  A delicious one at that.

Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon Sugar  Rosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon SugarRosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon SugarRosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon SugarRosemary Lemon Cream Filled Beignets with Lemon Sugar

ROSEMARY LEMON CREAM FILLED BEIGNETS WITH LEMON SUGAR


 beignets:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (110°F)

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

3 large egg yolks

2 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup warm water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed + softened

oil (canola, vegetable, etc), for frying

 

 rosemary lemon cream:

1 cup whole milk

1 rosemary sprig, slightly mashed

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/4 cup whole milk 

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cake flour

1 tablespoon corn starch

1/4 cup sugar

lemon sugar:

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup granulated sugar

 

 method:

 for the beignets

  1. In the bowl of an electric standing mixer, add the yeast and warm water and slightly stir to combine.  Sprinkle in the flour and let it sit until it’s dry looking about 10-15 minutes.  Add the sugar, egg yolks, flour, sea salt, and water.  Mix the ingredients on medium speed with the dough hook attached; the dough should come together quickly, but if it looks dry within the first minute of mixing, add extra water until it comes together(you don’t want it clumpy).  Continue mixing the dough for 5 minutes, then stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a spatula and sprinkle with a bit of flour. Mix for another 5 minutes.   Afterward, it should be smooth, soft, and elastic with a slight stickiness to it. Once again, scrape down the bowl.  Add the softened butter and mix on medium-high until it all comes together.  This may take a few minutes and it will look separated at first, but it will soon come together forming a shiny, smooth, and elastic dough.  Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a large bowl lightly greased and floured.  Cover with a thin towel and let the dough rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour to an 1 and 2o minutes.  Once doubled in size, release the gasses by gently punching down the dough.  wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.  After two hours have passed, release the gasses one last time, then cover again(tightly) and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Lightly flour a large, flat surface and turn the dough out onto it.  Set aside a large baking sheet covered with a thin cloth and then dusted with flour.  Cut golf ball sized pieces of dough out.  To shape, simply cup your hands and roll a dough piece in between your palms, until it’s a smooth ball.  Gently flatten the ball between your palms until you have a sphere shaped piece of dough.  Place it on the prepared baking sheet and repeat the process until all the dough has been shaped.  Space each piece about 3 inches apart.  Prepared another baking sheet if needed.  Cover with a thin towel and let them rise again in a warm, dry place for 1 hour to an 1 and 15 minutes.  On the last 20 minutes of rising, fill a medium sized pot with a couple inches of oil and heat to 340°F(you want to keep it around this temperature to evenly cook the beignets through).
  3. Meanwhile, set aside a large plate and add the sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon zest.  Rub the zest and the sugar between your fingers until all the sugar has a coating of lemon flavor to it.  
  4. Once the beignets have finished rising and the oil preheating, gently scrape one beignet from the baking sheet and slide into the hot oil, quickly flip the beignet once in the oil.  Cook 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and just slightly dry the oil from the surface of the beignet, then roll around in the lemon sugar until coated.  Set on a wire rack to cool completely before filling.  Continue this process until each beignet has been fried and sugar coated.

 for the cream filling:

  1. In medium sized saucepan, add the milk lemon zest and rosemary sprig.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, then remove the zest and rosemary.  Bring the milk back to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and a pinch of sea salt.  Add the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Pour half of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.  Then using a strainer, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan of milk.  Turn the heat to medium and continue to whisk the mixture constantly until it becomes thick.  Stop stirring for a few seconds to see if the mixture is boiling, if so, continue whisking for 1 minute, then remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan and evenly spread around. Place another piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream to ensure a skin doesn’t form.  Place in the freezer until fully cooled(about 15 minutes).  
  3. Stir the pastry cream and spoon into a pastry bag with a large, round piping tip attached.  Poke a hole into the side of each beignet and pipe in the pastry cream until all the beignets are filled.  Enjoy.
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