Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mastic Ice Cream

The only producer of mastic, also called masticha, is the island Chios in Greece, but it is used in many other countries (Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco) for sweets and pastries as well as liqueurs and chewing gums.

I tried mastic ice cream for the first time last summer on my trip to Greece. There's this really good ice cream shop called To Pagoto in Glyfada (Athens) where they have very unique flavors, like Tsoureki, a Greek Easter bread! And now, since I've been making quite a lot of ice cream and stumbled upon some mastic resin crystals (ok... really I looked for them in every gourmet market), I simply had to give it a try!

But there was no mastic ice cream in The Perfect Scoop! No problem: I just used David Lebovitz's method of making vanilla bean ice cream (French-Style), left out the vanilla bean and substituted it for ground mastic! I found that Kevin from Closet Cooking had also made this ice cream and decided to use some vanilla sugar just like he did.

The result was a creamy ice cream, with a slightly gummy texture (which I liked) and a hint of mastic flavor. I liked that the mastic taste wasn't too overpowering and would definitely place this ice cream in my top 5. I did have a hard time getting all the mastic off my pot, mortar and pestle and spoons though... I think I could have prevented this by grinding the mastic with some of the sugar...


Mastic Ice Cream
Adapted and modified David Lebovitz's
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Makes about 1/2 Liter (1/2 Quart)

1/2 cup whole milk
3/8 cup (75 g) vanilla sugar

1 cup heavy cream

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp mastic resin crystals

3 large egg yolks

Use a mortar and pestle to grind the mastic resin crystals. Warm the milk, sugar, ½ cup of the cream and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the ground mastic to the warm milk and stir. Remove from the heat and cover for about 30 minutes. There might be pieces of mastic that will have formed. (No worries, we will strain them out later!)

Pour the remaining ½ cup cream in a bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly pour in the warm mixture (to temper eggs), whisking constantly. Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan and constantly stir the mixture over low heat with a spatula, until mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly (even overnight) in the refrigerator. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spritz Cookies

The only thing that stopped me making these cookies is the fact that I didn't own a cookie press. I checked out a few places for it and finally found a good deal at Déco Découverte.

These cookies don't need any planning ahead because the ingredients can be found in any kitchen: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and baking powder. The Wilton recipe asks for a bit of almond extract also, but you can leave that out if you want.

Even though they look cute and easy to make, they are not! Maybe it's just me not being able to use to cookie press properly, but I had a really hard time getting the cookies onto the parchment paper or Silpat! I would press the little handle and the cookie would form but it would stay stuck to the cookie press!

I know I'm complaining and everything, but they were worth it. I would make them again, even after all that hassle! I would probably dip some into chocolate or decorate them with candied cherries next time.


Spritz Cookies
Adapted from Wilton
Makes about 6 dozen cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat well (do not chill dough) and fill cookie press with the dough and desired disk. Press cookies onto a ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet placed on a rack then remove from sheet and cool completely.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecakes

My taste in food has changed a lot since I was little. My favorite cheese used to be Kraft Cheese but now I can't get enough of Brie, Jarlsberg and Kefalogaviera!

Cheesecake would be the last thing I would have chosen to eat. I remember I didn't appreciate its thickness and creaminess and would only eat the glazed strawberries on the top of the cake. Recently I started liking it though. These cheesecake cupcakes turned out cute and were pretty easy to make. I had halved the recipe because I didn't want to be stuck with too many of them but surprisingly, they disappeared very fast!


Raspberry Swirl Cheesecakes
Adapted from Cupcakes by Martha Stewart
Makes 32 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups + 5 tbsp sugar
6 ounces fresh raspberries
2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Stir together ground graham crackers, butter and 3 tbsp sugar. Press 1 tbsp of crust mixture firmly into the bottom of each lined cup. Bake for 5 minutes until set and place tins on a wire rack to cool.

Process raspberries in a food processor until smooth and strain the mixture into a small bowl to remove seeds. Whisk in 2 tbsp sugar.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy with a mixer on medium-high speed (scrape down sides of bowl if needed). With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar gradually. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each.

Spoon 3 tbsp filling over crust in each cup. Dollop 1/2 tsp raspberry puree in a few dots on each. Swirl sauce into filling with a toothpick in each cup. Place each tin into a roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan to come to three-quarters of the way up sides of cups.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until filling is set, between 22-24 minutes. Remove tins from water bath and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate (in tins) for at least 4 hours and remove from tins just before serving.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I can hardly believe it's been over a month since I last posted! It feels like forever! I haven't been on the computer much this summer, I've wanted to enjoy the sunny and hot weather as much as possible before I go back to my stressful life as a student. I've been working a lot more too to finance my future vacations (to hopefully take place next summer) and to pay off my 4-night trip to Las Vegas! It was wonderful but I doubt I'd be visiting again soon. I'm not the gambling type (I'd rather spend the money I'd be risking on a pair of jeans...) but still enjoyed the 45-degree weather and the beautiful pools at the Caesar's Palace! The strip has an amazing view at night too with all the lights and the Eiffel Tower from the Paris Hotel. Anyway I really think that a trip to Las Vegas is a must, at least once in your lifetime!

So now let's turn to baking, or freezing in my case. I've been making so many ice creams lately that I think I'll put that on hold, at least for a little while. Too much of one thing is not good, right? So what do I replace my usual custard-making and churning with? Something chewy, nutty and sweet... Nougat!

Nougat is one of those things I always buy just a piece or two of, just to satisfy my nougat-craving. I never end up buying a huge bag of them and that's exactly how much we were left with after making this recipe! A whole lotta nougat! Thank god most of them stayed with my boyfriend at his house :)

Anyways this recipe is not very hard to make but you have to keep an eye on the honey and corn syrup mixtures while they are heating... and this requires the use of 2 thermometers!


Adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts
Makes 30 to 45 squares

280g almonds
160g hazelnuts
160g walnuts
40g pistachios
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
280g honey
240g light corn syrup
600g sugar
cornstarch for dusting

Preheat oven to 220 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios on the baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning frequently. Keep the nuts warm while preparing the nougat base (keep them in the oven with the oven turned off and the door slightly opened).

Place egg whites in a mixer bowl fitted with whip attachment. Combine honey with 40g of the corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil (candy thermometer 1).

While waiting for the honey mixture to boil, combine remaining corn syrup, sugar and 75ml cold water in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring to a boil (candy thermometer 2).

When honey mixture comes to a boil, start whipping egg whites. When the honey mixture reaches 130 degrees C (266 degrees F), pour it over the egg whites (don't stop beating). Try to pour it on the side of the bowl and not directly on top of the beaters or else this can form hardened candy on the beaters.

Continue to whip until sugar mixture has reached 139 degrees C (282 degrees F) and pour it over the egg whites (keep beating).

When the meringue begins to stiffen, switch the whip attachment for the paddle attachment. Continue to beat on low and add the nuts, mixing just to blend.

Place a silicone mat on a large pan. Lightly dust it with cornstarch and pour the hot nougat on top. Dust the top of the nougat with cornstarch and place another silicone mat on top of it. Roll the nougat to 1.3 cm (1/2-inch) thick with rolling pin.

Allow to cool for a couple of hours and cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch) squares. Use a brush if you want to dust off the excess cornstarch and enjoy!