Daley Toffee

toffee

Well, after spending hours in the test kitchen, sifting through recipes submitted for The Bulletin’s “Edible Gift Recipe Contest”, I found a winner — Daley Toffee, a family recipe submitted by Laura Daley of Mount Airy. Crunchy, sweet, chocolaty, nutty, buttery, this toffee is so yummy! And addictive. Almost immediately after breaking the toffee into shards and photographing it, I brought it into the office — mostly to get it out of my sight — where the staff polished it off … I received several e-mails that day describing the scene. I returned to work the next day to find the empty Tupperware sitting on my chair.

Before trying this recipe, I had never attempted making toffee, and now, I have no fears of candy making or of terms like “hard-ball” stage. Cooking the sugar and butter mixture until it reaches the hard-ball stage is the only tricky part of this recipe, but Laura’s instructions make the process painless. Instead of relying on a thermometer, which I find never to be accurately calibrated anyway, Laura’s method calls for testing the mixture by dropping a small spoonful of the mixture into a glass of cold water — it’s foolproof.

The toffee, as Laura notes in the recipe, makes a great gift for the holidays. Several years ago, I purchased a case of 100 brown stationary boxes from Usbox.com. Although this large case of boxes takes up nearly half our storage space in the basement, every holiday season I am so happy to have these clear-top boxes on hand. I have packaged biscotti and chocolate truffles in them for the past two years, and now I will pack Daley Toffee in them as well. For a nice presentation, use parchment paper as a base inside the box, wrap the box with a delicate ribbon, and tie on a simple tag describing the contents of the box. My favorite tags to use for gift giving are metal rim tags, which you can find at Staples or any office supply store. They sell packs of 50 for about $10.

Daley Toffee: A Family Recipe
Laura’s notes: This recipe makes a great holiday gift for those with a sweet tooth! It keeps up to 2 weeks if you put it in an airtight container.

1 C. salted butter 

1 C. sugar 

3 T. water (if tap, put through a Britta or use well or bottled) 

1 1/8 tsp. vanilla
2/3 C. ground pecans (or nut of your choice) 

4-6 oz. premium milk chococlate (bar form is easiest; can also do a dark chocolate but we think milk chocolate is best)

Directions:
1. Cook butter, sugar, water, and vanilla over medium heat stirring CONSTANTLY until golden brown — test for hard ball stage in cold water. It may smoke, but don’t worry.
2. Put half to 2/3 of the nuts in the bottom of a greased 9×9 inch pan. 

3. Pour the cooked butter/sugar mixture over the nuts. 

4. Wait a few minutes and put the chocolate on top — when chocolate softens, spread evenly and sprinkle remaining nuts on top.
5. When completely cool, break into pieces. Store in airtight container. 

NOTE: You can also use an 8×13 if you’d prefer a thinner version — in which case increase nuts to 1 C.

Fair Trade Pecan Tart

pecantart

Once a term used only to label coffee, chocolate, tea and a few other imported products, Fair Trade now describes a few domestic items as well. In honor of Fair Trade month (October), four farmers — two banana farmers from Costa Rica, a pecan farmer from Georgia, and an apple farmer from Vermont — visited several East Coast cities on a tour called the Faces Of Fair Trade. Last Tuesday, Joe Coffee Bar hosted one of the tour’s stops, and I got to meet Diann Johnson (the pecan farmer), Glen Schreiter (the apple farmer) and Yocser Godoy Carranza and Carlos Vargas (the banana farmers) — the new faces of Fair Trade.

I never realized all the difficulties — isolation, for example, and low prices driven by increased market supply from countries such as China — domestic farms face, until I spoke with these farmers, especially Mr. Schreiter.

To survive in a globalized world, Mr. Schreiter had to change his game plan, and in 2000, he initiated a complete restructuring of his farm, Saxtons River Orchards, in Saxtons River, Vermont. The last straw? Mr. Scheiter couldn’t even sell his apples to his neighbors, living only 10 minutes from his farm. Before 2000, Mr. Schreiter’s 200-acre farm, equipped with a multi-million dollar packing facility, shipped their apples all over the world. After 1993, however, when NAFTA enabled China (the largest apple-producing country in the world) and New Zealand to sell their apples to consumers in the U.S. and all over the world, Mr. Screiter’s farm began suffering.

And so, Mr. Schreiter downsized his farm to 40 acres, sold the packing facility and hooked up with an organization called Red Tomato, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting farmers and consumers. Red Tomato purchases 50 percent of Mr. Schreiter’s apples as well as fruits and vegetables from family farms located all along the East Coast, supplying shops throughout New England. Because few farmers’ markets operate near Saxtons River, and because the farm’s isolated location discourages many visitors, Mr. Schreiter believes his orchard could not survive without Red Tomato.

In 11 years, Red Tomato has succeeded in bringing locally grown produce to markets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. In 20 years, Equal Exchange, the oldest and largest Fair Trade for-profit organization in the country, has brought numerous Fair Trade goods — including domestic nuts and dried cranberries — to hundreds of cafés and stores, reaching over a million consumers. These organizations, realizing that domestic farmers face many of the same challenges producers in marginalized regions of the world face, have changed the face of Fair Trade.

Also, find all of your holiday baking needs, certified Fair Trade that is, at Joe Coffee Bar. ‘Tis the season for pecan pie, so plan ahead: Find a source for Fair Trade products, and purchase enough now to cover your seasonal baking needs. Equal Exchange is another good source for Fair Trade products and information. This recipe has been adapted from this month’s Bon Appétit — it’s delectable — not cloyingly sweet. I’m very thankful I got to see my husband this weekend, who happily took the remaining tart off my hands … I’m looking forward to returning to my morning oat bran routine.

Diann Johnson (pecan farmer from Georgia) stands with Joe Cesa (owner of Joe Coffee Bar) at Joe Coffee Bar, where many Fair Trade products are sold:

Fair Trade Pecan Tart
Serves 5

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ C. sugar
1 large egg yolk
pinch sea salt
1¼ C. all purpose flour
2-3 T. milk, cream or water

Beat butter and sugar using an electric mixer until smooth. Add the yolk and salt and mix again until smooth. Add the flout, mixing on low until just incorporated. Add the liquid, a tablespoon at a time, to bind. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into an 11-inch round, approximately. Transfer to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Pierce dough all over with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Filling:
3 large eggs
½ C. packed brown sugar
½ C. maple syrup
½ C. dark corn syrup
¼ C. unsalted butter, melted
1½ C. coarsely chopped Fair Trade pecans, roasted and salted

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and syrups until well blended. Pour in the melted butter, whisking constantly. Stir in the pecans. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and pour the filling inside. Bake tart until filling is puffed and slightly set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool

Pumpkin Cupcakes

cupcakes5

These cupcakes, the third in a series of pumpkin recipes, are really a seasonal treat — they’ll please everyone: On Monday, fearing if I left them in my reach they would disappear as quickly as last week’s apple cake, I dropped the remaining 11 of this batch of 12 off at The Bulletin’s office, and they were a big hit. Unfortunately, I still have about a quart of the cream cheese frosting left in my refrigerator at home … I really hope I don’t return to Philadelphia with an empty stomach.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield = 12 cupcakes

1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1¼ cups sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt

frosting and decorative garnishes (purchased at Fante’s) if desired

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix only until just combined. Place paper liners in muffin pan or coat with cooking spray. Fill each cup only three-quarters full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz. butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat all with an electric mixture until smooth. Chill until ready to serve.

Pumpkin Waffles, Bread Pudding

waffles5

There’s nothing like gourd season to separate the purists and the pretenders in the kitchen. As I grew up indoctrinated with my mother’s culinary canons — chicken stock is made at home from real chickens, herbs and vegetables; salad dressing does not come from a bottle; homemade bread is simple to prepare; pie crusts are made only with butter; and the best burgers are made with freshly ground meat — I always considered myself a purist.

On Tuesday, however, I made the mistake of telling Sam Consylman, one of the farmers at the South and Passyunk Farmers’ Market, I had just made some pumpkin bread. “What kind of pumpkin did you use?” Mr. Consylman asked me. I paused. I knew what he meant. And as I looked around, I felt a sudden pressure, a collective stare emanating from the farm-stand table spilling with butternut, acorn, delicata, hubbard, kabocha and red kuri squashes. I sheepishly confessed: “Libby’s.”

“Oh man,” was all Mr. Consylman could say, his face twisting in disbelief, bordering on disgust. As he shook his head, he extolled the light texture and pure squash flavor of a real pumpkin pie, and he implored me to travel to Lancaster to taste one. I promised him I would.

I hope before winter squash season ends, I will get out to Lancaster, and I hope at some time, I do get around to making my own pumpkin pie from scratch. And in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to revise a little axiom of my own: Canned pumpkin for the sweets, fresh for the savories.

Pumpkin Waffles
Serves 3 to 4

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin purée
4 eggs, separated
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
powdered sugar, maple syrup and butter for serving

Preheat a waffle iron to hot and preheat the oven to 200ºF. Whisk together the flour, two tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder, salt and spice together. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin, yolks, butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix only until just blended. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat until glossy peaks form. Stir one-third of these egg whites into the batter to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Ladle into heated waffle iron and cook until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. As the waffles come off the iron, place on the cooling rack and place pan in oven to keep warm until all the waffles finish cooking (the rack keeps the waffles from getting soggy on the bottom).

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Serves 8

1 baguette or loaf of white bread, cut into one-inch cubes, preferably cut and left to stale overnight
¾ stick (6 tablespoons or 3 oz.) of unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup pumpkin purée
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place cubed bread in a bowl and pour the melted butter over top. Toss to coat, then transfer to a baking dish such as a 9×12 glass baking dish or any other similarly shaped vessel.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, pumpkin, sugar and spice together. Strain mixture then pour over the bread in the baking dish. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. When pressed gently, mixture will feel slightly jiggly but set.

Let cool 15 minutes before spooning into bowls and sprinkling each with powdered sugar.

Best Dessert Ever

Balzano

Seriously, this may be my favorite dessert ever. After cookies and cream ice cream, that is. No really, I have taken this don’t-take-your-mother’s-advice thing way too far. She, I mean my mother — (Liza hates to be referred to as a pronoun) — has been telling me to make this cake for years, well at least since 2004, when the New York Times printed the recipe.

I baked this cake this morning, ate one quarter of it for lunch, and another quarter for dinner. I’m tempted to include a picture of the half-eaten cake in this post, but am too embarrassed. I don’t know what else to say. It’s moist, delicious, seasonal and can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or dinner. I mean it. Make it!

Balzano Apple Cake
Adapted from New York Times 2004
Serves 8

1 stick butter, plus more for greasing pan
parchment paper
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean 

4 Fuji apples
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt such as fleur de sel
½ cup milk at room temperature
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a nine-inch-circle pan with butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place inside pan.

Melt butter in small saucepan. Set aside. Beat together eggs and half of sugar in a bowl. Continue to beat while slowly adding remaining sugar until thick — it should form a ribbon when dropped from spoon.

Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into the egg-sugar mixture and add pod to melted butter.

Peel apples and cut straight down around the core into four big chunks. Discard the core then slice the apple pieces thinly.

Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Stir butter into sugar-egg mixture. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, then stir into batter alternating with the milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, until cake pulls away from pan and is brown on top. (A thin-bladed knife inserted into the center will come out clean when it is done.) Cool 30 minutes, then cut into wedges sprinkling each with powdered sugar if desired.

Green Tea Madeleines & Birchrun Hills Farm Blue

greentea

I realized I forgot to report a few other details from my little gathering last weekend. On Sunday morning, my friends and I slowly recovered from the late-night festivities with the help of coffee for some, tea for others, and green tea madeleines for all. I had some leftover batter for these delicate treats from a batch I had made a few days ago, and baked them off while the coffee brewed — they take only ten minutes in the oven. The recipe had been adapted from a recipe I cut out of this past April’s Bon Appetit for madeleines from New York’s renown Payard Patisserie & Bistro. The recipe is excellent — very lemony — and a couple of teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder) add a nice, but very subtle touch. Truthfully, the green tea flavor is hardly detectable, so double the amount of matcha for a more pronounced flavor.

And while I mentioned that we stopped by the Birchrun Hills Farm stand at the Sunday Headhouse Farmers’ Market, I forgot to mention that we all enjoyed a wedge of Birchrun Blue with our hors d’ouevres the previous evening. Sue Miller makes this creamy blue cheese from raw milk drawn from the cows on her dairy farm in Chester Springs. I recently visited her beautiful farm, met many of her precious cows and learned about the intensive cheese-making process. I also learned that a snack Sue makes — melted Birchrun Blue over a toasted baguette drizzled with honey — has been named “Sweet Sue” by one of her neighbors.

Matcha Madeleines
Yield = 30

1¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)*
1½ sticks (¾ cup) unsalted butter
2½ teaspoons honey
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
2½ tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
Special equipment: madeleine pans (3-inch-long molds)

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and matcha in a bowl. Place butter and honey in a microwave-proof dish and microwave for one minute. Stir, and microwave 30 seconds longer or until butter has melted.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugars and lemon peel until combined. On low speed, add half of the hot butter mixture and mix until blended. Add half of the flour mixture and mix again until blended. Repeat with remaining butter and flour mixture being careful to mix the batter just until the flour is incorporated. Let batter chill for one to three hours.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Butter and flour madeleine pan or pans. (Note: If you only have one pan, it is important to let each batch of madeleines cool completely in the pan. The pan should be washed, re-buttered and re-floured as well before using on a second and third batch.) Place heaping spoonfuls of the batter into the molds. Don’t worry about spreading the batter — it fills the molds and rises in the oven.

Bake five minutes. Reduce heat to 400ºF and bake five more minutes. Check madeleines: If they are golden brown around the edges and puffed in the center, remove from the oven. If necessary, continue baking. (They may take an additional five minutes.) Remove pan from the oven, and let madeleines cool completely in their molds before removing. Serve at room temperature with tea.

*Available at Asian markets. Also, the green tea taste of these madeleines is very subtle. For a stronger flavor, add an additional 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha.

Black Prince Tomatoes & Chocolate Chip Cookies

best chocolate chip cookie

I never thought I would say that I have a favorite tomato, but as of this past Saturday I do. As I passed through Reading Terminal Market on my way to the Fair Food Farmstand, I stopped at the Livengood stand, struck by the array of tomatoes on their table. I asked one of the men to suggest a tomato for a simple salad and he handed me a Black Prince. I purchased a dozen, made my way to the Farmstand for grass-fed ground beef, then headed home.

After a slight detour that led me to purchase 10 tiki torches (the price was ridiculous, really), I found my way home and started preparing for a dinner with five friends: Bates and Will, recently married and about to move to Syria for a year; Steph and Mike, recently engaged and big fans of grass-fed beef and their new East Coast city; and our friend Jon, single and still recovering from his great Asian adventure. Oh and much to my surprise, when I greeted my friends at the door, Bug, Bates and Will’s dachshund, had decided to make the trip from New York City too! Read all about the life of Bug (and Bates and Will), the latest plans for Steph and Mike’s wedding in Cabo and Jon’s wild last day in Hanoi.

By the light of the torches and a few candles, the six of us wholly enjoyed homemade hummus and pita prepared by Steph, olives brought by the New York crew and hamburgers made with Dr. Angusburger beef. The tomatoes, however, were the highlight of the evening. With basil from the farmstand, Claudio’s fresh mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt, the tomatoes made a perfect salad.

Bates particularly appreciated how the tomatoes had been cut — in irregular chunks as opposed to slices — finding them easier to eat. For these shapes, I must give credit to the chef I worked under at Fork, Thien Ngo, who always plated food with a “chaos theory” in mind. He would “trash” restaurants whose food looked like “legos” on the plate. He preferred the very natural look, believing that the plating of food reflects how much the food has been handled.

Warm chocolate chip cookies and delectable green figs from the Farmstand finished the evening nicely. The simple dinner had been a success, as had the weekend as a whole: The following day, we walked to the Headhouse Farmers’ Market, where my friends all purchased cheese from Birchrun Hills Farm and met the wonderful Sue Miller. Then we walked to Reading Terminal and of course paid a visit to the Fair Food Farmstand where I showed my friends where I buy, among many groceries, grass-fed ground beef and raw milk, which we had all delighted in that morning for breakfast. And before sending them back on the Chinatown bus, we savored fresh rice noodles at Ding Ho — a perfect weekend indeed!

Soft and Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies
Yields about 35 1¾ oz cookies

10¾ oz unsalted butter (1 1/3 cups)
10¼ oz light brown sugar (1½ cups packed)
7¾ oz granulated sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
1 T. pure vanilla extract
17 oz unbleached all-purpose flour (3¾ cups)
1¼ tsp table salt
1 tsp. baking soda
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl, beat again on high for one minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended, about another minute on medium-high speed. Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in separate bowl. Add to butter mixture and combine with a spatula or wooden spoon until just blended. Add the chocolate chips and stir till combined. The dough will be stiff.

Portion into 1¾ oz sized balls. This is a tedious task, but it makes for beautiful and uniform cookies that bake evenly. If you have a digital scale, this is an easy task; if you have no scale, use a small ice cream scoop or some other uniform measuring device. Chill the portioned balls for at least three hours, or freeze for months.

Preheat oven to 375°. Place portioned balls nicely spaced on an ungreased jelly roll pan. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake 8-11 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through cooking. Keep a close watch. You want to remove the cookies from the oven when they still look slightly raw—you will think you are removing them too early. The cookies will continue cooking as they sit on the tray out of the oven. Let sit for 5 minutes on tray before removing to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before storing.

Bug, enjoying the wilderness in a Philadelphia backyard:

Baklava

baklava

This past Friday night, after dinner at Buddakan with nine of my high school friends followed by an evening of dancing at Plough and the Stars, two of my friends and I found ourselves famished back in my apartment. Luckily, I found some trusty items in the pantry: popcorn, frozen pizza dough and a whole tray of baklava.

I set to work in the kitchen. I heated oil in a saucepan for the popcorn. I preheated the panini machine. I unwrapped the pizza dough and threw it in the microwave to defrost/rise instantly. (This wasn’t a frozen pizza, rather an unbaked ball of dough.) I had only completed a fraction of my prep work when my friends wandered into the kitchen to inspect — they were really hungry.

Both asked why I had placed a pot on the stove. After explaining the non microwave popcorn process, I handed them the tray of baklava and guided them back into the living room. Kristin happily tucked into the nutty, honey-laden dessert, but Liz, after just a few bites, demanded her homemade pizza! I worked furiously in the kitchen to bring them more food. I rushed them the bowl of popcorn, but neither was impressed: The ratio of unpopped to popped kernels was probably 2:1. They had a valid argument.

By this point I had rolled the thawed dough into a small disk and thrown it onto the panini machine. After a few minutes, I pulled it off and slathered it with fresh ricotta cheese and fig jam. As a finishing touch, I drizzled some truffle oil — Liz’s favorite ingredient — over the top. I brought the pizza into the living room, where I found Kristin on the couch settling into her food coma and Liz on the air mattress awaiting her meal.

We finished the pizza while recounting the evening, our stomachs aching from laughing, nearly crying, and very likely from eating. Kristin went to bed swearing off baklava forever, and while Liz made no mention of giving up her truffle oil, I think she identified with Kristin’s state.

Fortunately, much to my relief, this bold declaration only lasted so long. Around three o’clock the following afternoon, Kristin admitted she was ready to give what remained of the baklava another go.

Baklava

1 lb. fillo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight
1 lb. walnuts
½ C. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 lb. clarified butter
1 lb. honey (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Pulse walnuts in a food processor until chopped (not too finely). Remove from processor and place in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves.

Grease a 10- by 15-inch pan with one tablespoon of the melted butter. Layer one sheet of fillo dough on top. Spoon one to two tablespoons over the dough — do not use a pastry brush. (It’s ok if much of the dough is left unbuttered.) Layer with another sheet of fillo. Spoon more butter over top aiming for areas of the dough untouched by butter in the previous layer. Repeat this layering process with half of the fillo, about 14 sheets depending on the box. Spread the nut filling evenly over the top of the fillo, then top the nuts with the remaining fillo, layering in the same manner as before.

Brush the top layer of fillo with butter. Using a sharp knife, score the baklava in a diamond pattern. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the honey over top.

Cut and serve.

Peach Ice Cream

PEACHICECREAM2

Last Wednesday afternoon, with the temperature climbing to 98 degrees and the heat index steady at 105, I couldn’t help but join the masses in Capogiro for a tasting spree. Welcomed by a case teeming with colors and custards flowing in ribbons out of countless tubs, I happily joined the 15 other customers huddled around this oasis on 13th Street, entranced by its myriad flavors.

I knew what I wanted before walking in, but like the others, sampled away, contemplating each spoonful, searching — pretending to search — for that one irresistible flavor, until I sensed my server knew what I was up to.

“I’ll have the pesche con panna, please.” I paid my $4.55 for the small, claimed a table and savored every bite of my Lancaster County peaches and cream gelato and every moment out of that oppressive heat.

This time of year I can’t get enough of the local peaches, both Jersey and Lancaster, which have been particularly delicious this season. Inspired by this sweet, juicy fruit and Capogiro’s creation, I’ve made a peach ice cream, which to be quite honest, is best eaten straight out of the machine. Enjoyed the day of, like fresh peaches and cream, this ice cream is nearly irresistible. A day later, unfortunately, it firms up considerably and requires a good 10 minutes at room temperature before scooping is even a possibility.

Peach Ice Cream
Yield = 1½ quarts

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
pinch of salt
½ vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
2 peaches

Combine milk, cream, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pot and drop remaining bean in as well. Heat over medium until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot but not boiling. Place egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly ladle hot milk into egg yolks, whisking constantly. When about three quarters of the milk has been added to the pot, return the milk-yolk mixture back to the pot and turn the heat to medium. Stir constantly with a spoon or spatula until mixture thickens and coats the back of the utensil. Remove from heat, strain into a shallow vessel such as a Tupperware, cover with plastic wrap (placing wrap directly on custard) and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Make a small slit in the bottom of each peach, add to the water and boil one minute. Drain, run the peaches under cold water and gently rub off their skin. Let cool slightly, then cut into large pieces and purée in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

Transfer custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When custard is just about done, add peach purée and churn for 1 to 2 more minutes, until incorporated. Transfer ice cream to storage containers and freeze until ready to serve.

Gluten-Free Cooking Spree

Brownie5

First let me make known that I’ve borrowed this “Gluten-Free Cooking Spree” slogan from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), an amazing organization started by Alice Bast, a Philadelphia woman full of energy and initiative. I spoke with Bast over the phone a few days ago and listened to her recount her tragic yet inspiring story.

Bast, after suffering the trauma of delivering a stillborn baby followed by several miscarriages, visited 23 doctors before learning she had celiac disease. When she discovered that all of her health complications could have been prevented had she changed one aspect of her life — her diet — she quit her job (a top executive at a tech firm), started the NFCA, and resolved to devote her life to raising awareness about this debilitating digestive disease. Read Alice Bast’s whole story on the NFCA’s Web site.

One out of every 133 people has celiac disease — 3 million Americans — yet 97 percent of celiacs don’t know they have it. Through the efforts of Bast, the NFCA and other organizations sharing the same goal, more doctors are recognizing the prevalence of the disease, and fewer people as a result are suffering. Currently the only cure for this disabling disease is to eliminating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, from the diet.

While Bast told me a half dozen or so stories about celiacs restoring their health and reclaiming their lives after adopting a gluten-free diet, one is particularly poignant. Last August, a woman who had been trying to get pregnant for 10 years without success, read Bast’s story in Good Housekeeping. The woman sensed she had celiac disease, began the diet, and within 6 months became pregnant.

Other celiacs have seen their migraine headaches, incessant stomachaches, diarrhea and nausea — stresses they have suffered their whole lives — disappear within days of beginning the gluten-free diet.

The “Gluten-Free Cooking Spree” is the name of an event the NFCA is bringing to cities across the country. This past June, 10 chefs and doctors in Philadelphia teamed up to prepare tasty gluten-free dishes in a competition judged by George Perrier of Le Bec-Fin and Christina Pirello of Christina Cooks. Read more about the event on the NFCA’s Web site.

I decided to see for myself what gluten-free cooking entails. I’ve now introduced my pantry to a host of ingredients I never thought it would meet — brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, tapioca flour and xanthum gum. And, I have to say, the two recipes I tested were delicious. I have been slathering fresh ricotta on the focaccia for breakfast, and enjoying a brownie each night after dinner.

I am not in any way trying to prove that anyone can easily conform to this diet by simply purchasing the necessary ingredients. This diet requires celiacs to inspect all food labels thoroughly and question restaurant wait staff and chefs exhaustively, because even the tiniest trace of gluten — present in soy sauce, vinegars, lunch meats, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and most soups — can trigger an adverse immune response.

While I’ll likely never know what life as a celiac is like, I have a better understanding after speaking with Alice Bast and reading other personal stories on the NFCA Web site. I greatly admire Bast’s many noble efforts to prevent others from suffering the same tragedies she unnecessarily endured.


Gluten-Free Brownies
Adapted from Karina’s Kitchen: Recipes From a Gluten Free Goddess
www.glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com
Yield = 16

5 oz. dark chocolate chips (gluten-free) + more for topping
½ C. butter
2 eggs
1 C. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ C. almonds, processed into a fine meal (or ½ C. almond flour)
¼ C. brown rice flour
½ tsp. fine sea salt
½ tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan.

Microwave the dark chocolate and butter in a Pyrex bowl for 45 seconds, stirring once halfway.

In a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat well for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and whisk until blended. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy. Remove bowl from stand and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ground almonds (or flour), rice flour, salt and baking soda. Add this dry mix to the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle another 2 to 4 tablespoons of chocolate chips evenly over the batter if desired. Place in the oven and bake for 32 to 34 minutes. Test with a paring knife or a toothpick.

Cool completely on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan. Turn pan over quickly and slam onto a cutting board. The whole block of brownies should come right out. Leave the brownie block face down and cut into 16 squares, wiping knife in between cuts. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Gluten-Free Focaccia
Adapted from www.celiac.com
Yield = 8 sandwiches

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for greasing
1½ C. brown rice flour
½ C. buckwheat, amaranth or teff flour
2 C. tapioca flour
2/3 C. instant non-fat dry milk powder
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 T. active dry yeast
1 T. sugar
1½ C. lukewarm water
4 egg whites at room temperature
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
sea salt for sprinkling

Grease a parchment paper-lined or Silpat-lined sheet tray with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flours, milk powder, xanthan gum, salt, yeast, and sugar. In a large bowl, combine the water and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add olive oil-water mixture to dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Transfer dough — it will be very sticky — to the prepared sheet tray. With greased hands, gently spread dough out, dimpling the dough slightly with your fingers — dough will not fill the entire tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 40 minutes.

Remove plastic wrap, gently dimple dough again with your fingers, being careful not to deflate. Lightly drizzle olive oil over top, sprinkle with the rosemary and salt to taste. Place in the oven, close the door and reduce the heat to 400ºF.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer until the focaccia is nicely golden. Remove from the oven and transfer bread from pan to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing and using for sandwiches.