Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dehydrated Apple Chips

One of the special treats the girls get to have when we visit Nana's house, is dehydrated cinnamon apple chips.  There is a lot of time that goes into those, and we have to ration them, or the girls would eat through a day's worth of work in just a few minutes.  They are seriously tasty snacks though.  The most time consuming part of making apple chips is laying them out on the dehydrator sheets.  Other than that, it is mostly drying time.  So after our last trip to Nana's house I decided to get a bunch of extra apples and make some for the girls at home.  I took a chance and did them slightly differently than Nana.  At first, the reaction was, "Um, these aren't quite like Nana's apple chips."  By the end of the day though, they were just as awesome in their own way.  Now the girls say, "We love Nana's and we love yours too."  ☺  It's a matter of personal taste how thin or crispy you like your apple chips.  I like mine thin and crispy/chewy.  R prefers her a bit thicker and chewier.  Hubby gave two thumbs up on these as well, bonus!  Now I just need to add a few more trays to my dehydrator so I can do more at a time.  I set my mandoline at 1/8" and got slices a tiny bit thinner than that.  At that setting, three apples pretty much filled the five trays on my circular dehydrator.  I might go to 3/16" next time for half the slices.  I do recommend using the mesh sheets for that particular machine because the food removal is much easier.  Otherwise, remove while still slightly warm or heat back up for five minutes to avoid breaking the chips.  I really love this version of dehydrated apple chips because the simple syrup helps them keep their shape and color and also helps them get crispy if you want.  It adds just a tiny bit of sweet tart flavor while really adding hardly any sugar.

(But these are as good as adding candy to a lunchbox as far as my kids are concerned.)

Apple and Cinnamon Apple Chips in the Dehydrator

3-4 apples, washed well (I used organic Galas)
1¾ cups evaporated cane sugar
2 cups water
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp powdered sugar (optional)

In a 2Qt or larger saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together just until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and set this simple syrup aside while you slice the apples.  Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the apples into thin slices between 1/8" and ¼" thick.

As you finish each apple, place the slices in the syrup and submerge.  Let the slices soak for an hour or so.

Drain the slices in a colander and set it over the pot to drip dry while you arrange the slices on the dehydrator trays.  (You may save the syrup in the refrigerator for more batches later that day or the next day.)  Once the slices are laid out, you may sift plain cinnamon, or a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar over them for cinnamon apple chips.  

Or leave them plain as desired.

Set the dehydrator for 135-145º and run for 3-4 hours or as long as overnight for thicker slices.  Test occasionally to see how crispy the chips are becoming.  Remember that the finished product will be crispier once it cools than when it is still warm in the dehydrator.  The chips I made ranged from chewy to just slightly crispy for the 1/8" setting on my mandoline.

They will keep for months in an airtight container but will never last that long.  I suggest hiding them in the freezer for longer storage or just to protect your efforts from being demolished in 5 minutes.

For other great lunchbox or just plain good ideas, check out Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Pie

This is a repeat request dessert for spring and summer get togethers.  When I asked what I should bring to an Easter gathering with friends, aside from the obligatory Lemon Chiffon and Black Bottom Pies, this frosty treat was instantly remembered and requested by one of the young ladies in the host family.  I love it because it is very easy and better still, a make ahead dessert.  Great for hot spring and summer days.  (The recipe can be halved for a regular pie dish sized dessert.)

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Pie
Makes 18-24 servings

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
¼ cup butter, melted

1 Qt fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled (frozen have better flavor out of season)
½ gallon vanilla ice cream, softened (I use the Breyer's Natural Vanilla as one of the few without corn syrup)
1 cup lemon juice (fresh preferred)
¾ cup honey
1 tsp lemon zest (if you didn't have fresh lemons, don't worry about it)
1- 1½ cups heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar 

Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl.  Pour the melted butter evenly over the top and mix together thoroughly.   Press the mixture into a 10" (That's TEN inch) springform pan lined with parchment on the bottom.  Bake at 375º for about 7 minutes.  Remove, cool and set aside to fill later.

Blend the lemon juice and honey together in a blender.  Then puree the strawberries (slightly thawed if using frozen) into the mixture.  Put the softened ice cream in a large bowl or stand mixer and mix until soft serve consistency.  Add the puree and lemon zest.  Mix on low speed or fold by hand until the two mixtures are blended.  Set the mixture in the freezer for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  When the frozen mixture has thickened up a little, fold into the whipped cream.  Use the larger amount of cream for a slightly less tart dessert.  Scrape the filling into the springform pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or rubber scraper.  Any extra filling can be frozen in a dixie or custard cup for a little treat.  Find a flat place in the freezer and chill until solid.  Wrap in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to two months.  Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving and remove sides of pan.  Cut with a sharp knife in fairly thin slices.  If serving among other dessert options, take out only one quarter of the pie at a time so the rest doesn't melt while waiting.  Top with extra whipped cream if desired.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Meringues

Meringues are so quick and easy to make, though not so quick to bake.  I think the swirl is what makes these one of the girls' favorite cookies to whip up, but you can always just drop them by spoonfuls onto your baking sheet too.  I've been saving my egg whites in the freezer for a while; I have enough for an angel cake and then some.  So when the girls started making cookie noises I was able to pull out a partial container to make these in a jiffy.  Well, they did have to thaw first so semi-jiffy.  Previously the girls have wanted them pink with sprinkles, but this time I decided on peppermint with chocolate.  Good choice.  The chocolate helps offset the pure sugar sweetness of the meringues.  And the peppermint is pretty subtle too, it's not like eating a candy cane.  Meringues are great for holding any flavor you choose.  I think almond meringues dipped in chocolate would be awesome!

Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Sprinkles
makes 36 to 40 puffs

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp peppermint extract
Chocolate sprinkles

Preheat oven to 200ºF and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Process the sugar in a food processor or in batches in a spice/coffee grinder until superfine and powdery.  In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Mix in the cream of tartar.  Start adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the mixture does not feel gritty between your fingers and holds very stiff peaks.  Mix in the peppermint extract.  Spoon the mixture into a gallon Ziploc bag with a large star tip fitted at the end.  You can also just snip off a corner for piping if you don't have pastry tips.  Pipe the meringue in swirls or mounds on the parchment covered baking sheets.  Top with chocolate sprinkles.  Bake the cookies for 90 minutes until pale and fairly crisp.  Turn off the oven and leave for another 10-15 minutes, then prop the door open a crack and leave to finish drying for another few hours.  Avoid the temptation to get into them right away as they will be slightly chewy in the center.  Once they are completely cool and dry, they will be melt in your mouth crisp all the way through.  Store in an airtight container for up to a few days.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jeni's Savannah Buttermint Ice Cream

It was such lovely weather for Easter!  We actually made it up to 75º - I don't think we've had such nice weather this weekend for years.  Now we have the garden mostly weeded; the herbs and mint are pruned back and very happy.  I could have taken some of the mint prunings and made some fresh garden mint ice cream.  It is getting closer to ice cream weather on a regular basis.  But one thing I learned in the last side by side taste test:  Savannah Buttermint ice cream wins in our family, hands down.  I highly recommend getting a copy of Jeni's ice cream book, because they turn out amazing! 

And in the case of this particular flavor, Savannah Buttermint Ice Cream, truly A-MAZ-ING.  It's like an ice cream form of those little wedding/party mints or the after dinner butter mints.  Super rich, creamy, toothsome without being gummy, sweet without being cloying, and truly buttery.  Both my Dad and hubby loved it! I am duly impressed with the book.  And the back story of how her scoop shops came about is a great read too.  This is one of those cookbooks you can sit down and have fun reading from cover to cover.
One interesting thing is that Jeni talks about the option of tapioca or corn starch and syrup.  She uses tapioca starch and tapioca syrup in her scoop shops.  Since we have a corn allergy, I used the tapioca options as well and found that my mix got very thick.  I mean almost pudding thick.  I believe this is because tapioca starch thickens quickly and at a relatively low temperature.  The directions are written for corn starch and syrup since most people will be using that option.  Anyway I thinned it out with a little more cream and it still turned out positively unctuous in the best sense.  Tapioca syrup is not quite as sweet as corn syrup so I imagine it would not alter the flavor as much as corn syrup.  I consider that a bonus as well.  It's one of the reasons these ice creams are so great, the flavors are very pure because they are not custard/egg based mixes.  You may find the cream cheese to be an interesting secret ingredient.  Oh yes, bonus, she includes recipes for mix-ins from buttered nuts, meringues and brittles to lingonberry sauce.

So for a truly rich, butter, minty ice cream experience, try this out.  And then get the book!  (I think I'll make the maple ice cream with salty buttered nuts next...)  Oh, don't be afraid of the turmeric, it's just for color, not flavor.  And I used buttery sweet dough flavor since I had it.  It's still butter flavor.  I'll get the Frontier brand when I run out.

Jeni's Savannah Buttermint Ice Cream
makes about 1 Quart

2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch (I suggest using only 1 tbsp tapioca starch to avoid over thickening)
1½ oz (3 tbsp) cream cheese, softened
½ tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp turmeric
1¼ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup (tapioca syrup, or golden syrup if you can't find it)
3 oz white chocolate, chopped
8 drops natural butter flavor (I used buttery sweet dough emulsion)
3-4 drops pure peppermint oil (I recommend 4)

Mix the starch into about 2 tbsp of the milk in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl whisk the cream cheese, salt and turmeric until smooth.  Set aside a large bowl filled with water and ice to cool the cooked mix.

Combine the rest of the milk, cream sugar and tapioca syrup in a 4 Qt saucepan.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat.  Boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the starch slurry.  Bring back to a boil and cook and stir until slightly thickened.  Less than a minute.  Remove from heat.

Slowly whisk the hot milk mix into the cream cheese until perfectly smooth.  Pour into a gallon ziploc bag and chill in the ice bath until cold.  About 30 minutes.

Just before ready to freeze, melt the white chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and cool slightly.  Pour the base mix into the ice cream freezer and turn on the machine.  While the machine is turning, drop in the butter flavor and peppermint oil through the top opening.  Slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate so that it forms flecks in the churning mixture.  Mix and freeze until thick and creamy, then pack into a storage container and seal.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Try not to eat the whole thing by yourself!