Baklava Ice Cream and Fruit Flies

You’ll be happy to know those aren’t related. Well, outside of their both occurring in the Shoes And Pie Test Kitchen. And my not being particularly pleased with either.

Baklava Ice Cream

The thought process went like this: Hmm, what to do with this leftover baklava? (I usually work from home, so bringing it to the office for the cubicle gophers isn’t an option.) I know, I’ll make ice cream! A vanilla base, with the baklava chopped into chunks. And instead of white sugar, I’ll sweeten the vanilla base with honey. No, the baklava has enough honey in it. It’s already incredibly sweet, for that matter. I’ll cut the sugar in the ice cream way down.

I’ve learned from years of ice cream experiments that a combination of heavy cream and whole milk is the way to go. Every time I try to “lighten” the fat content, the resulting ice cream is too icy and not enough creamy. For this recipe, I bought the required heavy cream, but decided to go with the 1% milk I already had in my refrigerator. I can add rennet to balance the lower fat content. But nooOOOoo, I decide to skip that step.

I reach for my sugar canister and…it’s empty. Empty. The Test Kitchen manager* is so fired. I don’t want to use much sugar anyway, but I need something. I glance at the brown sugar. No, too rich in combination with the baklava. Okay then, confectioners’ sugar, it is. ¼ cup.

Okay, time to add the vanilla, at which point I decide that rose water would be a better compliment to the pistachio/honey mix that is baklava. I don’t even have sugar, you can believe I don’t have rose water. Vanilla it is. And my secret ingredient: a shot of whiskey to keep the ripened ice cream from being rock hard.

Not terrible, but not a winner.

Stir stir stir. Pour into Cuisinart** ice cream freezer. Churn churn churn churn. Add the chopped baklava. Churn churn. Pour into a freezer-safe container, ripen for two hours. Open it back up, scoop (I’m already not liking the texture), take a bite…blargh. Too icy, too sweet, too much baklava. Back to the drawing board. Or not. The recipe came about as a way to use up leftovers, not because I really wanted baklava ice cream. Now, honey-butter ice cream with pistachios, there’s something I may try to work out!

Fruit Flies

All spring and summer long, I’ve been tending to a relatively healthy heirloom yellow pear tomato plant. I’ve been leaving the ripe tomatoes on the vine, because one pear tomato at a time isn’t very satisfying. But I am ready to take in the full harvest and chow down. As soon as I get home from the race in Kearney.

When I get home, there are 3 pear tomatoes greeting me on my front stoop. It seems that the tomato vines could only hold on for so long, and the time has come. I grab a bowl, pick all of the tomatoes, and see that there are what look like tiny, short hairs on some of them. Pollen from something? I blow. Nothing. When I take them inside and rinse them, I see that some of the “hairs” are still attached. I decide they must be a pest of some sort, and soak the tomatoes in water overnight to drown whatever the remaining little things are. The next morning I drain the now-clean tomatoes, and leave the colander on counter (because you should never refrigerate tomatoes. Sucks the flavor right out of ’em.). Evening approaches, and I’m so excited to have pear tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for dinner! With some fresh basil, a splash of aged balsamic, some cracked pepper…go away, little fly…and some sea salt…shoo, fly! And your friend! And…hey, what’s going on here? My kitchen is swarming*** with fruit flies! I check the tomatoes, and see that some have split open and are looking rather spent. Into the compost bin they go, my dreams of fresh tomatoey dinner dashed.

Too many flies OUTSIDE, not enough INSIDE.

I run to Teh Intarwubs for advice. I set out a bowl of apple cider vinegar spiked with a couple of drops of dish soap. I check the trap a couple of hours later to find the flies congregating near the bowl, but not touching the vinegar. I try home remedy #2 which involves a deeper receptacle, and adding a paper cone that the flies can’t fly back out of. I go to bed. In the morning, I’m greeted by a fruit fly party on the cone, but only 4 inside the contraption. I hear that patience is a virtue, so I’m not getting rid of the vertical trap, but I’m adding home remedy #3: a shallow bowl of vinegar with the addition of a plastic-wrap “lid” to trap the suckers who don’t drown of their own volition. They will not win.

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*me

**I went through 4 or 5 ice cream makers, manual and electric, before I settled on the Cuisinart. I’ve been using it for years now, and don’t have a single complaint. Well, I wish it had come in red back when I bought mine. 🙂

***If 30 or so make a swarm, and it sure feels like it

We Wish You A Retro Christmas, part II

Freelance hasn’t kept me as busy as I would have hoped this year. I don’t have the extra money to buy whatever ornaments and decorations strike my fancy, let alone extravagant gifts. Instead, this is an opportunity to rewind to the Christmases of my youth. To use the ornaments I’ve collected from past years of color-coordinated decorating, and to let my tree reflect those childhood memories of color and light. And don’t forget the paper chains!

I’ll drink cocoa, made with my mom’s homemade mix. My outfit, ready for my friends’ annual party: a ’50s-vintage red velvet dress, found at a thrift store and paired with a matching rhinestone necklace, a bargain from Art Deco Dame. In my hair I’ll wear a fascinator, a gift from Erin at Urbanity Studio, and made with a vintage brooch. I’m making as many presents as possible, as part of an unintentionally retro, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” theme. One thing won’t change, though. The holidays aren’t about what’s on or under my tree. Modern or retro, my holiday is about spending time with my family, both by relation and by choosing. And tinsel! 🙂

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Truth in blogging: Candice DeVille, the author of Super Kawaii Mama, is holding a contest where entrants must write how they’d create the perfect vintage Christmas, in 200 words or less. The lucky winner gets the MOST. AMAZING. EVER. Prize package chock-full of gift certificates from some of my favorite vintage/retro vendors. Click on over for more details on this Very Vintage Christmas Competition.

Peachy Keen

Peaches & Herb cupcake

Have you ever had Colorado peaches? Ohmigodnomnomnom. Of course, they’re a seasonal thing. Colorado’s farmers can’t grow peaches all year long, but oh man, it isn’t summer until you’ve let a Colorado peach drip down your arm while you bite into its tender flesh. Seriously: food porn.

Well, it’s summertime in Colorado. And I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t eat very much fruit, but here I am with three peaches on my kitchen counter, because, well, they’re Colorado peaches and they’re like honey, but cooler and more refreshing. The same day that I bought the peaches, I also bought a sad, droopy, reduced-for-clearance basil plant. Which, like Charlie Brown’s tree at Christmas, perked right up into a lovely bush of basil as soon as I gave it some love.

So here I am with peaches that I want to treat nicely, and basil that I’d like to do something more exciting than pesto with. Now, I’ve had mojitos made with basil instead of mint, and they were fabulous, but this is more basil than one gal can drink. Ice cream was my next idea, but what I’ve really been craving lately is a cupcake. And so:

Peaches & Herb Cupcakes (groooooan!)

CUPCAKES (recipe adapted from TopTeddy)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced and cut into thirds

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
– In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
– In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beating well. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of milk, beating until smooth. Fold in peaches.
– Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated over for 23-28 minutes or until golden brown and tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. (ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: I wound up baking them for closer to 40 minutes.) Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Makes 12 very full cupcakes. (You may want to try for 15 instead)

BASIL FROSTING
6oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
about 5 fresh basil leaves, shredded into a chiffonade
2 cups powdered sugar
green food coloring

With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla and basil and mix until blended. Add powdered sugar and mix. Add food coloring to desired shade (I used one drop, for just a hint of green) and continue mixing until smooth. Pipe on to cooled cupcakes, then mash into your mouth! Omnomnom!

Chunks of peaches! Flecks of basil!