Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Flaky Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Bark on silver tray.

My grandparents grew up in Ireland and for as long as I can remember my grandmother’s preferred chocolate was Cadbury’s. Among all the Cadbury choices, the Fruit and Nut bar was her favorite. However, it wasn’t always easy to get Cadbury chocolates in the US so she had to find an alternative to satisfy her sweet tooth. Success was achieved when Nanny discovered the Chunky Bar. Do you remember Chunky Bars? They were thick cubes of chocolate studded with nuts and raisins, all wrapped in silver foil.

Dark Chocolate Bark on a silver tray.I’m not sure which came first… did the Fruit and Nut Bar or Chunky Bar inspire this bark, or did the taste memories come flooding back after the first bite? In either case, this treat would definitely meet Nanny’s approval. It’s the perfect blend of a fruit and nut studded candy bar and chocolate bark. Like a candy bar, the sweetness of the dried fruit, partnered with the crunch of the nuts, encased in dark chocolate is such a fantastic combination. Spread thin and topped with more dried fruit and toasted nuts brings it closer to a bark. Sprinkled with sea salt pushes it over the top. Excellent with a glass of red wine after dinner or a quick pick me up mid-day; another option is to leave out a small platter of the bark so that every time you walk by you grab a nibble. Not that I’ve ever done that. No judging here.

Dark chocolate bark with toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Toasted Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Flaky Sea Salt

  • Servings: about 1 lb
  • Print

Ingredients:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or one 11.5oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips)
2/3 cup mixed toasted nuts, roughly chopped (such as walnuts, almonds, cashews)
2/3 cup mixed dried fruit (such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, cranberries)
sprinkling of flaked sea salt

Instructions:
Line small baking sheet with foil.

Melt chocolate in heatproof medium sized bowl set over saucepan of simmering water, stirring until melted and smooth.

Stir in half of toasted nuts and half of mixed dried fruit. Pour melted chocolate mixture onto foil, spreading with offset spatula to thickness of scant 1/4 inch.

Scatter remaining nuts and dried fruit over chocolate. Cool slightly. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt.

Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Peel off foil and cut bark into irregular pieces.

Chocolate Bark ingredients- dark chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried fruit, and flaked sea salt.
Four ingredients and 15 minutes is all it takes to make chocolate bark.
Melting chocolate in a double boiler.
Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl set over simmering water.
Melted chocolate in bowl waiting for toasted nuts and dried fruit to be added.
The chocolate is melted and ready for the toasted nuts and dried fruit.
Stirring toasted nuts and dried fruit into melted chocolate.
Stir in half of the toasted nuts and dried fruit.
Spreading melted chocolate mixture onto foil lined baking sheet.
Using an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate mixture onto a foil line baking sheet. The chocolate should be about 1/4″ thick.
Topping chocolate bark with remaining nuts and fruit.
While chocolate is still melted, top chocolate bark with remaining toasted nuts and dried fruit. Press lightly to be sure nuts and fruits adhere.
Sprinkling flaky sea salt on top of chocolate bark.
Sprinkle pinch of flaky sea salt on top of the chocolate bark.
Dark chocolate bark cooling.
Chill, allowing chocolate bark to completely cool and harden, about 30 minutes. Break into irregular pieces before serving.

Dark Chocolate Bark on silver tray.

 

 

Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread- sliced on a cutting board

Quick post today. It’s a busy time of year for everybody… school concerts, Nutcracker performances, decorating the house and tree, sending cards, shopping for gifts, and events every weekend. It’s incredibly easy to become overwhelmed and miss the magic and beauty that is Christmas… the twinkling lights, carols being sung, and the warm spicy scent of pine. When I do feel like I’m becoming engulfed in the frenzy, I escape to the kitchen, put on some Christmas music and start baking… nothing elaborate though, believe me! You will not find homemade gingerbread houses or meticulously cut out and decorated cookies worthy of the front cover of a magazine. I’m more of drop or roll cookie maker (think gingersnaps or Mexican Wedding Cakes) and quick bread baker. Being in the kitchen is like therapy for me, and if I tried to make photo shoot worthy decorated Christmas cookies, I would royal ice and silver dragee my way straight into real therapy!

This Cranberry Nut Bread is quick, coming together in about 15 minutes, then off to the oven for an hour. Golden brown crust, slightly tart, and studded with cranberry jewels and sweet pecans, the bread is perfect for breakfast, late afternoon snack, or even dessert. It’s also ideal to share with family and friends over a cup of tea, enjoying each other’s company and the season for even just a quiet moment or two.

Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

*recipe adapted from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup orange juice (fresh or bottled)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped cranberries
¾ cup chopped pecans

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender. Stir in orange juice, lightly beat egg, and zest. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Scrape into prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Pastry blender cutting butter into dry ingredients.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients
Chopped cranberries in a food processor.
Chop the cranberries by hand or in a food processor.
Roughly chopped pecans on a cutting board.
Roughly chop the pecans.
Orange, zest, and juice on a cutting board.
Zest the orange so that you have 1 Tablespoon set aside, then juice the oranges to yield 3/4 of a cup. I need three navel oranges to get the right amount of juice.
Wet ingredients and dry ingredients in mixing bowl.
Add juice, lightly beaten egg and zest to dry ingredients and mix.
Batter in bowl with wooden spoon.
Using a wooden spoon, combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Folding in the cranberries and pecans.
Fold in the cranberries and pecans.

Cranberry Nut Bread Batter

Cranberry Nut Bread batter in a greased loaf pan getting ready to go in the oven.
Scrape the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes.
Testing the bread for doneness with a bamboo skewer.
Bake until a cake tester- or bamboo skewer in this case- inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cranberry Nut Bread- sliced on a cutting board

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Menu and To Do List

Thanksgiving Table

November 2017 Update: It’s been a long while since I posted. Life is busy, good busy, but busy; we have two in high school, one in middle school and a 77lb puppy who thinks she’s a lap dog. My passion for cooking and all things food related still runs strong (not to worry- we are eating over here at White House Red Door!), but finding the time to sit down to document recipes and edit photos seems to be elusive at the moment. I’m hoping to make carving out time for the blog a priority in the new year.

As I was wrapping my head around Thanksgiving prep, I pulled up this blog post. Immediately, a feeling a calm enveloped me… the day to day planning, core recipes, and to do list set my mind at ease. I’m reposting in the hope that it helps you too.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving!                                         ~Jean

Throughout November, I’ve posted some of our traditional family Thanksgiving recipes. You may have noticed that there are no appetizers. This is not without thought, we have so much food for dinner, that I don’t want people to fill up beforehand! We’ll have a few nibbles out…  nuts and a “relish tray.” It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without one.Celery, Olives, and Pistachios

At our house, a relish tray is simply a small platter of olives and celery sticks lying side by side; the celery sticks bathing in the salty brine of the olives. Every year my mom would set the tray on the dining room table before anything else. The grown-ups would walk by in passing and grab an olive or celery stick.

Cranberry Pineapple Sauce
Cranberry Pineapple Sauce

As a child I thought this was incredibly sophisticated, and by default, if I ate the olives and celery I, too, would be incredibly sophisticated- braces and all. I willed myself to eat the green olives stuffed with pimento, chasing them down with celery. A fake grin pasted on my face, I proudly showed my younger sister and brothers that I was well on my to adulthood. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually enjoyed the relish tray, the crunch of the celery alongside the saltiness of the chilled olives is terrific and definitely whets the appetite. So I will continue the tradition, setting out a tray of my own. The kids will reach for it when they’re ready, a culinary right of passage.

Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing
Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing

Do you set out appetizers? Or, is it all about the main event and desserts?

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie
Sweet Potato Meringue Pie

Happy Thanksgiving from White House Red Door!

Apple Cream Pie dusted with powdered sugar.
Apple Cream Pie

Thanksgiving 2015

  • Servings: varies
  • Print

Ingredients:
Turkey- this year my husband will be cooking the bird on his Big Green Egg. In previous years the turkey has been fried or roasted in the oven. This is the first time doing the turkey on the Egg, I’ll let you know how it goes!
Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Candied Yams
Green Beans with Almonds
Peas with Sautéed Mushrooms and Roasted Red Peppers
Creamed Onions
Cranberry Pineapple Sauce
Apple Cream Pie
Sweet Potato Pie with Maple Meringue

Instructions:
Monday:
* Make cranberry pineapple sauce
Tuesday:
* Cube bread for stuffing and allow to dry overnight.
Wednesday:
* Brine turkey
* Make stuffing
* Make pecan graham cracker crust for sweet potato pie
* Roast sweet potatoes for pie and puree
* Roast sweet potatoes for candied yams and slice
* Prepare topping for candied yams- chopped pecans, brown sugar, and butter
* Sauté mushrooms and dice roasted red peppers for peas
* Toast silvered almonds for green beans
* Set table
* Organize and label serving platters/pieces
Thursday:
* Cook turkey
* Make apple cream pie (morning)
* Finish sweet potato pie (morning)
* Make creamed onions (morning- stove top)
* Make mashed potatoes (afternoon-stove top)
* Finish candied yams (afternoon- oven)
 *Finish green beans and peas (afternoon- stove top)
* Have a drink!

Sweet Potato Pie with Maple Meringue

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie begins with one of my favorite types of crust… the press in crust. I’ll be honest, making and rolling out traditional pie dough IMG_7999induces anxiety and nightmares of ruined desserts; so logically, I try to avoid them when I can. This crust is the result of toasted pecans, graham crackers, fresh ginger, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and melted butter taking a spin in a food processor before being pressed into a pie plate. After baking in the oven for 25 minutes you’ve got yourself a delicious pie crust without any tears, curses, or tell tale signs of patchwork.

The filling is very similar to pumpkin pie, but made with roasted sweet potatoes, along with eggs, cream, brown sugar, and a splash of bourbon to round everything out. After baking in the oven, then cooling, the pie could very easily (and tastily) be served with a dollop of whipped cream. However, I highly recommend you spend an extra 10 minutes to push this pie over the top. Blanket it with a heaping cloud of maple syrup meringue and pop it under the broiler for mere seconds to achieve a golden blush. Your family and friends will thank you. You will thank you.

Another plus for this recipe, especially when entertaining, is that it can be broken down into tasks over the course of a couple of days. For example, on day 1 make the crust, roast the sweet potatoes and puree the flesh. Cover tightly and refrigerate. On day 2, prepare the filling and bake. Allow the pie to cool, then whip up the meringue, top the pie and brown. The pie can be served immediately, or covered and tucked in the fridge overnight before making its big debut on your table.

IMG_8062There are a number of ways you could have fun with this recipe if you’re up for experimenting. Simply swap:

walnuts for pecans
rum for bourbon
pumpkin for sweet potato
gluten free graham crackers for regular graham crackers

The original meringue recipe from Food & Wine calls for quite a bit of simple syrup and tastes cloyingly sweet to me, without doing much to enhance the seasonal tastes of the pie. Instead of simple syrup, I use maple syrup (less than half the amount of syrup called for in the original) to make the meringue which pairs beautifully with the fall flavors of the sweet potatoes, cinnamon, and ginger. I also reduce the amount of sugar in the crust, as the graham crackers already have plenty of sugar in them.

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie and Apple Cream Pie will be on our dessert table this Thanksgiving and possibly even Christmas… what will be on yours?

Sweet Potato Pie with Maple Meringue

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

*adapted from a recipe Chef Andrew Carmellini contributed to Food & Wine

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup (4 ounces) pecan halves
11 whole graham crackers, broken (gluten free, if needed)
4 teaspoons minced ginger
1 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
32 ounces of sweet potatoes (about 3 large sweet potatoes)
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 Tablespoons bourbon
½ cup heavy cream

For the meringue:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3 large egg whites
pinch of salt

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a pie plate, toast the pecans for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and browned. Let the nuts cool completely.

In a food processor, combine the pecans, graham crackers, ginger, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon; pulse until crumbs form. Add melted butter and process until incorporated. Press the crumbs evenly into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Bake the crust for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.

Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and cook in a microwave oven for 10 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the 325°F oven and roast for 10 minutes longer, or until soft. Let cool, then scrape out the flesh; you should have about 2¼ cups.

Transfer the sweet potato to the food processor and puree until smooth. Add the brown sugar, eggs, and bourbon and process until blended. Add the heavy cream and process until incorporated. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until set; cover the crust edges with foil if they darken. Let the pie cool completely.

In a small saucepan, bring maple syrup to a boil. Cook over high heat until a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup registers 240°F, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. With the machine running, carefully and slowly drizzle in the hot syrup and beat at high speed until the whites are stiff, glossy, and warm to the touch, about 3 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Mound the meringue over the sweet potato filling, swirling it decoratively. Broil the pie 4-6 inches from the heat for 30 seconds, or until lightly browned- do NOT look away(!), it can burn very quickly.

Cut into wedges and enjoy!

*Pie can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.

Pie crust ingredients ready to go into the food processor: pecans, graham crackers, ginger, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter.
In a food processor, combine pecans, graham crackers, ginger, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter.
Pecan and graham cracker crust
Press processed ingredients into deep dish pie plate. Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes.
Pecan and Graham Cracker Crust
Let the pie crust cool while you make the filling.
Roasted sweet potatoes cooling.
Microwave the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes, then finish roasting in the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until soft. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle, then scoop out flesh and puree in the food processor. You should have 2 1/4 cups puree.
Sweet potato puree, brown sugar, eggs, bourbon, and heavy cream on cutting board.
Sweet potato puree, brown sugar, eggs, bourbon, and heavy cream are ready to combine in the processor.
Sweet potato pie filling in the processor
The sweet potato pie filling is ready to go into the pie crust.
Unbaked sweet potato pie
Bake at 325°F for 50 minutes or until set.
Baked sweet potato pie is cooling.
Filling is set and pie is cooling.
Maple syrup in saucepan.
Let’s make the meringue! Boil maple syrup until thermometer reads 240°F.
Soft peak egg whites on whisk.
At medium speed, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peak stage.
Pouring hot syrup into beaten egg whites.
With mixer going at high speed, pour the syrup in a slow steady stream.
Stiff peak egg whites on whisk
Continue beating egg white/syrup mixture until eggs are glossy and stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.
Mound of maple syrup meringue in center of pie.
Mound maple syrup meringue in center of the pie and swirl decoratively.
Sweet Potato Meringue Pie
Place pie under broiler for 30 seconds or until lightly brown. Do NOT walk away from oven… it will quickly go from brown to burned. Watch it carefully!
Sweet Potato Meringue Pie
Sweet Potato Meringue Pie with Pecan Graham Cracker Crust

Apple Cream Pie

Apple Cream Pie

I love this time of year! The weather, color, gatherings with friends and family,Braeburn and golden delicious apples in a bowl. and the food! Thanksgiving in the US is just a few weeks out and menu planning at White House Red Door is well underway. Truth be told, the planning is not too difficult, as the menu has pretty much remained unchanged since my childhood. It’s not that my parents, siblings, or my own family don’t like to try new foods, or experiment; Christmas dinners, Easter brunches, and other traditional meals vary from year to year, but Thanksgiving has always remained the same, well at least the main dish and sides. There would be a “coup de cuisine” if candied yams weren’t on the table. That said, desserts are an entirely different story. We are far more flexible in our after dinner fare thinking. Friends often join us for dessert, bringing their favorite treats, creating a beautiful cornucopia of desserts.

One pie that has made appearances off and on through the years is my mom’s Apple Cream Pie. Quite unlike a traditional double crust apple pie, Tarte Tatin, or apple crisp, which have all shown up to the party over the years, this pie features tender slices of apples nestled in a bed of creamy custard. Traditional enough for the purists but outside the box enough for those wanting something new or different. For reasons unknown, this pie has not been in attendance for some time, and I’ve never made it myself. Curious to give it a go, I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered and should be included on the menu this year. Without a doubt, it was and will be.

Women's Day Encyclopedia of CookeryConversations with mom revealed that the original recipe came from a long out of print encyclopedia like set of cookbooks from Women’s Day, actually called Encyclopedia of Cookery. My mom still has her set and found an identical set at a tag sale years ago that she gave to me as a gift. It turns out the recipe for this wonderful pie has been sitting in the vintage set of cookbooks, in my own house, for years.

The pie is simply elegant, with few ingredients, quite light and perfect after a heavy meal. I’ve taken the original recipe and updated it somewhat by adding a cinnamon stick, star anise, and cardamom pod to the stewing liquid. These additions infuse the simple syrup, and eventually the cream, with classic flavors and aromas that pair well with the apples. After making the cream pie for dessert this week and receiving all round approval, it will now regularly appear not only on our holiday tables, but throughout the fall and winter.

What desserts will show up on your table this year? Are you a traditionalist serving the same menu each year, or do you like to mix it up?

Apple Cream Pie

Apple Cream Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

Ingredients:
5 cooking apples, peeled and sliced into eighths
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 anise star
1 cardamom pod
Pastry for one 9” pie crust, unbaked
1 egg
½ cup heavy cream

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put apples in a saucepan with sugar, water, cinnamon stick, anise star, and cardamom pod. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until apples are tender, about 10 minutes. While apples are simmering, line a 9” pie plate with crust, decoratively crimping edges and place in freezer until needed.

When apples are tender, remove and place them in a strainer set over a bowl to catch any juices. Continue to simmer syrup left in saucepan until reduced to approximately ½ cup. To that add any syrup caught from draining apples.

After apples have cooled slightly, place in the pie pan lined with pastry. Beat egg and cream together and stir in reserved syrup. Pour over apples. Transfer to oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until custard is set- the center will be slightly jiggly, but will continue to firm up as it cools. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Peeled apples, cut into eighths.
Peel the apples and cut them into eighths.
Apples with sugar, water, cinnamon stick, anise star, and cardamom pod in a saucepan.
Add sugar, water, cinnamon stick, anise star, and cardamom pod.
Simmering apples in sugar syrup with cinnamon stick, anise star, and cardamom pod.
Simmer apples until tender, about 10 minutes.
Apple syrup in measuring cup, with apples draining in sieve.
Drain apples, reserving any syrup, you should have about 1/2 cup of apple syrup.
Apples placed in the bottom of a pie plate lined with pastry.
After apples have cooled slightly, place them in the bottom of a pie plate line with pastry.
Egg, cream and syrup mixture poured over the apples.
Egg, cream, and syrup mixture is poured over the apples. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 350°F oven until custard is set.
Apple Cream Pie cooling on a wire rack.
When the custard is set, remove the pie and place on a wire rack for cooling.
Apple Cream Pie dusted with powdered sugar.
If desired, dust the Apple Cream Pie with powdered sugar before serving.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread sliced on cutting board.

Fall Container The sounds and smells of fall are predictably familiar and comforting. I’ve known them all my life, hearing the chorus of geese honking to one another as they head south, smelling the smoke from a pile of leaves drifting from a backyard, and feeling the crispness in the air as a child trick or treating or walking to school. Even as an adult the pattern continues, the leaves still crunch underfoot, rustling and swirling in the breeze stirred up as I walk my own children to the bus stop each morning. We often talk about taste memories, but it is the echoes, scents, and displays of fall that bring me right back to childhood each year.

That is not to say that the tastes of autumn go by the wayside. Flavors are warmer, spicier, and richer, adding life to both sweet and savory dishes. On these cool days I crave baking- wanting to fill the kitchen with the colors, flavors, and aromas of fall.

This pumpkin bread recipe fits the bill. Many pumpkin bread recipes call for oil as the fat of choice while this recipe uses butter, which I prefer. The original calls for water or orange juice as the liquid, but I swap in cider, as it seems a better complement to the pumpkin. Another addition is nutmeg, to partner with the cinnamon and cloves. I’ve reduced the sugar, which hasn’t done any harm (and no one notices). Finally, the raisins are completely eliminated instead I occasionally add walnuts.

This makes two large loaves of pumpkin bread, one to enjoy now, one to freeze for another day down the road as we march towards winter.

Pumpkin bread slices on cutting board

Pumpkin Bread

  • Servings: 2 large loaves
  • Print

*adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook, Collected Recipes for Everyday

Ingredients:
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), at room temperature
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup cider
2 cups pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans.

With an electric mixer, cream butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat until light. Add cider and pumpkin purée and mix well.

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl, and add the pumpkin mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. If using the nuts, add them now, folding them carefully into the batter.

Divide evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool.

*This recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.

Creaming butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy.
Cream butter, molasses, and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at time to the creamed butter and sugar, beating well before adding the next.
Add the eggs one at time, beating well before adding the next.
Butter, sugar, molasses, and egg mixture is light.
Butter, sugar, molasses, and egg mixture is light and creamy.
Adding the pumpkin purée and cider to butter, sugar, and egg mixture.
Add the pumpkin purée and cider and mix well.
Curdled looking mixture... not to worry.
Don’t worry! It looks terrible, but it will be ok!
Combining the wet and dry ingredients well with a wooden spoon.
Add the sifted dry ingredients, combining well with a wooden spoon.
Batter in greased loaf pan.
Divide batter evenly into greased loaf pans.
Pumpkin bread in loaf pan
Pumpkin bread is done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

IMG_7458

 

Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricotta with herbs

Borough MarketThis summer, we had a phenomenal family trip to London and Ireland.
While we explored the British Museum, Hyde Park, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London, observed the Changing of the Horse Guard and took a spin on the London Eye, my thoughts were never too far from food. In fact, we kicked our trip off with a tour of Borough Market (I highly recommend Context Travel).

Tasting our way down the counter...
Tasting our way down the counter…

Celebrating and tasting your way through artisanal British and Irish cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy is a wonderful beginning to any day.  Meeting and sharing ideas with farmers, spice vendors, and even a tea importer helped us connect to London in a very real way. Continuing the unofficial theme of local foods, we planned our dinners at restaurants that embrace a farm to table philosophy, locally sourcing their products based on seasonal availability. We enjoyed delicious meals at St. John, The Harwood Arms, and Tom’s Kitchen. An absolute standout at Tom’s Kitchen was the “Homemade Ricotta [with] balsamic glaze, dried herbs, grilled sourdough.” Oh. My. Goodness. This ricotta was so incredibly luscious, smooth, and creamy- yet light and airy, that only the fear of public humiliation kept me from stealing the entire dish, huddling in a remote corner, and licking the bowl clean.

Homemade ricotta with bread from Tom's Kitchen.
The inspiration- Homemade Ricotta starter from Tom’s Kitchen.

Since our return home, that ricotta has been on my mind. We have a fairly wide selection of ricotta cheese at the grocery store, but it seems unfair to compare them to what I had in London. Even the best that I can get here is good, but not Tom’s Kitchen Homemade Ricotta good. What to do? The kitchen gods spoke. Challenged accepted. I learned to make my own.

It turns out, homemade ricotta is not hard to make. In 30 minutes you can be sitting down with your own bowl of lusciousness, ready to devour, spoon in hand. Even better, you control the ingredients. No fillers, thickeners, or stabilizers needed, just four simple ingredients- milk, cream, white vinegar and salt. It’s a bit like a science experiment, so if you have kids they are going to love this. But please don’t let “science experiment” intimidate you.  My nine year old is now making the ricotta on a weekly basis.

The final texture depends on how long you leave the ricotta to drain. Ten minutes yields warm, soft curds perfect for enjoying by the spoonful; twenty minutes yields still soft but slightly more spreadable ricotta, while thirty minutes or more will leave you with a firmer, drier, ricotta that holds it shape. Between 10-20 minutes of draining is my favorite for spreading on grilled bread- savory with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh herbs and a pinch of salt, or sweet with a drizzle of honey and topping of sliced berries. The ricotta that sits longer is perfect to dollop on warm pasta or pizza, either before or after it comes out of the oven.

PS- What about the whey? From 4 cups of milk/cream you will have about 1 cup of ricotta and 3 cups of whey. That is a lot of whey. Before you toss it down the drain you could…
• Replace the water with whey in pizza or bread dough recipes
• Add the whey to soups and stews
• Feed it to your chickens, pigs, etc.

Homemade ricotta with herbs

 

 

Homemade Ricotta

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Print

*recipe inspired by several sources including Serious Eats, The Kitchn and Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
3 ½ cups whole milk (NOT Ultra High–Temperature (UHT) pasteurized)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

Instructions:
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Gently warm the milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180°. Remove from heat.

Add the white vinegar and salt, stirring gently once or twice to distribute evenly. Leave the milk mixture undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds and whey form.

After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the cheesecloth lined sieve. Once the larger curds have been placed in the sieve, carefully pour the remaining curds/whey into the sieve. Let drain for at least 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. The longer the ricotta drains, the firmer it will be.

Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Enjoy as you would any ricotta, savory or sweet… in lasagna, ziti, cannoli, atop grilled bread, or just by the spoonful from the bowl!

Milk and cream heating on the stove until it reaches 180°.
Heat the milk and cream mixture to 180°.
The milk/cream mixture is curdling.
After adding the vinegar gently stir once or twice. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds develop.
Removing the curds with a slotted spoon.
After 10 minutes the vinegar has worked its magic. You have curds and whey!
Fresh ricotta draining in a fine meshed sieve.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth lined sieve. Leave to drain for at least 10 minutes. The longer you leave the ricotta, the firmer it will be.
Fresh ricotta after 20 minutes of straining.
20 minutes later…
Fresh ricotta after a few pulses in a food processor.
*Completely optional step*  You could stop after draining the ricotta and enjoy as is, or for an extra creamy texture, give your freshly strained ricotta a very brief spin in a food processor.
Freshly whipped ricotta
Freshly whipped ricotta
Basil, oregano and thyme sprigs
Snip a few herbs to sprinkle on top of the whipped ricotta. Serve with slices of grilled bread for an easy appetizer or lunch.
Homemade whipped ricotta sprinkled with herbs and served with grilled ciabatta.
Lunch
Strawberries and Ricotta on Toast
Breakfast the next day…