I’m Back with Graham Cracker Ice Cream

Hi! I had to take some time off to tend to things in my personal life, but all’s well and I’m back to baking and blogging! (I never stopped baking – I just ran out of time to talk about it!)

One of my go-to special occasion treats is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, which I purchase either at my local wine store or Whole Foods. Here’s where to buy Jeni’s in your area. I also love making Jeni’s at home, which is why I was super excited when her second cookbook came out. The first recipe I tried from the second book? Graham Cracker Ice Cream.Graham Cracker

It was great! I used crushed Trader Joe’s Honey Graham Crackers. The recipe only used a few, so there were plenty left for serving as a garnish (or munching while the ice cream churned).

Jeni’s suggestion to serve the ice cream with sliced bananas was spot-on. I also added homemade chocolate sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. I think it would also be nice with sliced peaches.

It was definitely a sweet treat, and perfect for those hot summer evenings when turning on the oven is too much.

Need to Lock Your Ice Cream?

When I discovered that Ben & Jerry’s sells a pint lock for their iconic ice cream pints, I just had to buy one and test it out.  Finally, protection for

Here is my Chocolate Fudge Brownie Fro-Yo secured with the Ben & Jerry's Euphori-Lock.

Here is my Chocolate Fudge Brownie Fro-Yo secured with the Ben & Jerry’s Euphori-Lock.

my Peanut Butter Cup!  Assurance for my pint of Americone Dream! Confidence for my Cookie Dough!  Too often my ice cream or frozen yogurt (B&J’s Half Baked Frozen Yogurt is a revelation!) disappears, spoonful by spoonful, with me being none the wiser.  Then I go to have dessert and there is just a skimpy scoop left in the bottom of the container – if I’m lucky.  Other times the entire pint has disappeared (no names here – you know who you are!)

The pint lock came quickly in the mail.  It consists of two pieces of thick black plastic that fit together around the pint lid.  The lock has a preprogrammed 3-digit alphanumeric code.  It doesn’t seem like you can change your lock’s code, so you’d better write it down and keep it in a secure location, or your pint lock will be useless.  The last thing I want to do is lock myself out of my own ice cream!

You could defeat the lock by slashing the top or bottom of the container with a knife (it is only cardboard, after all) but, as a colleague pointed out, you would have to be pretty desperate.  I think the lock functions as a good deterrent.  It definitely sends the “hands off” message.  Of course, while Ben & Jerry’s sells the lock (and it is surprisingly inexpensive – only slightly more than the pint of ice cream itself) it would work on any brand of ice cream pint.

In short, I recommend the lock, especially if you live with roommates, or are otherwise not into sharing.  It would also make a great gift for Father’s Day or graduation.  As Ben & Jerry’s says on the lock packaging, “There is no ‘u’ in ‘my pint.’”

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere!

‘Tis the season for pumpkin products in the stores and displays of mini pumpkins and squash at the store entrance.  I love pumpkin, so this is a welcome time, though I have been amazed at the growing diversity of pumpkin products.  It seems like there are more this year than ever before.  It’s exciting to see the pumpkin products arrive, and I suspect part of their appeal is that they are offered for a limited time.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bars, pumpkin macarons, pumpkin roll, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin cookies (pictured), as well as the traditional pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice cake.  I spotted a pumpkin-flavored dark chocolate bar. I’ve also heard rumors of Pumpkin Pringles. Compared to all this, pumpkin pie seems downright boring!

Pepperidge Farm’s tasty Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

That’s just food.  As for beverages, I bought Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Coffee and Stash Decaf Pumpkin Spice Tea.  My favorite Mexican restaurant has Pumpkin Margaritas on the menu!  I am also tempted by this recipe for Pumpkin Liqueur.  Not to mention all the delicious pumpkin ales out there.

I find this array of pumpkin products to be surprising because, amongst my family and friends, pumpkin is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of food.  For every pumpkin lover, there is someone who can’t stand the taste, or even the smell.  Granted, many of these “pumpkin” products don’t contain any actual pumpkin – they are just flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm, homey fall spices.  I wonder how many people with a dislike for pumpkin are turned off by these products, even when they are pumpkin-free?

That’s not a worry for me – the pumpkiny-er the better!  I’ll post any updates on new pumpkin products as I try them.

Cupcake ATM Coming to Georgetown

Though it might already be old news to some, I just had to mention that cupcake shop Sprinkles is bringing its famous Cupcake ATM to Georgetown.  The Washington Post reports that it is expected to open sometime in August.

Sprinkles Cupcakery, Georgetown

I am curious how many cupcakes will sell through the ATM per day.  Georgetown is the perfect location – between college students, shoppers, tourists, and the post-bar crowd.   I can’t think of a better place in Washington to put 24 hour cupcake access. But will it sell 1,000 cupcakes a day like the Beverly Hills location?  Will it impact those long lines outside Georgetown Cupcake?  Time will tell.Meanwhile, I’ll file “Cupcake ATM” under the list of things I wish I had thought of first!

The Amazing Blueberry Puffin Muffin (TM)

Part moist blueberry muffin, part flaky puff pastry – the Blueberry Puffin Muffin is an absolutely delicious breakfast treat.  The only place I know of where you can buy this muffin is the Lewes Bake Shoppe and Notting Hill Coffee Roastery in Lewes, Delaware.  They’ve trademarked this scrumptious muffin, which is drizzled with just a hint of glaze.

The duality of this muffin – pastry outside, muffin inside – means that there are as many ways to eat it as Oreos have.  My preferred method is to peel the puff pastry off carefully and eat it first, before the muffin.  My friends like to eat it all together, combining pastry and muffin in one bite.  You could also just pull the four pastry corners off and eat those first, thus making your puffin muffin round rather than square-ish.

I’ve noticed that the puff pastry seems to keep the muffin more moist than it would be otherwise.  Thus, the Puffin Muffin has a longer shelf life than you might expect, though they never last long around me!

So far, I haven’t found Puffin Muffins anywhere else – they are a special treat that I look forward to when vacationing at the Delaware beaches.  An Internet search shows a “puffin” to be more of a pancake/muffin hybrid.  I must admit that I’ve never tried to make these myself, since I am not a big fan of working with puff pastry.  I don’t think they’d taste as good as the Lewes Bake Shoppe can make them!

Have you seen a similar muffin anywhere else in your travels?  Or have you tried to make them?  If so, please leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from other Puffin Muffin lovers out there!

My New Cookbook: Rustic Fruit Desserts

I was just given a copy of Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, and I can’t wait to give their recipes a try.  (Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend who found the book!)

The cookbook is conveniently organized by season, with spring featuring a number of great rhubarb desserts.  I plan to get some rhubarb at the local farmers’ market and start with the recipe for Rhubarb Fool.  I’ve never made a fool, but it can’t be too difficult, right?

I’m also looking forward to some of the heavier desserts (i.e. bread pudding) in the cooler months.

The book also includes a convenient glossary that defines the difference between cobbler, crisp, buckle, pandowdy, and more.  While I’ve understood the subtle differences, a glossary is helpful in explaining it to others.

The photography is excellent, and the book definitely makes me want to travel to Julie’s bakery, Baker and Spice, in Portland, OR.

 I’ll report back after I’ve made a few recipes from the book, but in the meantime, if you’re a fan of fruit desserts like me, I’d definitely recommend it!

Do Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies Taste Better?

I have recently become interested in vegan baking.  While not a vegan myself, I have had vegan dinner guests and preparing a dairy-free, eggless dessert has presented an exciting challenge.

How do you mimic the behavior of an egg in a baked product?  Eggs have magical scientific properties that make cakes rise and fluff, cookies moisten, and bread shine.  Leave an egg out of a recipe inadvertently (as I did once) and you’ll know it right away.  Can you imagine a soufflé without eggs?

 Vegan baked goods use a variety of ingredients to replace eggs, milk, and butter.  One vegan brownie recipe I tried used soymilk and canned pumpkin.  Some vegans will use applesauce.  Tofu is another common substitute, as is a flaxseed paste.  Several people online recommend Earth Balance brand margarine. Commercial bakeries use ingredients like brown rice syrup or evaporated cane juice as sweeteners.

 But how does all of this taste?  I can vouch for the cupcakes at the vegan Sticky Fingers Bakery in the D.C. neighborhood of Columbia Heights.  Their cupcakes are some of the best I’ve ever tasted—vegan or not.  You would truly never know they were unconventional.

 Having determined that there are good vegan cupcakes out there, I decided to compare another bakery staple—chocolate chip cookies.  I purchased cookies from Sticky Fingers and one of my D.C-area favorite traditional bakeries, Buzz.  Cookies from only two bakeries are admittedly a small sample, but I was limited in time and budget.  I gathered a scientific panel (my boyfriend’s family) and conducted a blind taste test.

 The Buzz cookies were fairly large, and used chocolate disks rather than chips.  The cookie itself had a nice brown sugar taste, but some complained that there were too many bites without chocolate.

 The Sticky Fingers cookies were moister, with smaller chips.  One tester immediately tasted an odd spice, something like nutmeg.

 When asked which cookie was vegan, all the testers immediately identified the Sticky Fingers cookie.  However, they agreed that it wasn’t that they disliked it, more just that something seemed “off” which made them suspect it was the vegan one.

 I enjoy the vegan chocolate chip cookies at Whole Foods more than their traditional ones.  The Whole Foods cookies are more chewy, and you can break them into pieces with one hand (which is convenient when eating them at your desk like I do).  I find the dough to have a more balanced taste.  Both the vegan and traditional cookies are available as single cookies (perfect for lunch) and they are the same price.  Whole Foods has also started carrying selected items from Sticky Fingers.

 While I don’t plan to make a habit of eating vegan desserts, I do enjoy investigating them and will be happy to share any tasty ones that come along.

Photo courtesy of joyofbaking.com

 

Product Review: Dole Peach Fruit Crisp

I first saw an ad for Dole’s new fruit crisps in the Sunday coupons and was immediately excited.  Peach crisp is one of my all-time favorite desserts.  Could this fruit company create something that tasted similar to a good, homemade peach crisp for enjoyment when peaches are out of season?  I was dubious, but willing to try.

I had to wait a few months for this item to show up on my supermarket shelves, and even now, peach is harder to find than the apple varieties.  I recommend stocking up when you see it, because the peach crisp is quite good in its own way.

I brought the crisps to work with me, which was very convenient.  There are two crisps in a package, each consisting of a peach cup and an oat cup.  The peach cup is difficult to separate from the oat cup.  Once you figure that out, peel back the plastic cover on the peaches and microwave for 30 seconds.  I then sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on the peaches before stirring in the oat mixture.  I recommend using a larger bowl if you have one because the little peach cup can overflow.

Voila!  A little peach crisp.  It’s a bit syrupy and lacks the flavor dimension of fresh summer peaches, but it makes a good afternoon snack at work or anywhere there is a microwave.  It would have been great to have these in my college dorm room.  Plus, at 150 calories and with no artificial sweeteners, it is reasonably healthy.

I’d like to see Dole come out with additional flavors.  Blackberry, anyone?

Overall Grade: B

Note: I purchased Dole Peach Fruit Crisp at my local supermarket at full price.  This review is not a paid product endorsement.

Bakery Review: Danielle’s Desserts, Tysons Corner, VA

Did you know there’s a delicious bakery on the third floor of the Tysons Galleria?  I had no idea.  Danielle’s Desserts serves cakes and pies whole or by the slice, along with cookies and fair-trade coffee and tea.  It’s a great place to stop for dessert after a meal in one of the restaurants downstairs.  (I raced to Danielle’s after dinner at Lebanese Taverna).

 I tried the blueberry buckle and the triple chocolate cake.  The blueberry was very generously sliced and tasty, though a bit underdone in the middle.  The chocolate cake, however, was a real stand-out.  It had the bitter, intense flavor of dark chocolate (maybe some espresso powder in there also) and was rich without being cloyingly sweet.  Two people could easily share the slice.

 I was pleased to see that Danielle’s emphasizes seasonal ingredients.  Danielle herself was behind the counter, which gave this bakery additional charm.  Located in a mall full of chains (which most people don’t shop in—Neiman Marcus, anyone?!) it was nice to see a bakery with a local owner.  Despite its location, I thought Danielle’s was affordable, especially considering that the portions can be shared.

 I’ll definitely be heading back to Danielle’s to try some more items the next time I’m in the area.

 Grade: A

Bakery review: Little Cupcake Bake Shop, SoHo, NYC

From time to time, 350degreesofyummy.com will feature reviews of bakeries I’ve visited in my travels.  I go out of my way to find offbeat, funky, cozy, or just non-chain bakeries in the cities I visit.  [Read more…]