Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wasting away again

It started with a discussion on Facebook, postulating on the conversion of Lime Bars into Mojito Bars through the addition of finely shredded mint, and some white rum in place of some of the lime juice.  Those are still on the to-do list.  What blossomed out of the discussion was an interest in creating a Margarita flavored bar cookie, so I set some goals and began scouring the interwebs for a good starting point.

There were two key things that I wanted to capture with the cookies - first, that they taste like actual margaritas, not just citrus bars with some tequila and second that they not devolve into total sweetness, but have a touch of saltiness to hold true to the original inspiration.  Browsing various recipes from Google searching, I found several attempts to capture the saltiness by including crushed pretzels in the crust, but I'm a "purist" for shortbread style bases for my citrus bars.  I found various recipes which took a basic lime bar, added a tsp or two of tequila, and called themselves a margarita bar.  Nothing really totally suited what I was looking for, but I found a good starting point at Mermaid Sweets.

In order to capture a true margarita flavor, I knew I wanted more than just tequila in the mix.  I decided on the addition of Triple Sec as well, but had concerns that the mixing with the lime juice and the baking would diminish the impact of the alcohols on the overall flavor of the cookie.  I decided to finish the bars with a simple glaze, fortified with salt to get the flavor note I wanted, and providing a sweet/salty finish with a little graininess to match a salt-rimmed glass.

My adaptation of MS's recipe is as follows:

Margarita Bars
(adapted from

2 C Flour
1 C butter, frozen, cut into small chunks
1/2 C Confectioner's sugar

Combine all and blend in a food processor with quick pulses, or mix by hand with a pastry cutter or "two knives" method.  Once combined, press firmly into 9 x 13" pan, and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes

4 eggs
2 C granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C lime juice
Zest of 4 limes
Zest of one orange
1.5 T tequila
1.5 tsp Triple Sec

Beat eggs and sugar until light in color.  Add remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed until well combined.  Remove crust from oven(when done) and pour filling over the crust.  Return to oven for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until browned moderately on top.

1 C Confectioner's sugar
2 T Tequila
2 tsp Triple sec
1 T Lime juice (or until desired thinness for glaze)
1/2 tsp sea salt

Combine all in small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Once bars are cooked and slightly cooled, pour glaze over top of surface, and spread evenly.

I found that the addition of the glaze really helped make these margarita bars instead of citrus bars.  The alcohol cooked out of the filling for the most part, leaving a hint of flavor, but the glaze helped pick it right back up again.  These are now "award winning" bars, taking Best of Division and Best of Show at the 2013 San Diego County Fair!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

From outside, in; to inside-out.

There's no better vegetable than a fresh vegetable, and even better still is a vegetable that comes from soil that you know and tend.  We harvested a large patch of carrots a couple of weeks back, and a small bagful had been forgotten in the recesses of the back of the fridge.  Ignored in the controlled chaos that often accompanies dinner preparation after a long day's work, I re-discovered these orange beauties tucked away in a corner as I cleared space for some weekend leftovers.

Still crisp and crunchy, but a little less than where they were at their "just picked" peak of freshness, I decided to bake them up into desserts.  I grew up on the "Cypress Point Carrot Cake" from 'Diet for a Small Planet' as a child; a carrot cake with crushed pineapple, which some find may find heretical.  I loved that recipe dearly, but have since realized that while delicious, the pineapple makes it very difficult to create a carrot cake which holds together well, but I was craving carrot cake now.  I have come to prefer to do my baking in muffins and cupcakes when it comes to sweets, as it's easier to bundle off a bunch to work and share them there, thus limiting the temptation at home.

I had seen a share on Google+ for an "Inside-Out Carrot Cake" muffin from +King Arthur Flour.  Being a fan of any recipe that includes sweetened cream cheese, I was on board for some muffins!  For the sake of feeding family *and* co-workers, I increased the recipe listed by half.

Ingredients gathered


8 oz cream cheese
1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


2 1/4 C All Purpose flour
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 C water
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 C grated carrots, lightly packed
Large granule sugar, to top


1. Heat cream cheese on low power in a microwave safe bowl until soft enough to stir easily.  Add sugar and vanilla extract, mix to combine, and set aside.

2. Pre-heat oven to 400° F (204° C)

3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and gently whisk together.

4. Place eggs, water and oil into a small mixing bowl and beat to combine.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix just until blended.

6. Add carrots and gently fold in to batter.

7. Line a 12 well muffin tin with liners, or lightly grease the tin.

8. Add ~2 TB batter to each cup, then top with ~1 TB cream cheese mix.

9. Fill tins remainder of the way with batter, then sprinkle some large grain sugar on top to finish.

10.  Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cake (not filling) comes out clean.  Let cool ~5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

While you certainly can enjoy these muffins warm from the oven, with the cream cheese center still hot and runny, I prefer to let them set overnight so that the filling firms up like a nice dollop of frosting.

Ready for a nice, fresh cuppa.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spice is the variety of life

We have an abundance of fresh raw goat's milk at the moment.  Four momma goats all donating generously - much of the milk is destined for some delicious fresh cheese, but there still needs to be a fair amount put to use.  Ice cream was right on the mark.

Growing up, I remember my folks had an ice cream maker - the memories are foggy, I think it was automated, but this was 3+ decades ago.  What I do remember clearly from that ice cream maker was a delicious cinnamon ice cream that my mom had made for a friend's birthday party.  With that memory fresh at hand, I began scouring the web for a good (no custard, because I'm lazy) cinnamon ice cream recipe.  The great Google landed me at Erin's Food Files, and I was intrigued.  Maple syrup, cinnamon and a healthy bit of salt - definitely promising.  I made some fairly drastic deviations from Erin's recipe in terms of process, as well as some scaling for the capacity of my ice cream maker.  Then end result is delicious, with warm notes from the cinnamon and the saltiness playing off the sweet of the maple.  It's a bit like ice cream made from the leftover milk after a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal!

Salted Maple-Cinnamon Ice Cream

  • 1.5 C whole milk (I used the goat's milk which is around 3-4% fat)
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon ( I use Penzey's)
  • 1.5 C heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (or other coarse salt)
Combine milk, syrup, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk until the solids are dissolved and the syrup is fully incorporated.  The cinnamon will separate out, some settling to the bottom, most floating on the top.

Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream to the mix and stir gently to incorporate.  Place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 3 hours.

When ready to prepare, set up your ice cream maker and remove the mixture from the refrigerator.  Stir the mix gently to incorporate any syrup that may have settled to the bottom and add to the ice cream mixer.  The action of the mixer should help incorporate and distribute the cinnamon which had been floating on the top of your dairy mixture.

Process according to your machine's directions and scoop finished ice cream into an airtight container and store in the freezer.  Let sit a minimum of four hours in the freezer to reach scoopable consistency, and overnight is better.
I *may have* sampled a spoonful before leaving for work the next morning

Scoop into your favorite bowl and enjoy!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Poor Kermit...

I love pickles - dill, sweet, and most especially bread and butter!  My canning storage on the porch has several pints of dilled green beans and carrots straight from the garden, and my bread and butter jalapenos ended up taking second place at our county fair last year.  A lovely, tasty twist for dill pickles that I've discovered is Brussells sprouts.  The cruciferous taste goes well with the garlic, dill and jalapeno used in my Spicy Frog Balls.

These green and white snacks came about due to a wager between my mother and my wife.  Mom hates Brussels sprouts, and the missus had a bad guacamole experience growing up.  So - the wager was placed, if either ate their hated food, the other was required to follow suit.  I've indoctrinated my wife onto the glories of good (not chain restaurant) guacamole and so it was up to my mom to eat her hated sprout.  Mom does, however, like vinegar, so I found a recipe that suited and twisted a little bit until we had a Brussels sprout even a mother could love!

Harvesting from the garden

Individual harvest is slow - washing some stalks

You'll note in the picture above, a fair number of burnt leaves on the sprouts.  You can shuck these off to get to the green goodness underneath without any effect to flavor or texture of the sprout.

A plethora of cleaned and washed sprouts

Once your sprouts are cleaned up and trimmed, blanch them for 4-5 minutes, then immerse in an ice bath to halt the cooking process.  Get your brine going as the sprouts chill in the ice.

Spicy Frog Ball Brine
(a great brine for beans, carrots, etc)
  • 2.5 C water
  • 2.5 C white vinegar
  • 4-6 Heads of dill
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded but whole
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 T pickling salt
Bring brine to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove solids, retaining jalapeno.  Cut jalapeno into 6 slices.

Pack your chilled sprouts in warm, sterilized pint pars with a head of dill, a clove of garlic and a strip of jalapeno per jar.

Packed and ready for brine

Pour hot brine over sprouts, leaving ~1/4" head space.  Place warmed lids on top of jar (wipe rim if necessary) and secure with a ring band.

Ready for the Jacuzzi

Process pint jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes at sea level - 1,000 ft.  Turn off heat to BWB and let stand for 5 minutes, then remove jars to counter to cool for 24 hours.

He's not dead, 'e's just resting!

Let these babies steep for at least two weeks before eating, and enjoy!